Teaching and tutoring can be rewarding and demanding in equal proportions. Before you decide to become an English tutor or a private English teacher, it is advisable to find out exactly what is involved.

Tutors are always in demand for academic subjects or recreational classes, however, the ability to offer tutoring in the English language is particularly sought after, both by native speakers of English and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.

The four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening underpin every other subject. If you possess skills in English language teaching, your tutoring opportunities expand as you may be employed to teach students how to write scientific explanations, or help a mathematics student to comprehend written problems.

All students studying in Australia need to be able to write and speak English fluently to communicate their ideas and answers with clarity. They also require proficient reading and listening skills to comprehend written and oral content in their classes.

Once a student who is not a native speaker begins to feel confident in their English ability, they start to grow academically, socially and emotionally. Participating fully in school life, and in social contexts, requires sound English language acquisition.

Over half of all web content is in English. Given the increasing reliance of teachers and students on the internet for information, proficiency in the comprehension of English written structures is imperative.

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What are your Responsibilities when you Tutor English?

In Australia, as an English teacher, you must follow the guidelines set out in the Australian Curriculum for the structure of lessons and the content. A private English tutor must also be aware of the curriculum content at each student's level.

In both scenarios, your responsibilities will centre around ensuring your English teaching facilitates growth in all English language skills, and encourages high standards. Doing this involves many components, including:

  • careful and detailed lesson planning, including relevant homework and class tasks designed to meet individual learning needs
  • writing skill development to serve all subjects
  • vocabulary and grammar development
  • exposure to a broad range of literature
  • one-on-one assessment and feedback to students
  • monitoring progression
  • personal preparation for lesson content — a personal reading and study list to maintain and update  your skill level
  • grading
  • delivery of seminars and lectures that engage and stimulate students
  • feedback to parents.
What qualities does an English tutor need?
The most important thing when you become an English tutor is to build a rapport with your students, whether you meet online or face-to-face | Source: Pixabay - Tammy Duggan-Herd

English in the Australian Curriculum — a Quick Overview

The Australian Curriculum recognises Australia as a linguistically and culturally diverse country and acknowledges that proficiency in English is essential not only for participation in Australian life but is also globally invaluable. The Australian Curriculum aims to ensure that students:

  • appreciate and use the English language in all its variations
  • understand the power of language to evoke emotion, convey information and facilitate interaction
  • use the different forms of communication to create meaning
  • understand the workings and functions of Standard Australian English
  • develop an informed appreciation of literature
  • continue to show growth in the use of language skills (listening, speaking, viewing, writing, reading, creating) through a range of contexts in an accurate and fluent way.

When you become an English tutor, you are expected to know how to teach these skills and to continually update and use your own training in language and literature. Private English tutors are subject to the same expectations, and both are tasked with ensuring students learning complies with curriculum goals and standards.

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English Tutor Qualifications — What is Needed to Teach in an Australian School?

In Australia, most primary schools employ generalist teachers (who can teach all mainstream subjects) rather than 'English teachers' — however, there are many primary school teachers who specialised in English. As a minimum requirement, you must have a Bachelor of Education, or its equivalent, with a major in one curriculum-relevant subject.

If you wish to teach English in a secondary school setting, the requirements are the same as for primary education, however, your major obviously has to be in English language and literature. For all post-secondary teaching roles, a post-graduate or Masters Degree is usually necessary.

You may also specialise in English as a Second Language education, and while you can work as an ESL teacher with your standard degree, a TEFL certificate or a TESOL certificate is highly desirable, especially if you want to gain employment in an Introductory English Centre or the equivalent institution for newly arrived foreign language speakers.

Prerequisite requirements to gain entry to an education degree course vary between states and universities, although the minimum standard is the attainment of a Year 12 certificate or its equivalent.

During your four year degree, you will undertake a teaching placement practicum for a minimum of two weeks and up to one term, at least once a year. You will also participate in modules covering all subject areas which will include teaching theory, practical components, content, pedagogy, assessment procedures and classroom management.

Once you graduate, you must apply for positions and may receive either an offer of permanency after a period of supervision, or a short-term contract. During this time, beginning teachers must attend a range of induction activities and maintain a teaching experience portfolio.

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Your personality and drive are equally as important as English tutor qualifications when it comes to succeeding as a teacher or tutor | Source: Pixabay - Gerd Altmann

In addition to your teaching certificate, you also require teacher registration. This must be renewed annually, although the process and requirements are different from state to state.

However, if you wish to work as an English tutor, but are not interested in gaining teaching qualifications, many tutoring jobs can be obtained without the presentation of English tutor qualifications. You just need to have a good command of the English language and know how to tutor English effectively.

Basic Overview of the P-10 English Curriculum in Australia

The English curriculum in both primary school (Years P-6) and secondary school (Years 7-10) are divided into three strands:

  • language
  • literature
  • literacy

Each strand encompasses the six main language skill areas: reading, writing, listening, viewing, speaking and creating.

Language

Focus areas in the language strand include:

  • language change and the purpose of language
  • text structure
  • idea development and expression
  • phonics, word and vocabulary development.

As a private English tutor, you would support your students by helping them unpack and understand the organisation of different multi-modal texts at their level, including use of rhetorical devices, language conventions, punctuation and word origins.

Phonics is taught in the early years, moving on to spelling patterns and etymology.

Reading with your students and discussing vocabulary would be essential as literature exposes the reader to a whole world of language not encountered in everyday conversation.

Changes in language, both over time and in response to different purposes or to technology, are also important for discussion and evaluation.

Literature

Study in the literature strand involves looking beyond the secretarial aspects of language and into areas such as character development. Focus areas include:

  • context for literature
  • responding to literature
  • examining literature
  • creating.

English classes would cover the portrayal of character, events and setting across different genres; making personal, literary and global connections; the purpose of language and how it is used to create effect; and independent creation of a range of texts.

Private tutors would assist students with all these concepts, possibly particularly focusing on the creating aspect, depending on student needs. Tutors might be required to provide a range of reading materials for their students, reading with them to help highlight both the use of language and literary features. High-level discussions would obviously take place to help the student comprehend, and verbalise their understandings.

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Literacy

This strand looks at all forms of communicative texts, with focus areas including:

  • context
  • interaction
  • interpretation, analysis and evaluation
  • text creation

English tutors whose students require work in this strand would be responsible for assisting with the development of speaking skills, online texts, and a deeper analysis of text types and how and why language changes according to context.

What motivates students online?
Online learning can be tricky but if a tutor can keep students engaged and having fun, they have wond half the battle | Source: Pixabay - StartupStockPhotos

The primary goals of an English teacher or tutor are to expose students to the literary world, assisting them to become effective communicators for different purposes and in a range of contexts.

The scope of an English teacher's role is broad, and the curriculum is a crowded one. More and more students are turning to private English tuition, either face-to-face or with an online English teacher.

What if I Want to Become an English Tutor But Don't Want to Work with School-aged Students?

The information above is intended for people who are aiming to become an English teacher within a formal school setting, or a private English tutor whose clients are school students.

Maybe you want to teach English but are not interested in working with school students, or within curriculum restraints. Don't despair, because there are plenty of teaching opportunities for you as well.

Online teaching jobs as a private English tutor can also be found with adults — business people, couples moving abroad, travellers or people who are simply interested in learning English as a hobby. You don't need the same level of qualifications or have years of experience teaching either.

Some avenues you could explore include:

  • mentoring students who are studying for exams, such as IELTS
  • team tutoring — working with another English tutor, conducting conversation sessions with larger groups of ESL students
  • teach abroad — teach in Thailand, or try teaching English in Japan as part of their government-sponsored school English program.

English teachers who are native speakers are in high demand around the world. All you need is a work visa. Some countries will even sponsor your airfare.

The opportunities are there if you are self-motivated and know where to look. Leave your options open — consider home or online tutoring, working for a tutoring company, or teaching in an English language school. What about starting your own business? You can advertise and find private students almost anywhere.

If you have skills in English, you have countless options and job opportunities. Teaching English as a Foreign Language overseas, online writing jobs, English instructor in companies, as a volunteer for newly arrived migrants or refugees — work out where your passion lies, and go for it. Success can be yours and the more experience you have, the more you will be able to earn.

If you are employed to work with a student who has dyslexia, have a look at this blog post for some strategies.

Our Top Ten Tips for Becoming a Sought-after English Tutor

For some people, tutoring is a great way to earn extra cash while you are a student. For others, tutoring can be a full-time career. Either way, your goal as a tutor should be to help your students in the best way you can, thereby earning yourself a good reputation for your tutoring services.

Of course, if you're planning on tutoring English, your own English skills are going to be exemplary — that's a given. But what about your teaching skills? Even without English tutor qualifications, you can become an English tutor of top note with a little bit of thought and preparation.

With this in mind, here are our top ten tips for ensuring your English lessons are top-notch and your students are going to talk to their friends and peers about how much you help them learn.

1. Take the time to get to know your student

Building rapport with your student (and their parents, if relevant) will help them feel comfortable with you. This means they will trust you and will get more out of your lessons. Taking time before you start each lesson to ask your student how their day was, or comment on a shared interest, will help to ease them and you into their learning time.

2. Make sure you fully understand the needs and goals of your student

It is one thing to know that your student is a fan of Harry Potter, but if this isn't related to their academic needs, it won't be much use to you as their tutor. Knowing the needs and goals of your students means that you understand their current level, the areas where they may be struggling, their assessment requirements, their purpose for learning English and so on. Once you really have a good handle on their goals, you can tailor their lessons to meet these.

3. Be clear about how the lessons will run

Know how your lesson will be structured and ensure you communicate this to your students. Stick to this where appropriate. It's important that you don't allow yourself to go off on an irrelevant tangent but equally as important to be flexible enough to change the course of your tutoring session if you identify a pressing need.

4. Prepare for every lesson

English might be your thing, but nobody, not even the most experienced teacher or tutor, can 'wing it' successfully. By all means, allow room for some flexibility but never turn up to a tutoring session without a game plan. This is particularly important in English because your lessons might be centred on a particular novel, or a specialised topic for conversation practice — if you haven't prepared, your student will know.

5. Bring resources

You don't need to go all out, preparing loads of handmade resources or spending big dollars, however, an interesting newspaper article or object to stimulate a conversation or piece of writing, a book to share, a funny YouTube clip or a board game can make all the difference to your lessons and show your students you've put some thought in. Different resources will also keep your students interested because they add variety ... which leads to the next tip.

6. Ensure your lessons have variety

Nothing will stifle a student's enthusiasm more quickly than the same activity or lesson style week after week. Inject some fun into your lessons. Use different teaching strategies and activities. Appeal to different learning styles.

What topics are good for English conversation tutoring?
You may not be able to travel for your English tutoring sessions, but ESL students will love engaging in conversations about iconic Australian landmarks, like Wave Rock in WA | Source: Pixabay - ejakob

7. Allow time for questions

Encourage your students to ask questions and be confident to answer them. Sometimes these questions will be to clarify something in the lesson, but other times they will allow you to extend the student's learning. (Be careful they don't distract you from the topic at hand though.)

8. Give lots of well thought out feedback

More important than the quantity of feedback is the quality — make sure it's meaningful, relevant and sincere. Telling your students what they have achieved and how they have improved, with examples, once in a lesson is so much better than saying 'Great work' or 'Well done' a hundred times.

9. Suggest relevant home learning tasks for between tutoring sessions

Set your students a meaningful task to do at home. The best tasks will have students practising whatever you've just worked on, or doing a bit of pre-reading or 'research' in anticipation of what you have planned for the following session. However, if the students aren't keen on doing this — don't push it. Encourage, but don't force.

10. Have fun

If you're motivated and enjoy your tutoring sessions — your students will too. And enjoyment leads to learning.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.