Sarah has been teaching English online since September 2020 and this has become her main job.
A lot of people think being a teacher is an easy job, after all it's not physically demanding like construction or tiring like working at McDonald's. However, what people don't know is that being a teacher is hard work. Not only do you need the emotional mindset to teach someone but you also need to be confident and knowledgeable about what you are teaching. Just like not everyone is meant to be an actor or an artist, not everyone can be a teacher and it takes a certain skill set. I'm not talking about something you can learn like getting a degree. You don't necessarily always need a degree unless you plan to teach in a school, there are plenty of tutors that teach on the side for extra income and don't have degrees. Teaching is based on personality traits and you need to already have them to be a good teacher. However, teaching can be very difficult and not just in the sense that you might have papers to grade or edit.
You Need to Have Patience
One of the hardest things about being a teacher is you need to have patience. Even if you're having a bad day, you can't project those feelings onto your student and you need to maintain a professional manner at all times. Sometimes students don't understand what you're trying to teach them at first and that's alright but it can get frustrating when they don't understand after four or five times of explanations. As a teacher, you feel like you're explaining things as simply as possible but your student still doesn't understand. It can be very tempting to say what's on your mind and start yelling at the student but as a teacher, it's important to refrain from doing this. You just need to take a step back and recompose yourself, take a deep breath and try to relax. However, this can be very difficult at times.
You Need to Motivate Students to Learn
Another big part of teaching is helping your students feel motivated to learn. Usually, adult learners are more motivated but it can be hard to get kids and teenagers to feel motivated. Kids can get distracted by things around them during class including toys or they just don't want to pay attention. It can be very difficult to get them to do things like practice writing or keep their attention long enough for you as a teacher to teach them something. A similar thing happens with teenagers, they often don't want to be there and their mind is elsewhere like what's going on on social media or they want to text their friends. That's very common and it's difficult to keep their attention too because they're unmotivated to want to learn what you're teaching.
This can cause a lot of frustration because parents usually put pressure on their children to do well in school and expect you as a teacher to help them improve their grades. Parents have a high expectation for you to teach their kids something and for the class to be productive but sometimes students just don't want to be there.
You Need to Balance the Relationship Between Friend and Teacher
It's also very important to find the correct balance between someone who is a friend to your students and someone that is a teacher. To give students confidence and help them feel comfortable learning in your classroom, you need to be friendly and approachable and it's important to be relatable too. With young learners like kids and teenagers, it's important to talk to them about what they want to talk about whether that's gaming, movies etc. and usually that helps them open up more. With adult learners or university students, the same thing applies and you should try to get to know them and talk to them about their life every so often to show that you care.
However, there has to be a balance between being their friend and being their teacher. It's important to build a friendly relationship but at the same time, you need to always slowly become firm in focusing on what the student needs to work on. After all, their parents or sometimes the student themselves is supporting you as a teacher by providing your income. Students come to you to learn something or for your help improving their grades so this expectation still needs to be met. Therefore, it's good to balance the time to have fun and engage in conversation and be serious and focused to teach.
This can be one of the most difficult things about teaching because you want to build a relationship with your student but you also need to keep a certain boundary too. There are some things that can be a little too personal to share and some things that you just shouldn't talk about even if it's an adult learner. Also, if you are a tutor and not teaching in a traditional classroom where you see the same students every day, it can be very difficult when the student's time with you is over.
For example, over the course of a semester, you work with a student on improving their writing skills and you build this relationship with them because you see him or her at least twice a week. Then when the semester is over, your relationship is over because he or she no longer needs writing help for their class. You as a teacher feel relieved and happy that your student is happy but then you might never see the student again and it's inappropriate to ask for contact information unless the student provides it on their own so it feels like losing a friend sometimes.
© 2022 Sarah Wong