Get the Word Out: How to Market Your Courses Offline

VivianaThe biggest challenge of any new business is to get a continuous flow of clients. And new tutors or teachers are no exception to the rule. Let’s have a look at how you can spread the word about your teaching business with a limited budget. It is the combination of your marketing activities and your reputation that will help you attract new students and grow your business.

Low Cost Methods for Offline Marketing

Notice Board Advertising

Bulletin boards are great places for advertising your teaching business; new or old. They usually get a lot of traffic from your target audience – students and/or their parents. What are the best locations for placing your advertisements? Schools, community centers, public libraries or cafes are one of the best places to promote your services. Try to maximize your reach by advertising in as many of these locations in your area.

Notice Board

Image by by Stew Dean via Flickr

Read more: How to Advertise Offline

Leafleting and Flyers

Another easy and affordable way to spread the word about your teaching services is to distribute leaflets and flyers. It is a popular marketing method for small businesses. Unaddressed mailbox distribution involves delivering flyers to homes or offices in your area. It is a mass marketing method on a local scale with a great possibility to reach your target audience. Door-drop marketing is an affordable option that can bring you in new students. You just need to be careful not to breach any regulations that apply to this method; e.g. “No Junkmail” system in Australia.

Read more: Leafleting in your area

Local Print

Local Print

Image by ilamont.com via Flickr

Advertising in your local newspaper is definitely a great way to let your potential customers know about your business. You will be guaranteed a certain amount of eyeballs and can target your audience by choosing the right publisher. On the other hand, this is probably the most expensive option you have. You might want to use this type of advertising for special promotions and deals to increase the impact of your advertising dollars.

Read more: Print is Dead? Not so Fast.

Merchandise

Branded merchandise can mean pretty much anything with your brand/name/logo on it. A cup, pen or a calendar – anything. Since you are only a starting brand and people have no incentive to show your brand, you want to provide them with something useful. Think about what products can be a good fit for your students.

Read more: How to Make Great Brand Merchandise

Referrals

Word of Mouth

Image by dobrych via Flickr

Word of mouth is a truly powerful marketing method, namely for small business. However, it takes a long time. How can you help the process of spreading the word? Incentivize your current students. Offer them discounts for inviting their friends to join. Leverage your relationships with advocates and influencers to help share your message. Offer them something of value when they work with your brand.

Read More: 4 Steps to Executing a Successful Influencer-Driven, Word-Of-Mouth Campaign

Do you use some interesting offline methods that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Next week, we will explain some effective online marketing tactics for your teaching business.

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How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 4. Lesson Policy

VivianaProtecting your teaching business is as important as building it. Sooner or later you will have to deal with students cancelling classes or paying late. This can have a negative effect on your business growth and can quickly zap you of enthusiasm. Be one step ahead and create a Lesson Policy Agreement to establish the rules. It is crucial to create and maintain a teacher-student relationship in order for the lessons to be successful.

Every tutor, studio or school will have different conditions under which the operate. At the same time, there are some common areas that should be included in every lesson policy. It is always better to have things spelled out in a written document to form a partnership where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Your lesson policy should be fair to both parties to protect you as well as the student.

This information is meant to serve as guide only. You should always seek the advice of a professional  before acting on it.

Roles and Responsibilities

Rules for the teacher

Image by mick62 via Flickr

What is your responsibility as a teacher and what do you commit to? In this section you can outline your teaching style and your role as a teacher in terms of motivation and encouragement of your students; as well as your commitment to creating a stimulating and friendly atmosphere.

What do you expect from your students and what are their responsibilities towards you and your lessons? Perhaps you can specify how often you expect them to practice, state whether you will require them to complete their weekly assignments, or explain that it is their responsibility to show up on time.

These points may sound like a common sense but it is always good to lay down the ground rules to articulate a set of expected behaviors for everyone.

Attendance

It’s a common practice to require certain attendance rate for your course, namely if you provide some kind of certificate at the end of the term. Students are usually required to miss no more than 20 – 25% of the classes. This can be an important information for some people as they might need a course completion certificate for their employer or school.

Cancellations and Reschedules

Closely related to the attendance point is a question of cancellations and reschedules. From talking to many freelancing tutors and teachers, I understand this is one of the main issues they have to deal with and that continuously frustrates them. Even though you put your conditions down on paper, people will try and negotiate with you later and request make-up lessons when they are not, according to your policy, entitled to them. It’s ultimately at your discretion how strictly you will stick to the rules, but you need to be prepared for these situations.

Schedule

Image by theogeo

What you should consider when creating your cancellation policy:

  • How much notice will you require for reschedule?
  • Will you allow exceptions to this requirement, e.g. illness, family emergency?
  • Who will determine the time of make-up lessons?
  • Will you allow reschedules of make-ups?
  • How do you want to be notified of scheduling issues and cancellations?
  • Will you issue credits for cancelled classes?
  • What is the notice period required for termination of the course?
  • Will you charge a fine for terminating the course before the end date?

I did some research around and it seems to be fairly common to ask for 24-48 hour notice for any schedule changes. Same day cancellations and no shows usually results in full lesson fee being forfeited with no rescheduling available. In most cases, make-up lessons are solely based on teacher’s availability and cannot be rescheduled again. I also came across a teacher who has a make-up lesson week at the end of each semester for all students who missed a lesson, which I thought was a great way to deal with this issue. It is a common practice not to issue credits for cancelled classes, unless cancelled by the teacher. Some teachers reserve the right to terminate the contract after two unexcused absences, some charge a fine if the student terminates the course early. The conditions differ from business to business.

It might be a good idea to include all days with no lessons held in your policy, e.g. public holidays or school holidays. Do your lessons follow the local school calendar? Are they weather dependent?  If so, indicate what will happen in the case of bad weather.

Read more about make-up lessons:

Payment

Money

Image by martinhoward via Flickr

This is obviously one of the most important parts of your lesson policy as it determines how you will get paid for your teaching services. You have to determine how much you will charge for you classes and what are the conditions of any discount you may offer. Specify how and when you want to be paid. Do you want your students to pay on a monthly basis or do you require them to pay the entire course upon enrollment? Will you accept late payments? How are you going to deal with consistently overdue accounts? These are some thought starters for you to consider. In any case, you might want to seek the advice of an accountant and/or a lawyer to determine the best terms and conditions for your business.

Teacher Absence and Refunds

As mentioned earlier, you need to decide under which conditions you will issue refunds for cancelled classes. It is recommendable that you, as a business, offer compensation for services you could not provide; for any reason. In the event of absence from your part, you might want to offer make-up lessons based on the student’s availability. If you don’t find a suitable time, issuing them a credit is probably the best solution.

Some more questions to think about: How much notice will you have to let them know of your absence? What happen in case you need to terminate the entire course due to unforeseen circumstances?

Tardiness

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

How long are you willing to wait for your students? Again, it’s ultimately up to you, but you it’s a good idea to include this in you lesson policy so they are not surprised next time they arrive twenty minutes late and you’re gone. To play fair, you should apply the same time limit to yourself and offer them a make-up class or a refund if you are significantly late. Having said that, you want to aim at not being late under any circumstances! It is your prime responsibility to be on time and prepared for each lesson.

What Is Included

What is covered in the tuition and what is not? Do you provide your students with any study materials as part of the course? Are your travel expenses included in the fee? Are students expected to bring any specific books, tools and equipment? This will obviously depend of what you teach and where. Just make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re paying for, so there is no surprises later.

I hope by now you are ready to create your own Lesson Policy Agreement. Do you have any other tips I didn’t include in the post? I’d love to know them, so please share them with us in the comments section.

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How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 3. Create a Business Plan

VivianaMany people think creating a business plan is a complicated process and see it as a necessary evil. But… it can actually be quite an exciting activity! Look at it from this perspective: you are laying down the foundations of your future entrepreneurial endeavor. And a business plan will help you articulate your idea and get you started on the right foot

Don’t worry, you won’t have to spend hours writing it. All you need to do is answer 10 simple questions! The days of a 60-page business plans are long gone, thank God! The process can be actually done in an hour, or maybe an afternoon. Still not convinced? It can be done on one page too!

To help you with this matter, I created a one-page business plan template so that you can just fill it out and get your teaching business started today!

The One-Page Business Plan

I created this business plan template based on my own research and experience. I used it for the purpose of starting my own business as I strongly believe in the power of “less is more”. If you can define your business in one simple sentence, you’re likely in a good position to launch and grow your company.

Less is More

Image by hooverine via Flickr

How to fill out the One-Page Business Plan

Now that you have your business plan template in front of you, you can see how simple it is to fill it out. You don’t have to be an experienced business strategist or a marketeer to be able to answer those questions. As an example, I will use my fictitious “Chili Cooking School” to walk you through the template. I love to cook spicy food so if anyone actually offers these courses, please get in touch with me.

Now, let’s get started!

OVERVIEW

In the first section, you are asked to describe WHAT you offer, WHO are your customers and WHO are your competitors. This section outlines of your (future) business and will serve as a foundation for the strategic part of the plan.

Q1. What service(s) will you offer? What do you do and what is special about it?Try to provide one-sentence description of your business. You can pretend this is a question a friend asked you. What would you respond so they immediately understand the nature of your business?

Example: We offer cooking courses specializing in spicy ethnic foods. Our renowned chefs only use fresh local produce and home-grown organic chilies and spices.

Chilies

Image by Nina Yasmine via Flickr

2. Who will buy your service(s) and why? Define your potential customer and explain why they will pay for your service. Ask your (potential) customers why they (will) use your service, if you’re not sure. You need to get to know your target market and understand their needs well.

Example: Our classes are for spicy food lovers who want to learn how to prepare quality hot dishes. They will attend our classes to learn about exotic chilies spices and their preparation methods.

3. List your three main competitors. Start gathering information about your competitors, or at least identify who they are. Keeping an eye on your competition is necessary for growing your business. Even if there is no direct competition in your local area, there are always indirect competitors you will have to face sooner or later.

Example: There is no other school in Sydney offering spicy cooking classes. Jay’s Culinary School offers ethnic cooking classes, Fresh Cuisine and Cook Healthier provide organic cooking lessons.

Read more: 10 Tips on How to Research Your Competition

STRATEGY

The second part of the template should help you develop a compelling value proposition and define what is it that you business will bring to the market.

“Strategy is not planning — it is the making of an integrated set of choices that collectively position the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

4. How will your product solve your customers’ problems? This question is closely related to the question number 2. What problem is your business solving and how? Every time we buy something we are, in a way, solving a problem we have. To simplify the matter; if we’re hungry, we buy ourselves a snack.

Problem Solving

Image by StockMonkeys.com via Flickr

Think about your business as a solution to someone’s problem. Why do your customers need you? What problem is your product responding to by being on the market? These are very important questions. To offer a service is not enough, you need to offer a service that people need!

Example: It is difficult to find exotic chilies in Sydney. People spend long time researching exotic spicy recipes with an uncertain outcome. We have a great selection of fresh chilies and work with experienced chefs so spicy food lovers can discover new flavors through a hands-on experience.

5. What makes you different? Why is your service different and better than the competition? It is unlikely your service is one-of a-kind. I bet there are other tutors or private schools in your area who have similar courses in the same discipline. You have to think about what makes you stand out from the crowd and how you can distinguish yourself from the competitors. In other words, you have to create a Unique Selling Proposition.

Example: We offer unique cooking experience for anyone interested in spicy cuisine. We pride ourselves in providing organic fresh produce and grow the largest selection of fresh chili peppers in the country.We work with renowned chefs in Sydney. 

6. How are you going to make money? How much does it cost you to provide the service you want to offer? How much does your service cost and how many customers can you expect? You need to get into the basic financial modelling to make sure your business will be profitable. Again, start with simple assumptions and basic calculations to have an overall idea.

Example: We will host 50 cooking courses in 2014. Each course costs $500. We expect to have 10 students per course. Our estimated costs are $150.000. Our projected profit for 2014 is $100.000.

Gap

Image by S John Davey via Flickr

7. Describe the gap in your market. Questions 3 and 7 are not about your business but about your competition. After you have found your main competitors, you should be able to identify what is missing on the market you are planning to enter. And more importantly, are you filling that gap?

Example: While there are multiple quality cooking schools in Sydney, none of them specialises in spicy foods. While other schools provide organic local produce, none of them grow their own spices. Classes taught by renowned chefs are rare to find.

8. How will your potential customers learn about your business? How will you attract your first students? Outline your go-to-market strategy. You need to think about how you will reach your target market and where you will promote your service. Your marketing strategy will depend on many elements: the nature of your business, who your customers are and how they consume information; and obviously your budget. You cannot expect that people will find you. Especially at the beginning, you need to FIND THEM!

Example: Offline: We will advertise our courses on the local radio stations and in the local newspaper. Online: We will be using Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to promote our school. We will give all new students a 10% discount. We will use our chefs as our brand ambassadors to spread the word.

Find your destination

Image by VinothChandar via Flickr

9. What are you aiming at? What is your long-term vision? Think about where you want your company to be in three years. Your vision should be inspiring and extincting for everyone that works with you. Having a vision is about knowing where you’re going, not how you’re going to get there. First, you need to choose a destination, then you figure out the best way to get there.

Read more: Creating a Company Vision

Example: To become one of the most renowned Sydney’s cooking schools; providing world-class customer experience. To be the destination for spicy food lovers.

10. How will you measure success? Your business, like everybody else’s, is based on assumptions. There are different metrics you can employ to measure performance of your business against those assumptions. It’s a hard call because these will depend on how you actually define success of your business. Is your success going to be measured by profit, company productivity, customer or employee satisfaction? Probably by a combination of at least some of these.

Read more: Five measures for micro business success

Example: The most important metrics we will use to measure success are: brand awareness, sales conversion rate, customer satisfaction index, revenue growth.

I hope by now you are ready to create your own business plan and you will have fun doing so! I’d love to hear your experience with filling out the One-Page Business Plan. Please share your comments or questions below.

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How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 2. Gain Recognition

VivianaStarting your own teaching business is a highly rewarding experience. At the same time, it requires a great amount of hard work, patience, focus and responsibility. Last week we talked about how to get the right skills to become tutor or a private teacher. Today, we will cover how you can get recognition for those skills and how to best manage your online reputation.

Get Visible

If you cannot be found, you don’t exist. You need to get visible so that your potential students can find your business. To start with, you have to think about your brand. Are you going to use your own name or are you planning to use a business name? It all goes back to what image you want to project and what your personal and business goals are.

Visible Light

Image by sweethaa via Flickr

Personal Name vs. Business Name

Using your personal name is obviously the easiest option. In Australia, you won’t need to register a business name if you use your individual name. Don’t forget you will still need ABN (Australian Business Number) for tax purposes!

From a branding perspective, your personal name suggest you are a freelancer running your business by yourself. This can be an advantage as some people might prefer individual tutors with a personal touch over more anonymous private schools. On the other hand, this may become a problem when you decide to scale your business and hire other teachers and can become a real hurdle if you decide to sell your business one day. In some cases, using your personal name can be seen as less professional and less credible.

Using a business name for your brand can allow you to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition in the name and combine it with a logo that represents your values as a business. Choosing the right company name is extremely important for your business and can have a critical impact on your future success.

Read more: 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Naming Your Business

When you decide on your name, you need to register it with ASIC, or a respective organisation in your country. Your name has to be unique in your state or country and cannot be already registered by someone else.

Now that you decided on your name, it might be a good idea to buy a domain name to represent your company online. Even if you do not plan to go online straight away, you don’t want to risk someone else buying your desired domain name. It’s a negligible cost that can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Read more: 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name

Build Trust

Trust

Image by mikebaird via Flickr

So now you have a business name and you’re officially in the business. That’s a good start, but to be honest, it really is just a start. You will need to work hard on convincing your first customers that you are the professional, knowledgeable and reliable tutor or trainer you claim to be.

How do you do that? Try to get testimonials from your past and existing students. If you are completely new to teaching or tutoring and are starting from scratch, it might help yo ask your trainer, teacher or employer for a reference to highlight your qualities as an educator. These referrals not only build trust for your business, but also establish respect among your peers.

People Google literally everything nowadays. Even if you do not have the resources to build a website or do not want to make such a big commitment yet, you can set up a free WordPress site where you present your bio, showcase student testimonials and list any qualifications or awards you might have gained.

If you are from Australia or New Zealand, you can set up your teacher profile on Knowinger, our new education marketplace, and start offering your classes and building your reputation via our platform. It is completely free to create a course and acquire new students!

If the online world is not your thing, you can build your reputation through publishing articles in the local press or speaking (or at least participating) at conferences and events attended by your target market. Performing is another great way of acquiring new students and building your brand, if you happen to be a musician or a dancer. If you make art, you can use your products to showcase your skills and start building your reputation through your existing customers.

There are many different ways you can build trust for your teaching business, depending on your discipline. In general, one of the most powerful drivers of growth for small businesses is word-of-mouth. It can take some time to build your client base, but if you provide them with an excellent customer service and great product, they will not only come back but will tell their friends about you.

We will be covering some smart and affordable marketing tactics in one of our future parts of the series, so stay tuned 🙂

Become a Thought Leader

Another step in gaining recognition is to become a thought leader or an authority in your field. As you can imagine, this is not a quick win. It is a rather lengthy process you need to invest a lot of time and effort into. If you do it well though, it can lead to a great revenue growth.

Thought Leader

Image by kalidoskopika via Flickr

Probably the best way to begin your journey is to start a blog. Your blog should be closely related to your teaching business, but the tone of voice and overall appearance will highly depend on your target audience. You would  probably choose a different voice targeting moms whose little girls attend your dancing classes, or writing for young professional who might be interested in your copy-writing course.

Read more: 30 Quick Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

Leadership is a Journey

Image by Hamed Saber via Flickr

The next step on your way to become a respected expert in your field would be to publish a book. As difficult and expensive it might seem, there are many online tools you can use to self-publish an ebook.

Guest posting is another great way to gain reputation. Try and pitch your article to a well-known online publisher covering your discipline. You never know, you might get lucky!

Speaking at conferences, hosting podcasts, or creating online videos are another widely used tools that will help you make the cut. Participate in online discussions and forums and offer your expertise to others. Be creative, consistent and provide your audience with a quality content! 

It goes without saying that to be a true expert in anything, you need to immerse yourself in professional development. Reading, networking with your colleagues and attending webinars and conferences will help you keep up to date with new developments in your area of expertise.

Manage Your Reputation

Your reputation is everything! As a small business or an entrepreneur, you want to make sure that people talk about you in a positive way. You cannot afford unhappy customers and negative reviews. That can be detrimental to your business, especially at the beginning.

Where do you hide a dead body? On the third page of Google results.

You can’t really control what people say about you, but your can to some extend manage your reputation online. Start with searching your name on Google and include search in Google Images. Have you found anything that can potentially damage your professional image? You can either remove the content by yourself, if it was created by you, or hire an online reputation management agency who can help you bury the unwanted information. You should set up Google Alerts to monitor any mentions of your brand name on the internet.

As more and more students use reviews to make their decision, your online reputation is extremely important for your business. If you happen to get a bad review for your classes, respond to it and offer your side of the story. Do not take criticism personally and try to avoid responding emotionally.

Pay close attention to what people say about your competitors. You can use the information to fill in the gaps people are looking for and to gain a competitive advantage.

Make sure you use your existing social media channels wisely. Keep private things private. It might be a good idea to set up a separate Facebook and Twitter profiles for your teaching business, even if you are just a freelancer using your own name. The rule of thumb is: Do not share anything you don’t want your students to see or read. You never know when or where it can appear. Fine tune your Facebook’s privacy settings to reflect how you want to use your Facebook profile from a professional perspective. Maybe you want to use it as a channel to get your name out there and establish yourself as a trusted authority. In that case, you want all the information you share to be public. Or perhaps you want to keep your Facebook profile for private conversations only and would prefer to hide your posts from anyone but your friends. Either way, make sure to personalize your privacy settings.

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Now you know what skills you need to start teaching and how to gain recognition for your knowledge and qualifications. Next week, we will talk about how to create a business plan for your new entrepreneurial endeavor.

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How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 1. Get the Right Skills

VivianaBecoming 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.

Aristotle Quote

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.

Spanish Tutoring

Photo by Tulane Public Relations via Flickr

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:

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.

Teacher talking to students

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

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.

Learn more about how you can motivate your students.

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)

Listen

Image by ky_olsen via Flickr

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.

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

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.

7. Patience

Teacher in classroom

Image by black vanilla via Flickr

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.

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7 Simple Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Students

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The quality of teaching has an enormous influence on students. It affects their achievements as well as their engagement in the learning process. But more importantly, it influences how they perceive themselves as learners.

Educational Quote

There are many different methods and teaching strategies designed to motivate your class for better results. While guidelines and methodology definitely help, it is you, the teacher, who faces the ultimate challenge of making sure every one of your students learn as much as they possibly can.

Below is a list of 7 simple things every teacher or tutor, whether teaching group courses or individual lessons, can start doing today to get more out of their students:

1. Get to know your student(s)

Understand how your students learn and try to accommodate your teaching method to their learning style. There are three basic learning styles based on how people learn and process information. There is no right or wrong way to learn and these styles have nothing to do with intelligence, they just show different ways we prefer to receive new information.

3 Basic Learning Styles

It is important to understand the difference between the different styles so you can help your students learn in the ways most conducive to them. You can always ask them to take a quick quiz to find out what their learning style is so you don’t have to guess.

Now that you know the best way to present them information, you should spend some time and effort to get to know them personally and build connections with your students.

Be personal! This is certainly easier if you teach an individual course. But even if you have a big class, there are fun and engaging ways how to get to know each other better.

2. Set high expectations

You should hold all your students to high expectations and expect them to reach those high standards.

“If teachers demand high expectations from their students and engage them in tasks that interest and involve them, they will promote self-esteem and build students’ confidence and academic performance.” (Brophy, 2008, 2010)

It is also worth mentioning how important it is to articulate clear goals. Students should be absolutely clear on what they will learn in your class and what they will be expected to do with the acquired skills or knowledge.

Don’t forget to set the same high standards for yourself! You cannot expect them to deliver the best results unless you strive to do the same. In another words, you have to be motivated to keep them motivated! A great way to set high expectations for your practice is through professional learning and peer collaboration.

3. Be flexible

Everyone is unique. Some learners need more attention than others, some methods might not work in a particular environment. Go with the flow and be ready for change. This is not to say you should freestyle your teaching. You should always have a clear plan on what you want to cover in your class, but you might have different options how to get there. This is especially important if you’re using technology in your class. We’ve all been to lessons where the instructor spent half of the time fiddling with remote controls trying to make their presentation work. It is extremely frustrating for both sides and defies the purpose of technology in education. You should always have a plan B for these situations, even if you test everything before the actual class.

Don’t just try and stick to your plan if you can’t see the expected results. Combine different methods and strategies and keep testing them. Observe closely how your students respond and define the best approaches for each individual or a particular class.

Avoid the temptation of mass production! There is no “one size fits all” in education.

One size does not fit all

Image by Micky.! via Flickr

Recognize uniqueness of individual learners and create tasks appropriate to their level and style of learning as well as their personal interests.

4. Believe in them

Look beyond your students’ imperfections and problems and try to see their potential.

If you’re always reminded of what you cannot do or what you can’t accomplish, you will never start to believe in yourself. You need other people’s support to gain confidence. And you need confidence and motivation to tackle on challenging learning tasks.

See your students' potential

Image by Martika G via Flickr

You have to make them believe they can succeed or they will never do. Challenge them. Encourage them. You must help them to focus on their strengths until they start believe in them for themselves. Help them focus on the possibilities and coach them through the potholes along the path. You will be surprised how important it can be for some of you students to know you believe in them

5. Reward them

Most of us seek some kind of recognition for our efforts. By rewarding your students I don’t mean giving them anything in particular or granting them access to privileges that other students don’t get. That implies paying them for their efforts. They don’t need to be paid if you truly believe in them. Also, rewarding only the good students can be demoralizing for the rest of the class.

“Feedback, on the other hand, is about supporting the student in the process of moving toward the goal and closing that gap between where she is now and where she needs to be. ”
Source: http://www.teachandlearn.ca

You should start by setting clear goals for the students so they know what they are working towards. You then monitor their progress and identify the best time to give them personal feedback. You should assess their results on an individual level. Excellent students most likely do not need to be rewarded as they have enough motivation and confidence to continue working hard.

On the other hand, students who struggle with the material need your kind words more than anyone. Focus on their efforts and reward them for working hard. Encourage their hope by letting them know they can always do better. Give them another chance to demonstrate they can do it.

6. Smile

Your smile is essential in the quest to reach your students. Smile creates a positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable asking questions and expressing themselves. It is an important means for building and establishing rapport. Smile is the easiest thing you can do to put your students into ease.

Keep smiling

Image by rkramer62 via Flickr

When you smile, your mood automatically brightens up which naturally affects people around you. An intriguing UC Berkeley research, that examined smiles of students in an old yearbook, has recently shown that those with the widest smiles were generally happier in their later lives and had more fulfilling marriages. That is just another proof that smile is a powerful means of communication. It is naturally contagious. We are naturally driven to smile when we see someone else, even a stranger, smiling.

Talking about smile, humor can be a great way to engage students and activate learning. Beyond the fun factor, it brightens enthusiasm and creates more positive environment. You don’t have to try to be funny at all times, just do what’s comfortable for you. You will quickly see the ease and optimism spreading through your classroom.

7. Be a Role Model

Although it goes without saying teachers should serve as desirable models to their students, we cannot leave this one out.

A role model is a person who inspires and encourages us to strive for greatness, live to our fullest potential and see the best in ourselves. A role model is someone we admire and someone we aspire to be like. We learn through them, through their commitment to excellence and through their ability to make us realize our own personal growth. We look to them for advice and guidance.
Source: http://teach.com/teachers-as-role-models

So what are the characteristics of a teacher as a role model? They model positive choice-making by putting the best choices into action. They apologize and admit mistakes; nobody is perfect at the end of the day. As a role model, you show respect to others and follow through in the same way you want your students to follow their commitments. Great role models are well rounded individuals who are proud of who they are.

As a student, I was always working harder for the teachers who proved to be caring and nurturing as I felt my results mattered to them. I simply wanted to show them I could do it; that I deserved their support. Those are the teachers who motivated me and which I still remember. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of them.

There are probably some other ways you can motivate your students and get the best out of them. What are your favorite tips? I’d love your insights on this.

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Setting Your Tutoring Rate

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

Aristotle tutoring Alexander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tutoring can be a great way to start your own business. It can also generate an extra revenue stream or attract new customers for your existing business. Establishing your tutoring rate is one of the crucial points that can determine success of your activity.  You don’t want to sell yourself short, but you still want to attract enough students to pay your bills. You need to find the right rate for your services:

10 Tips on How to Set your Tutoring Rate

  1. Ask your colleagues. There are a lot of online forums out there where you can ask other teachers in your area.
  2. Check Craiglist and see what other people are charging for their classes.
  3. Location is one of the most important aspects – you can usually charge more in big urban areas than in rural regions.
  4. Think about your experience – do you have more or less experience than other tutors? Are you offering special skills that are currently in high demand?
  5. What is your educational background? Someone with a PhD can usually charge a lot more than someone with a BA.
  6. Who is your target market? Are you targeting higher income individuals or poorer families?
  7. What is the nature of your subject and time required for preparation?
  8. Distance you have to travel
  9. Possible disabilities the student may have
  10. The size of the group – Are you offering individual, small group or large group classes?

At the end of the day, the amount you can charge for your services are determined by the student’s willingness to pay. It’s all about supply and demand and you need to find your sweet spot.