What makes a good ESL student?

How to get the most out of your English classes…

Most ESL tutors and teachers spend time thinking about what kind of classes, services and value they provide. Aside from the initial TEFL or CELTA training, many of us specialize in aspects of ESL.

For example, aside from teaching conversation and general ESL, I teach pronunciation and reading skills. Some teachers are amazing at grammar or business English, and some focus on test preparations like IELTS or TOEFL.

After many years as a tutor most of us are well qualified to teach all aspects of ESL but choose not to. We tend to focus on a few key areas in order to offer well-organized, effective classes.

Most students will choose a teacher based on their specific needs and, if they are lucky, find someone they truly get along with and look forward to learning from week after week.

So, we know what makes a good Tutor, but what makes a good student?

From my experience and what I’ve heard from other professionals, follow these simple rules to learn well and stay in your Tutor’s “good ESL books.”

Know your Why and expectations

Students want or need to learn English for a variety of reasons. Some are eager to become fluent for personal reasons, while others begrudgingly need English for work or school. The more you understand your needs,the more likely you will find the correct teacher.

Just because a teacher is recommended or on some platforms has a high rating, doesn’t mean they are a good fit for you.

If you like your classes to be fun with a variety of tools and materials, like books,videos, audio files, games, exercises and maybe even a little ukulele and singing practice that’s great the more you enjoy your classes, the more likely you will be to stay with your lessons for a long time.

However, if you need to pass an IELTS test in a month or prepare for a big upcoming presentation at work, you should choose a more serious tutor who has specific training on those topics.

Don’t be disappointed or think your tutor is not competent or effective if you are not clear about your needs.

Just like a math teacher in high school could probably teach a history class for a few weeks, that’s not their expertise, and they may not be regularly brushing up on their history knowledge.

Common Courtesy

The best students are flexible but consistent

The best students book classes,attend regularly and are on time. However, they are happy to wait a few minutes for their tutor from time to time because their tutor has waited or not charged them for missed classes here or there.

I am very lucky and have great students but every once in a while I get students that have booked and canceled classes 10 times before I’ve even met them. Although, I’m well aware that life is unpredictable, booking classes take time and space away from another student or my other life plans.

It’s best to only book classes you feel sure you can attend regularly. A reasonable ratio is 7 out of 10 classes. So, it’s not 100% of the time, there is still some flexibility.


Yours and Mine

Some ESL tutors are very well paid and charge upwards of 50 USD an hour. If you are paying your ESL tutor that price, you should expect a highly trained and educated professional with well-planned lessons, course materials, and progress tracking.

However, most ESL tutors do not make anywhere near that amount. Many of use make less than minimum wage in most developed countries and consider 16 USD an hour to be the average rate but also not common. Due to the lower wages we need to take on more students and work longer hours.

We dont’ get paid enough to do a lot of prep work or tracking. You may get lucky and find a professional engineer happy to make some money on the side as your ESL tutor, but most likely you are not going to have a tutor with an advanced degree at a low cost.

And you shouldn’t want to. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had who make a lot of money and complain about ESL rates…even when I make below mininum wage. Many tutors like myself, teach because we love it and the job allows us flexibility to raise our families or pursue other careers. However, a lot of great teachers leave the industry because they need to make more money.

So student-led preparation can be a great way to keep your classes well planned without paying higher fees. If you track your progress, bring materials to class or even send a quick note ahead of class mentioning a website or book you’d like to work on- everyone wins.

So, I hope this post explained a few things and that you are inspired to keep learning English! If you have any other questions about finding an ESL tutor or need help with pronunciation, reading skills , or general English, message me or comment below. I’m always on the lookout for great students!

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