Honest Zebra English Review – The Truth about Teaching There (2021)

Zebra English review

Zebra English Review Summary

Zebra English offers good pay, teacher satisfaction, and no minimum hours for North American teachers with degrees, TEFL/TESOL certificates and experience. You must be prepared to teach younger children and deliver up to 3 demo classes to get hired. Read this in-depth and impartial Zebra English review to find out how and whether it’s worth it.

Pay (per hour):$16-24*
Native / Non-Native Speakers accepted?US, Canada
TEFL / TESOL / CELTA required?Yes
Degree / diploma required?Yes
Adult / child students?Children
Class size:1
Minimum hours (per week):0
*Starting pay for new teachers is $16-18
A cheesy, official video providing an introduction to Zebra English

Zebra English Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Reasonable rate of pay plus bonuses.
  • No minimum hours provides greater flexibility.
  • Good teacher reviews and satisfaction.
  • Opportunity to teach regular students is good for establishing long-term, rewarding relationships.
  • Additional work opportunities, including proof-reading, recording videos and hosting workshops.
  • Company values retaining experienced teachers over recruiting cheaper replacements.
  • Classes are booked by the company, not parents, making it easier for new teachers to get started.
  • Classes simply review, not teach, concepts students have already studied on their app.

Cons:

  • You can only apply if you are eligible to work in North America.
  • Rigorous entry requirements demanding a Bachelor’s degree, TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate, and K-12 teaching experience.
  • You may have to conduct 3 classes before you’re hired (a 5-minute intro. followed by, potentially, two Demo Tests.
  • It can take time to convert enough trial classes to fill a schedule with regular students.
  • Periodic hiring freezes for new applicants.

What Is Zebra English and Is Zebra English Legit?

Zebra English is a legitimate company founded in 2017 by Tencent and as a subsidiary of Yuanfudao (described as ‘the world’s most valuable Edtech unicorn’ worth $15.5 billion). They began life as an AI language learning platform (like Duolingo) for Chinese children, but now supplement this with live teaching from English speakers. Zebra English is based in Beijing and claims to be China’s leading online English teaching company, serving over 1.5 million students between the ages of 2-8 years.

Zebra English Pay Scale

Zebra English advertises a base pay rate of US$16-24 per hour, made up of two 30-minute class slots (for each you’ll be paid $8-12). However, as a new teacher, the maximum you can start on is $9 per class ($18 per hour), as the higher amounts are reserved for teachers who have been with Zebra English for at least 2 contracts (1 year plus). Whether you receive $8 or $9 per class will depend upon your credentials, teaching experience and demo interview performance.

If you’re willing to accept short-notice classes (1-24 hours ahead of time), then you can earn an extra $2 per class.

Zebra English pays teachers through direct bank deposits by the 10th of each month (for the previous month’s work).

Zebra English Contract

Zebra English contracts last 6 months from when you pass the whole interview process. Pay adjustments are considered after every 2 contracts (1 year).

As an independent contractor, you will be responsible for paying your own taxes according to your state’s laws.

Zebra English Incentives / Bonuses

You can supplement your base class pay with these Zebra English incentives:

  • Participation Incentive = $1 per class – based on showing up on time and teaching lessons according to schedule
  • Class Quantity Incentive = $0.5 per class if you complete 30-44 classes or $1 per class if you complete 45+ classes in a month.

Zebra English Hours

Zebra English peak hours are 6pm-8.30pm (Beijing Time) on weekdays and 8.30am-8.30pm at weekends (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are the most popular days with students). You can still get some bookings outside of these peak hours, though they’ll usually be with younger children who do not yet go to school during the day. There are no minimum hours, which is an advantage for those who value flexibility and have other commitments.

Zebra English classes are 25 minutes long, though the time slots are 30 minutes in length to provide a buffer in case the student is late, and to allow teachers time to move between back-to-back classes. Zebra English recommends opening as many peak time slots as possible to increase your chances of securing long-term, regular students. Importantly, Zebra English themselves will book your classes, not the students’ parents (as can happen at other online ESL companies), making it easier for new hires to start teaching.

You open time slots for students through the booking page of the Zebra English computer app. There’s the option to make a slot available for just one week or to repeat it for 4, 8 or 12 weeks. All teachers begin with trial classes, which you’re expected to convert into regular students who you’ll retain on a long-term basis. This is why it’s important to open recurring time slots at the same time each week. As trial students are already using the AI portion of the app, it does make conversion rates higher than elsewhere.

Zebra English Requirements

  • Must speak English at an idiomatic level
  • Be legally allowed to work in the US or Canada
  • Hold a Bachelor’s degree or above
  • Possess a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/DELTA certificate
  • Have K-12 ESL teaching experience, preferably online
  • Committed to teaching students long-term

Tech. Requirements

  • Laptop, desktop, Mac. or Surface device with a camera (no Chromebooks)
  • Minimum Operating System of Windows 7 or MacOS 10.11
  • Memory of at least 4GB RAM
  • Headset with a microphone
  • Stable internet connection (preferably Ethernet) of at least 20 Mbps (you can test your internet speed here)

Zebra English Hiring Process

There are up to six stages to the Zebra English hiring process (if you fail any stage you can reapply after 3 months):

  1. Submit basic info.
  2. Upload introduction video (5-minute recorded teaching demo)
  3. Demo 1 (15-minute live teaching demo)
  4. Demo 2 (only required for those that don’t pass demo 1 outright)
  5. Teacher briefing
  6. Submit documentation, background check and contract signing

Begin by registering your email address and password here, after which you’ll be taken to a screen showing the status of your application:

Here you will have to fill in your basic information, including your:

  • Full name
  • Location
  • Highest level of education
  • Phone number
  • Skype account ID
  • Length of teaching experience
  • Can you speak English at an idiomatic level? (yes/no)
  • Teaching certification
  • Are you able to teach students regularly for a long term on the teaching app.? (yes/no)
  • How long can you teach students regularly? (-1 to 3+ months)
  • How you heard about Zebra English

You must consent to receive automated text and pre-recorded voice messages from Zebra English, which can be opted out from by replying ‘STOP’.

Zebra English Introduction Video

Once you have submitted this information, you will be taken to the next screen where you will have 48 hours to upload a 5-minute introduction video. You will also receive an email with more detailed instructions (which we outline below for you).

The video should be divided into two parts:

  1. For 30-60 seconds, use TPR techniques to introduce yourself as if you would when meeting a 5-year old student. Discuss your educational background, current location, and teaching experience.
  2. For 4 minutes, teach a lesson based around a set topic (currently, it’s ‘Sports’), using the lesson plan and slides (cover slide, magnified card, presentation and conclusion) attached to the email.

We can’t share screenshots of the slides we received for copyright reasons as they’re watermarked. However, they included cartoon pictures of a zebra playing badminton and football, with the sentences ‘I can play badminton’ and ‘I can play soccer’. The teaching notes were as follows:

  1. Cover Slide (1.5 minutes) = Greeting – Greet the student with TPR, ask questions to get to know the student and establish rapport (issues = the student struggles to answer ‘how old are you?’), ask questions to introduce the topic.
  2. Magnified Slide (1 minute) = Sentence review – Ask questions to review the sentence (‘I can play badminton’), ask an extension, ask the student to do TPR (issues = the student responds with one word and mispronounces ‘badmindon’. Help the student say the full sentence).
  3. Presentation (1 minute) = I do, we do, you try – Present ‘I can play soccer’ with TPR, help the student to present, student presents independently (issues = student struggles saying the sentence during ‘we do’).
  4. Conclusion (0.5 minutes) = Wrap up with feedback – Conclude the main vocabulary and sentence structure, provide positive feedback and encourage further learning, say you look forward to seeing your student again.

Zebra English advises that you:

  • Do not record the video on your phone
  • Avoid poor sound and distracting noises
  • Avoid using a white flat wall without any (educational) decoration
  • Avoid shadows on your face or behind you
  • Avoid warm or excessively bright light
  • Avoid dressing inappropriately

Your video will also be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Follow the lesson plan
  • Professional and caring warm-up/lead-in
  • Use of consistent TPR when modeling
  • Rehearse traditional phrases
  • Maintain a good class flow
  • Encourage sentence output from the student
  • Ask level-appropriate concept-checking questions (CCQs)
  • Simplify and moderate teacher talking and speed
  • Use of a headset with clear sound and no echo or background noise
  • A well-decorated and well-lit background free of distractions and furniture
  • Well-groomed and horizontally centered on the screen

You should receive an answer within 2 business days of uploading your Zebra English intro video.

So you can see what is expected, here is a recorded demo of a 5-minute introduction video on the given topic:

Zebra English Demo Interview

If your intro video is accepted, then you will be asked to schedule your demo interview, or ‘Demo Test 1‘. Once you’ve confirmed this, you should immediately receive a preparation and guidance email (if not, check your spam folder, then email resume@zebraenglish.com). Once booked, the Demo Test will appear on the Classrooms page of the Zebra English app, where it will take place, and you will be expected to use the classroom functionality so familiarize yourself with this ahead of time.

While you should expect to answer questions about your nationality, educational background and experience, the main part of the interview is the demo lesson itself (currently on the topic of ‘A New Doll’), which you should plan to deliver in 15 minutes. Zebra English will email you a PDF of demo interview tips to include that unsuccessful candidates have overlooked:

  • Pacing – The lesson should last 15 minutes. Use clear transitions between slides such as “let’s go”, “let’s play a game” or “it’s role play time”. Avoid skipping or revisting slides.
  • Extension – Ask level-appropriate, topic-related and effective extension questions throughout the class.
  • Game Operation and Procedure – Teach all games correctly. Follow the “I do, we do, you do” procedure during the presentation slide, and switch roles during role play.
  • Rewards – Reward at least 80 Zebra Coins to the student before the last slide (they can’t be given at this stage).
  • Teacher Talk – Use level-appropriate Teacher Talk with moderate Talking Speed, and avoid incidental language or repeating after the student.
  • Error Correction – Correct all mistakes in a positive way by using words such as “close”, “let’s practice”, and “almost”. Remember to use the big face mode to make sure the student can see how you pronounce the words you are correcting.
  • Instructional and Educational TPR – Use TPR properly, consistently and constantly, and ask the student to do the TPR movements with you.

More tips can be downloaded in the ‘New Teacher Start-off’ tab on the Resources Section of the Zebra English app.

Here is a walkthrough video to help you with Demo Test 1:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0t8JYP7VZc

Your Demo Test 1 performance will determine whether you need to take Demo Test 2, where you will have to attend an instructional workshop and redeliver your Demo Test 1 lesson based upon what you have learned.

Once you’ve passed your Demo Tests you will progress to the 30-minute Teacher Briefing stage, where a hiring mentor will discuss the company, curriculum and best practices, show you a tour of the teacher portal, and answer any questions you may have. You will provide additional information for a background check and, as long as this checks out, you can then sign a contract and start teaching.

Zebra English Hiring Freeze

To ensure that their existing teachers received consistent bookings, there was a Zebra English hiring freeze on new recruits between June and November 2020, which did mean that some new applicants had their offers rescinded. This can be considered a positive compared to the churn witnessed at other ESL companies, as it shows Zebra English value retaining their experienced teachers instead of replacing them with cheaper newcomers. They are hiring once more (at the time of writing).

Zebra English Reviews

As the company is still relatively new to live teaching, there aren’t a huge number of Zebra English reviews by teachers on Glassdoor or Indeed. Still, only two negative reviews appear from the last year on those platforms, and both were around the time of the hiring freeze and so were born out of frustration with that process.

In spite of this, Zebra English has one of the highest average ratings we’ve seen thus far, with 4 stars out of 5 based upon 12 Indeed reviews currently. Here are the most recent Zebra English reviews (at the time of writing):

Conclusion – Is Zebra English Worth It?

Zebra English is definitely worth considering as one of the more reputable online English companies we’ve seen, with good teacher satisfaction, flexibility and fair pay for the industry. However, their stringent eligibility requirements will preclude many prospective teachers, and you must be prepared to perform several demo classes in order to get hired, which might be too demanding for some. Zebra English is also only suited to those who enjoy teaching younger children.

You can apply to Zebra English here.

PLEASE NOTE – THIS COMPANY ARE CURRENTLY NOT RECRUITING (18/03/21)

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