TEACHING ENGLISH PRIVATELY: YOUR FIRST TEFL JOB ABROAD
After you take your TEFL qualification, you are full of energy.
Some of you have studied thinking of staying at home and continuing more or less with the same life as always, maybe to develop your skills, get a promotion, or make a side income teaching English.
For many others, a TEFL certificate is a passport for the adventure, to leave and visit the World.
Now this dream is coming true, and you start asking yourself “Yes, but how?”.
When you go abroad, there is a period of adjustment.
If you go there on your own (and not, for example, sent by Gallery Teachers), you better approach this experience as a vacation, until you begin to figure out how it works.
Remember that you are going to another culture. It is not just a place away from home and where people speak another language: the lifestyle and the way of thinking may also be very different from what you are used to.
DOCUMENTS YOU NEED TO WORK
Before you leave, be prepared for the type of documents you will need to work.
For European citizens, for example, moving from one member Country to another is easy, but it is more complicated in non-EU Countries.
Other Countries require VISA, and if they can give you a Tourist Visa quiet easily, it can be much more difficult and/or expensive to work if you don’t have a sponsor, someone to vouch for you, or you are not sent by a company that takes care of you, such as Gallery Teachers.
The first step is usually to look for advice on social media (in some local groups), finding someone who is willing to answer your most basic questions.
This is not always helpful, but among the various comments, you often start to get some good ideas on how to proceed.
Even if within the European Union European citizens can move freely, there are often internal regulations of the single Countries that can make things more complicated.
For example, when I moved to the Canary Islands, I needed a code called SEGURIDAD SOCIAL.
Getting it was quick and easy, but I needed a job first, and no one was hiring me without that code.
So I lost 3 jobs that had already said Yes, but didn’t want to commit to my Seguridad Social.
Knowing certain things first could help you save time.
At the time of writing this article, it is a very particular situation: Brexit happened recently, followed by the Corona Virus problem.
These two factors may have greatly changed the freedom of movement of those leaving or entering the UK.
If you did an experience in the UK (or out of the UK if you are British) a couple of years ago, keep in mind that now, and even once the Corona Virus emergency is over, it could be very different, first of all with regards to the documents you need to move and to work.
After a first search among friends and indirect acquaintances, the institutional sites and those of the airlines usually cover many of the doubts you have.
TEACH ENGLISH PRIVATELY
Being a freelance teacher of English as a Second Language is the easiest job to find, because it’s entirely up to you.
Just post a few ads on the bulletin boards of local job sites and on social media.
There is no getting rich with private lessons, as students usually have a short “life span”.
If the students don’t come to you specifically for a problem (for example, they do poorly in school and need help) they soon get bored, because the path they face seems endless.
The hurry of the students is the biggest obstacle when we teach English privately, and when we get to the third lesson, adults in particular start asking when they will speak English.
This is a difficult question, because (in short) it depends on them and how much passion they will put into the study.
A language is made of words and grammar, the sooner they learn the words, the sooner they can move on to something more interesting.
But if you have to be completely honest, learning a language takes years. I always warn my students that speaking a language is a journey, not a goal.
It’s like going to the gym: with constant work you can feel the benefits soon, but you can’t expect to be full of muscle by the third time you check-in.
I myself, as a non-native English Teacher, am happy with my level of English, but there are many areas that I keep improving, even though I took my first English lesson almost 30 years ago.
The more you know a language, the clearer it seems to you. You are able to grasp even the smaller subtleties, but you continue to study all of your life, or almost.
Now imagine your student thinking that he will have to pay you for the next twenty years: it becomes difficult for him to continue being motivated.
Keeping the student motivated is the hardest aspect when we give private lessons, particularly when the student is a worker and no longer a schoolboy.
In this case, the reason why he wants to learn (or improve) English is very often related to work (because he wants to be more competitive, give a better service, access better positions, because he is asked for, etc.).
This type of student is determined to learn, but is also in a hurry.
As much as he asks for his homework, his life is already full enough and he tends to get to class without having done it, so he does most of his study during class.
Getting to class without homework (which he asked for !!!) causes him discomfort, and too much discomfort pushes him to abandon his project.
WHY OUR STUDENT WANTS TO LEARN ENGLISH?
As teachers, our job is not just to teach English, but also to motivate our students, or we’ll lose them soon.
I usually spend the first lesson talking to the students, to understand their motivations.
This means that the first lesson is often free.
It is not free because the first lesson is always free: it is free because we talked, we met, and it is not fair that the student pays for it too.
Always keep your value in mind.
By giving the student the opportunity to find his motivations, during his moments of despair he will think about the reasons that led him to undertake this journey.
These positive thoughts will energize him in the future.
During our lessons, it is sometimes good to remind him of his motives and tease his fantasies.
PREPARE A TAILOR-MADE ENGLISH COURSE FOR YOUR WORKING STUDENT
In some ways, learning English is easier for a working student than for a schoolboy. The school, in fact, deals with teaching ALL English: it is a very vast subject, which requires a lot of study.
A working student has specific needs that we are aware of from the first lesson, so we will organize a course made especially for him.
For example, when I moved to Spain, one of my first students was a yoga teacher.
She didn’t have all the time in the world: the tourist season was coming and her first British customers would arrive the following week.
So I had 3 lessons to teach her to speak English well enough to manage a whole lesson in English.
We succeeded because she learned the specific language, she learned the words and phrases she needed for yoga, and when she felt confident enough (because we prepared her lessons together) we also focused on the small talk with her students before and after class.
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR STUDENTS
Setting out an exact time frame for your students’ course length helps you to keep them coming back (because besides our love for teaching English, we also like getting paid for it).
Instead of making your student believe that he will be tied to us for the next few years, we can divide our course into specific modules.
In the case of my yoga teacher friend, the first module could have been called SURVIVAL, followed by other modules based on communication by phone or text messages with her new clients, promotions on her social media, or modules on advice to give in case a student has physical problems to pay attention to, etc.
PREPARE FOR OTHER STUDENTS
Starting by telling your student “In this module, we will do 10 hours on this specific topic” you may think that you lose the possibility of having this student for more hours, therefore you lose safe money.
In reality, it is the thought of never-ending the classes that make you lose students, and this is a common mistake among less experienced teachers.
You are now acting as a school, and schools organize their courses in modules, not in a never-ending learning process.
It is best to be clear with your student, to show him that you have designed a specific course based on his needs, to show him the progress he is doing and let him contact you again to do more modules when he feels ready.
Many novice teachers think “If this student gives me X per week, I need 9 more students and I’m done”.
In reality, students come and go, and more than thinking about how much money a single student brings us, it’s important to make sure he is satisfied and recommends us to his friends.
I have tried different tactics to find students: placing ads, responding to ads, paying for advertisements, participating on social networks, and even with flyers.
Many of the initiatives I have taken have resulted in an extra student, but after you do it for a while, you find that the results are very low compared to all the effort you did.
When you have a student, treat him well, so that he is happy.
A single student once brought me two more friends, with no effort on my part.
My advice, therefore, after you manage to find the first students, is to leave the research of other ones and focus on who you have.
You can tell them that you have other openings if they know someone who would like to learn English.
GIVING PRIVATE ENGLISH LESSONS ONLINE
Teaching English online has been a widespread reality for years, and with the Corona Virus emergency, this sector has developed hugely.
In my opinion, there will be things that will return back to the way they were before (for example we will stop wearing the masks), but others will remain (for example a greater interest in studying online).
There are many sites, several of which promise teachers great returns.
I think it’s a good thing to work with some of them (I teach online myself) but keep in mind the catches.
It’s a topic that needs to be explored in another article because it’s too broad, but my advice, in general, is to avoid sites where you expose your face and your price by the hour, ask you to take care of your marketing using your social media channels, or worse, asks you to pay to be a featured teacher.
This denotes a website with little student traffic and too many hungry teachers ready to go to war to snatch a lesson.
Use your energy to promote yourself, not a site that maybe (or maybe not) will make you money, and look for partnerships with websites that take care of you, that give you students and pay you well for your services, and all you have to worry about is preparing your lesson and being sparkling with the students.
When a student seeks a teacher locally, the supply of teachers is low, so we can afford to keep our price acceptable (both for us and for the student).
When the offer of teachers becomes so wide that we are sorted by price, then our price goes down, and this doesn’t always suit us.
Giving lessons online is much more difficult than giving them in person, there is a much higher stress component, due to poor internet connection, being tied to a screen, microphone problems, not being able to use our gestures, etc.
If our price is too low, it may not be worth it.
Teaching English at home (or your students’ home) is a good idea when you are new to a Country or have recently completed your TEFL certification, but it can get tough in the long run, unless you want to become a brand with your website, where you also sell courses and other products.
It is best to keep these activities as extras, and when you can find your peace of mind, find relationships with companies that offer you more stable jobs.
In this way, having a few students every now and then contributes to your happiness and well-being, helping you to be free and independent in your career choices.
If you are interested in checking the open positions with Gallery Teachers click here.