Literally speaking teaching is educating, imparting knowledge and the application by an ESL learner is the most significant part of a teacher’s job. It is just as important as motivating and developing relationships.
Unlike any other job, the act of teaching is a personal calling. However, no two teachers are alike. The way you carry yourself in a class is unique and reflects your character, your life’s experiences, and your aspirations. Your instructional method is formed by these qualities, affected by your own training, and becomes the benchmark to teach your learners.
In any case, learning is a two-way process. For things to be mutually beneficial to both parties, teacher and learner, they should cooperate together. Every learner has his own study habits and works at his own pace. Although it is important to set up your own tutoring style, you should likewise consider the learning style of your students. Use your general instructional methods while being respectful of your learner’s basic needs. Great tutors always walk the line between a focused educational program and a learner-motivated approach.
Question is – How can we become more effective tutors?
Officials observe a teacher on how they conduct their lectures every now and then. After their observation, they prepare an evaluation report.
During this time you are pressured to perform well. To impress the observer, you do your lecture on a model lesson that is not the same as your usual classes. With this approach, things can go wrong and you will feel uncomfortable since this is not your usual routine.
Look at the bright side, you could be provided with some useful feedback that could improve your teaching method. There could be positives that you were not aware of.
Beforehand, make a list of things that you want the observer to look out for. Some of these are your voice projection; your method of correcting students; and how you handle yourself in a class. Inform him that you want to improve on these.
After every course, the students rate the tutors via a feedback form. These are valuable information on how the students perceive you as an instructor.
Definitely, there will be negative and positive comments. Tutors are adversely affected by the negatives, students might not appreciate the principles behind the things that you do.
Approach this in a positive manner and contemplate if their comments will help you develop as a tutor.
Ask your students what you should improve on to be a better tutor. Ask for regular feedback, do not wait until the end of the course.
This is done on a voluntary basis and schools don’t require a colleague to observe you. By watching another teacher you might pick up a few things they do that you don’t.
You might find taking a criticism from a colleague harder than from others.
From this experience, you get to share a lesson and inspire each other.
Beforehand, talk about the purpose of the observation, ask them to check on your strengths and weaknesses.
Earning a degree through online education is recognized in the same way as a campus-based education. Learners with limited time and finance can now register online in an accredited college and programs.
A lot of positives come with an online instruction, like the ability to participate from anywhere; flexible arrangement and less expensive.
As good as it sounds, online classes has its disadvantages particularly with learners who are new to the online format, unfamiliar with online instructions, and limited PC abilities. These drawbacks will negate the advantages that an online course offers if not addressed properly by the tutor.
Lack of interest
Because of their lack of interest, some students spend limited time and rarely participates in the online lecture. They are in your list but login late and rarely uses the discussion threads. The instructor can expect an answer to a question that is way off or maybe an excuse since the learner was not paying attention.
Late work submission
Unlike in a conventional classroom setting, online students need to be constantly reminded on the submission date of the assignment. Without steady updates and set class hours, they overlook deadlines and consider them unimportant.
They may require constant notices about the lectures, where to catch course materials, the schedule on live chat and more.
Since the class is in a web setting, the other learners are concealed. This is overlooked by the learner who is not interested in an online class and often misbehave.
Lack of computer skills
Some students are not familiar with using a computer. Basic operations like cut-and-paste, surfing the web for research, or familiarity with a word file or an excel document hinders their interest in an online class.
“For every action there, there is an equal reaction.” A “Good Online Tutor” always find ways to counter student issues and always rises above the situation. Here are the methods that they apply if ever they encounter these circumstances:
Sustain a strong online presence visibility
Upload a photo and a short profile on the class site. Always post something daily or link some websites relevant to the lecture. Check with your students through email, set up an online chat time. The tutor can build rapport, show them that you care and you are there whenever they need help on the lecture or on personal matters.
Practice what you preach
Be a role model, show courtesy to your students. Promptly answer the student’s inquiry in a manner that they will feel that they are chatting with a peer. Post reactions to learners’ concerns by guiding them to help them comprehend English effectively. Never give up on a student.
Develop their computer skills
Take time to tutor your non-technical learners on the basics of computer usage. Provide them with instructions on web searching; copy and pasting materials; and improve their typing skills.
Establish a communication concept
On the class site, give constant reminders on schedules, assignments, and expectations. Email your students as well, if they view the instructions a lot of times they will less likely forget. And they can’t claim that they were not informed or directions were not clear.
Establish online hours each week so that students can communicate with you in the chat room. Leave a phone number in case a student needs your assistance.
The purpose of one-on-one coaching is to assist students to learn on their own. Lectures should be customized to address the learner’s need and should be provided only when necessary. In this setting, a tutor should guide the student to the correct answer, always provide a feedback at the end of the lesson.
In a class, there are students who are ahead, average, and those who fall behind. These are those learners that are uninterested or discouraged and need one-on-one coaching to keep in sync with the lectures.
A student who requests one-on-one tutoring is definitely interested in learning English. This type of set-up will help him overcome the factors that block his path towards his goal. It can be, that he is shy and wouldn’t want to talk in class. He is afraid of being ridiculed by his peers when he commits a mistake.
Individual coaching should be mutually beneficial to both tutor and learner. Knowing the learner’s need and how to accomplish that objective, both can focus on the one-on-one lesson to achieve quick results. Here are some methods on how to achieve this:
Build rapport by starting the meeting with greetings and small talk for the first fifteen minutes. Allot some five minutes for review of the lecture or the homework, if you have assigned one. For the next fifteen minutes allow the learner to speak about their experiences inside or outside the class. Take ten minutes in discussing some new lessons which will prepare the learner for the next class. Leave the last fifteen minutes for coaching the learner’s mistakes; it can be in comprehension, pronunciation, or word meaning. Once you have a structure in place you have control of the time even if the discussion takes a side trip.
Learn your student’s goal
Some students want individual coaching to improve their conversational skills, but most people want to study the English language for educational or career purposes. Depending on their need, you have to provide materials to achieve their goal. If the student plan to attend a University, consider using paperbacks or view online lectures. It can be an assignment or you can both work on them during the session. By making the lessons applicable to their goals, your student will feel that their time was well spent.
It often happens that what you had planned doesn’t materialize. The tutor should be flexible enough to handle any eventuality on what the student might bring to the table. Respect any questions or discussions that might crop up that wasn’t expected. After all, you are the professional and you should guide your learner to their need. It doesn’t mean that you are bending back and allowing the student to dominate the session. Be creative to walk the thin line between your student’s wants and needs, remember that they are your client and you want to keep them happy.
Patience is a virtue
ESL learners have foreign accents which a tutor might find hard to understand; uses incorrect words; and mostly everything is topsy-turvy. Be patient and control your emotions, this is where your professionalism comes into play. Explain to your student the importance of practice to get things right. Take baby steps, do not beat the foreign accents out of your student.
A new tutor will spend more time in planning their ESL lessons compared to an experienced one. Regardless of the number of years spent in teaching it is worthwhile to look over your lesson plan before the ESL class begins.
There is always a room for improvement, bright ideas might crop up which should be written before they are forgotten. Incorporating these new concepts in your lesson plan will restructure the content and your method of presentation that will keep in step with your learners’ need.
A quick review of the plan will reassure your preparedness and that you’ll be able to handle the unforeseen if it happens. Here are some guidelines to help tutors prepare for their ESL class:
Always know where things are, keep a single and well-organized accordion-type plastic folder or briefcase. Attach some color-coordinated tabs to mark different topics. It will be easy to reach out to something you need while conducting a lecture.
Before leaving, inspect if everything is in your case like; class attendance sheet, notes, handouts, and lesson plan.
Write down your lesson plan
A tutor without a written lesson plan is someone who is very confident, highly experienced, or silly. A simple written-down “Things to do list” is a way of avoiding problems in timing, the organization of your lecture, and keeping track of details.
Without written notes the chances of getting confused are possible, something might go wrong and your lecture might be muddled.
Do not consume the lecture time on your own, leave some for interaction between teacher to students and among students.
Research from other resources or include your life’s experiences and don’t forget to add humor to keep your students interested.
If you end up with extra time, be a professional and do not run down the clock. Check on your students, especially the slow learners on how they understood your lecture.
Practice makes perfect
Rehearse your lecture, stand in front of the mirror to perceive how you will look in front of the class. Use your cell phone to record your video and audio presentation, review these afterwards to check on salient points that need adjustment.
Take along some pictures, objects, and your thespian ability to connect with your learners.
Put yourself in your students’ shoes and consider their skill and background in preparing your lesson. It may be problems with pronunciation, syntax, comprehension, or vocabulary; understand their needs as fully as possible.
Pitch in topics that are trendy in the internet. Consider topics related to weather, sports, celebrities, and latest pop song. An example would be a short talk on the performance of Steph Curry, a player of the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Your ESL learner will become familiar with this American basketball player and team. Subconsciously, the learner is stocking up his English vocabulary and increases it as time goes by.
After the class, ponder on these questions:
• Did I get my message across?
• Were the students interested in my lecture?
• Did the learners understand on the new words I’ve introduced?
A good teacher is like a good student who wants to learn, in this case how well a tutor conducted his lecture. Like the students, learning is a continuous process and through perseverance the tutor will reach their ultimate goal of connecting with their students.
An important trait of a good ESL tutor is to inspire their students to a certain goal – Learn English. From a non-native speaker’s point of view, most of them have low motivation to learn English. They do not have that sense of urgency because they have a vague understanding about the importance of learning the English language.
In handling the issue of motivation, the tutor needs to comprehend the situation and formulate solutions to keep the learners stimulated.
For some ESL learners, they treat it is a daunting task. Like climbing a mountain that requires a lot of effort and energy to reach the top.
When the going gets tough, the tutor needs to be innovative to give the needed boost that the students need. Here are some strategies that the tutor can use to motivate their learners.
Egg on healthy competition
Now and then, a healthy competition pushes certain individuals to work harder to move further. To motivate them set up a healthy rivalry in class. Divide them into groups and think of a game that will stimulate their interest. An example would be acting out a word and let the groups guess it. Keep a running count and the team with the highest score gets bragging rights.
This will also be a way for the tutor to observe the weaknesses of their students. Formulate a special plan to address students who do not participate.
Pair Work or Group Work
In a class, a student is categorized as fast, average, and a slow learner. The tutor will group students or pair them according to their skill level.
Language is best learned through joint effort and interaction among students. Learners can help one another in different school activities such as seat work, preparing a dialogue, responding to the tutor’s questions, comprehension and more. They wind up becoming friends and their relationship extends beyond the walls of the classroom.
A simple change to the seating arrangement in a classroom can make a difference to group coherence and student contentment. Whatever seating pattern you wind up, the tutor should keep in mind the following fundamentals:
• Maintain eye contact
Eye contact between the tutor to a student and among students is important. During the course of the lesson, if the student who is talking does not have eye contact with the rest, might interpret this as disinterest and self-confidence might drop.
• Comfortable distance
Ensure that you don’t have a student sitting alone or isolated from the circle. Leave just enough chair space, a large separation between learners will invite dead air, slow pace and less involvement by the student in the lesson.
• Plan how to organize the seating arrangement
If not firmly controlled, this phase can possibly plummet into bedlam. The learner might meander aimlessly not knowing where to sit or occupy the wrong place.
The tutor should not correct all students’ errors that they see or hear in class. This will lead to a brick wall between the teacher and the students, they will be reluctant to participate. Talking with the students after class will be a constructive way to correct the mistake.
Knowing how to carry out a conversation can only be developed through time. It is a continuous learning process, a craft where you must collate all your life’s experiences, education, and tenets of a language.
Studying a good conversationalist and practicing how he does it will be a good start. Another way is to work with a mentor.
For a conversation to have a good flow, you must talk about something. Do not stand in a gathering like a bump on a log, be a contributor and enjoy the moment. You should be genuinely interested in people, a good listener, and you should be able to hold up your end of the tête-à-tête.
More so, for a non-native speaker it will be conversationally challenging that will take a lot of time and effort on his part. Here are some fail-proof ways to handle yourself in a conversation.
Be a good listener
Most people would like to be the center of attention in a conversation. They would like to do the talking than listening. Go with the flow, observe and pick up a thing or two from this experience. Maintain eye contact and react in a positive way, even if you don’t feel like it, say something like; “Way to go,” “Yes, I see,” and “I know where you’re coming from.”
Prepare yourself intellectually
Know about the people who are attending the gathering. Find out their nationalities, professions, and interests. You’ll be in sync with the attendees and can connect with them easily.
If you’re unsure, don’t start the conversation as you might start on the wrong foot.
Asking about their children is a sure-hit
For a cocktail or dinner party, parents are usually interested in discussing about their children. A non-native speaker will surely have no problem with speaking and understanding the words in the conversation. This will entice them to talk about their little tykes which you could easily comprehend.
Avoid talking about sex, religion, and politics
Topics on sex, religion, and politics are taboo in a discussion. People usually have a dissenting view and opinion in these matters, involving yourself in one is not appropriate. Their ideas will range from the frivolous to the obnoxious and might result in an argument.
Don’t butt in and avoid this kind of conversation in a gathering.
Feel your way
Walk in slowly and compose yourself. Pretend that you are looking at a picture and observe the level of conversation. How the people are grouped, uni-sexed or mixed, and how they are greeting each other, handshake or hugging. Do the same from what you notice.
Never try to mix both food and drink at the same time while standing, you might get in an awkward position and might spill something. Avoid getting drunk. Don’t say much if you feel that your voice is shaky. Go to the bathroom and wash your face with water, this will relieve you of your jitters.
The best way for a non-English speaker to enjoy the conversation in a gathering, especially first-timers, is to enroll in an online ESL tutoring school. A study plan can be customized based on your need, preparing you for the occasion.