Thanks to its close proximity to the United States, there is an almost endless number of Mexicans looking for help with their English. But how can you find them and what exactly are they looking for? In this OnTESOL graduate blog, Michael Pryor explains how to teach private English classes in Mexico, from finding your students to planning their classes.
1. A Personalized Approach
Although there are dozens of private language schools both large and small in Mexico, many people are looking for a more personalized and customized option. They might find that the courses offered in these schools are too general. Often, they feel that they need someone to respond directly to their needs.
Consequently, it’s a very good idea to show your potential clients that you can do this. Offer a bespoke course to cover clients’ specific needs to quickly build a solid client base. If you enjoy surfing the internet to find interesting resources, or thrive off the freedom of creating your own specific activities, you’ll love giving private classes in Mexico.
2. Small Groups
This is the same for small groups of friends as well. A very useful tip for both the teacher and the client is to ask them to form a small group of friends or colleagues.
This is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it will help them to distribute the cost of the class among all the students. Secondly, just like with starting an exercise routine, they will encourage each other to continue studying. Plus, it makes classes less monotonous. Friends will often enjoy chatting in English with their friends or colleagues more than with their teachers. It also provides a lot more topics for conversation as they will have more shared or common interests. All of this eases the burden on you to always start the conversation or find topics or ways to extend speaking.
As you can see, it also guarantees that your students will find their classes more fun, engaging, and relevant to their own experiences. Even with the best of intentions, most people often abandon their course a lot sooner than expected. So, any tools you can employ to help students continue studying will be extremely useful. Having more people in the group increases the chances of the course surviving for longer. This is the case even if one or two students drop out along the way for any variety of reasons.
3. Personal Recommendations
Mexicans are very friendly and helpful people. So, they will often recommend you to their friends, family, and acquaintances if they are happy with their results. Word of mouth is still a very powerful tool in Mexico. It is not uncommon to receive a call or message from a friend of an old client even years later who is looking for help.
It is best to politely remind your clients that you are always available to take on more classes, in case he or she knows anybody who might be interested. Mexicans are more than happy to oblige, so it’s definitely worth biting the bullet and asking for their recommendation.
4. Getting Off On The Right Foot
It’s worth noting that many people – especially adults – have probably already attempted to learn English many times before. As such, it is essential you carry out a good diagnosis of your student’s level before starting any course. Make sure to conduct a speaking test as well. This is important because most students will want to focus their lessons on harnessing their speaking skills anyway.
There are many online tools to help you find a suitable placement or diagnosis activity, such as this one. Remember that if a student wants to restart their language, they will probably have a lot of dormant vocabulary and knowledge that will take a while to access.
A good tip for your first classes is to focus on the receptive skills of reading and listening with texts aligned to the student’s level. The texts can be used to review some basic language points in context, as well as being a gentle starting point for conversation. You can also mix these texts with some brainstorming activities based on an interesting topic for your student.
This will quickly access this forgotten language and raise the student’s confidence, as opposed to being required to produce language ‘from cold’. In this way, your student will undoubtedly feel satisfied with their rapid progress and as a result, they’ll be eager to continue learning.
5. What To Teach
As you have seen, most students will probably have a general (albeit rusty) grasp of the basics. Consequently, the last thing they will want from a customized one-on-one course is to start with the infamous verb ‘to be’ once again.
So, what does this mean for you, in terms of lesson planning? As with any position as a private tutor, you will have to be able to adapt to certain language requirements that students present as the course moves on. At the beginning of the course, you will probably find yourself with less teaching and more reviewing of previously learned language topics. You will also be expected to help them recover latent vocabulary which they may not have used for many years. After this, the pace may quickly ‘slow’, as you are required to now teach in more detail some new language topics specific to your student’s particular needs, interests, or their ultimate language goal.
A good recommendation is to always try to focus your activities – especially vocabulary and reading – very specifically around your student’s particular needs and requirements. After all, they could go to any large language school to receive a generic course and topics. It is important to convince them of the benefits a personalized course can provide them. This means offering advantages both in terms of personalized attention, but also with specific content based around exactly what they need. You will probably find yourself adapting your regular exercises to current business or technological topics or complementing these same activities with topic-specific vocabulary, for example.
Another very important point worth mentioning; students missing various classes.
It is very common in Mexico for people to have any number of last-minute work meetings, get-togethers, parties, or celebrations. This all means that you may often find them canceling your class with very short notice.
This is especially true around long weekends or busy times of the year, depending on your student’s particular job. For example, a client of yours in accounting may find the end of the financial year a particularly problematic period, or indeed the last days of each month.
It is, therefore, essential that you establish rules for these situations with your students and a clear cancellation policy upfront. This will avoid problems for both of you and help your working relationship in the long run. One possible solution can be to confirm the next class at the end of each class you give, or to charge upfront for all classes in a given month, for example.
And finally, homework. You’ll probably find that most of your students won’t often do much of the homework you leave them between classes. Even the best of intentions normally fall foul of work and family commitments here. So, be prepared to dedicate some time to each class to thoroughly practice or review past lessons and plan accordingly.
If you follow all of these points, no doubt you’ll soon have your schedule full of classes with students who may also become close friends and acquaintances, showing you typical Mexican hospitality. Good luck!