Teaching Private Lessons? Here’s 4 Mistakes you Need to Avoid


I started teaching English as a second language more than twelve years ago. I used to work for a small institute and it wasn’t long until the first recommendation came along. Someone from the institute referred to a friend who was interested in hiring a private tutor for learning English. I guess we’ve all started like that.
But little did I know that I was about to bump into some very typical problems every private teacher has (or has had) at some point. What I want to do is enumerate some of them and try to offer practical solutions that will hopefully help you not only be able to overcome those issues but to improve the quality of your private lessons on the way.

I have to get paid at the end of the month and it is never what I expected I would earn. This is definitely due to the fact that some students say they will take, for example, three classes per week but in the end they see they can only take a couple of lessons per week, sometime less! So this means you’ll get paid less than you thought.
First of all, during your first meeting, give an honest recommendation for what the best frequency is. Since the very beginning take charge as the teacher, the one who has the knowledge, and explain that you recommend a certain amount of lessons per week. If the student cannot make it as often, try to come to an agreement.
After the first conversation you have with a new student, you should always write an email just to make sure both of you agree on the tems of the service you are going to provide. This agreement must include paying up front (per month or week), which is the only way for you to take control of the lessons that the student has to take during the month or week.
That leads me to the next point, which is…

Last-minute cancellations are continually happening. This is so typical! But if you have a written agreement like the one described above (even it is only by email) you can (must) include the conditions for last-minute cancellations. I recommend asking students to notify 24 hours in advance. Students a really understanding of this, but you must set the rules before you start teaching them. Just make sure you are available to them when they need to cancel the class, by phone or email.

Parents of younger students hire me because they want their kids to “understand what they do at school”, but the kids’ English level doesn’t seem to be sufficient. Once again, you need to take control and be the teacher, remember students or parents pay for your expertise, so it very important that you talk to parents if this is the case and set realistic expectations. But don’t just say it can’t be done, offer options and materials that will help you get to the goal. This means you have to make some research and try different ways to motivate your student, be creative and engage them.

Summer is the worst time for private English I lessons, most of my students want to “rest”. This is something you need to plan ahead. Before the school year is over (at least a month in advance) it is the time to come up with new ideas and services you can offer to your students. For example, a package of classes for the holidays with fun activities, or contents they will see next year at school. You can also motivate your students by telling the parents that you can teach their kid together with some friend in the same class for just a little extra payment (the price has to be attractive). This is the time to get creative!

There is much more to say about this topic so I’d love to hear from you and hopefully find some more solutions. What are some of the problems or situations you have encountered with your private lessons? Leave a comment!


About Susana Castaneda

I am a Business English teacher, teacher trainer and business owner. I write based on my experience and knowledge as an entrepreneur and teacher in Lima-Perú. If you find these useful, thanks in advance for your comments ;)
This entry was posted in ELT, JOBS, Private Lessons and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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