“What do you enjoy about teaching 1-1 online?”
I work out of Cape Town in South Africa, but previously worked face-to-face in the Middle East. What I enjoy in my new life as an online teacher is the opportunity of meeting a wide variety of students, with different backgrounds and learning requirements. Sure, I had different nationalities in the face-to-face groups I taught for many years, but I found it was generally more difficult to get to know them as individuals, especially on short courses. Now, teaching adults online, one-to-one, I really enjoy working with students from so many different places.
My daily program
The first lesson of the day could be with a retired engineer in Berlin, a Russian graphic design student living in Riyadh, or a Spanish architect in Madrid. As the day goes on, other lessons are with Chinese students in Australia who each need high IELTS scores to meet the visa and Education department teaching requirements, a French teacher in France teaching biology in English (I’ve learnt a lot about bees in those lessons), a Ukrainian IELTS student in Germany or students in Italy, Poland or the Middle East. All this with no carbon footprint and a commute of a just a few minutes.
In trial lessons, I spend time getting to know my students’ interests and establish their strengths and areas to work on, as well as how, when or if they want to be corrected (they all do, especially for grammar). I’ve found the one-to-one basis of subsequent lessons allows for more building of good rapport and after a few lessons, I often know the partners’ names, the names of their pets, the restaurants and weekend activities in their town or city and might even have had a tour of their home or garden. All good for practising English too!
Why students attend lessons
Most of my lessons are with students who want to speak more fluently and confidently, for work purposes, for travelling or just to achieve a personal goal, though the need to practise writing emails and essays comes up from time to time too. With one-to one lessons, I’ve found it’s much easier for students to speak without embarrassment or fear of making mistakes in front of other students and this also allows for a greater focus on pronunciation and specific grammar points, not to mention the opportunity to personalise vocabulary. It does mean that as a teacher, you are always ‘on’ and have to be ready to change the pace or direction to keep the conversation flowing and be able to give quick, clear grammar explanations.
Flexible working hours
The flexibility of setting my own hours is another plus, although it works both ways and students can cancel lessons or find work/life commitments prevent them from continuing with lessons. Fortunately, in a big marketplace, there is a large pool of students looking for online lessons. Opportunities soon come along to work with new students and head off to another country from my desk.
Stella Fraser was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but is now based in Cape Town, South Africa, living between the mountains and the sea, surrounded by wine farms and working as a freelance teacher, online. She has a TESOL diploma, a degree in English Language and Literature from Aberdeen University, Scotland and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She has taught in the UK, at universities in South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and for the British Council in Qatar.