In my experience, there are only a few reasons for conducting one-to-one lessons.

In my experience, there are only a few reasons for conducting one-to-one lessons. I mean, naturally, those pupils who attend the usual school, not any special cases, like home-schooling, or correctional schools, or any other specialized institutions and unique arrangements for unique circumstances. Below is a list situations I have encountered.

Private lessons for which a teacher is paid directly by parents are arranged for several reasons

A typical instance is when a pupil missed some important periods, and thus needs extra coaching. Another, slightly different one, is when parents wish their child to learn more, to have higher grades and better exam results, and to prepare for further studies at a university. In any class, there are also a few children who find it difficult to absorb the whole curriculum, or are developmentally slow. One-to-one lessons may help them immensely. 

Unfortunately, I have seen many cases where parents are advised by teachers to arrange private lessons, because teachers need to supplement their salaries. When I first started working at school, an older teacher approached me to explain how it was all done. “You send your bad students to me, I send mine to her (the third teacher at the same level), and she sends hers to you, thus we all get well-paid”. Since it was the very beginning of my own very first year at school, and we were teaching second graders – beginners, I inquired politely, “What if I have no bad students?” She laughed into my face. Naturally I know that it is very easy to downgrade or upgrade any pupil. I also know that we all deal with multi-level classes. What works for one child may not work for another. I saw it as a natural challenge. Every child is an individual who deserves equal chances. I just had to figure out how to teach them all well. The national curriculum is compiled by experienced professionals. It is designed so that any pupil may achieve at least the satisfactory level required for them to pass on to the next year. Raising the children’s level, and helping them get higher grades, is up to the teacher.

One-to-one teaching in the classroom

For me, Step 1 is always mentally evaluating my class. Getting acquainted with the family situation is helpful too. There are no two similar children; thus, every pupil may need an individual approach. A class genius may require some extra tasks so as not to be bored, and consequently misbehave or create a disturbance at every lesson. The slowest child needs to be given a carefully calculated amount of work, and encouraged to plod along no matter how poor the results may be at first; such children also may need protection from bullies. Using ICT in the classroom gives us great opportunities for arranging individual sessions for the whole class simultaneously. We just need to master the time slots, to be on hand when any of the children are done with the tasks so that we can check the answers, grade the exercises, and provide them with more work if needed. Any child who has done an exercise well needs to be praised. The very good ones value accolade as much as the weaker ones.

A child is or was sick, or had a trauma which prevents them from attending regular classes at school

In my country, as I discovered when the occasion arose, a teacher is ordered to visit such a pupil at home on a weekly basis, for no additional pay. Thus I took a bus and then walked a few minutes, at -30C, smack into a dire situation. My pupil had to stay in bed for several months, mostly on her stomach, after a bad fall, which resulted in a spine injury. Her younger sister, also a pupil from my school, recently fell down on ice and broke her leg. Their mother, a single parent, was always at work. In a small town, word spreads fast. Next day at work, several colleagues approached me to give me lists of homework for both girls: it turned out that I was the only teacher who really visited those sick children at home, as per regulations. So I shuttled the lists, and then filled-in exercise books, back and forth. The girls were always happy to see me, and ready to do whatever I told them to. Since the younger one had huge gaps in her EL level, and because I knew her teacher well, I helped her with the subject while my own pupil did some written exercises. I also listened to their woes, and helped them with some other subjects, and brought them some extra foods. Once, I slipped and fell outside myself, getting badly bruised. So there we were, two girls on their beds and myself lying down on the couch, peacefully speaking English. Both girls came back to school in May, at the end of the academic year; both did well in all the final tests and examinations.

Basically, I can formulate my EL teaching principles quite simply: see what kind of class you get, and deal with it. I had students in their ninth year at school aged 14-15, who could not read. They happened to be out sick with winter flu when the curriculum declared the “Learning to Read” period. Their parents could not afford to hire private tutors. And the pupils somehow scraped through from class to class, getting very low grades, growing more and more discouraged. All right, so I had some teenagers who could not read and were afraid to say so. I allotted special time slots for them during the lessons, for example when all the others were writing their tests, and we spent some quiet time sitting in a far corner, with me teaching the said student how to read in English. Every year, I got a few very talented teenagers from other schools, who had studied English since their second grade, but never had a teacher who would speak the language in their lessons. Thus, when I spoke English to my classes on September 1, the new pupils would react with stunned uncomprehending faces. But they could read and write. All I had to do was teach them how to speak and how to listen to the authentic recordings.

The Result is that in my twelve years of working at school, hundreds of my pupils have taken their final examinations. About five of them got “Good” as their GCE grade; all the rest got “Excellent”.

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