TEFL The Challenges And Rewards Of Teaching English To One Person

Universally recognized is the advantage of one teacher for one student. It is an evident need for students in school requiring help with a specific subject. Also, advanced students benefit from being able to progress at a more rapid pace. Shy students find this very helpful in overcoming their hesitancy to speak out. For those with a busy schedule and disciplined progress is very difficult, one on one teaching is almost a must. These are just a few examples of why there is a boom in requests for this type of teaching. Of course, this type of teaching situation can cause some problems for the teachers that they would not encounter in a classroom setting with many students. There is a great intensity and often a need for very precise preparation. The material prepared will need to be almost twice as much in many cases. And there will be high expectations from the student and even employers who have asked for the course and may be paying for it. Sometimes the teacher will even face the challenge of not getting along with the student. This is all just part of the challenge of this type of teaching. Let´s say a teacher has just arranged to teach an individual adult student. How would that teacher proceed? In the initial meeting, I agree with authors who see a need for an analysis form to be used. This form provides for very basic information and also gives a more formal and professional tone to the first session. Some students may get the idea that a one on one session is totally directed by the student, especially if the student is more advanced. I have had the experience of a student rambling on in broken language and insisting on not being tied to a specific task. Gradually, we agreed on a specific goal for the sessions. The teacher´s first task would be to analyze what the student wants and what the teacher thinks he/she needs. I know that when I first began to study a foreign language myself, my biggest need was to talk to native speakers between sessions. I wanted to read all the time but my tutor helped me to realize my need to practice greetings and ordinary conversation about family, food, weather, occupation, etc. Reading would come later. It would be important to exchange phone numbers at the initial meeting so that a change in schedules is made easier. Certain authors recommend that the student bring a file that can be divided into sections like grammar, topics, etc. A vocabulary book is also helpful to keep a record of vocabulary by subject or alphabetically. If the student is studying business English for example, they can bring company information and brochures. There are other specific things they can bring, like photographs and newspaper articles as they are needed. Between the beginning class and the second or third class, I would decide if a text is needed. The text might be a useful tool if the student has very basic needs or it might help them to progress while not in class. Also, if the student needs immediate specific help, for example in preparation for a job interview, I would like to determine that very soon in the sessions. If specific help is needed, the student´s motivation could be very high and thus the progress very rapid. During this time, I would also adjust the work space and examine the lesson length, frequency of classes and the need for breaks. I once had a tutor because I needed more recent Swahili usage for teaching some classes in Swahili. I needed work with newspapers to get examples and vocabulary from current events on the coast in a large city. This set the tone for my sessions from the very beginning. To my surprise, I discovered many forms were used in the city which where never heard up country. After the first couple classes, I would work out our general direction with the student and agree with the student on a plan. It is very important to know for sure if the student will do homework/practice in a formal or informal manner. I have found for myself that encouragement is very important at every stage, even from the very beginning. I myself would get to a plateau in learning a language and need a boost to move beyond where I was in some area like pronunciation or fluency or a specific grammar usage. These and many factors will influence the plan and help the teacher and student to decide together on the direction of the plan. A variety of activities and techniques which help this specific student is very important. For example, I found newspaper headlines and the first sentence of paragraphs helpful to learn catchy words and phrases. Also listening to myself on a recording really helped my pronunciation. One author has a helpful section on silence and waiting time, in order to give the student time to respond; this waiting time can be sort of awkward, but so helpful in giving the student time to reflect before responding. I once asked my tutor to attend one of my classes to Swahili speakers. We agreed and when my teacher attended, we realized that I needed work on one simple matter-- the use of a variety of conjunctions. I used one conjunction way too much at the beginning of sentences out of habit. As the classes progress, they may become less formal or structured. The advantage is that fluency practice is being emphasized. The disadvantage is that grammar and vocabulary progress may take a back seat. I would resolve this by making sure to have lots of material available to change the tenor from activity to study. This is especially important for technical vocabulary, for example, in a business situation. In the book, "Teaching yourself to teach English one to one" there is a great section on the different types of learners that is very important to realize in one to one teaching. The authors distinguishes visual, auditory and kin aesthetic learners. The visual person learns through seeing and reading; the auditory learner mainly through listening; the kin aesthetic person learns through more emotional or hands on learning activities. People learn in all these ways, but this helps to determine somewhat of a preference for certain students. In some closing session, I would help the student with specific recommendations. My tutor recommended that I continue to read newspapers and a specific newspaper with a couple of good writers. One consistent problem will be about scheduling for very busy students and teachers. Another problem is progression from lesson to lesson if the classes are too informal or the preparation is not specific enough. A text, even if not used in the session, can help the teacher progress from one level to another, especially for beginning students. It is also excellent to recommend certain texts for the student to use after your series of sessions are completed, so they can continue to progress on their own. These problems can be reduced by an evaluation. It is valuable to check on the students reaction to the course so far and reassess needs again from time to time during the course. Some students find this encouraging and it is always helpful to the teacher. So in one on one teaching, engage/study/activity planning with great preparation, personal care for the student, a variety of activities and continuous encouragement are the foundation of successful sessions.

Author: ANON

Date of post: 2007-04-24