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Marianne Graff
Marianne Graff

Everything English tutors need to know to teach English successfully and profitably.


  • REDUCE YOUR STRESS with informative courses and insightful articles to help you learn how to set up and run a profitable tutoring business
  • BECOME A SUCCESSFUL AND CONFIDENT TUTOR using my time tested, and proven-to-work tips for teaching English, using my ready made blueprints for designing lessons, and learning how to adapt activities and games to suit any age and stage of English learner
  • SAVE TIME, EFFORT AND MONEY by following the advice in the articles about the best resources (books, websites, teaching supplies) to use, and how to use them

Are you Cut Out to Teach English?

Read On to Find Out

I’m guessing you are here because you are interested in tutoring English. Maybe,you are unsure where to start, or you are wondering if it’s something you can realistically do, and are well suited for.

Anyone can learn how to run a tutoring business, in my opinion, but not everyone is cut out to teach English, in my experience, just as not everyone who wants to be a hair dresser or hair sylist can actually cut hair well, even if trained.

The fact that you are reading this is a good indication that yes, you are suited to tutoring English, because you are looking for information and advice; this site is perfect for you if this is the case. Here you will find everything you need to feel supported starting on your tutoring journey.

The resource recommendations and advice garnered over many years of teaching (15+ years!) may appeal to experienced tutors who want to expand their tutoring toolkit and teaching tricks and tactics. If this is you, be sure to check out my blog and ELT (English Language Teaching ) book and supply recommendations.

The rest of this article is for people how are still considering whether to take the plunge into tutoing English.

Top Qualities for an English Teacher; Questions to Ask Yourself

There are some key qualities that make a person an exceptional tutor. Read on to find out what I believe they are.

1. Does it light you up inside to see people learning something you have taught them? Are you nagturally empathic and compassionate?

A true and deep interest in helping others master a concept or skill is essential for success as a tutor. This is what makes tutoring such a reward in itself, and more fun than other business sidelines you might consider doing.

You will be developing a relationship with your student(s) and if you cre about them and their progress, they will sense it and try harder. And succeed at learning English to full fluency in the long run.

It’s the relationship you develop, and the ability to adapting to their needs successfully that will set you apart from the competition.

If you are serious about helping them learn, you will observe and empathize to discover their blocks and how to find ways to teach that suit them instead of using the textbook approach.

Ego and the need to be ‘right’ and ‘lead’ the class is not a top quality in a good English tutor. You need to be observant and react to meet the needs of the student. This may seem intutive, and obvious, but just think of how few of your teachers in school actually did this. Most teachers stand at the front of a class, talking a lot, writing on a whiteboard or showing a presentation and asking a few students questions, but it was likely not fully interactive and engaging.

They taught the lesson and if you didn’t understand, it was your fault.

Even if the teacher was sympathetic to you and wanted you to understand, they usually didn’t have the time to go back and teach the lesson again. I consider most teachers as different creatures than tutors.

The truth is that many people go into teaching because they love to have full control over their work environment and as a result they do all the talking and offer a cookie cutter approach to teaching a topic. They stand at the front of a class and talk and talk and talk. They write on a blackboard or show a PPT. Then tehy assign some homework They take the attitude that they have taught the material and it’s the student’s fault if they can’t learn it. And this is exacly why many students need a tutor: they didn’t learn English the first way it was taught to them, which is often by listening to a teacher drone on and then do gapfill exercises on a worksheet.

‘Show, don’t tell’, is a great mantra to remember when making your tutoring lessons. While you may have a clear idea of what the student needs to learn and know, being flexible about how you teach it and being patient enough to go over the material ( in different ways) until the student gets it, is key to success.

2. Do you find it easy to be flexible?

Related to the point above, tutoring offers a student a chance to learn at their own pace, and practise as much as they need to ( or skip on quickly if they learn a topic quickly). This means the tutor needs to have a plan in their mind of what to cover, but adjust the pace of the lessons and course to suit the needs of the student. if you are the type of person who loves to stick to a timeline and a course plan, then tutoring might notbe for you.

I suggest setting out a list of topics to cover, after doing an assessment, but not assigning ‘deadlines’ for covering the material. I suggest aiming for mastery before moving on, no just ‘

3. Are You Planning on Relying on Tutoring Income to Pay All your Bills?

If you need a source of steady income immediately, then I will be honest with you: tutoring English may not be a good choice as your main income for the first two years (that’s how long I found it took to get ‘established’ and known as a good tutor in each country I lived in).

Life happens, and English classes are far down on the list of life priorities for most people, especially if they have a full time job or are going to school full time, and / or they have a family to take care of. English classes are often cancelled despite the student’s best intentions due to illness, demands of family life, unexpected workloads and homework from school and vacations that take the student out of town.

The upshot is that when you are starting out, it is best to think of your tutoring income as extra pocket money, at least until you are ready to scale up and make small class offerings.

I offer suggestions for starting out as as a tutor and shortcutting the process of making tutoring a lucrative and steady sideline in my courses, in case you are interested.

4. Do you find it easy to explain English to people?

The ability to explain things simply comes naturally to some people ( a very small percentage of the population). It has to be learned by the rest of us. Luckily, it is something you can learn.

If you struggle to explain things concisely, then if you want to tutor successfully, you will have to develop this skill by preparing your explanations in advance, and being willing to seek feedback and obsderve how effective your explanations are, in order to improve your ‘explainer skills’.

The ability to explain complex topics simply is an essential skill to master in order to reduce student frustration (and subsequently, high dropout rates) and ease your own conscience that you are offering a valuable service that warrants the money you are charging for your time and expertise.

I provide suggestions about what to teach and strategies for teachign Egnlish to help those frewsh out of the gate get started teaching English. It is a trial and error process, and the good news is that over time you will develop your own unique style of explainning that will help you succeed as a tutor.

5. Do you know what to teach something already?

If you answered no, that is not a reason to give up and not try to tutor. You just have to be willing to learn what you don’t know before you teach it. Even if you are a native English speaker, chances are that you don’t know how to teach it or how you learned what you know.

Luckily, there are many resources ( free websites like the CEFR – Common European Framework for the Reference of Languages) to help you set up a clear learning path for your students.

And the secret to knowing what to teach comes down to how good of an assessment you did at the beginning. This is more important than boning up on every conceivable grammar strucuture and exception before you teach your first lesson.

What matters most is knowing what the student knows and doesn’t know, so you can plan lessons that fill in their knowledge gaps. Don’t know how to assess a student or where to start in terms of konwing how to evaluat their language level? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. I have free articles to help you get started and disccus this in depth in my Tutoring 101 course.

6. Are you a good listener?

This is perhaps the most important of all the teaching skills you will need to be a successful tutor. Keeping your ‘teacher talk time’ down to 30% of the class is the ideal. Getting the student talking is critical for their learning success. Most of the time students don’t get enough time in classes in schools and learning institutes to practise what they are learning until they have mastered it, so that is your number #1 role as a tutor: create conditions in your tutoring classes that let the student speak as much as possible. If you do this, and show you are actively listening to them, and give them the space to formulate answers without cutting them off, and use senstive error correction techniques, they will learn to trust you and wll start speaking.

This is the secret to keeping students engaged and facilitate their path to mastering the English langauge.

I use this approach in all my lessons, and share my tips and tricks for getting even the shyest and most reluctant student speaking volumes, in my ESL Tutoring 101 course and in articles I will post in the blog.

Good luck!

Check out more articles in my Blog….

  • Tips for Teaching English to Adults (True Beginners)

  • Graded Readers: What Are They and What ESL Tutors Need To Know About Them

  • Best Verb Tense Timeline Charts

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