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Teaching English in Times of Corona: Why Coaching Principles Make Online Learning Better

in Professional Development

Many teachers, trainers and organizations are finding themselves suddenly remote, and the behaviors that surround online learning are different from in-person training. Within this new opportunity for ELT businesses to pivot and move their work online, there are a few challenges that need to be addressed.

It was exactly halfway through our last Language Coaching Foundation Course when the country-wide ‘shelter in place’ orders started to roll out across the globe. We had ELT professionals from Japan, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Hungary, the United States, and Chile. This unprecedented global pandemic required that we hold space for our course participants. If just to share their experiences and to discuss how this situation was affecting their work.

Many companies and independent professionals are operating as usual, if not thriving, in the virtual economy. But this hasn’t been the case for everyone. How many times have you heard a language learner or teacher say, “I prefer face-to-face; I need the contact”? However, many are now forced to choose between completely stopping their lessons or giving the online thing a try.

And it turns out that online language instruction has become an immense comfort during this time. In spite of the perceived challenges for those not yet comfortable with it, learners and trainers are still able to connect and support one another.

Online education: ELT at the crossroads

This period in ESL/EFL instruction is a call to action. Things aren’t just going to go back to the way they were before the lockdown. There will undoubtedly be many converts from both professionals and learners who were hesitant about online sessions.

The question then arises: how will language training organizations integrate a long-term digital plan into their institutions and promote the necessary learner autonomy that comes with online education?

One of the major challenges of online education for teachers and organizations is that they are still held accountable for learning outcomes such as test scores and level advancementof their students. Yet in a remote learning situation, the instructor doesn’t control the classroom outside of the computer screen. The institution also no longer controls the presence and engagement of the client.

Teachers are now in a position of having to share the learning responsibility with the student.

Online education has an increased level of learner autonomy built into it, and that is perfectly suited for actually learning a language.

Teachers are now in a position of having to share the learning responsibility with the student; in a way that they may never have been challenged to do before. Online students have all the resources and access they need to continue to progress in their target language if they choose to own the responsibility of learning, and use their resources wisely.

This is the “new normal” and things aren’t going back. So, let’s talk about how to support teachers and trainers in the new normal, shall we?

Seeing yourself as a language coach rather than a traditional teacher

Language coaching is an applied methodology incorporating coaching fundamentals into the language learning context. The role of a language coach is to support and empower the learner on their self-led learning journey.*

One of the fundamental principles in language coaching is that the coach and the learner share responsibility for learning. This is also essential for an effective online learning classroom. If that is not a concept that your learners have adopted, then now would be a great time to introduce it.

This can be done with an informal conversation about what they can do outside of your sessions to continue to advance in their language learning. Or it can be done in a more formal and contractual type of agreement that outlines their level of engagement.

Trainers can promote autonomy through drawing attention to and building awareness of the learning process.

Once the understanding of learner responsibility has been brokered, the language teacher can begin to support the learner. Trainers can promote autonomy through drawing attention to and building awareness of the learning process.

The latter works best through questioning and active listening. Use questions that focus on building the meta-cognition of the language usage process and target language communication. This will boost learner autonomy and ensure that the learner continues to grow and thrive in the language acquisition process.

Online learning as the new standard – final thoughts

The new normal is an opportunity for language professionals and language learners.

If we are willing to recognize the unique challenge of building learner autonomy and choose to address this, then the world of ESL/EFL will come out of this crisis with an enriched understanding of how truly limitless our potential is to empower English language learners from anywhere in the world.

For sample questions and further guidance on how to apply language coaching techniques visit our website at www.internationallanguagecoaching.com

*Definition of language coaching developed by the International Language Coaching Association.

 

Teaching with Impact: ELT in the Context of a Complex Global Society

in Professional Development

Global societal and environmental issues were very much to the fore at the 2019 BESIG Annual Conference held in Berlin. It was a special and thought provoking event for many English teachers. Robert Nisbet took some time to reflect on some of the issues raised.

Back in September I was fortunate to receive an ELTABB scholarship which helped me attend the BESIG Annual Conference at Adlershof. One condition of this was that I write a review afterwards. What follows is my recap of the conference, plus some personal reflections.

The theme of ‘Back to Basics’ was addressed in a whole number of ways. Looking afresh at our day to day work as teachers and our relationships with our clients and learners, the conference considered broader questions about being human and our impact on the wider world. This included a focus on issues such as sustainability, the environment and inclusion.

Here, I’d like to focus on the keynote talk given on the Saturday morning by Steve Brown from the University of the West of Scotland. It was entitled ‘Indoctrination, empowerment or emancipation? The role of ELT in global society’. Of all the talks I heard, this was the one which has kept resonating with me over the past few months.

Global responsibility in ELT: Some challenging questions

Steve’s talk began by reminding us of the many problems faced by people and societies in the world today, including climate change, inequality, racism and prejudice of all sorts.

Are we part of the problem or part of the solution?

Within this context he asked how we as Business English teachers stand in relation to these issues. Simply put, are we part of the problem or part of the solution?

He asked us to consider in what way our teaching impacts the world, for good or bad. By teaching English within the context of business are we helping to promote a societal model which supports the prevailing culture of neo-liberal capitalism?

Steve Brown presenting at BESIG

Through teaching English in order to help people communicate better and progress in their careers, we in turn help companies become more successful and profitable.

However are we merely adding to the troubles created by the dominant capitalist model of business and industry, which creates wealth and comfort for the few at the expense of the environment and of the health and happiness of the many?

Integrity in the classroom – emancipation vs. indoctrination

In response Steve offered an alternative vision of critical pedagogy in the tradition of Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux. He suggested that it’s our duty as teachers to always question and challenge prevailing cultural models.

…focus on the emancipation of our learners rather than on their indoctrination.

We should demonstrate alternatives, bring social justice issues into the classroom and focus on the emancipation of our learners rather than on their indoctrination.

Indoctrination in this case is often rather a subtle thing. It involves the promotion of a lifestyle oriented around economic success and the overall importance of international trade and business. This may include brief forays into content related to the environmental movement, cultural diversity and equal rights.

Steve’s view was that when we stop to look around and consider the scale of the issues threatening our world, such an approach is just not good enough.

Steve’s suggestions for an alternative classroom practice

He argued that at the moment, empowerment in ELT translates as ‘Learn English in order to be successful within existing structures’.

But this empowerment does little to challenge the deep and systematic inequalities in the world, and can be contrasted with a more emancipatory model summarized as ‘Learn English in order to participate actively in democratic society with a view to creating change’.

Facilitating change through critical pedagogy

Steve offered two useful definitions of the critical pedagogy he was promoting:

Critical Pedagogy…understands language learning as locally situated, personal, socio-historical, and political.

 

Jeyaraj and Harland (2016, p. 589)

as well as:

Critical Pedagogy…in ELT is an attitude to language teaching which relates the classroom context to the wider social context and aims at social transformation through education.

Akbari, ELT Journal, Vol. 62, Issue 3, 2008 (pages 276–283)

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems the world faces. If we as teachers accept the critical pedagogy model, that we can and should participate in trying to improve things, then there are a number of ways we can do this, as Steve suggested.

For one thing, these can include using social justice issues as the basis for the content of our lessons. Moreover, using participatory methodologies helps empower students in setting their own learning goals.
In such ways our lessons can be not just a means to develop language skills, but also a way to develop our students’ critical consciousness.

For those who work in-company, he argued that the next step could be to use English lessons to enable companies to look critically at themselves. Through creating internal reports and investigations within the lessons, he suggested that companies can assess how they can make progress towards:

  • becoming more ethical
  • reducing their environmental footprint and
  • becoming actively and positively involved in local communities.

For those working with pre-experience learners it was also clear how lesson content could be re-orientated and space made for critical discussions.

Taking a personal stance

For me personally the talk resonated in many ways. I stopped being an architect and started being a teacher partly because I didn’t want to work for private property developers who I felt were benefitting the few at the expense of the many. I’m very sympathetic with the argument that we’re simply doing too little to address the problems of the world.

Amongst my clients are companies who build offices for global tech companies or who build trade fair stands for manufacturers of consumer products. I’d already asked myself in what way my teaching of their employees was having an impact on the waxing or waning of corporate power in the world.

Sometimes we do have conversations which are critical of aspects of the corporate world. Some of my clients are already working towards improving sustainability in their industry.

However the scope for critical pedagogy in my teaching is very much defined by external factors. That is, the culture of each particular company and the personalities, language-learning goals and interests of individual students.

That was my initial response to the challenging questions posed by Steve’s talk.

Critical pedagogy put into practice

I’ve had time to re-consider this response in the couple of months since the BESIG conference. It’s a question which hasn’t gone away, and which isn’t fully resolved.

In principle I’m completely in favour of bringing an agenda of social change to lessons. I’m sure I can do more in this direction. Some lessons have the scope to consciously look at more varied material, some don’t.

Still, I think it’s also important to recognise how people react to lesson content. My ongoing challenge with many of my lessons is to find content that my students find interesting.

When I’m successful, a topic, a video, some images or a text can spark an engaged conversation which is stimulating in itself; and this is also a good vehicle for improving their language skills. If students are not interested or engaged then language learning is very difficult.

Given the right conditions, the lesson can be an arena in which something can emerge.

I rarely know how the students are going to react to the lesson; and that’s one of the most wonderful things about being a teacher. Indeed, what one group finds very engaging, another may find deeply boring. Yet, this is impossible to predict. Given the right conditions, the lesson can be an arena in which something can emerge.

Final thoughts

I’m comfortable with telling my students what’s right and wrong with respect to the English language. I’m also happy to discuss ethical and controversial issues, and give my own opinion. But I would feel uncomfortable trying to deliver a more didactic ethical message. I generally want to let people make their own minds up, come to their own conclusions.

I accept that other more didactic approaches are possible and may be successful with different groups of students. Over the following months I will continue to question my approach in the light of Steve’s talk.

References

Joanna Joseph Jeyaraj and Tony Harland – ‘Teaching with critical pedagogy in ELT: the problems of indoctrination and risk’. In ‘Pedagogy, Culture and Society’, Routledge, 2016, p.589.

Ramin Akbari – ‘Transforming lives: introducing critical pedagogy into ELT classrooms’. In ‘ELT Journal’, Volume 62, Issue 3, July 2008, Pages 276–283.

Man in the desert with binoculars

21st Century Education: How Future-Proof Is Your Teaching Career?

in Professional Development

We read a lot about the importance of helping our learners by incorporating 21st century competencies in the classroom these days. One of the reasons given is that many of the jobs our learners will do in the future don’t exist yet so we can’t prepare them for specific roles. How can you mentor your students and stay on track as a teacher in the fast changing world of work?

21st century education: focus on key competencies

In order to integrate 21st century skills in the classroom, we can put a focus on the sort of competencies that employers and researchers indicate are priorities in present-day working environments.

Along with being tech-savvy, a good communicator, a team-player and a problem-solver, critical thinking and creativity are two of the key abilities that frequently appear on the list of important skills. So, here are some questions to help you think about how you can future-proof your career as a teacher by adopting and displaying some key elements of 21st century education.

Are your resources up to date and relevant?

While there is nothing wrong with tried and tested learning materials dating back a few years, not having a sufficient amount of updated content at hand has its pitfalls.

Outdated resources will not take into account current changes and developments in society, education and science. Neither will they feature the latest technology. So if your goal is to promote 21st century competencies in the classroom, freshen up your teaching from time to time (sprinkling in bits of knowledge from your personal experience that can’t be googled is a good idea, too). Your students will thank you!

You can ask yourself:

  • How many of the materials you use date back more than 3-5 years?
  • Which new sources of materials have you used in the last year?
  • What do you do or say in class that your students couldn’t find online?

The good news is, it has never been easier to find updated quality content for your lessons. All you need is a laptop (or tablet / smartphone) and an internet connection. TED talks are a great resource for teaching English while discussing hot topics with your students, and the variety of materials is huge. You can find out how to effectively use them in class here.

21st centuyr education: teaching needs to be intriguing
Sparking interest is key in 21st century education

Are your lessons engaging and learner-centred?

Traditionally, institutionalised education has been centred around the authority of the teacher, with a ‘good’ student equalling an obedient one. Learners have been supposed to listen and pay attention, speak only when asked to and generally follow instructions. For anyone who has ever had to endure such a scenario, do you remember how restrictive and boring that was?

If you want to ensure that your students are engaged and present in your lessons while acquiring skills that will help them outside the classroom, take a look at the following:

  • How often do you base lessons around student-generated materials?
  • What do you do to make each class unique and memorable?
  • To what extent do you show empathy with each individual learner and display knowledge of their specific needs and interests?

Getting your students on board can actually make your life easier. They may know more about certain fields than you do (e.g. technology), and thus can help you enhance your lessons.

Are you empowering your students?

21st century education: the right competencies for moving ahead

As already mentioned, collaboration and creativity are some of the key competencies in our 21st century society. Unlike yesteryear, understanding patterns and being able to transfer and apply knowledge is more valuable than memorising large amounts of data.

Learning is much more about autonomy and social skills these days, with a good teacher stepping back a lot of the time in order to let students practice what they’ve learned. If you want your students to become creative problem-solvers who are capable of self-organisation, consider this:

  • How do your lessons specifically help students solve problems large or small?
  • How do you help your students research information as part of their learning?
  • What different forms of pair and group work do you use to enhance learning via cooperation?

Understanding yourself as a go-to person whose job it is to be there for your learners when things go wrong rather than an all-knowing solo entertainer will simplify matters and help your students grow. Moreover, you will benefit as a teacher if you allow yourself to learn from them as well. And hey, it’s just more fun for everyone!

Do you keep honing your teaching skills?

The key to staying on track in any profession is to keep evolving. For this, talking to peers, sharing ideas and insights is invaluable. Other measures include a certain amount of self-scrutiny as well as adding new techniques to your repertoire every so often. Question time:

  • Who do you cooperate with outside your class as part of your own development?
  • How often do you record your lessons and then analyse and act on your findings?
  • What have you done to increase your repertoire of different ways to start and finish your lessons?

There are lots of resources on the internet to inspire you to try new things; most of them by other teachers sharing their experience and what works for them. Besides, there are plenty of professional associations for teachers out there, so you don’t have to go it alone. With online forums and groups at hand, you may not even have to meet other teachers in person.

To get started, recording your lessons is a good way to evaluate and understand yourself better. Just see to it that you comply with the data protection laws of your country (only use the recordings for educational purposes and you may have to delete them after a while).

21st century education in the classroom: final thoughts

While creating a 21st century learning environment may seem challenging at first, it doesn’t have to be a big headache. With an abundance of online resources, groups and forums at your disposal, you can get a lot of free support. Moreover, encouraging your students to bring in their strengths will benefit them while making your job easier. Win-win!

For further information on 21st century education, you can watch the video below. It’s to the point and will fill you in on everything you need to know in order to understand the main ideas.

Happy future-proofing!

A short video about 21st century education with practical examples

Let’s Talk Business English! What Every Trainer Should Know About The Industry In 2020

in Professional Development

Teaching business English has become a lucrative career option for English trainers in today’s globalised world. Evan Frendo discusses interesting current trends and how the landscape of the industry has changed over the years with Ian McMaster from Business Spotlight.

Ian McMaster: What have been the biggest changes you have observed over your career among users of business English?

Evan Frendo: When I started in business English in the early 1990s, most of my students were managers and people in senior positions. They were the ones who needed English in order to speak to customers, work with partners and so on.

Now, it has become common to see people working in international teams with English as the lingua franca. Many internal meetings are held in English, even in German companies. For many people, a typical day is full of switches from German to English and back to German, depending on what is happening and who is in the room or on the telephone.

There is greater recognition of the fact that business English is not “native speaker” English, but rather the English that people need to do their jobs effectively.

Teaching business English - what teachers and trainers need to know
Different people – different Englishes

This means that there is an increased focus on intercultural communication and soft skills. For example, in some companies where I work, the focus is on understanding “Chinese English”, because this is the type of English the employees will meet when they speak with their clients and business partners.

Experienced business people understand that it is no good having perfect “native-speaker” English if you cannot communicate with your clients.

And what have been the biggest changes you have observed for teachers and trainers?

I think the biggest change I have noticed is that there are more teachers and trainers on the market, and therefore there is more competition. Surprisingly, Germany is a country that does not demand high standards from the people who teach business English, and almost anyone can do it. There are no minimum entry qualifications.

This means that many trainers are not properly trained to do what they are doing, but have simply done a short introductory course on how to be a teacher and then relied on the fact that, as native speakers, their command of the language will get them through.

More and more trainers are now doing certificates in business English training.

In many business English situations, this is adequate, and there are many examples of satisfied customers using trainers like this. But in other cases, such trainers are not good enough.

This has led to another change: some companies have learned from experience and now demand better-trained trainers. And more and more trainers are now doing certificates in business English training.

What type of business English training do people at work really need?

The answer always depends on the specific context. In some situations, a general business English approach will be enough, with the trainer and the learners adapting published materials as necessary to suit their own needs. This type of approach is very common in language schools, for example.

Within companies, however, the approach can be very different, with the trainers and learners spending significant time analysing needs, understanding where the priorities are and then tailor-making the training accordingly.

An important factor here may be business knowledge and content, not just the language.

This sometimes means collaborating with a range of stakeholders to understand what the company’s perspective is, as well as observing language in use — meetings, presentations, negotiations, discussions and so on — to find out where the real communication problems lie.

An important factor here may be business knowledge and content, not just the language. Trainers will often work closely with a client to understand this perspective. Such a collaborative approach requires special skills; so trainers who do this sort of work tend to be well-qualified and experienced.

How is technology changing the way that people use English for work purposes?

Recently, I was in Xi’an, China, doing some work for a client, and I had to take a taxi. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English, and my Chinese is very poor. But I had a card with my hotel address on it, so I wasn’t worried. But this time, the driver chatted to me the whole of the 40-minute trip using an app on his smartphone.

The app allowed us to communicate. We talked about my job, his family, Xi’an and many other things. Such apps are becoming commonplace in the workplace. I often see people using them during meetings, for example. But simultaneous translation apps are only one example of new technology.

The biggest impact of technology is that fewer people will need to learn a language.

Everyone knows how easy it is to translate an email or other written document. The quality is now very good and getting better all the time. And some industries are working hard to eliminate the need for human communication at all in certain areas; computers simply communicate with other computers to pass on information.

Contact between people is still important, but things are changing. The days of relying solely on intuition and personal relationships are disappearing fast. And, of course, there is a lot more remote communication, using technology that simply did not exist a few years ago.

I think the biggest impact of technology, however, is that fewer people will need to learn a language.

Of course, it will always be beneficial to learn foreign languages. But when we measure how long language training takes, compared to the potential advantages, many of us will decide that the method I used with my taxi driver will be enough. It’s all about return on investment.

And how is technology changing the way that people learn and teach business English?

Firstly, the software we use nowadays to analyse language use allows us to understand much better the language that we need to focus on.

For example, we now have access to large collections of language data. We can compare the mistakes that native speakers of German make in English with those made by speakers of other languages, and create language-learning activities that are aimed precisely at German speakers of English.

This means that a whole range of learning resources, from textbooks to dictionaries to magazines, are able to target real needs much more effectively than in the past.

Books, a chalkboard and a tablet on a table
Learning with technology has become the norm

Secondly, the technology available in the classroom and for self-study allows a lot of new things to be done. It is now normal for teachers and learners to use their own devices in class to make recordings, to access resources such as dictionaries and videos, to practise vocabulary and so on.

Most coursebooks now include online activities and exercises. Language-learning apps are everywhere and are offering new language-learning opportunities. It is relatively easy to spend ten minutes every day revising key vocabulary on an app on the daily commute to work, for example.

But perhaps more importantly, these apps are allowing the experts to collect vast amounts of data about how people learn languages. Such research will have a profound influence on how professional trainers do things.

Looking ahead to the next five years, what are the biggest changes that you expect the business English industry to undergo?

Different parts of the industry will go in different ways. The big language schools will get bigger and bigger, and dominate the market even more, to the detriment of small schools and individual trainers working as freelancers.

This trend is already taking place, as many of Germany’s largest multinational companies are seeking to increase the quality of their training providers, and at the same time, bring down the costs.

Universities, colleges and schools will do a much better job of preparing people for the workplace, and less training will be necessary in the workplace itself.

… much more emphasis on soft skills and intercultural skills, rather than a more traditional focus on grammar and vocabulary.

Already, many school leavers have certificates in business English, something that was quite rare just a few years ago. Technology will continue to change the way we think about communication. And, as I said, fewer people will need to spend time learning a foreign language. The way we relate to devices will change as we learn how to use them better.

And those people who do invest in learning a language will demand much more emphasis on soft skills and intercultural skills, rather than a more traditional focus on grammar and vocabulary.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a career as a business English trainer?

First, be prepared to learn from your clients and from experienced trainers. They often know much more about business communication than you do, particularly at the beginning of your career.

Second, be prepared to spend time analysing your clients’ needs. Each client is unique and requires a tailor-made approach. One size does not fit all.

Be aware that technology is really influencing this profession.

Third, do more than an introductory course in teaching — if you want to be a professional, you need to spend real time and effort learning the skills and techniques you require, and you need to keep up to date. Your clients deserve no less. Joining teacher associations, attending conferences and simply networking with others in the profession will all be invaluable.

And finally, be aware that technology is really influencing this profession. If you are interested in how language works, have a look at natural language processing and computational linguistics. These fields are at the cutting edge of what we do, and there are innumerable opportunities at the moment.

This is a shortened version of the interview originally featured in Business Spotlight magazine, issue 7/2019. www.business-spotlight.de

You can read the full interview on Evan’s website.

_________________________

Evan Frendo has been an ELTABB member since 1993, when he first started teaching business English and ESP. He has a background in engineering and works for clients across Europe and in Asia. You can find out more about him on his website www.e4b.de.

The Digital Classroom has Come to Stay – Here’s Why You Should Embrace it

in Berlin/Professional Development

While there are definite advantages to good old-fashioned in-person lessons, the digital classroom offers a vast array of benefits for ESL teachers as well. In this article, Berlin-based online tutor Liam Porter is showcasing the convenience of teaching English remotely and sharing some practical tips.

Teaching English in Berlin: mind the gap!

As an English teacher in Berlin you are probably being stretched thin. You are limited in your earning power by the number of hours in the day. Your students will rarely all live in the same city block. Traversing space on the BVG eats up time to be potentially earning money elsewhere, not to mention your leisure time. Many must drive as much as teach in order to increase their catchment area.

Unless enjoying rare pampered status, most ESL teachers bounce from office to office like travelling salesmen, sitting in cafes during that two hour break on Wednesday with nowhere to go and nothing to do. You tap around on Google calender trying to suppress posing yourself the question, “Isn’t this actually worse than minimum wage?”.

Why not stay home and set up your own digital classroom instead?

With none of the disadvantages mentioned above, an online teacher additionally gains access to a huge pool of potential work. Much of teaching online takes place on platforms such as Learnship and italki.

Teaching online, you might never need to leave the house again.

Students come not only from across Europe, but the market is ever more channelling unfulfilled demand from the East. Teaching online, you might never need to leave the house again. This liberation from commuting will not only increase your earning potential, but it will reduce your costs in ink, public transport and – in summertime – laundry days.

One can go further with online teaching. Learnship and italki are limited by their business models. They provide the administration for booking students and the payroll: quite necessary ‘middle-man’ functions for any language school… yet are they still necessary in the age of savvy customers with search engines at their disposal?

Pick the best learning platforms

In Germany, a search for the keywords “Englischunterricht online” or “Nachhilfe” throws up thriving sites like Superprof, Preply, and Mylingotrip (and of course, Ebay Kleinanzeigen). These platforms do nothing more than take a commission: from the student, and not from the teacher. They then simply link the contact details of the learner with the ad-poster. Unlike the employer business model of Learnship and italki, these sites leave it entirely up to you how to run your course and what you charge.

A digital teacher therefore has the chance to teach students beyond his own city and charge beyond typical Berlin rates. Geographical limitations dissolve, and your teaching performance also loses constraints. Say goodbye to never having a wet pen in the classroom (and never a black one); turning up late and out of breath due to unexpected delays; or being unable to wander from a set lesson plan, if the planned topic has little appeal to the student.

Use clever software to enhance and personalise your online lessons

Most language lessons require students to convey aspects of their lives in a foreign language that the teacher will lack personal experience in. This is something which is inherently difficult to do.

Yet with creative use of software, one can make the desktop into a theatre of visual input; far more easily eliciting speech from the student who lacks confidence in explaining what he knows in spite of the restrictions of a foreign tongue.

Make the desktop into a theatre of visual input.

The next time your student answers the question of where he comes from, you can immediately throw the very town he grew up in onto the screen in photographic detail. When you ask, “What are your hobbies?” you can, in a matter of seconds, find a video showing exactly their brand of car, snowboard, or sewing machine in action. If they have recently watched a show on Netflix, and they want to practice speaking about it, you could go to exactly that platform to show the same scenes they are trying to account.

The right equipment and decorum pays off

The full exploitation of this new horizon of teaching online requires some adaptation on your behalf. You should certainly have digital versions of your books, requiring scanning and software know-how. You ought to have a good quality audio/visual setup and a quiet keyboard and mouse. A drawing tablet is an excellent investment, as is a ‘gooseneck’ webcam mount to avoid noise conduction.

Cosmetic changes, such as using an attractive desktop wallpaper, subconsciously add value to your lessons.

You should take care over the appearance of your room – which is your classroom now – and over your webcam manner; you must get used to seeing your own webcam feed on-screen (I recommend the MPC media player) while interacting with another person. Cosmetic changes, such as hiding your taskbar and desktop shortcuts, and using an attractive desktop wallpaper subconsciously add value to your lessons.

In my experience, my investment of money and care into the presentation of my lessons has been a virtuous circle, reigniting my pleasure in my work and motivating me to work smarter.

Take charge of your time, money and teaching style

As an independent online teacher you must get accustomed to being entirely responsible for your own successes and failures. This also means being entirely free to teach how you wish.

For me, this has been the most valuable part of my move online: not merely the end of frustrating obligatory commutes, the increase in earning potential, and the increase in working comfort, but the opportunity of taking my teaching into my own hands, and to deliver my lessons in a way that is ever more authentically personalised to the student.

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