Everyone agrees that private tuition is always beneficial, be it for languages, maths or music.
But when it comes to choosing a teacher for private English classes for children, some non-English speaking parents have trouble deciding on whom to take on to help their children become fluent. What is more important: that the teacher knows enough Spanish to be able to communicate easily with the parents, or that the teacher is able to make himself/herself understood to the children despite the language barrier?
Questions for candidates
As I have little teaching experience myself I thought it best to ask the experts for some advice on how to find the right teacher. Paloma Irving, owner of Kids in Madrid and Native Translations, offered the following checklist of questions as guidelines for parents when interviewing potential candidates:
- How long have you been teaching?
- What age-range do you most enjoy teaching?
- How do you handle a “bored” or “unresponsive” or “hyperactive” student?
- How would you encourage children to continue learning English when not in class?
- What happens if I need to cancel a class or vice-versa?
- What other teaching experience or relevant experience do you have? (babysitting, charity work, etc?)
It is also worth considering whether the teacher is qualified or not, whether he/she can provide references and whether he/she follows a specific methodology.
Some parents prefer the candidates to meet the children before they decide on whom to take on as a teacher, whilst other parents make the decision without involving their children. Either way it is important to establish formal relationships between teacher/parents and teacher/pupils as the children will react positively to this dynamic and will be more inclined to take the classes at home seriously.
Most parents have high expectations of what their children can achieve through private tuition; however few parents realize that the native teachers who offer private lessons also have expectations! From anecdotal expectations such as a suitable teaching space to more serious requirements such as no interruptions or distractions, there are several key points which parents should consider in order to help get the most out of the experience.
Communication between parents and teachers can be problematic if there is a language barrier. Many non-English speaking parents choose to find teachers via language academies so as to ensure a third-party interpreter who facilitates communication between the adults so that everyone understands the needs & guidelines of the private tuition agreement.
According to Brigid McAleer from McAleer Solutions, teachers who give private tuition to children expect fluid collaboration and open communication with the parents. Rather than being impatient to see results, parents should be aware that children all have different learning capabilities and that progress isn’t as easily measured in language learning as it is when learning a musical instrument. Brigid McAleer also highlights the importance of a dedicated space for the class to take place in and that the children have all their study material ready so that the class can begin punctually.
Classes at home can be taught in groups but only if the children are the same age and have a similar grasp of the language. Sometimes parents ask a teacher to give classes to siblings of different ages. In this case Brigid McAleer suggests that time be divided between children by age, generally the older the child, the more time with the teacher.
One of the added advantages of having a native speaker teaching your children is that they learn more than just a language in class – the pupils also receive first-hand experience of cultural differences and reflections from the teachers who are often still learning the difference between churros and porras, or why Spaniards love embutido so much!
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