How to Tutor English Online as a TESOL Teacher


It has been a common sense that English is a dominating universal language today, but even native English speakers may not have an idea how huge the English tutoring market exactly is: According to the estimation of the British Council, there are 1.5 billion English learners and at least 10.2 million English teachers in the globe.

The vast global market for English tutoring is in great demand of English teachers, among whom a native English speaker and a non-native one make a big difference. If the teacher's mother tongue is not English, he (or she) will more or less have the inclination to shun oral communication in English, but to simply rely on a textbook to teach boring grammar and vocabulary; or when he is teaching students that speak the same language with him, it is highly possible that they will finally start communicating in their native language, which makes both feel more at ease. These all lead to tedious classes and little progress or breakthrough in students' language abilities.

Deena Boraie, president of the TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) International Association, said to the Guardian: "The field of teaching English to speakers of other languages really is a unique discipline with its own pedagogy and it combines a number of academic areas." If we observe the language classes at schools and universities, it is likely to find that students love foreign teachers (here it means TESOL teachers) much more than their native language teachers. This is because a TESOL teacher's class is usually more funny and interesting, and the teacher becomes students' friends. Most importantly, students are compelled to speak English in a TESOL teacher's class and thus have to be highly concentrated on using the language, which is actually the most effective way in language learning. Therefore, the key point to tutor English as a TESOL teacher is to create a friendly atmosphere and natural situations for students to interact in (there should be interaction not only between teacher and students, but between student and student as well when you are teaching in a small group). Of course grammar must be taught in an English class, but it is your advantage as well as responsibility, as a TESOL teacher, to explain grammar in a communicative way that softens the rigorous feeling of grammar: use examples, play games, etc.

As have been concluded by many experienced online TESOL teachers, the most popular topics in online English classes are hobbies, family, culture, sports, music and films. The majority of online language learners are just looking for a native speaker with whom they can practice English in a private and relaxing environment, rather than seriously seeking academic help, although there are a percentage of students who want to take business English courses or grammar tutorials, or to find a teacher to prepare them for a job interview. Knowing this, you need to be talkative in a variety of topics. This does not necessarily mean that you should have sound knowledge in a dozen of fields. The skill you need to own is the flexibility to switch between different topics during communication and encourage your students to go on speaking. Attempting to communicate can be quite embarrassing at first, but good communication and easygoing personality are crucial in an online language class.

There are other tactics that online TESOL teachers should notice. One is how to draw your student close to you: be happy, show your smiling face, and look as if you are interested in what your student says and you want to travel to the country/state/city that he lives in. Dress code also matters. It is suggested that online teachers also get dressed formally, since this will make them look more professional. Remember that a nice voice and a friendly manner will help you win students' admiration all the time. Another factor to note is the way you correct your student's mistake. In some culture, one will feel ashamed when he learns that he has made a mistake. So be careful in order not to hurt your student's feeling while helping him learn from the error. One more point to mention: if you teach multiple students in one class (teach in a group), be sure to give equal chance to everybody for practicing and pay equal attention to everyone's need. Don't let one student dominates the class as this will make other students upset.

The least thing to remind our TESOL teachers in this article—but quite a few of you do need to be reminded indeed— is to check your broadband capacity, your headset, microphone, webcam, and your computer software. These are the most basic but indispensable elements for your online classes. One more thing to notice at Acadsoc is that some of the tutors post a course on the platform but soon forget it. It has happened more than once that a student booked a class and prepare with deep passion, only to find the tutor not showing up in class time. Dear tutors, please BE RESPONSIBLE and sign in regularly to check for any new updates so as not to disappoint your prospective students.

Go post a course and start teaching English online!

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