Archive for July 2008

Teaching Private English Lesson Tips

If you’re considering teaching private English lessons, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First off, it is not going to be like teaching in a school or classroom, so some of the things that set up and kick off your lessons will not be in place. You are not going to be spending time getting everyone checked off for attendance or making sure who has their textbook.

So what do you need to do to get started then?

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your private lessons.

1. Make sure you stick to the time alloted. Running over will only cheapen the value of your time, starting late will encourage students to do the same.

2. Have a small whiteboard handy. This is great if you’re working on a table in a coffee shop, or even in your own home. Keep a couple of extra markers handy as well as it is a major pain to have your marker run dry.

Having the whiteboard can help you to quickly give examples, show spelling, or have the student or students do the same.

3. Have students pay you in an envelope. Especially if you are teaching in Japan or Korea, people don’t like to just hand off cash. Give them an envelope that has the months listed on it. This way you can check off the “Paid” months. It also gives that impression of both professionalism and continuity.

4. Be prepared with what you are going to do. Don’t just sit down and say “what do you want to do today?” Treat the lesson the same as you would any other class but allow yourself some freedom to go where the student likes and wants to go depending on the material you have planned for the day.

5. Give the student some prep work for the next lesson. No one, and I mean no one, likes homework, but you have to instill in the student the idea that the lesson is great, but it alone is not going to be enough to see real or rapid improvement in their English skills. Don’t call it homework, call it prep work. Have them bring some questions, write down a certain number of phrases they have come across during the week that they thought were interesting or did not fully understand and you will then go over them at the next meeting.

6. Ask them what kinds of information they want to learn. Classes, especially at schools and universities, have an outcome in mind. This means that students all too often learn what is taught only and that does not always match their needs or desires. Learning should always include at least some material that the student has a desire to know and hopefully use.

6. Don’t take breaks! This goes for during the lesson and between. Taking a break during the lesson, even a scheduled one will give the impression that you are stalling out the time. Get to it, stay with it, and finish on time.

You also want to avoid taking breaks for the week from lessons. The more times you take a ‘day off’ the more students will find that time was more fun being spent at the coffee shop, or playing with their friends. Retention is the key to success in private English lessons, and taking those breaks leads to more breaks and all too often permanent breaks by the students.

That should get you started.

Remember to make it fun. Be upbeat. Greet them warmly. Look happy to be doing the lesson. This will help the student to start off the lesson in a positive frame of mind, and it will help you to do so as well.

TCOBaG: The Self-Starter Myth?

We are going to talk about some of those people you may envy, those ‘I can do it by myself and for myself’ types. But, are they really all they seem to be?

I think not.

“Self-starters, a myth?”

People who know me, know me well even, are often surprised to hear me say that I am lazy.

Yes, lazy. Me.

Lazy is my potential, and at times, it comes out more than others.

They always say I am being modest, that I work hard all the time, writing, speaking, teaching, and that they do not know anyone with more drive and that they wish they were a natural ‘self-starter’ like me.

I laugh. Lightly :-)

No one is truly a ‘self-starter.’

Yep. It is completely true.

Don’t knock yourself for ‘not having the drive’ or not having the willpower (we talked about that, right?) to stay on track, get everything done, and keep at it.

We are all, including myself, subject to pressures.

These pressures motivate us, for lack of a better term, to go on, to do, to complete tasks, work, goals.

The difference is in where the pressure comes from.

We see people who we think are truly self-starters, taking the initiative, not needing to be coaxed, goaded, or pushed, to get their work or their lives going.

What we don’t see, is how they think.

For me, I know, I can be lazy. Really lazy, and a professional procrastinator.

I rely on certain pressures to keep me from falling into that trap. They are not always obvious to others but they nonetheless still exist and it is not ‘just me’ doing the pushing.

There are always pressures.

It might only be a deadline.

The day a bill is due. Or simply knowing that you must work, and usually work well, to get paid, in order to pay those bills.

Maybe it is only thinking about what others might say if you fail, or don’t deliver where you should.

Or what they might think, or even what they expect.

Maybe it is remembering the poor condition your life was in before, remembering those pep talks you gave yourself about how you were not going to live that way forever.

So, you see the pressure is often internalized and not easily seen.

But I assure you the pressure exists, and no one is really just naturally doing all that they can.

Everyone is reacting to these pressures, external and internal, in order to fulfill their own promise.

So, what can you do?

Find the right pressure.

Maybe you need someone to stay after you. Remind you of your goals, your promises.

Maybe you need to reflect a bit on why you really want to succeed, why you really must succeed. What will the pain be like if you don’t?

Maybe you are like me, and you need a little of both :-)

That’s okay, too.

Just find the right button to push, keep pushing it when it is needed, and you will continue on the path to achieving your goals.

I promise.

I am also available for ‘seat-of-the-pants-dusting’ on occasion :-)

Teaching Tips: Taking Attendance

It’s something you have got to do, in most classes. It takes up time, it’s a cause for embarrassment if you get a name wrong, and it sets the tone for what you have on the plate for your class that day.

So, how do you take attendance and not make it a waste of time?

Taking Classroom Attendance

Most classes begin with taking attendance. It can be a time-consuming, often overly so, task. It can also be a cause of embarrassment for the student or the teacher.

If you have big classes, this also may be the only time there is a real one-to-one conversation going on between the teacher and the student.

So, what to do with this beast? How can you use this time-killer to your advantage? How can you get students to understand it’s importance?

Glad you asked.

First, even if your grades don’t reflect this, stress to your students the importance of good attendance, and of keeping a good record of attendance.

I often use this shopping analogy when I talk about attendance and participation in class.

Ask the students if they have ever gone to a department store, picked out something they liked, wanted, or needed, took it to the cash register, paid for it, and then said, “Thank you” and intentionally walked off and left the item behind?

If they understand your story, they should all answer quickly, and with a laugh, “Zero!”

You answer, “Of course not. Even if you were shopping with money from your parents you wouldn’t even consider doing this.”

“But in a way,” you say, “When you sign up for this class, pay your money, or your parents pay, or even on a scholarship, and then don’t attend, you are doing that exact same thing.”

Tell them, “I know you are all smart shoppers.”

This always works for me.

Here are 4 tips for taking attendance:

1. First read over the names until you can say them clearly. Do this before meeting the class. You still might not get them all correctly, but it will increase your chances.

2. Tell the students that if there name is mispronounced to please let you know and that you want to know how to say their name properly.

3. Have them answer clearly in a way you define, ie Yes, here. (More on this in a moment.)

4. When you finish, count heads. This is especially important when you have large classes. This also re-enforces your statement that you are serious about keeping good attendance records.

Here are a few ways to spruce this up a bit.

1. Write a short phrase on the board. For example, “The weather is great today!” Have the students repeat it together a couple of times to make sure they’ve all got it. Then tell them to answer with this phrase when you call their name. You can use key phrases from the day’s lessons, longer, shorter phrases, whatever suits your situation.

2. Take attendance with a quiz! Be sure to count heads though to make sure you collect the proper number of papers and that you didn’t miss anyone or that no one is ‘answering for a friend.’

3. Have each student stand, say their name and a short statement. For example you might use: “My name is Mari, my favorite color is blue.” where students repeat the same phrase changing only the color. You can also use food, movies, singers, or songs.

Just remember to use a different phrase or a different method or you will soon find you are right back in the same old ‘taking attendance rut.’

About the author:
Allen Williams is a professional educator, speaker, and writer. You can find out more of what he is up to by visiting: kNow Thinking Aloud
– or – Personal and Professional Growth

TCOBaG: Time is Money, but Value is

TCOBaG: Time is Money, but Value is . . . ?

Time is not money. Money, I can make again :-) But I do see the logic of this. What bothers me is this tendency to place a greater value on something because it takes up, needed, or requires more time to do.

Sometimes this might be the case, fine wine, diamonds, and large works of art, as well as scientific discoveries, research and development, and even things like great relationships. More time = better value.

One part that is not in the equation though is our desire to latch onto, hold on to sometimes at even detrimental costs, things simply because of the time that has been invested.

So, what am I getting at?

It is a dangerous trap to fall into, believing that value is directly proportionate to time spent.

Often we are just as bound to trying to hang on to something because we’ve invested so much time into it as we are to think that something we have is not worth much because the time it took to create it was so short.

Recently I had a discussion with a colleague who had just written his first book. I expressed concern over the value of including a certain portion and that others would likely not find it useful as well. He replied that it was interesting I’d mentioned that, especially since it was specifically brought up as a possible problem by the publishing house he is working with to release the book.

Then, he says, “But I’ve spent so much time working on that particular section, I really hate to give it up.”

Besides this being a common fault among writers, from amateurs to professionals, it is also a common mistake made by many in various walks of life and a wide range of situations.

He attached greater value to the ‘time spent’ than the overall value of the book he was trying to create.

He has chosen to ignore my suggestions, and now the suggestions of the publisher, and is likely to find his whole project looking for a new home, hopefully not just on his hard drive. All of this is because of his misplaced ideal of “time spent equals value.”

The same is true in reverse. Sometimes we think things created in a short time are not of as great an importance, or value, as those created over longer periods.

I’m reminded of the story of the man who went to the dentist for a tooth extraction after suffering in great pain for weeks. He arrived at the dentist’s office, was ushered into the chair
shortly afterwards, spent about 15 minutes with the dentist, the tooth was removed, and he was on his way.

When he received the bill, some $200, he called the dentist to complain. “I was only in your office less than 30 minutes! $200?”

To which the dentist replied, “Next time, I could take longer?”

The key is?

Value is in the result.

TCOBaG – Drinking and Riding Your Bicycle

Drinking and riding your bicycle is a fairly serious offense in Japan.

It seems odd to me, that in Japan, there are some fairly stiff penalties for riding your bike after drinking.

At the same time, bicycle theft, while illegal, borders on socially acceptable. Umbrellas tend to fall into the same category. That is, fair game when left unguarded and there’s a downpour on.

Maybe you don’t find that interesting.

What does this have to do with marketing? With anything? . . .

Just made me stop and think that there are many things that we often take for granted. We (yeah, I’m talking to you, and me) forget that in different places, the rules, the way of doing things, well, they’re just different.

The key here for me was the idea that you don’t really have to go to another country to find yourself facing these sorts of issues.

You need only walk out of your own abode.

The rules are different.

Are you using the same language, same tactics, layouts and colors even, to promote your sites or products to different markets?

You just stepped outside your abode, my friend.

You gotta know your market, the way they walk, the way they talk, what they think is the right, or wrong way for doing things.

The rules and even the game can be very different.

Ever watch an international basketball game? Different, isn’t it? What’s with those lanes anyway?

Football? Be careful there. Has a different meaning, especially here. In Japan, football is soccer.

It also means that terms, phrases and expressions that you might think are common knowledge and in regular use may have some differences. Those differences may range from slight to might.

Know the rules, and the way the game is played before you put up your hand and start jumping up and down yelling, “pick me! pick me!”