0

Why I Left My Online English Teaching Gig

I got accepted at Rarejob in November 2014, at a time where I realized I needed to spread out my risks in the midst of the recession. I had friends and relatives who got laid off from their jobs around this time, and so I wanted to have a “back up” in case I lose my job, too.

English teaching-min

Teaching English while cross-legged on the bed

I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of this online English teaching gig. I could punch in the hours depending on my availability, and I can have enough time to review lesson materials before the class. I had the chance to meet a range of students across different backgrounds, from teenagers who want to study abroad, to the elderly who enjoy working as volunteer tour guides, to professionals who are working in international environments. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet these people, albeit virtually.

Low pay, but…

The pay was low (during my time, it was at $2.50 per hour), but since it is an additional source of income, I find no reason to complain. I am not obligated in any way to follow a certain schedule, or to report to a supervisor at the end of every day. So, on weekends, instead of oversleeping or watching TV, I would log in to the Rarejob portal and teach through Skype. It was a nice way to spend some hours of my weekend, and I learn something about Japanese culture along the way, too.

Why I left

I left this online English teaching gig not because of the pay, but because of lack of trust within me. I am not a native English teacher, and I am not even close to being someone who can translate Filipino documents to English, so why am I here, teaching English?

I realized this when I was looking for a French teacher online. I found it funny to find non-French, Canadian, and African teachers who were offering their services, too. I even saw a Filipino who marketed herself as a Filipino, English, and French teacher, when her English wasn’t even that good (mine is not good, too, but hers had serious grammatical errors).

I thought, I will never want to be taught my target language by a non-native speaker. Although many non-native speakers can speak, write, and understand the language on an advanced level, I still find inconsistencies with how non-natives understand their second language. Just like me, I still have to check for my prepositions every so often, and I’m not that confident just yet in speaking English.

So, why would I bother getting a non-native teacher when I can get one who grew up using the language?

Reality in the age of political correctness

In this day, my stance may be deemed racist.

Everyone should have equal opportunities! If others can do it, we, in developing countries, can do it, too! Why should our race dictate what we can do?

And the discussion goes on and on and on.

But I’m just being real here. Why would I choose a non-native speaker for a language teacher, when I can get a native teacher even if I have to pay a bit more? And can I really trust the knowledge of someone who only knew how to use the language for the last two decades? Of course, I want to put where my money has its worth, so I will not think twice about learning French with someone who grew up speaking, writing, listening to, and understanding the language.

This one, though, is absurd: Students don’t trust lecturers who aren’t native speakers. I can only speak for language classes, and not for anything else.

Advertisements
0

Why Are You Studying in the First Place?

Every so often I find myself looking for freelance writing jobs that I can add to my day job, especially for when I need to save up for an upcoming splurge. I never like the idea of purchasing something when I cannot afford it, so instead of using a credit card (which I’ve given up in late 2015, thank God!), I find ways to earn more when I need a bit extra.

As I was searching on Onlinejobs.ph, my go-to for when I’m on an online gig hunt, I came across this job ad which to me was disturbing at best:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 20.30.14.png

Screenshot of a thesis writing gig post

For one, this person is offering a mere $50 for this job. I’m not sure if there is anyone THAT desperate to want to accept this lengthy and challenging job for a few pesos. Secondly, I’m not sure, too, if this person has any idea of the task he/she requires from the contractor. To research + write an entire thesis for $50? If he/she made the fee more acceptable, I’m sure more people would have wanted to take the job.

But I don’t take these kinds of jobs. I don’t like it when the client doesn’t give at least a 5% effort on what is required on an academic requirement. I don’t like it when all the client does is to take a photo of the assignment, to have you, as the contractor, figure out everything that he/she might want you to do, and for you to negotiate with the fee suggested. Based on experience, these super lazy clients never negotiate their prices and would be the first to ghost you out when you start asking for their data input. They simply go to school to get others do the stuff for them, something that I don’t want to support.

When I started out taking online jobs in 2011, the market was dominated by clients who wanted to pay a cheaper fee to do technical and blog writing for them. It is disturbing that these days, more students are willing to shell out a chunk of their allowances to pay people to do the job for them.

Back in 2013 I had a client who was a Ph.D. candidate at– gasp!– The University of Chicago and she hired me to help her out with her thesis. I was happy to accept it because she did all the data gathering and analysis; all I had to do was to weave together the information since her notes were all over the place. She was very hands-on throughout the entire process. And although I have no way of verifying if she indeed was busy with her full-time job that’s why she needed help, she knew the ins and outs of her entire research. Working with this client was a great feeling because it felt like I was graduating, too, from one of the world’s top universities– too bad I’m still stuck with being a Philippine graduate which translates to less pay 😛

Sadly, I never come across a client like this anymore. From typing their assignments, lazy students are now just taking photos of their homework, sometimes even straight from the whiteboard! I’m not sure if this trend is due to school being increasingly passé with now self-learning made easier by the internet; or, if it is because of students getting more distracted. Whatever it is, I hope these students don’t make a habit out of it. If they think they can get through life by paying someone, then we, contractors, also have a role to play by choosing not to accept these kinds of writing gigs.

“Why are you studying in the first place?” You may get into moderators’ and clients’ nerves but asking this question to a potential client goes a long, long way.

***

Note: This post contains an affiliate link for Onlinejobs.ph. It does not cost you to sign up with them through this link, but it contributes to the upkeep of this site 🙂

0

My First Job after University: Desperate Freelancer

A professor once told me that “While the body is shared, the mind is ours alone.” It didn’t make much sense to me back then, as a freshman caring more about my free time for reading and running over acing my classes. I went to classes taught by my favorite professors, missed classes that didn’t interest me, and made up for the absences by doing extra readings. I loved working towards my anthropology degree because it’s a subject that thoroughly interests me. We were only eight in our batch, with almost everyone believing that a good and stable future awaits upon graduation.

sablay-min

I had such high hopes after graduation, only to find out… (Photo Courtesy: Jefferson Villacruz of Diliman Information Office)

Two weeks since I graduated, I still couldn’t find a job. I’ve applied to 25 jobs at this point and couldn’t get past beyond the first screening. I graduated with good grades and was pretty active outside school work. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I left job search websites and gave Upwork a try. Being a freelancer was something that I never thought I’d pursue as a career. Signing up for Upwork was clearly out of desperation.

Since I was new to the site, I was desperate to get clients as fast as I could. At this point, I was a month into unemployment. So, I browsed through other freelancer’s profiles and checked their rates. I placed mine at a measly $3 per hour since getting my first client was the top priority. Not surprisingly, I immediately got an offer to write a 10,000-word essay on acai berries. I was to deliver the paper in two weeks. Health topics interest me and so I wasn’t fazed at all.

Now as an alumna, I did not have online access to academic journals any longer and so I opted to reference from what I could mine from the internet. There are over 20,000 articles written on acai berries, but sifting through all these pages was more difficult than I thought. For one, it was quite difficult to verify information since I’m only basing my understanding on secondhand information. Trained as an anthropologist where living in subject communities for as long as it’s needed is the norm, I certainly lost confidence in what I was doing. After every sentence, I would cringe and think, “Is this even accurate?” I kept on questioning my work up until the moment I handed over my final work.

After a few days, I received a complaint from the employer saying my work is full of erroneous data extracted from non-academic journals, and that my work is plagiarized. Therefore, this person is demanding a full refund. Of course, I stood up for myself saying that I referenced my sources well and my work has passed Copyscape. Sure, I had doubts with the information I was putting on the work, but proper citation is something that I value highly. My aptitude for referencing is something I never question.

The complaint got escalated to Upwork and the employer wanted to bring the case to court. That seriously scared the hell out of me as I could not even afford my own rent, let alone court fees. I decided to just back down and give the full refund of $300 which was such a huge amount for me at that time. I knew I should stand up for myself until the end but with financial constraints, I chose to back down.

After that experience and a negative review on my profile, it got difficult for me to get clients. It took at least six more months since I got my next client, but this time I was already employed and so landing contracts sporadically wasn’t a problem any longer.

Although my first writing gig was traumatic, it taught me such valuable lessons for my professional and personal life. For one, shortcuts don’t work well in life in the long run. Although it was so convenient for me to source out information from online resources, I would have saved more time and energy finding the best journals even if that means going to public libraries or asking for a one-off access from my former professors. I could have looked beyond the confines of my laptop, but I got too comfortable working on my parents’ couch.

I’ve realized that plagiarism is not just about violating citation rules, but also about not giving justice to the importance of quality sources when picking references. When I source out from unreliable sources, I become an accessory to plagiarism by supporting content that is unfounded, erroneous, and most likely reworded from someone else’s work. Plagiarism is not just about stealing ideas, it is also about not being conscientious enough to know the difference between reliable and unreliable sources.

I’ve grown so much since my first job after university. I haven’t run away from that experience, and I am still working in the research industry. Every time I have a paper to write or edit, I look back on that first nervous attempt to finish a 10,000-word essay in two weeks. It’s a project that isn’t that difficult to complete as it seemed back then, after all. And I’m happy because I can now say with full confidence that it’s a job that I can fulfill without self-doubts and inhibitions.