Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Private ESL Tutoring vs. Classroom Teaching

Both have their pros and cons from the teacher/tutor’s perspective and from the students’ perspective. Speaking as a teacher who has done both, one of the biggest differences I notice is that in a private tutoring situation, the ESL learner has more input into the curriculum.

I always do a free Needs Assessment of each potential student. It’s during this time that I analyze the areas of improvement that I feel would help the student, but I also pay a lot of attention to what the student wants to improve and the reasons he or she wants to improve. I then design a curriculum for the student based on this needs assessment meeting. In a private tutoring situation, I’m free to change the curriculum as needed, so I keep the curriculum pretty loose. We may start out in one direction and I may find after a lesson or two that the student really needs more immediate help in another area.

Another difference between teaching in the classroom and teaching private lessons is that if something comes up in a tutoring session that I haven’t prepared for, that’s OK. I have enough experience that we can deviate from my lesson plan, if needed. (Flexibility is really one of the keys of a successful and happy ESL tutor.) I wrote yesterday about “air quotes.” I had a student a few days ago who wanted to know about these. It wasn’t a part of my lesson plan, but because it was just the two of us (as opposed to a whole classroom of students), we were able to deviate from my planned lesson.

The last difference between private ESL tutoring and classroom teaching, from the perspective of the teacher/tutor, is that the ESL student is, in many ways, “the boss.” After all, he or she is paying good money for the lessons. Of course, the ESL learner is also paying for my expertise in English; and he or she is also paying for my expertise in American culture. (This is one of the reasons many English language learners prefer a “native speaker.”) In an ESL classroom, the curriculum is usually dictated by the school administration and must be strictly adhered to. I appreciate the flexibility I have in being a private ESL tutor.


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