Although some people might love this freedom, for some teachers it may be challenging to stay organized with no school curriculum or guidelines. I’ve been a French teacher on italki for over 2 years now. Let me share with you some of the tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years to manage my work. Here’s a few pieces of advice for you if you’re just getting started:
1.Get to know your students before you start teaching them
You’re going to have different students with various levels, strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, objectives… It is important to know all this in order to help them improve their language skills. I would recommend that you ask each student about themselves and their expectations before even having your first lesson together. That way you will be able to prepare and give them exactly what they are looking for.
After they book their first lesson with you, send them a nice message thanking them for the booking and asking all the questions you need. It will show them how professional you are in trying to adapt the lesson to their needs. If you have many students, I would recommend writing the important information down. One useful thing that I personally do is create an excel spreadsheet with all of your students’ names on the first line, and a few notes about them and their language skills on the second line.
2.Keep track of your students’ progress
As a teacher, it is very important that you can lead the lesson, remember what’s already been covered and what needs to be done next. You may have a great memory but sometimes, a student will disappear for an extended period of time, and it might be difficult to remember everything about your lessons when they come back.
My advice would be to use that same spreadsheet we created when you got to know the student. Add the lesson date on the third line and write a short summary of what you have been covering during that lesson. Later, if you are unsure whether a student has been taught a certain topic, you can use the “find and search” tool to find out. For example, if I type “present simple” in the search bar, it will show me all the cells where I wrote it, so I will know exactly who I have taught it to.
3.Prepare your classes in advance
After the lesson is over, write the homework (if any) on the next line, so that you’ll remember what you have to check next time you are seeing the student. I would suggest that you also prepare for the rest of the lesson at least 24 hours in advance, so you will always look professional with your students. Make sure you plan enough activities to last the whole lesson time, and don’t rush to finish all of them.
If you unexpectedly finish all you had planned before the end of the lesson, you could play a short game like hangman, bingo or scramble letters to end the lesson on a fun note.
4.Organize your materials
I have two types of materials: digital and physical. I keep all my digital material (lessons, exercises, texts, audio files…) classified by level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). For example, In the “A1” (beginner) file I have lessons about the verb être (“to be” in French), vocabulary about emotions, and the difference between “vous” and “tu” (formal and informal pronouns). This way it is very easy to measure your students’ progress and it will be very encouraging for them when they are starting a new level.
Most of my physical materials are for young children: flashcards, storybooks, puppets… I keep everything in a big folder on my desk. It has different sections that are labeled for each topic: “animaux” (animals), “véhicules” (vehicules), “famille” (family), etc. This makes it very easy for me to grab the appropriate item, since I can read all the labels and reach for the desired object without having to move from my seat.
There are many other ways to be organized as a language teacher on Italki. These are the ones that worked best for me but you might have found other options which worked better for you. Maybe you decided to use paper instead of an excel spreadsheet, or even just a regular table in a Word document. Maybe you even decided to go with the flow and you’re doing great too! Good luck fellow teacher, I hope you will enjoy your Italki experience as much as I do.