ESL teachers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and so do our teaching environments.
Most ESL teachers may have classes in classrooms and schools, but some of us get to teach in more challenging environments, like company offices or private homes. The latter in particular poses a series of challenges, especially if you're teaching kids. Whether you are already teaching students in their homes or planning to do so in the near future, here are five things you need to know before you embark upon this journey, most of which you'll need to discuss with at least one of the child's parents.
5 Things You Must Know before You Teach ESL Students in Their Own Homes
Where Will the Lessons Be Held?
Will you be teaching in the living room, dining room, family room, den or outdoor terrace? No matter what they choose to call it, it's better if you have access to a large room with few distractions. I don't recommend teaching in your student's bedroom and here's why. In most cases, the bedroom will be filled with distractions, like toys, games or stuffed animals. Students might be tempted to plop down on the bed while they listen to you. While there's nothing wrong with your students wanting to show you their collection of Marvel action figures, it is best for you to recreate the classroom environment as best you can – and the bedroom should be the sanctuary where students get to rest after their lessons. Don't invade their sanctuary and pick a more neutral ground instead. Also be sure to find out if there are any places that are out of bounds. Needless to say, you shouldn’t wander around the house. Stay within the confines of the area that has been designated for your lessons.
What Materials Can You Use?
Are you planning on using materials like paint, glue or modeling clay? It's a good idea to get a parent to authorize their use. Some parents are very strict about things like finger painting in the living room where they have expensive rugs. If they agree to let you use these materials, try to come up with ways to protect the furniture or other expensive items.
What Activities Can You Do?
Will you be able to sing, dance or play an enthusiastic game of catch? Again, you need to get the parent's authorization. You may be alone with your student during the lesson, but you don't know if there other people in the house, an elderly grandparent who might be napping or someone working in a home office. Before you start bellowing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” at the top of your lungs, you need to find out if there's anyone who might be disturbed. By the same token, before you start tossing a ball around the living, you need to find out if there are any delicate items you might accidentally break. Be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of the residents of the house.
Will the Parent Be Present?
It has never happened to me, but I have heard of cases where the parent sits next to the child during the entire lesson. This is something you need to negotiate with the child's parent. They might want to be there for the first lesson just to see what it's about. And that's fine. But I would recommend trying to encourage them to gradually step aside. If the problem is that child doesn't want to be alone with you, this can also be remedied over the course of several lessons until the child gets to know you better. Once you've established trust between all parties involved, the parent will probably naturally step aside.
What Technological Devices Will You Have Access To?
Will you be able to use a computer in the house? Where is it located? What about the TV set and a DVD player? Is there WiFi in the house so you can use your laptop? Maybe your student is old enough to have their own cell phone... will you have the parent's permission to use it? Or a tablet? Before you hit play on the family DVD player for that special video lesson, you need to make sure you have the parent's permission to use it, and furthermore, you need to take a few minutes to learn where everything is and how everything works. Because some of these devices might be located in a different room of the house, I recommend telling the parents in advance that you'll be needing the TV, DVD player or computer for the following lesson.
Setting Some Ground Rules
Above all, you need to remember that you're in someone else's home. You need to respect the family's privacy and be sure you don't disturb any of the other members of the household. Have a meeting with one or both parents and be sure to discuss each one of these points. If you produce a written contract so much the better.
It might take a few adjustments, but teaching ESL students in their own home is no that different from teaching students at a school.
Private ESL students are not that hard to find and private lessons are a great way to boost your income! Keep these pointers in mind, and you’ll keep everyone happy.