6 Things To Know About Teaching Private Lessons
By Mark Guthrie
While teaching English in Japan no longer reaches the heady financial peaks it once did, it is still a pretty good way to earn a living. However, whether it be to counteract a weakening yen, pay off university debts, or to simply go out and buy something pretty, many teachers find ways of adding to their earnings.
Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is taking on private lessons. There are plenty of students desperate to find a good, reliable one-on-one teacher and, thanks to private teaching’s intimate nature of close contact and personal discussion, private students can soon become good friends. There are both positives and negatives to this close interaction.
1. You Will Need To Remember Many Personal Details
Students will be extremely curious about how your life, your thoughts and your past, as a foreigner, differ from that of their own and will ask you many questions. Don’t be surprised if they remember everything you tell them.
However, as the great teacher you undoubtedly are, you may have dozens of private students, and thus not only does it become a task to recall every tidbit of information they give about themselves, it may even become a challenge remembering Yuki from Yuka, Yuta from Yuusa, and Saya from Kaya and Maya.
Keeping a profile log of each student and jotting down names, hobbies and any family members they may mention will aid in student recollection as well as giving your lessons a personal, friendly touch.
2. Openness Is Next To Godliness
As mentioned, a relationship with a one-on-one student can become close, particularly if a long term arrangement. Getting students to talk freely will often call on you asking questions about their personal lives; however students will expect you to reciprocate.
If you are asking them about their family or what they did that weekend, for example, it would be somewhat churlish if you were to clam up when they return the questions you have just taught them. Besides, you may also find your lessons and examples are brought further to life by bringing your own experiences to the classroom.
3. A Professional Distance Is Still Required.
It is a fine balance, but you must also remember that you are entering into a business relationship. When offering up private information you should also be aware of cultural differences of personal boundaries. Perhaps you are all too happy to talk about your youthful indiscretions on holiday in Ibiza when you were 18, but to a Japanese student these may be distasteful, shocking, or downright illegal!
On the flip side, there may be things that you are uncomfortable divulging to someone who is, for all intents and purposes, your employer. If that line is crossed, be careful not to be too abrupt when declining to answer, and remember to give a clear explanation as to why.
4. Your Reputation Is Key
As unlikely as it may seem, the archetypal stereotype of the predatory private tutor still abounds, as does that of the bored housewife or salaryman seeing English lessons as chance for an exotic encounter.
Of course, the truth of these matters is far from the myth, but it is advisable to be careful how you conduct yourself as to not fan the flames of potential indiscretion. Lessons should not be held in either your home or theirs; always utilise a public place such as a coffee shop.
If you dine out or socialise with your students, be careful that it is not in a ‘date’ setting. Word of mouth is the best way for your reputation to spread. What do you want that reputation to be?
5.Your Lessons Can Be Tailored To The Individual
By now you are probably starting to get worried about the potential pitfalls of one-on-one lessons, but fear not. While real dangers, the aforementioned incidences are few and far between. In reality, being close with a private student can be advantageous for both parties.
For example, each time they mention a hobby, a taste in music, even a new favourite food, you have the basis of a new lesson tailored to their particular interests. And while you are able to keep your lessons fresh and interesting, your students can reap the rewards of being absorbed in their subject matter.
6. You Can Learn From Your Students
Perhaps the greatest thing about teaching private lessons is that your student is not the only one learning. Conversation with your students can open you up to a wider world of understanding of Japanese culture.
Whether it be cooking tips from Monday night’s obaasan, underground punk bands from Tuesday’s uni student, insight into office life from Thursday night’s salaryman or Korean drama updates from Saturday’s high-schooler, you can see your lessons as a way of gaining, not only financially, but also culturally.