First Leap Review Summary

First Leap is new to online teaching, and they hire qualified and experienced Native English Speakers. They offer high booking rates of 80%+ and provide good-quality teaching materials (plus a sign-on incentive for now), however, the pay is average without bonuses and the hiring process is strict.

Pay (per hour):$13-19*
Native / Non-Native Speakers accepted?Native
TEFL / TESOL / CELTA required?Yes
Degree / diploma required?Yes
Adult / child students?Children
Class size:2-4
Minimum hours (per week):16
*this can increase to $18-26 with bonuses

First Leap Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Offers guaranteed classes and relatively high booking rates (80%+) for regular teachers
  • Teachers can open unlimited teaching slots
  • Good-quality lesson plans and teaching materials provided
  • $50 sign-on bonus for new teachers (at the time of writing)

Cons:

  • Base pay rate is average without bonuses
  • Strict hiring process and some applicants may only be offered substitute positions
  • Must have a degree, teaching certificate, experience and be a Native Speaker to apply
  • New company to online teaching, so few insider insights yet
  • No option for one-on-one classes

What Is First Leap?

First Leap is a new entrant into the online teaching space from 2021 onwards. However, the company itself stretches back to 2009, when they were established in Beijing to provide in-house after-school English training for young children. Since then, they have spread to 200+ centers in more than 80 Chinese cities, with 500 or so international teachers serving over 100,000 students between the ages of 2-12 years. First Leap is part of the NYSE-listed Tomorrow Advancing Life Education Group (TAL), which uses AI technology to provide English language education through full immersion in real-life topics such as science, art, music, sports, and global cultures.

First Leap Job Description

First Leap English teachers are expected to:

  • Provide 1 on 4 instruction to students through interactive learning
  • Present lessons in a comprehensive manner and use technology to facilitate learning
  • Observe and understand students’ behavior and psyche
  • Collaborate with other teachers, parents, and stakeholders
  • Develop and enrich professional skills and knowledge by attending webinars, training, etc. provided by the company

First Leap Salary / Pay

First leap online pay is advertised as ranging between US$18-26 per hour. However, in reality, the base rate is $13-19, with bonuses for each 45 minute class, including on-time class completion and full monthly attendance, potentially raising this figure to the advertised amount. The precise base rate you’ll be offered will be determined by your interview performance.

Currently (at the time of writing), First Leap are also offering a one-off $50 employment/sign-on bonus to new teachers.

Payments are made monthly via direct bank transfer.

First Leap Online Schedule

First Leap online classes last 45 minutes, and are primarily scheduled between the peak hours of 5pm-8.30pm (Beijing Time), Monday to Sunday.

There is no limit on the number of slots you can open within this period, but you must select a minimum of 16 hours over 4 days, which results in around 12 hours of actual teaching a week. Your teaching hours are fixed and First Leap says they’ll fill at least 80% of your timetable, which they claim is possible due to the limits they place on the number of new hires they recruit.

First Leap online ESL teaching is structured around 3-month semesters, which start in March, June, September and December, though teachers are contracted for the whole year.

First Leap Requirements

Regarding qualifications and experience, First Leap online teachers must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Native Speaker with a neutral accent and an idiomatic understanding of the English language (preference given to those from the UK, US, Canada and Ireland)
  • Hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in any field (though a related subject would be advantageous)
  • Possess an ESL teaching certificate (120-hour TEFL, TESOL, TESL, CELTA or DELTA)
  • Have at least one year of English teaching experience (preferably online to young learners)

Furthermore, First Leap is looking for the following soft skills, so be sure to convey them in your interview:

  • Excellent communicability and interpersonal skills
  • Well organized and committed
  • Creative and energetic
  • Strong moral values and discipline
  • Preferred: thorough knowledge of teaching best practices and educational guidelines partnered with a willingness to follow the company’s policies and procedures

To meet the necessary technical requirements you must have access to a:

  • PC/Mac Pro (not MacBook Air as their software is incompatible. Windows preferred)
  • Intel Core i5/AMD R5 processor (equivalent or higher)
  • At least 8GB RAM
  • Microphone headset
  • Good quality webcam
  • Fast and stable wired internet connection, with a minimum upload and download speed of 20 Mbps (you can test your internet speed here)

First Leap Hiring Process

To ensure that their existing teachers maintain sufficient hours, First Leap limits the number of regular hires they take on, which is great once you’re with the company but can make it tricky to get in. The whole process should take around 3 weeks.

First Leap jobs are posted on Teacher Record. To apply, you must first register and create an account there by providing the following information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Professional picture (upload)
  • Current location (country)
  • Languages spoken
  • Years of teaching experience
  • Educational background
  • Work experience
  • Teaching certificate
  • Subjects taught
  • Language taught
  • Self-introduction (up to 2,000 characters)
  • Cover letter for teaching experience (up to 2,000 characters)
  • Uploaded demo video (optional)
  • Passport ID
  • At least two contact IDs (Skype, Whatsapp, WeChat, QQ, phone number)
  • Job expectations (online hours, days, salary, payment method, course type, student age, start date)
  • Uploaded copies of ID/passport, degree and teaching certificate

First Leap Interview

If your submission via Teacher Record meets First Leap’s requirements, you will be sent some teaching materials and asked to record a video of yourself presenting them, which will then be reviewed.

If First Leap likes what they see, you may be invited for an online face-to-face interview via Zoom or Skype. This will last around 45 minutes and includes a 15-minute teaching demo.

First Leap interview questions have previously included:

  • Tell us more about yourself
  • Why do you want to work with First Leap?
  • Do you have any teaching experience?
  • Would you be willing to gain a TEFL certificate?
  • Do you have any prior commitments and when would you be available to start?
  • Why did you apply for this role?

First Leap Demo Class

Your First Leap demo class needs to be well lit, with an appropriate, professional background. Make sure you maintain eye contact with the camera and demonstrate your teaching skills by:

  • leading-in/introducing the context of the lesson
  • grading your language for the student’s age and level (2-12 years)
  • engaging the student(s) and eliciting their responses
  • correcting errors with positive reinforcement
  • using TPR (Total Physical Response)
  • integrating props/realia (such as toys, puppets, pictures, etc.)
  • keeping to time

Here’s a teaching demo for First Leap China (hiring for within the country), so it’s presented in a physical classroom setting, but it gives you an idea of the topics and delivery style that could be expected:

First Leap Training

The final stage is First Leap training, which you’ll complete via a combination of self-study and live sessions with a trainer. This can take around 15 hours (3 hours a day over 5 days). Unfortunately, it is only after finishing this that you’ll find out whether you qualify for their 80% booking rate as a regular teacher or if they only want you as a substitute (see the ‘First Leap Online Teaching Reviews’ section below).

Working For First Leap Online

First Leap Teaching – What to Expect

First Leap classes last 45 minutes and include a maximum of 4 Chinese students, between the ages of 2-12 years. As they are group classes, teachers are assigned to them directly by the company and are not booked by the parents.

First Leap online teaching is delivered via their own platform called We Classroom.

Teaching materials are based upon Oxford University Press’ Starlight curriculum (also used by Landi) and are provided to the teachers, so there’s no need to prepare your own. These are well-rated by existing First Leap teachers (see section below). It is a speaking-based course designed to produce an interactive and engaging atmosphere for the students to improve their listening and oral English skills.

online english class at First Leap China screen with teacher and students

First Leap Online Teaching Reviews

As their online provision is new to 2021, there are almost no First Leap online teacher reviews yet (at the time of writing). We did find the following account posted in a Facebook group on 24 March, which will be a concern for potential applicants hoping that the 80% booking rate is guaranteed:

To gain extra insight into the broader company, First Leap China has been going for a few years and receives an average rating of 3.2 out of 5 on Glassdoor, with 48% willing to recommend them to a friend. It’s rare to see an ESL company respond to every review left there, so we have to applaud their engagement and transparency in this manner.

Below is a summary of those First Leap teacher reviews, with the company’s lesson plans attracting notable praise. As you’ll see, most of the negative comments relate to issues around working within China, something which shouldn’t affect online teachers:

Conclusion – Is First Leap Worth It?

There is an element of risk in applying to First Leap, considering how new they are to online teaching and how little information there currently is about them in this regard. Obviously, the current sign-on incentive will attract many, as will the lure of high booking rates (should you not be made a substitute), though it is important to take their advertised pay rate with a pinch of salt as many companies make it quite difficult to qualify for monthly bonuses. Without this, the salary is fairly average, especially considering the qualifications and experience required of candidates which qualifies them for better pay elsewhere.

You can apply to First Leap here.

PLEASE NOTE – THIS COMPANY HAS SUSPENDED ALL ONLINE CLASSES WITH FOREIGN TEACHERS FOLLOWING CHINA’S NEW REGULATIONS (08/25/21). YOU MAY WISH TO CONSIDER THESE NON-CHINA COMPANIES INSTEAD.

To help update this article or share your experiences, please use the contact form.


Dr Daniel Spence

Daniel Spence is the founder of Online Teaching Review. He has been an international teacher since 2008, an award-winning academic, author of two books, and holds a PhD, MA, BA (Hons), and TESOL.

4 Comments

Bob · 06/23/2021 at 4:31 pm

You can already read about First Leap’s sketchy in-person program here but since they started teaching online in November 2020 and there obviously wouldn’t be any trouble getting a visa, I decided to give them a go. There’s not a whole lot of information about them except this small thread posted a few months ago. Their website advertises their base pay in range of 18-26 USD per hour. Keep in mind they provide 45-minute classes so you get paid per 45 minutes, which has to be considered when making your hourly pay calculation. They offer a total of $3 incentives, $1 for attendance and $2 for completion. In order to give a base pay of $18 per hour, they need to offer at least $13.50 per 45 minutes. There is also a 9 hour training program that my interviewer said would be unpaid, despite telling me the company was doing well and needed tons of new teachers. Not a good start.
My interview went great and the only criticism I received was that I didn’t introduce myself to the students at the start of the lesson (I guess I was under the impression that they would be regular students so I didn’t think to do it). Aside from that, all the feedback was good. Next, they make you submit a teaching profile, the standard stuff: a written intro following their guidelines and a redundant intro video that had basically all the same stuff as the intro but required a professional red shirt and could only be 20MB (about a minute). They also required to submit banking information and other personal information before they would email the contract. I guess they did all this to suck you in and make you feel like you have to accept their shitty offer since you’re in too deep by that point and it would be a waste to not accept it.
I put some effort into building a great profile and then within a day I got my offer letter. I was expecting at minimum $13.50 to hit that sweet $18/hr starting point, maybe a little more due to my previous ESL experience and interview going well. At that point I was planning to negotiate for paid training. But oh no. After reading through an infinitely long contract, I found a measly $12/45 mins offer at the bottom. Of course no mention of paid training, signing bonus, or anything like that. That’s $15/45 minutes including the incentives which is $20/hr. A solid start, but it’s not what they advertise on their website.
I emailed asking them to increase the base pay to at least $13.50/45 mins as that would translate to the minimum they advertise on their website and, in addition, to offer paid training. Of course I received a very corporate response as I was expecting: “but with the bonus incentives, you’ll be making $20 per hour!!” Yes of course, but that’s not the definition of base pay, is it? Last I checked the definition of base pay wasn’t base pay plus bonuses. The email did not even mention my request for paid training nor a counter offer, so I assumed we were done at that point and did not reply.
I continued applying to other companies. Then about a week later they offered me an increase to $13.00/45 mins, still nothing about training. I replied saying it’s disingenuous to advertise a base pay of 18/hr and then offer less than that and to artificially inflate the calculation with incentives. I found out that previous applicants got a $50 signing bonus so I once again requested at least $13.50 base pay and either paid training at the rate of Miami’s minimum wage ($8.65/hr) where their US office is located and listed in the contract, or that I was willing to forego the paid training in exchange for a $50 signing bonus, quite a deal for them if you ask me. Of course, they replied that they would not like to move forward at this time.
Very interesting as in the other thread u/flufflilacs was offered 13.50 and paid training just 7 months ago, so what happened? Perhaps fluff can comment here about their experience with the company over the past 7 months.
They’re probably not the worst ESL company out there, but I do know it is illegal to not offer paid training in Miami. Whether or not that law applies to independent contractors I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to report them to the labor board and I recommend anyone else who is offered slave training to do the same. They’re obviously in pretty decent need of teachers if they didn’t tell me to fuck off right away, so the ball is in our court. I understand if you need to take the job for survival, but if you can afford it, don’t settle. Fight for what they advertise and fight for what you’re worth. Even if you don’t get the job.
tldr: First Leap gave me a lowball offer that was much less than the minimum base rate listed on their website as well as not offering paid training. I called them out on both and received an updated offer that was still short and still did not offer paid training. I put my foot down saying I want the base pay listed on their website as well as paid training and they said no thanks, as expected. Now I’m going to file a complaint with the Miami labor board where their US office is located about the unpaid training and I encourage anyone who gets a similar offer to do the same.
Anyone have any suggestions for a decent company? Even if the pay is a little less than other companies, I wouldn’t mind as long as they treat you reasonably, offer what they advertise, and actually give you hours to work.

    Dr Daniel Spence · 06/25/2021 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment, Bob. I’m sure your insights will help other teachers considering First Leap.

Jill · 07/30/2021 at 12:31 pm

I just attempted an interview on First Leap. There was a live interviewer (she was very nice); however, I have a Mac Air and the software only works with a Mac if you have Mac Pro. Just wanted everyone to know so they did not waste 2 days practicing like I did only to not be able to complete the interview.

    Dr Daniel Spence · 07/30/2021 at 3:54 am

    Sorry to hear about your experience, Jill, but thank you for sharing this information. I will make a note in the review to forewarn others. Good luck with any other applications you may have.

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