Online teaching is booming. Are you ready to be a part of it? In this Whales English Review, you’ll learn what it’s like to teach for this online English company from two veteran teachers: Damaris and Tess.
Keep reading to find out if Whales English is a good fit for you!
Edited for August 2021: Due to China’s recent policy change regarding foreign teachers, Whales English will be closing down. Check out the video below for 6 non-Chinese teaching companies, online teaching marketplace options & online freelance teaching tips.
Disclaimer: This post contains teacher referral and affiliate. This means that if you choose to sign up to teach for Whales English using one of their links, they will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Likewise, if you sign up for a TEFL course using the link, I will receive a small commission which helps support this blog.
How long have you been working for Whales English?
About 14 months.
I have been working for Whales English for 2 years now.
Do you need a degree and/or TEFL to teach for Whales English?
You need a BA or BSc minimum as well as a 120hour TEFL or TESOL. If you have a teaching certificate such as a PGCE (UK qualification), it helps but isn’t essential.
(Author’s Note: If you need a TEFL certificate, then I recommend checking out Premier TEFL. Their courses are accredited and they have different discounts throughout the year.)
Yes, you need a bachelor’s degree, TEFL/TESOL/CELTA, and at least 1 year of teaching experience to teach for Whales English.
Which nationalities can apply for Whales English?
British, Irish, American, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealander. Whales is very strict with its requirements, and won’t make exceptions.
Whales English only accepts native English speakers from the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia.
What was the hiring process like?
Fairly straightforward. You need to have a strong CV/resume to get to interview, which is why I really recommend using a referrer who knows what Whales English is looking for. I’ve seen highly experienced and qualified teachers missing out on an interview because their CV/resume was too long, difficult to read, missing key information, or filled with irrelevant information, to give a few examples.
Once you’ve applied, you tend to hear within a couple of days whether you’re through to the interview. For the 1v2 interview, it’s done on Zoom, so make sure you know how to annotate. I’ve done a video specifically on this.
1v6 interviews are done on Classin. You can go to a webinar to prepare for the interview, which is helpful. I offer my referrals a 30-minute coaching session to ensure they have the best possible chance of success.
After passing your interview, you’ll be asked to upload documents so that Whales English can do an internal background check. Once that’s been done, they’ll send out your service agreement with the proposed hourly rate.
Recently, they introduced an external background check done by Sterling. This has to be successfully completed before you can teach your first trial class. It’s very simple and is just to make sure you’re who you say you are!
While this is being done, you can complete the trial class training and ensure your intro video and profile is as good as it can be. Then you open your slots and off you go!
The hiring process is very simple and professional. Initial CV Screening – Interview/Mock Demo – Background Check/Submitting Documents – Contract Signing – Launch! You are informed every step of the way via email.
Honestly, I feel that the CV Screening is the hardest to pass. Whales English is very selective, and they are looking for the best teachers. Since so many are applying now, it’s important that your resume really sells you.
How many hours per week do you usually work?
20/22. I used to work as many as 28, but it was exhausting. So this suits me!
My husband and I both work at Whales English. We both work 12 hours a week. Other teachers work many more hours than that, but I like to have more time devoted to my volunteer teaching work. This job really enables me to do that.
What is the average salary? How much can a beginning teacher expect to make?
All teachers are offered $18 for trial classes, whether they’re newbies or oldies! 1v2 regular classes are paid between $18 and $26 an hour. Classes are 50 minutes or 25 minutes for beginners.
It will take a bit of time to fill your schedule, but the key to doing this is having a great video and profile. Parents choose the teachers from these. I earn well over $3000 a month as I do more than just teach, but from just teaching, I made $1650 in my fourth month. Bearing in mind I started late November, this isn’t too bad.
January to mid-February is traditionally quite calm and tends to pick up after Chinese New Year. By May I was making over $2000 from teaching alone.
Whales English teachers can expect to be paid $18 USD per 50-minute Trial Class and between $18-26 per 50-minute Regular Class. Their Regular Class pay rate will be determined at the Contract Signing, based on their qualifications, Mock Demo performance, and what levels they will be teaching.
In my experience, most teachers start out between $18-22. You have the opportunity for a pay raise when you renew your 12-month contract. There are several performance-based bonus incentives as well.
With the Weekend Peak Hour Incentive, you earn an extra $5 per 50-minute class taught on Saturday or Sunday 7 pm-9 pm Beijing Time (BJT). There’s also the Full Attendance Bonus that’s awarded to teachers who have taught a certain amount of classes during the month without any issues or absences. This can range between $150-450 depending on how many classes you’ve successfully taught that month. Let’s not forget the Trial Enrollment Bonus, where you get $5 per student that signs up for Whales English Regular Classes after taking a Trial Class with you.
What equipment would you recommend?
Whales English teaching platform requires a laptop or desktop with a minimum of 4GB of ram. You’ll need a headset with a microphone. I’d also recommend using cabled internet rather than WIFI. I have taught in hotel rooms with very weak WIFI. It worked, but boy was it stressful!
In terms of equipment, I recommend having a laptop or desktop computer with Windows 7, 8, or 10, or MAC OS 10.X or higher operating system, Intel Core i5 processor or above and a wired internet connection. Have internet speeds of 20mbps upload and 20mbps download as a minimum. Also, use a wired headset with a noise-cancelling microphone and be sure to have good lighting. If you’d like, it helps to have a few props on hand too, just in case!
What is your typical day like teaching for Whales English?
I spend an hour a day prepping lessons and marking homework. I teach from 9 am to 1 pm GMT every weekday and a couple of peak hours at the weekend. I have been teaching most of my students for at least 6 months, so I know them all really well.
I teach standing up as much as possible because it not only saves my back, but I find my lessons have a lot more energy! When I’ve finished my lessons, I do any feedback that’s due and start working on my emails.
I coach a lot of people so this takes a chunk of time every day. I love helping people achieve their dream of working for Whales, it’s so rewarding! I also spend a lot of time working on my YouTube channel and online brand.
Since my students are in China, their busiest times for classes are 6 pm-9 pm BJT, which is actually 5 am-8 am in my time zone. I go to bed by 8pm and wake up 30 minutes before my class around 4:30am.
I put on a professional-looking blouse with a black shall to cover my shoulders, just to keep it modest. I also put on some comfortable pajama bottoms and wear my cozy slippers. I walk over to my desk about 15 minutes before my first class. I restart my computer, open up everything I will need, check that my microphone and camera are working properly. Then, I log into my class 5-10 minutes early so I can have a little chit-chat with my students before getting into our lesson.
I have 10 minutes between back-to-back classes so sometimes I stretch my legs, go to the bathroom, or drink some water before my next class. I finish my last class at 8 am and then fill out any feedback reports that may be due that day. I don’t have to fill out feedback reports every day, thankfully.
Then, I close my laptop and go to my local bakery to buy fresh bread for our breakfast. When we were in normal times (before COVID-19), my husband and I would get ready to go out to do our volunteer teaching work the rest of the day. We eat dinner together and go to bed early to do the same thing the next day.
What are your students like?
Gorgeous!! With the exception of one class, they are fantastic. I teach a range of abilities from beginners who are learning to read and speak, to very advanced students. I love teaching all levels because you get such a variety of curriculum and it’s such fun to see them progress.
My students are between the ages of 4-11, but student ages can range from 3-16 at Whales English. They are lovely! They truly put in so much effort into their English, and they are so studious!
The younger ones love to be more active, so we usually TPR some of the actions together, but the older ones like to be challenged intellectually, so we have deeper conversations about the lesson and I ask them more questions about their own lives, so they can apply what they are learning.
Over-the-top energy is not what Whales English is looking for. They want actual teaching, so they encourage you to adapt to the needs and learning style of the students. I love my Regular Class students because I get to see them every week for 30 weeks, or sometimes more if they sign up for another course with me. I’ve had some of my students since I started at Whales, almost 2 years now! Since they usually take their classes alongside a peer of similar ability, they really get comfortable talking and using their English skills together.
I love getting to know their families, their own unique personalities, and really getting to see the fruit of your labors as they go from only being able to say 2-3 word sentences to having full conversations with their peer in English, sometimes even to the point of (respectfully) arguing with their peer about the characters in the story!
What’s the best thing about teaching with Whales English?
It’s got a (mainly) great curriculum. We use Reach Higher from National Geographic, Oxford Reading Tree, the Bob books for beginners, and there are social study classes too.
I never get bored! I also love the stability that the regular classes give. You have to commit to 30 weeks at a time, but this means that you know how much you’re going to earn (more or less) every month. It’s much easier to plan.
Whales also provides great CPD and your lessons are evaluated on a monthly basis, which is great. We get lots of constructive feedback which helps us to improve our teaching.
There’s so much to love about Whales English, it’s hard to pick what’s the best thing about it. From having a stable schedule (each Regular Class lasts 25-30 weeks with the same 2 students!), to having high pay, and even better bonuses, to having personal support from a designated Support person from Whales or from any department within the company really, to moderators on the Facebook page who always help out or a Facebook community that rallies together to answer questions, to Whales taking surveys and implementing our suggestions to help them improve as a company, to ongoing professional development webinars you can attend if you’d like to develop your teaching skills more, there’s just so much to love.
I guess if I had to choose one thing, it would be the stability that comes from having Regular Classes. I have a pretty good idea of how much I will be making before the month even starts.
What’s the worst thing about teaching with Whales English?
Ironically, the lack of flexibility. Although I love the consistency, you can’t chop and change your availability. It’s worth knowing when you apply. The upside of this is that you can of course take holidays!!
I think Whales is a great fit for a lot of people, but it’s not for everyone. The stability that comes from Regular Classes might not suit those who want to be able to cancel booked classes with only hours’ notice or not work for undetermined amount of days without notice. Whales does give you 2 Short Leaves (1-3 days) and 1 Long Leave (3-14 days) every six months, so it’s great for most people!
Do you have any funny or inspirational teaching stories?
Oh yes! Teaching beginner learners is just the best. There is nothing quite like seeing the joy on their faces when they realise they can read without me! They inspire me, and it’s wonderful to be able to continue with them as they learn. One of my beginner classes has just renewed for their third class!
I think my favorite was seeing my two students get comfortable enough with the language where they can now have a full back & forth dialogue between each other about the lesson, complete with questions, answers and agreeing/disagreeing and giving reasons to explain their answers, all with very minimal help from me. I love seeing how confident they’ve gotten expressing themselves in English!
Anything else you want to say about working for Whales English?
They are actively recruiting and 2021 is going to be a year of growth so it’s a great time to join. I love all the opportunities I’ve had working with Whales English.
Not only do I teach for them, but I host webinars and I’ve made videos for them too. I also love that they provide so much excellent CPD. We have access to daily training webinars, if we need them, as well as a huge database of teacher made extension activities.
The teacher community is wonderful and very supportive. It makes working from home much more bearable! If you want to know more about Whales English, I have created a Guide to Whales English, which is available on my website, teachwithtess.com. It will hopefully give you enough information for you to decide whether it’s the right company for you.
I have a few things I’d like to tell new teachers. First, be professional, kind, and dependable. Treat everyone, including Support Staff, with respect. Do your best, and be patient with yourself as you learn the ropes. Reach out to the FB community. We’ve all been there and we’re happy to help.
Also, remember how bookings work at Whales English so you don’t end up frustrated. Trial Classes are assigned weekly by the company based on your availability and student need for lessons. The number of classes you get will vary from week to week. Aim to make a great Introduction Video and Profile Picture, as these are what the parents will see when deciding whether to choose you as their child’s Regular Class teacher. It may take a few weeks before you start getting these, but it’s worth it! Regular Classes will make your schedule much more stable in the long run.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help with your resume. If you apply with my referral link, I’ll be able to track your application progress and give you tips to help you pass the Mock Demo as well.
Whales English has been very selective at the moment. Since you only get 1 chance every 6 months, it’s important to apply with a CV (resume) that sells you! As an award-winning teacher who has been there 2 years, I know just how to help you build a CV/resume that highlights your teaching skills and makes you stand out! Here’s a document I’ve created to help you with the application process.
What is your teacher referral link?
Ready to apply to teach for Whales English? Use one of the teacher referral links below to get started and reach out to them for help with your application. Happy teaching!