Becoming a tutor, private teacher or a personal trainer can bring you a lot of joy. Making a difference by helping somebody grow and learn is one of the greatest rewards. In our series “How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business”, we will show you how to take your passion for sharing your knowledge and experience to the next level and establish a successful and rewarding business you’ll be proud of.
Naturally, the first step towards becoming a tutor or a private teacher is to identify your expertise. You probably already know what it is that you would like to teach, but it is always a good idea to do a bit of research and find your niche within or around your favorite discipline. Maybe you find out there is a high demand for your subject in a certain age group or that people are interested in a specific area that is not easily available in your town. Try and narrow your expertise down to something more specific and start growing your student base incrementally.
Now that you know what exactly it is you want to teach, you should start thinking about the skills you need to do the job well. There are two different set of skills needed for any career; technical and soft skills.
Technical skills you will need
Although there are generally no formal requirements to become a tutor or a private teacher, it is a good idea to acquire some sort of professional qualification in the subject or discipline you want to teach. This will depend on who your prospect students are and what their level of knowledge is. For example, if you are considering being an online tutor, you may want to consider an instructional technology degree in order to provide the best possible online classroom environment for your students.
It is probably fine to have just HSC in mathematics if you are a university student who is planning to offer primary school maths tuition. On the contrary, to become a personal trainer you will be required to have a certificate in fitness and a first aid certificate.
You can find more information about the qualifications required and trainings available by visiting a website of a particular association, depending on your field of expertise:
- Australian Tutoring Association
- Australian Association for the Teaching of English
- Australian Science Teachers Association
- Music Teachers’ Association of New South Wales
- The Federal Association of Teachers of Dancing
- Fitness Australia
- Yoga Australia
If you are planning to work with children, you will need to obtain the Working with Children Check. “Pre-employment screening of adults and Volunteers who come in contact with children is mandatory and legislated for across most states and territories in Australia. However there is no national framework setting out the requirements for obtaining a Working With Children Check (or Police Checks) – and each state and territory has their own procedures and requirements.”
Soft skills that make a good teacher or tutor
Apart from getting the necessary credentials, you need to think about the soft skills and qualities you should posses to become a good teacher. It requires a great amount of hard work to create a challenging and nurturing environment for your students. To some extent, your attitude towards your students and the subject can be more important than the skills and knowledge you have.
1. Enthusiasm and Positive Attitude
As already mentioned, your attitude is everything. You should be approachable to your students as well as your potential colleagues. A great teacher has an engaging personality and manages to hold attention of their students.
Smile! It is an important means for building and establishing rapport. Smile is the easiest thing you can do to put your students into ease.
2. Communication Skills
It goes without saying that a good teacher needs to be a good communicator. Sometimes, you will have to present complex topics in a way that is easy to understand. Other times, you will have to use metaphors and come up with examples to explain an issue that is foreign to your students.
You should also be, in some cases, prepared to maintain open communication with parents and make yourself available to them.
3. Listening Skills
Although it may seem that teachers spend most of their time in class talking, they actually have to be good listeners too.
“Good listening skills are needed to develop empathy and understanding with the students and to assess whether they understand what they are being taught. Listening skills also help in negotiating with students and defusing any potential classroom conflicts.”
(Source: ACS Distance Education)
Active listening skills are also important when it comes to better understanding your students’ needs and discovering what their strengths and weaknesses are. Simply, mastering your listening skills will help you become a better leader and educator!
4. Being Passionate about the Subject
It may seem obvious but is needed to mention that a great teacher has a deep knowledge and is enthusiastic about the subject they are teaching. A good instructor or tutor always stays up to date with the latest trends and developments in their field; they spend a significant amount of their time studying themselves!
Teachers must be ready to answer or research their students’ questions and act as a subject matter experts in their field. This would be hard if you don’t love what you teach, don’t you think?
5. Organisation and Time-management Skills
If you become a private instructor or teacher, you will most likely spend a lot of time planning your lessons as well as organising your schedule. It is possible you will be travelling between individual classes with a tight timeline to get from one place to another. Good planning can save you a lot of travelling time!
You need to be very organised and possess strong planning skills to make sure you are always on time, well prepared and that you always deliver high quality lessons. Your organisation and planning skills will have a significant effect on the learning experience of your students.
You may be surprised how much administration work is involved in teaching in general, so be ready to spend some time behind your computer managing your small business.
6. Friendly Personality
It is important that you have a friendly personality and are able to develop a cherished bond with your students. They will be motivated and will work harder in a friendly atmosphere. Try to encourage open discussions and make your students feel at home. You should enjoy working with people or children and be excited about helping your students out.
At the same time, you still need to maintain a professional approach. You need to combine both the guidance of a teacher and the understanding of a friend.
Patience is a virtue! This skills may easily be the most important quality of a good teacher. You will have students who need more time to understand a certain topic and sometimes you will need to repeat yourself quite a few times. Extensive knowledge of the subject you teach does not guarantee that your students will comprehend it. Your patience with them, on the other hand, will certainly help them in the learning process and may stimulate their interest in the subject. It is your job to appreciate their individual personality and their unique strengths and weaknesses.
I am convinced it is the combination of both technical and soft skills that makes a great teacher. I’ d love to hear your thoughts on what skills and qualities are essential for a good teacher to have!
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We will continue in our series “How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business” next week with tips on how to gain recognition and build your brand.