The art of being a successful homestay English teacher relies as much on Emotional Intelligence (EI) as it does teaching expertise. A group class teacher needs to be a master of classroom management so that everyone feels involved and part of the group. Depending on which age range is being taught, it can also involve an element of crowd control! One-to-one tuition, however, relies much more on working out each individual’s learning style, helping them feel at ease and facilitating their learning.
The fact that they are staying in your home, too, makes for a potentially intensive situation, but there are strategies to help you alleviate this intensity and to deliver a first class personalised course. Here are our tips for being a great Homestay English teacher.
The first thing to remember is that a student is arriving to stay with you and wants more than anything for the course to be a success. They want to fit in. So, if anyone is going to be anxious, it is the student. It’s your territory: your home, your language, your family, and your customs. It might be their first time away from their family or their first time immersed in a different culture. Mealtime etiquette such as showing how to say they have had enough food or how to use the shower are all things easily overlooked, but when explained make students feel at ease. Discussing cultural differences is a great subject for conversation as it gives them an opportunity to explain how they see the world too.
Having an interest in people and being empathetic is equally as important as you will be spending a lot of time together. Students need to feel comfortable and to a degree empowered that they can work with you and enjoy each other’s company.
This is why top-notch hospitality is really important for a relaxed and positive learning environment and a successful homestay experience. A warm welcome on arrival, afternoon tea or an evening meal gets things off to the right start.
Patience: Find out what makes them tick
The ability to personalise a course makes the difference between a good course and a great experience. Luckily, it doesn’t take too much effort to achieve this. By definition, Host Tutors have a wealth of experience to hand from their previous occupations: now is the time to use it. Using your contacts, you might be able to arrange meetings and experiences that will be particularly beneficial and nearly always highly appreciated by your student.
A short email to the student in advance of their course, to find out more about them and also about their expectations, can help shape your plans.
When InTuition places students with Host Tutors, we do our best to match students with tutors to optimise compatibility.
The 6 T’s: 3 to Avoid and 3 to Employ
The good T-T-T: There are many different teaching styles adopted by teachers, and they often become attached to a particular style or approach. With over 25 years’ specialisation in delivering one-to-one programmes, we have found that the most effective method is Teach-Teach-Test. It simply works at all levels and for all students. What you do within this system is up to you and your student. Clearly if you can assess their learning style you can adapt the content around how they like to learn, but apply the same approach, elicit, teach and endorse and then check they have understood it again.
The bad T-T-T: This is Teacher Talking Time. By definition, talking during one-to-one tuition is mutually exclusive, unless the student and teacher talk over each other – which is never recommended! Being able to hold a pause is vital if going to avoid falling into the trap of delivering a monologue, lecturing the student on your language knowledge. The key is to elicit, and get the student to talk. A pause in the conversation doesn’t always need to be filled.
Repetition. If you’ve said it before, say it again
Even when you have lots of information about them in advance we advise against planning too many lessons in great detail, as this should really be done after having conducted a needs analysis with them on day one.
Even though it is not a requirement in one-to-one to be a linguist, it is good to be at least familiar with some of the learning difficulties some languages have when learning English.
Remember it can take 7 times before a language function or a grammar point or a piece of vocabulary is embedded into the memory cortex, so be patient and be prepared to repeat yourself.
Don’t expect a learner to use new language perfectly as soon as it is taught. Language often needs to be digested for days, weeks or even months. As you get more experienced, you will develop an intuition for what needs to be covered and lesson planning speeds up enormously.
Learning in the real world
Working from home has huge advantages, apart from the obvious short commute. Your student is learning English in the real world.
Use your local knowledge: your home, as a classroom, immediately gives instant access to realia, and allows you the ability to improvise at short notice. Students learn in a real context and a real environment, so make the most of it: integrate lessons with activities, invite friends round and use your local surroundings. If there’s a local farmers market, take them there; if there is a rural sheep auction or antiques auction go and check it out. Think about what you can see and do locally. There are great opportunities available for students to practise their English and have a taste of real British life.
Teaching English in your own home is all about people and sharing information. It is a rewarding experience for both parties.