By Ken, Teacher in Warsaw
As I’ve said in some of my previous blog posts (well worth the read, I promise!) it is now my 6 month anniversary since I moved to Warsaw. One of the biggest changes for me was my teaching job. I’ve gone from teaching 8-year olds how to say what fruit they like in Tokyo to teaching companies and adults what on earth a gerund and the future progressive tense is. Before this job in Tokyo I didn’t have nearly as much experience as some of my colleagues, so I hope this post helps you if you are somewhat inexperienced like I was.
In a typical day I will teach up to 7 different people. And that means up to 7 different personalities. Although some teachers may disagree, I would say that if you want to form a bond with your clients (no,not THAT type of bond!) you need to cater towards what they’re like. So for example, if they’re quite sensitive to constructive criticism, you adapt your approach so that they can accept your feedback without taking it too personally. I also believe that you have to treat each client differently and no 2 clients are the same. Each will have their own quirks and traits and since they’re paying for the lesson, it’s your job to teach them in an engaging way that will help them learn English. Takes me back to my customer service days, never again……
Make it your own
One of the things I love about my current job is that I’m allowed to put my own personality on my lessons. As long as I use the teaching techniques I was taught and teach each unit properly the lesson is pretty much my oyster. No micromanagement, nothing. My lessons are generally very laid back and friendly and a few jokes in-between the grammar. I am a firm believer that if the client is having fun then the client will learn better. Humans remember how they are made to feel, and if you make them feel happy rather than intimidated with non-stop conditionals and conjunctions then they are more likely to feel at ease and speak more English. But stay true to your style and what you are comfortable with. Don’t try to be someone who you aren’t. Be yourself. Okay, enough with the cheese, let’s carry on…….
Put yourself in their shoes
This is something that was drilled into me during my customer service and salesman days. How is your client feeling? Are they nervous? Excited? How would YOU feel if you were them? English is a difficult language, and I know for a fact that learning a new language is very testing at the best of times. Depending on the level of the student I speak in a precise, easy to understand tone to make it easier for them. If I were to speak fluently then this would probably go over like a lead balloon with most clients. As I’ve said earlier, cater to your students’ needs and level.
Red Bull gives you wings
Even when teaching adults, energy is extremely important. If you’re speaking in a monotone voice the whole hour of the lesson is going to feel like days for the client. I find that it’s always easier to have energy in classes as your client will feed off of that and open up more. If you’re having fun in the lesson the client will also enjoy the lesson (in my humble opinion).
Show a genuine interest in your students
I’m always asking my students questions. Generally speaking, your student should be doing 70/80% of the talking during a lesson. I’m always interested in the cultural differences between Poland and the UK (did you know that Poles don’t need a passport to fly in the EU?) so throughout lessons I’m always imparting my knowledge and gaining knowledge from my client. It’s all about making the client feel relaxed, comfortable and encouraging their participation. If they voice an opinion about a topic we’re learning about I will ask them to explain why they think that. Tell me more, tell me more……If any of you get that reference, well done!
It can be daunting teaching to new clients who you’ve never met before. My first few lessons were horrid but 6 months down the line I’m so comfortable with teaching I could probably do it in my sleep. Future progressive? No problem! Polish people are generally very motivated to learn so you shouldn’t have too much trouble motivating them. Just remember to be engaging and charming like I know you all are 🙂
What isn’t daunting however is applying for a teaching job through Impact Teaching! You can do that here.