Teach English in Shunhe Zhen - Huai'an Shi

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One-to-one classes provide a unique learning context and require a slightly different set of teaching skills than those needed to teach groups. From the student’s standpoint, the main advantages of private tutoring are quite obvious: the content can be individually tailored to suit the student’s needs, there is increased student talk-time and there is more individual attention. These main factors can lead to higher levels of production and rapid progress. But it is easy to overlook the benefits that the teacher can reap from giving this particular type of lessons. In this paper, I will highlight some of the main ways in which one-to-one classes make teaching more enjoyable, relaxing, or rewarding for the teacher, which I will then follow with an overview of some of the challenges they simultaneously present. Perhaps the most obvious advantage of private English tutoring is the high degree of flexibility it provides in basically every area. Indeed, the teacher is free to select whatever materials s/he deems suited to the student’s needs. Interesting authentic materials can – and should – be used much more readily to replace standardized coursebooks. Moreover, a very different set of teaching strategies and techniques from those used in a classroom can be employed. For example, if the student needs to learn to write business letters in English for work, the teacher can choose to focus on productive skills for a longer period of time than normal. Alternately, lessons can be focused on English conversation alone. Indeed, the length of time spent on allotted skills, and even the length of the lesson itself, can vary. It is also easier for the teacher to schedule lessons to best suit his/her timetable, because they only depend on two people’s schedules. This flexibility in material, technique, structure, and timing is therefore very advantageous from a teacher’s standpoint; moreover, being able to module each lesson according to the student’s needs makes for a more interesting, less monotonous teaching experience. Furthermore, one-to-one classes allow for good teacher-student rapport to be formed quite quickly. The physical proximity of the teacher to the student is a factor which encourages intimacy in interaction. This naturally establishes a more personal, informal dialogue between the two as equals. As the teacher-student hierarchy is diminished, the teacher-student rapport is strengthened. Additionally, in order to best meet the student’s needs, the teacher will need to know not only the student’s goals, but his/her background and interests. Therefore, as the teacher gets to know the student personally, s/he also gets a chance to learn about the student’s culture, hobbies, and other topics the student brings to the table. In sum, one-to-one lessons favorize good communication, which, in turn, guarantees more pleasant, successful teaching. Tutoring also allows the teacher to learn more from the student as an individual, making teaching more interesting and satisfying. Moreover, classroom management not an issue for the teacher, as most problems encountered with larger groups are avoided altogether. For instance, there are no mixed levels to deal with, and therefore you only have to worry about having material for one level at a time. There are also no early finishers to be kept occupied, late students to catch up, or slow students to wait for. Discipline is much less of an issue for several reasons. For younger students, peer pressure is not a problem, and neither is boredom because the teacher should constantly be giving his/her full attention to the student and keeping him/her challenged. Other than very young students, most students taking private lessons are highly motivated to learn and aim to get the most out of the lessons they are paying for, making them more disciplined and concentrated than the average group-class student. Plus, the teacher does not have to worry too much about student talk-time, because the lesson is, or should be, more of a dialogue than a speech. Thus, as teacher talk-time is naturally lower than with large groups, student talk-time is naturally higher. Thus the more technical aspects of managing a class, as well as behavioral issues, are much easier to handle or disappear altogether. However, there are, as always, disadvantages to one-to-one classes, which in this case interestingly mirror their advantages in many ways. To start with, the unlimited flexibility the teacher encounters when preparing and teaching a private class can be just as intimidating as it is convenient. This is in part because there is a lack of materials specifically targeted to private English tutoring. Moreover, because there is usually no fixed syllabus, the teacher needs to constantly be innovative, creative, and more attuned than ever to the student’s progress and ever-changing needs. Teachers thus have to develop their own strategies and select their own material – material which will often be different for each student, and thus not always reusable for other private lessons. Individual lessons also require more preparation than group lessons, as a lot more material can be covered in general. Not having a fixed syllabus also means it is difficult to record and prove progress. Hence what can be perceived as one of the greatest advantages of teaching private classes can also be one of its greatest pitfalls, as the flexibility of private lessons can make them more demanding and time-consuming overall. One-to-one classes can also prove to be quite intense, not only for the student who is receiving the input, but for the teacher, too. Though the dynamic is not teacher-centered per say, the teacher still needs to give constant, undivided attention to the student. Group classes provide more energy, and perhaps more variety of activities and games to keep things fresh. It often proves more difficult to keep energy levels high during private classes, and the teacher will have to find strategies to combat physical and mental exhaustion. Finally, as paying customers, the learners may have high, sometimes unrealistic, expectations. While teaching highly motivated, paying students may make teaching much easier, students sometimes do not realize the time it can take to reach a certain level, or to obtain a certain set of skills. It will be up to the teacher to decide which goals can realistically be met within a frame of time, and then to endeavor to meet them as planned. Nevertheless, the teacher will be under constant pressure to give the student good value of time-for-money. Therefore, teacher is constantly responsible for maximizing the time with the student and dealing with the pressure of the students’ expectations. Though it would take a much longer paper to review all the pros and cons of teaching one-to-one, one can safely conclude that overall it is a fulfilling, interesting, yet challenging task for a teacher. It provides the teacher with a degree of flexibility and autonomy, in addition to perpetually renewed teaching experiences with motivated students. But not all teachers thrive on catering to many different needs to create personalized lessons that respond to a vast array of different levels and expectations. Private tutoring requires the teacher to engage on a personal level – an engagement which, though potentially taxing, provides rewarding results for student and teacher alike. In closing, it is interesting to note that not much attention is given to one-on-one teaching: not much material is created for this specific purpose, and teachers are not usually taught how to manage a one-to-one class. Developing more resources in this field of teaching would therefore be extremely useful and appreciated.