Classround Bound? Not Anymore!
Professor Christa Bixby
My journey in education started with a desire to teach primary school, until well, I did it. I spent a year in Vietnam teaching children from ages 3 (that’s right, 3!) up until about 11. After that year…let’s just say I switched over to adults faster than the speed of light. I returned to the United States and decided to hone my expertise in education with TESOL. I obtained a CELTA certificate as well as a master’s degree. This combination ended up being a perfect blend of theory and practice.
For those of you that have traveled or lived abroad, you know the desire to return abroad never really leaves. There is nothing quite like the challenge of living in an entirely new culture, learning a new language, and trying new things everyday. I am honored to say I found a job with the US Department of State through a program known as English Language Fellows. I moved to Malaysia and began teaching in higher education and training educators in the field. While in Malaysia, I met many people who were traveling as digital nomads, a term I was not too familiar with.
Essentially, digital nomads are people who are able to work location independent. So, from a hammock in Nicaragua? Sure. In a pool in Bali? Why not? Riding on an elephant in Thailand? Okay, yes that’s too far – but only because there’s no wifi connection.
I was enamored with the idea of working remotely and dreamed of finding little coffee shops tucked away in quiet villages in Italy or overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean where I could cozy up and work. Amazingly enough, when you put your mind to something, it doesn’t seem all that impossible anymore. As I am writing this, espresso in hand, this is what I see.
We are conditioned to think, teacher equals classroom. While I have to admit there are many aspects of being in a physical classroom that I do miss, I now have a broader understanding of what teaching can be. Currently, I am a professor at Westcliff University and Head of the Writing Center. I am also a content developer for a startup ESL company based in New York. My work is done entirely remotely. I love the life that I live and the way in which I am able to live it.
My advice, don’t limit yourself. Consider the options that you have before stepping out in the field of TESOL. Decide what is most important to you, whether that is flexibility in schedule/place, stability, location, salary, or career advancement opportunities. If your goal is to become a professor at a university in California at some point, teaching at VIPKID for 5 years before applying will almost certainly not be the type of experience you need to fulfill your goal. So, be strategic with your choices. Becoming a digital nomad is not for everyone. You must be very disciplined and proactive. If procrastination is something you struggle with, this type of lifestyle may not be for you (or it may be a great challenge). Loneliness is also something to keep in mind. As a digital nomad, you are not traveling with an organization or joining a group, you will be venturing out alone. If you struggle to make friends or the idea of dining alone is horrifying to you, that might make it pretty difficult at times. However, if this is something you would like to consider please see the following tips I have:
- I hope this is obvious…but have a job lined up BEFORE you leave! For beginning TESOL teachers, consider – VIPKIDS, TeachAway, QKids or for those with more experience: HigherEd Jobs, Adjunct Professors Online.
- Choose a location where you would have a high quality of life (i.e. a place where the amount of money you make will allow you to live comfortably). Consider the cost of rent, food, travel, etc. in your country/city of choice.
- Choose a location where you can join a co-working space. Co-working spaces are becoming more and more popular, but this is something I believe is well worth the investment. A co-working space provides you with a place to work alongside those who are living the same lifestyle. That essentially means, this is how you can form a community in your location of choice.
- Even if you cannot afford a co-working space, do not work from home everyday. Find a coffee shop or local library to work from. It is important to get out and explore. That is what being a digital nomad is all about!
- Join internations or meet-up groups to find an international community.
This blog is not intended to persuade you to choose the digital nomad lifestyle but instead is intended to get you thinking outside of the box in terms of your future career. At the heart of teaching, we want to make an impact. Consider how you can make that impact by living the best version of yourself that you know how. While perpetually encouraging and helping your students to chase their dreams, do not neglect your own.