In the last decade that I have been working at a private school in Berlin I had the great privilege of being able to observe, experiment and thus learn a lot about how to teach languages, what works, what doesn’t and most importantly why certain strategies work better than others.
I did receive formal training at the university as well but I have to admit that idealistic “theories of teaching” presented in academics revealed their weaknesses very quickly when being faced with the actual nitty-gritty situation of the classroom with multiple individuals having completely different needs, skills and deficiencies.
So this is why today I want to share a bit of my experience gained in those years of practical teaching “in the trenches” as it were 😉
Teaching both in small group settings (3-6 students) and private sessions, I found out the advantages and shortcomings of both approaches.
+ social participation / communication between students
– distraction / individuals getting “left behind”
In language classes active communication between class members can be very useful to practice basic phrases, bits of dialogue and foster familiarity with the foreign language but it can also lead to a lot of distraction, e.g. students constantly comparing themselves to others (feelings of superiority vs. inferiority) showing off, laughing at others less skilled, etc.. If this climate of “social tension” is very high, students can get left behind of the general progress, others will simply walk out of class believing they know more than they actually do.
+ 100 % attention and focus on the student
– sometimes teachers are unsure how to find the right balance between explaining, doing an exercise together with the student and actually letting him or her work on a task without interfering.
Obviously if there’s only one student he or she will get all the attention of the teacher, meaning if the teacher asks something, there is only one person to reply. You! If something is not being understood, it will be properly explained in a way tailored to the student’s learning style until it is clear. Deficiencies in understanding can be countered by using carefully selected exercises. On the other hand, when a student is working on an exercise without leaning on the teacher’s knowledge sometimes a big part of private lessons the teacher may spend watching the student doing the exercises in class and correcting them which in many ways is a waste of precious time.
I have been teaching online now for almost one year and it has been one of the most mind-blowing experiences ever. I had the great privilege to live in different cultures when I was young, so I am very familiar with cultural “edge experiences” and always very happy to make new connections to people from all over the globe. But this is only one part of the excitement. The other even bigger part concerns the actual profession of teaching. I learned that teaching online has a lot of benefits which so far are unchallenged by traditional class environments. Here are just a few:
- student and teacher stay in their “natural habitat” during classes which brings a very relaxed quality to class
- social tensions as described above are significantly lower, even in group lessons; through the relative distance between students in timezones and space there is no need to constantly compare with others which leads to an altogether more pleasant learning and teaching experience.
- most of the distraction related to physical interaction can also be phased out: bodily appearance, skin colour, age, gender, perfumes, after shave, etc. The result: Lessons stay focused on the actual content.
- Students can be much more engaged during lesson. Besides listening, speaking and writing the student opens and closes documents, edits them, does online quizzes, exercises and participates by screen sharing. This is why learning online is also much more efficient. The student is not doing exercises in class which he could do just as well without the teacher but finds him or herself engaged all the time, in active and focused participation.
- All of these factors make learning online one of the most excellent ways to reach your learning goals
At LearnOutLive we focus on high quality private language lessons, so you as a student don’t just get all the benefits of online lessons as listed above but all the advantages of private lessons as well for a price which is in many ways cheaper than what you’d get at a language school for the same VIP treatment.. One of our teachers is always online. We’re always glad to get to know you. See you soon 🙂