Today I received this request for help on starting a teaching business by introducing English in schools. Here’s the problem:
I can’t get started – even by begging!
‘I live in an area which perhaps is the most difficult to work in, as far as ESL teaching is concerned. Add to the “natural” refusal to attend English courses,
- the almost total incompetence of the teachers who are in the state school system,
- the hostility that is shown to private schools
- the savage invasion of so-called “experts”
- the awe in which “teaching methods” are held! (Like the franchise Helen Doron).
And you have just an inkling of what it means to teach here. I have tried for three years to propose “projects” to nursery schools and preschool classes, and each year it was like begging for alms. I even proposed a ridiculous sum as “payment”. Do you have a magic formula that will make schools jump at including English in their curriculum?’
Read on for my answer on how to deal with these issues.
My tips for starting a teaching business
Here are my thoughts, but please bear in mind that I’m not the Oracle. This reply is partly a subjective point of view and partly factual, describing starting my own teaching business.
Finding common ground with your students or employers
1. Firstly, I can see your frustration. I can understand it! However, trying to change the entire mindset on teaching by bashing your head against a wall is an uphill battle. Instead, try to change it from the inside by seeking agreement and harmony. So, for example, if people are in awe of ‘teaching methods,’ then exploit that and propose a ‘teaching method’. You want to use my resources, no problem. They are a ‘teaching method’ since they contain a way of teaching along with content. Otherwise, you will wear yourself out trying to fight everybody. Instead, go along with the line of thought, get in the door, and change things gradually from the inside.
Give a motivating demonstration lesson
2. To get into schools, propose doing a demonstration lesson with kids at the school at lunchtime or during assembly. You are so confident in your method that it’s no trouble for you to take ten children you have never met before and give them a fun English lesson in front of a crowd. Walk your talk! Don’t tell them how good you are; show them.
Write to parents or prospective customers
3. Once the school accepts the idea, prepare a letter for parents and give the school copies to send one home with each child. The letter invites parents to enroll their child in English Club, an extra-curricula activity now offered by the school. Your letter should have pictures, be professional, welcoming, and talk about how you teach the kids in a fun way. The fact that parents receive the letter via the school gives you credibility and reassures parents since they assume the school has vetted you and made sure you are safe.
Value for money
4. You mentioned your price was ridiculous, and the school didn’t want it even then. If the price is too cheap, parents might perceive the offering to be rubbish. On the other hand, it has to be affordable. You are better off doing a quality job with fewer pupils who pay a bit more than a mass of kids paying peanuts. Therefore you can say to parents in the letter you write that places are limited to ten per group, absolute maximum to ensure quality work.
Don’t bark up the wrong tree!
5. If you go to a school in a poor neighbourhood you MAY get no results, whatever the price, because parents may not value education more than a packet of cigarettes. When I handed out 800 letters in two state schools, I only had two replies. On the other hand, the clubs had plenty of subscribers in state schools in better-off areas. Please don’t jump the gun, I know that this is not always true and that many poor neighbourhoods have highly motivated families. I am just saying that was my experience in the UK. Each country and city is unique. Just don’t flog a dead horse. If you try to grow vegetables on a sterile patch of ground, it will be slow and difficult. So, you are better off trying the more fertile plains next door, at least while you get started.
Reliability and trustworthiness
6. Reassure the schools that you are reliable. Get your police check done. Be positive, enthusiastic, professional, and go with the system. Offering extra-curricular activities makes the school look good, so normally they will be keen as long as they think you are reliable. You must reassure the school that you are reliable and follow a reliable teaching method because the school’s reputation is on the line. That’s why they are so keen on “teaching methods” since they feel they can trust them.
7. Re your comment about how people are hostile to private schools: If the state schools do not want to propose a paid service to parents, try a different school, or target the private schools. But understand that if a school is against paying for education, making it cheap won’t change that. In fact if the price is ridiculous it can undermine you.
8. Get the ‘savage invasive’ experts on your side – they could promote your services.
Starting a teaching business on your own if all else fails
9. Finally, if you can’t get into any school, anywhere, set up on your own, from home, at weekends and after school, or in the day for mums and dads who don’t work and can bring their kids. And offer summer clubs and holiday clubs from home.
Franchises – some pros and cons
10. Starting a teaching business with a franchise is a quick-start method. But unfortunately, you have to pay for this, which often means giving a percentage of your earnings away forever. So in my view, it is better to establish your reputation and keep all your revenue.
With my teaching resources, you buy them once and use them for the rest of your teaching career. They are amazing value. There are plenty of schools and nurseries using Teaching English Games as the teaching method. You can check my links and reviews pages for references if that would help you. For example, if you are teaching a group of 3-year-olds once a week, my first ten stories and songs will give you a complete course for the entire year & every year after that for a one-off flat fee. I make my stuff affordable for teachers as part of my mission to help others as much as possible while still being able to make a living.