One of the hottest debates on TEFL forms tends to be about the teaching of private students in small or 1:1 classes away from one’s primary employer. In some countries it is just plain illegal and strictly enforced (Korea for example) while in others it is often prohibited by your employment contract or work visa – but pretty much allowed – to the point where we often see advertisements in newspapers and flyers posted in busy areas. A few countries allow teachers free rein to do private classes as they wish, and 1:1 classes are often a normal part of the workday for teachers with self-employed status.
Please check and be sure that private classes are legal where you are. Don’t forget though that your primary obligation is to the employer that sponsored your employment and arranged your visa and work permit. Don’t burn yourself out working too many nights and evenings.
If you have concerns about legal or contractual requirements, keep in mind that private classes are often available for you at language schools or university language programs. Let your employer know if you are interested in 1:1 classes.
Private classes offer numerous rewards other than the obvious financial ones. My experience has been that it is an opportunity to get away from large impersonal classes and get to know your students and their culture far better. It offers the chance to focus on one student and help them meet their language goals.
I have found the experience to be extremely rewarding in all circumstances – both personally and financially. For me it has been a chance to help students immigrate to a country that had a minimum language requirement, get admitted to graduate school, conduct international business in English and much more. It has also been an opportunity to make a friend or two that I would never have made otherwise.
Probably my most rewarding experience was working with a young lady for three years who went from good language skills to excellent skills and qualified for one of the best private secondary schools in her country. She was very bright and I know she will be an excellent scientist one day – guaranteed. She did the work, not me, but I am very proud to have been able to help her along. Working with her is one of my fondest recollections of my years in that country.
Small private classes are a way to move away from what can be a “teaching factory” setting and to really have an opportunity to help someone and experience the personal rewards of our “helping” profession. For me, it has made all the difference in the enjoyment of my TEFL career.