I’m Lucinda Williams and I’ve been working as a private language tutor for almost 10 years. I have taught students at all ages and levels in the course of my career starting with teaching in an international school in Switzerland to engaging in several international residential placements.
Each experience presented new challenges but also gave me a wealth of linguistic skills and an in-depth knowledge of managing your own business as a self-employed private tutor.
Below are some tips on how best to manage your time as an independent tutor and advice on obtaining resources to make your lessons as creative, fun and engaging as possible.
One of the huge perks of being self-employed is that you decide when you want to work.
However, it’s crucial that you manage your time effectively. Pre-pandemic, during the week I wouldn’t start tutoring till around 3/4pm and would typically finish around 9pm as these are hours when students aren’t at school. Daytime tuition would normally be home schooling clients or adult learners.
Typically, during the day, I complete my admin, go to the gym and meet friends for coffee. Now my timetable has changed due to the pandemic. As a result, there has been a steep rise in demand for online home schooling as well as adult language tuition. It’s key to strike a balance between capitalising on times for tuition (such as when students are off at the weekend) and having sufficient time ‘downtime’. Not only is this important for your social life and wellbeing, but it’s also important to function as a happy, relaxed and not overworked private tutor.
These are two key significant areas that I would stick to as a private tutor:
- Have a day off; this is crucial! It is so important to give yourself at least one day off during the week. As a freelance worker, it’s very easy to just do one hour here and there for clients, and knowing you’ll get paid for it is a big incentive. However, you need to take yourself away from work for at least one day. Friday is my day off and it is a day that is completely devoted to me… I love it!
- Put time aside in the week to carry out work admin that builds up, such as: sending invoices, updating clients, sending homework and sorting finances. You have to remember to try to avoid admin building up otherwise, you may end up working most days and fail to achieve a good work-life balance. My ‘admin day’ is Monday. Again, I love it! It enables me to catch up on emails and carry out key administration so that I can start the week afresh.
For the bulk of my teaching resources, I use tes.com. TES is an online global community with a wealth of teaching resources. Some are free and some you have to pay for. The funds go towards teachers and educational professionals helping them to continue to develop and produce high-quality resources, ultimately benefitting students. The resources I tend to use from TES are excellent and they primarily consist of worksheets and presentations.
However, I do also create some of my own resources. These may be inspired from worksheets or exercises I used at school for my own studies, or key vocabulary and/or grammar lists that I want to use which include a vast variety that I can’t quite access online. I create these myself, use them with my students and also sell them on tes.com, earning money on every resource sold. I find this a nice way to ‘give back’ after having used and bought a variety of resources from TES.
Other resources also include specific textbooks from the curriculum the student is studying. However, I don’t often use textbooks in my lessons as I think students tend to use these a lot at school and so I want to give them some variety in their learning.
Also, as a language teacher, there are four key skills to teach students: reading, writing, listening and speaking. There is therefore a beauty, somewhat, in transferring these skills in the most creative way possibly. With languages, this can be achieved by tailoring individual lessons to each student’s interests. These can vary from listening to an Italian TedTalk on feminism, watching an interview with Jennifer Lopez speaking Spanish or reading an article about Astro-Physics in French and then discussing it in the target language after.
In addition, I use articles in the target language that are of the student’s interest, e.g. an article about fashion in ¡Hola! Magazine or watching interviews such as short YouTube clips of Spanish and/or Hispanic celebrities as listening exercises.
These can be great for identifying certain tenses and phrases and, if the student is interested in that celebrity, they normally enjoy it and tend to be more engaged. One exercise I used was having a student watch an interview with the Colombian actress Sofia Vergara and she carried out a comprehension exercise on it after. The student loved it. Not only was she engaged and stimulated, but she was having fun, and learning a lot!
Using resources and planning lessons which are not only efficient but enjoyable, for me, is the key way for getting through to a student and the ultimate aim when trying to improve their ability and understanding in a certain subject. It’s important to be creative and use innovative resources when tutoring. It’s our job to come up with ways and explanations to support students to understand and enjoy learning.
I give students the task of watching a French program on Netflix or listening to a particular podcast in Italian for homework in order to hone their skills and vary their learning more. They also tend to pick up more key, idiomatic phrases that are used in that language, which is enormously beneficial for their intonation skills.
These are my key tips on how to best manage your time as an independent tutor as well as primary ideas as to where to access, use and create great teaching resources. I adore my job and sincerely love what I do.
As tutors, we don’t have to adhere to the classroom curriculum, we can go ‘off the beaten track’ and tailor lessons to a student’s interest and independent learning style. We should use this to our advantage, making lessons as fun and engaging as possible.
Remember, it’s key to balance your time so that you’re an upbeat, friendly tutor in lessons using the best and most creative resources possible.
You can find out more about Lucie by visiting her dedicated website at http://privatelanguagetutor.com/, including how to book Lucie for you or your child.
If you’d like to hear Lucie speaking about her experiences as an independent tutor in more depth, catch her episode on the Qualified Tutor Podcast on: