Teaching Adults Privately

TEACHING ADULTS

Teacher and learner expectations, and aspects that can make it rewarding

by Maroussa Pavli

Do you teach languages to adult learners privately?

What type of expectations do they have from you? What should you expect from them?

How can you deal with the challenges arising from a possible mismatch of teacher and learner expectations?  

This article will attempt to provide answers to the questions above.

Learner expectations:

Adults expect meaningful and purposeful lessons because they usually have specific needs and are well aware of them.They like being exposed to interesting content that will be relevant to what they’d like to achieve.

In addition, learners often ask you to adapt your lessons to the ever changing needs that they have. They also expect flexibility in terms of lesson times, duration and content, sometimes to the extent that they believe their programme should be the basis on which you should plan your teaching commitments and workload.

While adapting content is not really a problem for a teacher, flexibility about lesson times and duration can be an issue and lead to disagreements and problems. It’s very important to set the limits from the beginning, inform them about your availability and explain your policy about last minute changes, cancellations or requests for rescheduling teaching sessions.

Teacher expectations:

Firstly, you should realise that learners have already developed their personality and you should not believe that they are going to change. They can be reluctant to change and this reluctance can come in all sorts of forms and shapes. For example, they may say that because their speaking skills are not very good, they may refuse to participate in speaking activities.

Secondly, adults may need a lot of encouragement and confidence boosting and help with their time management skills. You should not forget that they often see themselves as failures if they haven’t managed to reach a high language level and have tried to improve their skills with rather limited success.

Thirdly, you should be prepared to deal with situations in which your learners can sometimes question the effectiveness of the teaching content and teaching methods that you’re using. They tend to compare their current learning experiences with what they have experienced and can be critical of your approach.This means that you should be ready to defend yourself and provide explanations in a polite but firm way in you are criticised or even blamed for inadequacy.

Teaching adults can be very rewarding for you for the reasons outlined below:

1. It involves working only with learners and no other family members. Teaching children always involves communicating with their parents and this can often be challenging for a teacher. Parents, especially when they have some knowledge of English, sometimes feel that they have every right to intervene and tell the teacher what to teach and how to do it. What is more, they also often help their children with homework, sometimes even completing tasks for them, and this results in giving teachers a distorted impression about children’s language level. When teaching adults, if there are any problems with the learners, the teacher only needs to talk with them to sort them out.

2. You can always learn a lot about your learners work or studies and so you can broaden your horizons widely in terms of content and life experiences.

3. Discipline issues are rare, although it’s often said that once somebody sits at a desk or around a table and listens to a teacher, they often adopt the psychology of a student. Still, though this is true to some extent, you don’t usually have the issues encountered when you work with younger learners.

4. You can see immediately the results of what you’re doing with your learners and receive their feedback on an activity that you’ve worked on. For example, if you’ve worked with your learners on email invitations and they’ve managed to use one to communicate at their workplace, you can see their satisfaction and sense of accomplishment soon after the lesson and both you and they can build on it for future work. Or, if they do experience problems, they can talk to you about them immediately and you can modify your plans for the next session with them to help them come up with better results.

This article has looked at certain expectations that teachers and adults learners have when they work together in private language courses. It has also suggested ways in which teaching adults can be very rewarding for a teacher. It’s been based on my personal experiences.

What about you? What kind of experiences have you had while working with adults privately? I’d love to receive your comments on this topic.