Teaching English

Hi All

I do some English teaching (who doesn't!) and would like some advice.

I teach some children (usually between the ages of 8 and 14), and also some adults. I have had some problems. A couple of the parents have withdrawn their children stating "n'importe quoi" reasons. I take this to mean that they don't want to tell me the real reasons, but that they find my lessons not very effective.

In truth, I'm not surprised, as nearly all of them want me to simply help them with their homework. Because that doesn't take all the time allocated, I add other exercises from the English BLED (yes, it does exist!), or from lessons I find on the internet - for example Hallowe'en vocabulary, Christmas Quiz, Questions and Answers to introduce yourself to a friend and talk about your interests, favourite films, etc.

I know that my teaching methods will be nothing like the school teachers', and I do say so in my advert, saying that I seek to bring the language alive with short video clips, songs, stories, etc. The basis for this is that I'm not a trained teacher - and more impotently, if the children are being brought to me because their marks at school aren't good enough, this means that conventional teaching methods aren't working!

At first, people like my approach, but then they can't resist wanting to get back to what they know. A parents asked me to do more grammar lessons from the Bled book, and less reading (the boy reading, that is) from Horrid Henry. An adult has gone and bought her own book and CD so that we can do exercises from that, despite the fact that she said she wanted to do "mainly conversation", and I had, each time, pre-prepared things to converse about - topics of her choice - but with lessons prepared in advance - doing, or so I thought, a little bit more than she had asked.

Does anyone know what the French really want from us with these lessons? Do parents, for example, want me to set homework, do tests and award marks out of 20 or else it's not "real lessons"?

Any advice or ideas welcome! Thanks, Emily

What an interesting thread!

First, Emily, you've encountered an issue in what you think is good practice (and probably is) and what people will pay for: two entirely different things. If you suspect you are losing clients because you aren't offering what they want, you have to bite the bullet and ask them. I always have an 'exit' review and I ask parents to be honest. Is it cost? Is it what they were learning? And I always do an initial consultation to find out exactly what they want. I personally don't find that my French children's parents want 'more' of what they have in school, but that's because I get good feedback on my 'ludique' style.

Secondly, I do agree with those posters who think a teaching qualification might help. Whilst I agree that teaching is a vocation, I don't think there's any benefit in it being 'instinctive': as a NLP practitioner would say 'unconscious competence' - because this isn't reflective practice. There does need to be some science behind it - some method! For instance, I was already getting 1s from Ofsted and when I met Paul Ginnis, he totally revolutionised my teaching. I'm a former teacher advisor for English, having trained over 1,000 English teachers in secondary education and I think knowing about pedagogy is the best way to refine and polish instinctive good practice. You can make an average teacher into a good one, and a great teacher into an exceptional one. I do detailed lesson plans for each lesson with balances across the unit, the course and the lesson in terms of modelling, paired work, guided work, independent work and also in terms of reading, writing, speaking and listening. It's all a balance. I also use Gregorc's Mind Styles as a principle behind my work and try to hit all four learning styles, as well as VAK and a whole load of others. It's a skilled juggling act and it's only because I've spent most of my career exploring how to teach as well as what to teach that I get lots of repeat business. My problem is different from yours in a way - I have only 200,000 residents within an hour's drive and I depend on Skype and internet teaching.

If I were you, I'd have a thorough analysis of what each student (and their parents) want/need before you start. I'd tailor my courses around what they want and gradually throw in more and more of the things I think they need. I'd also ask for an exit review asking them to evaluate your lessons (and you can do this every lesson if you like... I do!) and asking for them to be brutal!

That's the only way you will find IF something is wrong and what it is exactly. People are surprisingly forthcoming when you ask!

Forget all the other stuff about TEFL and teaching and English until you know what the reason is. Sometimes, it's cost. Sometimes, it's convenience. Sometimes, parents want you to work through homework. Sometimes they want you to do conjugation and grammar (and if you read stuff like Paul Ginnis and the stuff from Anglo-American Publications, you'll be so inspired as to how to teach verb tables!) but you can't guess. I'd also think you feel pretty insecure about your teaching skills and that would be the first place you'd think to find fault when it might just be that in this global recession, things are tight and they've found a Uni student who's doing what you do for 7€...

If I were you, I'd find someone to help me draft a very thorough exit evaluation, post it to your former clients with a pre-paid envelope and ask them to fill it in. They might not, but if even one does, it might give you something.

Just watched the talk, thanks for posting it. I found it fascinating and inspirational. My only problem is that I have an aversion to playing games on consoles, maybe I've been playing the wrong ones? I do know that many NHS trusts have adopted the activity games on Wii to get elderly people moving. It's fairly easy to see that the same can be applied to children of all ages, but I'd be interested in which games might be the most stimulating for teaching English.

Hi, thanks for this thread it has helped me no end! (I wonder if that will be acceptable in a French English Lesson?)

I am about to start giving lessons to a parent who wants to help her child and feels inadequate with her own standard of English. Looks as though I'll be trying to keep mother one step ahead of her child!!!

I am still interested in the response to the question of payment. There was only one reply within this thread so I contacted someone I know in Spain who teaches. Her response was that the minimum there is 20€ and maximum 45€ for someone at Director level, per hour.

I'd be pleased to hear if people consider this too much or too little, while appreciating that they might not wish to divulge their own fees.

benouville 14970 is between caen and ouistreham , alhough there is another one in paris which did cause me problems when i registered and then traded in my car ,!! are you on facebook , easier on chat

No Mike - you are not - as last I heard you were not running About.com!!!!

Just a suggestion. Laura is teaching French but lessons can be adapted for English. Many good ideas on tab "For Teachers". Hope I am not violating SFN rules mentioning link. Everything is free.

Hi Emily, you have to realise that for the French, learning English is all about getting high marks by not making mistakes. Once they leave school what they have learnt is that the surest way not to make mistakes in English is not to speak it at all. French education is about instilling knowledge and testing the knowledge instilled. There is no provision for acquiring skills. Thus kids are taught not to end sentences with prepositions, use split infinitives or start sentences with "and", "but" or "because" (apparently you have to use "since") - all things which have been used from Shakespeare to Churchill. English speaking kids who undergo English lessons at school are frequently penalised for perfectly acceptable usages. So my point is, your boys' parents are expecting more of the same. You have to make clear to them the difference between knowledge and skills (linguistic competence). Explain the order of their acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, writing, followed at a great distance by translation from (composition) and translation to (thème). As these last two only concern second language learning they don't really belong at all. A lot hinges on how well you can make this sort of pitch to skeptical parents. Watch http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/gabe_zichermann_how_games_make_kids_smarter.html

An interesting point he makes is that the generation gap is even wider now than it was in the sixties, thanks to video games. That's what you have to bridge... good luck

hi elaine, i still work 1 week a month in uk, but basically almost live in benouville, i mentioned i might retire to france in june and was immediately bombarded with requests to help teach english, i have an interview with the village school on thurs, the pta said they would pay me , because there is no one doing english but after reading all the comments on here i decided to do it for free 2x 45 minutes for CM2class so any help would be appreciated ; there seems to be a heated debate on here pro v am, both sides have valid points .i hope that by doing this it might lead to paid work next summer , as the last thing i want is resentful parents if i am not very good ,as one person says motivators and personality can help amateurs!i already coach badminton and my french wife and children have been in the village 8 years

Reminds me of some reactions at a recent parents' meeting at collège recently, when I said 'Will they have access to the internet during the 'Etude' because when I collect them at 6pm I'd like them to have everything done" - many SHOCKED faces!! there are only a handful of children who stay to the Etude after school.

Hi Jackie,

" You can be a teaching assistant in schools working I think 12 hours a week for low pay - contact the relevant Academie."

My local academie required that the 'intervenants' were qualified with a 'habilitation' in order to teach in primary schools and were then given a few hours work depending on what was available.

However, the "crisis" has resulted in a change of policy - and the school teachers are now expected to teach English to their class. This obviously reduces costs, but means it may not be possible to find work as a teaching assistant.


We've been in France for 5 years. I did a TEFL before we came out. I teach as an independent teacher a mixture of mainly adults (private + businesses) and children.

In the French education system mother's are expected to review and help their children with their homework every night. (French parent's believe a good education is crucial for success in life).

In my experience whenever you teach teenagers they want some help with homework (because mother can't help).

My solution has been to review the task, solve any problems of understanding and show the kids how to do it - then let them get on with it alone.

If you don't help with homework you have no chance.

Send me a message if you want any more help

Hope that helps

Geoff PHILLIPS (husband of Christine)

Sorry Emily...I'm feeling all pink and fluffy today..... ha ha ha....I'll come back to you later when I'm feeling more edgy! You're on the right track though dear

Probably the reason I ended up living in France was my love for the language, and that has an awful lot to do with my teacher at school. He made it fun, we sang songs, I had the confidence to speak because I wanted to. He didn't spend hours making us chant boring verb tables. I ended up with good grades and went to live in Paris, then uni etc...

He had the modern approach that you have Emily and so if we were a French family, my kids would certainly be in your class! Few children are going to excess in a subject with a scary teacher with boring old fashioned methods.

There seem to be one or 2 angry people using this website rather often, but I suppose it sparks a good old debate!

The other night when this discussion got a little heated I was going to suggest 'time for bed children !' !!

nuf said !

Peter, you really are a very critical person. Could you stop using Fran-anglais!

big THUMBS UP!! fun reading!

Sorry to contradict you but I disagree with what you have said in your last paragraph. First of all I am an English supply Teacher,( I am a Maître Auxiliare) and have been teaching for 10 years now. I have never had any formal trainning as a Teacher. I think I'm what you call a natural, they do exist. I came to like teaching through teaching young children with the Mini-School and I haven't stopped since. So you see one can teach English just because one is an English speaker. I can't stand people who think only people with diplomas can do anything. I know many Capetians who can't teach.

I think most French people are often really results orientated and if they see that after a few months of soutien with you their darlings have not been improving much on the grade front, they probably think it's not worth it, and think that the answer is grammar grammar and more grammar. Yes to a certain degree it is true that the kids may well get a few good grades out of doing that, but the way you include playful learning in your soutien will open them to a different way of thinking. And so what if you can't explain why a "tall mountain" is wrong. The best teachers are not always the ones with the most diplomas behing their belts. I've been educated in the French system, most of my teachers were highly educated people with tons of diplomas, still most of them made a lot of mistakes when they spoke, they had terrible pronounciation, and they did not have that spark that would have made the difference. You provide the immersion kids and and adults who want to learn english need, and in the long run that's how they'll improve. There are plenty of people out there opened to that type of learning, you have probably found the few that found it hard to switch from old school teaching and learning to a more progressive style. Keep up the good work, french people need you!!!

I do not think "moyen" in your first post was a faute de frappe. It is "moyenne".