Tips, tricks, and traps of this profession

I have been teaching for more than 10 years in two very different countries and here is my perspective on English tutoring:


Tips & tricks


- some academies don’t pay on time. It’s good to know your rights (and responsibilities!) to be able to not get tricked! In Spain, for example, there is ‘demanda de conciliacion.’ I don’t know how it works but when one of the academies didn’t want to pay me I told a team of lawyers I was teaching at the time about it. They advised me to write an email to the academy and simply mention ‘demand de conciliation.’ After three months of futile communication with the academy, I got my money in my bank account in 48 hours having just mention these magical words. Apparently, academies don’t want to deal with this legal tool. - learn to sell yourself in job interviews. They always look for the same things, ask about the same things, and expect the same answers! Always!


- in interviews always ask if the pay is negotiable! Ask for perks!


- working for several academies means more potential opportunities, especially at the start of the academic year. If you stop working for an academy, you can always try to return there if you had contact with the person who’s responsible for giving classes to teachers or the general manager, someone in a power position. So it is good to remind them that you exist while you are working there just so they could remember you. It is not sucking up, it is networking!


- talk with other teachers, befriend other teachers, create a circle of friends comprised of teachers. You can learn a lot from them and they can recommend you to their private students and/or their bosses at other academies!


- if your boss/supervisor is not eager to help you and focuses only on making profits, run away from an academy like this one as quickly as possible


- make sure your academy has registered you with the government and they are paying your pension contributions (depends on the contract)


- the quality of your classes combined with your communication skills equals the satisfaction of your students and that, in turn, equals your pay


- you are as good a teacher as your ability to teach but remember that a lot of students only say they want to learn English and do not do enough. Keep teaching them, it is easy money! It’s sad but true!


- if you don’t like your student(s) you should prepare better for the classes with him/her/them and adjust more to their needs and their learning style. For some teachers, it is a problem. If it is a problem for you and your livelihood doesn’t depend on this particular student then ditch politely that student (or group). Why? It not worth the stress and prep time. It doesn’t mean you are lazy! It means that you know yourself enough to understand that certain types of people just don’t match! The student-teacher dynamic is secondary here. If you can pick your students for different reasons you will derive more joy from teaching them. Remember! You are not a slave to students and academies!


- plan your classes well and you will never run out of things to do


- never speak more than your students


- don’t overload your students unless they want to be given lots of materials. Yes! Such students do exist but it is a dying breed!


- coursebook is only the starting point. You don’t have to follow it religiously!


- games are great. Well-selected games also teach something.


- if you are a non-native teacher, you will always be judged differently than a native teacher when you make a mistake (for example when you don’t know how to explain something to your students)


- use your personality to charm your bosses and students. People walk over people who have nothing to say and are less interesting than the blandest wall-paper


- don’t express your real opinions to your students, especially the ones you teach at an academy, because you might get in trouble. With private students, you can try to cautiously be more open. Encourage students to express themselves.


- anything can be turned into a resource, you just have to be creative enough and understand how to use it to help your students


- try learning some basics of the native language your students speak and then analyze how they differ from English. That is how you will know the points to focus on while teaching English


- if at the beginning (or later) of your career you know, you will not want to teach forever, prepare a plan in advance to switch to a different career. You don’t want to wake up one day feeling deep down inside that you really don’t want to do it anymore and realize that you have no other viable options in life. It’s an awful day to realize that!


- experiment with different styles and methods of teaching. You have to build your skill set!


- students will stay with you usually because they like you and therefore they like the way you teach


- respect students and usually they will respect you back; some though will turn out to be narrow-minded pieces of shit. Like in life!


- don’t forget about your taxes and other bureaucratic stuff you have to deal with every year


- academies usually don’t pay extra for the time you spend checking homework, filling out end-of-the-year reports, filling out evaluations so don’t spend too much time doing these things. The two exceptions are: planning your classes and checking homework. Other than that is a big waste of time (in my opinion). If you have to write personalized evaluations at the end of the course giving feedback and tips then write all of them once and then just copy & paste it changing as few things as possible. Everybody will be happy! It is a win-win situation. The academy will be super happy with you, the student will be super happy with you and you haven’t lost the entire weekend on something that no one cares about without getting paid. In the last class just tell your students how you think they could improve and give them tips that are genuine in his/her case. Better say something for a minute than write it for twenty minutes. Multiply it by 30 students and your weekend is wasted. Real-life story!


- the most domineering student in a group will affect its dynamic the most. If one of your students talks too much at the expense of other students, you have to limit their speaking time. You can’t be afraid to show them their place. If you don't, your classes might be very chaotic. Other students will stop respecting and liking you!


- ask your students in the first class if they suffer from dyslexia or other learning disorder. Ask them to tell you how it affects their learning process, what is difficult for them. Ask them for solutions. Do your homework and read about the particular disorder and be able to implement some solutions in your classes with that particular student.




- there are not many options for promotion if you are a language tutor. Therefore, your pay will not rise with age and experience. In fact, as the pandemic has shown, it has dropped significantly. Obviously, other factors come into play here: the country you are teaching, your competition, how you promote yourself, etc.


- the older you get, the more difficult it will be to commute around the city to give one or two classes. You will not want to waste your time and energy like that.


- it can be a very repetitive job.


- don’t expect a high pension. If you think it might be a problem, you have to deal with it way in advance of your retirement.


- if your partner is also a language tutor and it is not as uncommon as you might think, it means both of you might have 80 days of holiday in a year. Great, isn’t it? Also, both of you will likely have low pensions. In other words, both of you might get stuck in a low-paying job that tutoring could become! If you would like to start a family, have a child, buy a flat, etc. then you have to realize that your partner might be in the same situation as you are: unstable hours, working late hours, short-term-contracts, the uncertainty of the job, not many professional opportunities, more young teachers entering the same market, slim chances of a promotion and a raise! When you are young and healthy you might accept these conditions but think if you would accept them at 50. It is easy to get stuck in this job...and I know that money is not everything! But you don’t want to starve at 60. Right?


One last thought: I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know what the future holds for this business. However, I have noticed over the years that academies don’t want to pay more. In other words, they don’t want to adjust your hourly wage for the inflation rate. No one wants to pay more, yet prices of everything are rising. The Internet has allowed virtually everybody with access to it to teach from any corner of the world. It is both good and bad for the business. Nevertheless, it would be nice to be compensated for studying English Linguistics at uni for 5 years, passing CPE, as well as teaching for 10 years. The competition is stiff. People don’t care as much about your education and experience as they do about the price.


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