Top tutoring tips
Helen Johnson is a Student Brand Ambassador for the FCO's 'Know Before You Go' campaign for Northumbria University. During her gap year in 2014 she worked as an au pair and English tutor. Here are her top tutoring tips to ensure that you and your tutees get the most out of the experience.
There are a lot of different opportunities to tutor English abroad ranging from private English lessons to teaching the language as part of an au pairing role, here are a few tips to ensure everything goes smoothly and both you and your students have a good time!
1. Do a bit of digging!
Find out as much as you can about their knowledge of English, what level they’re at, if they’ve got any qualifications, and what they do and don’t know; this can really help as you can find out what stage they’re at and what to start covering first. This research will help you to make a plan of where you’re starting from and which direction you’re heading with your teaching. It will also help you to plan and adapt the way you teach, making you a better teacher.
If you’re working for a family, find out the expectations of the parents, what they want their children to gain from your lessons, and the hours and regularity of them. If you’re teaching adults, again find out what they want to gain from your lessons, if they have a specific goal or qualification they’re working towards, as this will all help you to plan both your time and the direction of your classes.
3. Plan, plan, plan!
Knowing what you’re going to cover in a particular lesson, the way you’re going to teach it, how long you've got and what you’re going to include will help to ensure the class runs smoothly and that both you and your student will know what to expect from it. If you’re working as an au pair, clear lesson plans will also allow parents to see what you’re covering and show them the time and thought you’ve put into each session.
4. Prepare a backup
Not all lessons will go to plan, maybe what you’re trying to teach just isn’t clicking or maybe the way you’re teaching a certain activity just isn’t working. This is normal and can happen, but making sure you’ve planned a backup will allow you to change an activity when you realise it’s not working or change direction when the topic you’re covering just isn’t their cup of tea.
5. Get to know your students!
There are a diverse range of people who want to be tutored in English; from children to university students to professionals, each with different styles of learning and different aims. They’ll probably all be used to being taught in a different way and each individual student will have a different personality. Try to get to know what they’re like and the way they like to be taught as you progress with their classes and adapt your plans accordingly.
Following these handy tips should help to ensure everything goes to plan, that you enjoy tutoring your students and that they enjoy your lessons. Just remember - prepare, plan and relax and everything should be fine!
It’s also important that while you’re busy planning your classes you don’t forget to plan for your trip, making sure you’re prepared for all eventualities. Here are a few things to consider in your preparation before you go abroad:
Depending on the country you’re working in you may need a visa and they’ll all be different so make sure you find out if you’ll need one, which one you’ll need and its specifications.
Make sure you’ve got insurance as you’ll be living and working abroad for a while and you’ll need to be covered in case you get into a sticky situation.
- EHIC card
Like insurance, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a valid EHIC card if your working in Europe, as it could help reduce healthcare costs in your destination country or even sometimes enable you to get it for free.
7. Laws and Customs
Depending on the country you’re working in and what kind of establishment you’re tutoring in, there might be certain customs they expect you to adhere to, such as dress, and certain dos and don’ts. Making sure you know these things before you go will help to make sure you don’t run into any problems!
8. Teaching aids
Before you go abroad, why not collect some leaflets about your home town and local activities, some photographs of you and your family, and some favourite books and games - that way you can personalise your lessons more, encouraging your tutee to observe cultural differences and learn more about your background.
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