Tips for the private ESL tutor

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you could very easily find yourself teaching a private lesson. Here are a few important tips that you might find useful as a private ESL teacher.

Before you even start doing private lessons, you will have to agree on three things with the client: (1) the hourly fee and the payment policy; (2) the venue; and (3) lost lessons. The hourly fee should be determined by the student’s CEFR level: the higher the student’s level the more you should charge.

You should also agree on when you will be paid: at the end of each hour is the best policy. If you are not sure about how much you should charge, have a look in the local newspapers or ask your director of studies. If the venue is to be your house rather than the student’s – you should make a reasonable reduction in your fees: calculate how much it would have cost you to get to the student’s house and deduct that amount from the fees. If lessons are lost because of cancellations by the student on the day of the lesson – they will have to be paid for. If your student agrees to these terms, you can start your private ESL lessons.

When you are talking to the client’s parent(s), you should take the opportunity to find out some information about your client, e.g. age, sex, CEFR level of English, and any examinations the client is studying for. It is vitally important that you are punctual for your first lesson; if you are not sure where the student’s house is located, make an effort to find out before the day of the first lesson.

Make sure that you are clean and properly dressed: comfortable casual clothes are recommended. Don’t come dressed in a pair of old torn jeans and a stained T-shirt or, if you are a female, in torn stockings or tights and skin-tight tops. In the lesson, spend a little bit of time so that you can both learn something about each other: don’t forget that you are the teacher – don’t become over-familiar and friendly, or you will have discipline problems later on.

Following on from this, you should assess the student’s current level of English by written, oral, and aural testing: this should be reported to the parent(s) if the student is a minor. You are now in a position to prepare a course of lessons for your student. Your lessons should have variety, and you must not forget to help students with their homework. If you are a male teacher, always leave the door open with female students. Finally, empathize with your student and always be encouraging and positive.

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