The benefits of working in an after-school language centre
Extra cash and more teaching experience for starters!
I have been working in an after-school centre since the beginning of June 2017.
Having received a recommendation from a previous teacher, the owner of the centre contacted me for an interview towards the end of May. I was really pleased to have the opportunity as I am focussed on gaining as much "in class" experience as possible in order to keep on improving my English teaching skills.
Following the interview and a perusal of my resume, I was offered employment with two classes, one held on Wednesday from 5:15pm-6:30pm and the other with a similar time frame on Fridays.
Prep and activities
I always go in early in order to prepare for the lesson and to spend some time with the students before class. This is very important as many young English learners are very shy and its valuable to spend time talking and playing with them before class so that they feel more comfortable with you when class starts.
A couple of games I play with them that are popular are "Make A Word" and "Simple Scrabble." To play "Make A Word" I use a set of letters printed and cut out on separate pieces of cardboard. Each student or group receives a set of letters and I instruct them to form a simple phrase or sentence. The first to complete the task is the winner.
"Simple Scrabble" is quite similar. Just cut out pieces of cardboard with a letter on each and a score for that letter printed on the bottom corner of the word. I just use a similar scale as used in real scrabble. Vowels and popular consonants are worth 1 point, while more difficult letters are worth more points. For example, B is worth 3 points, J is worth 8 points and Q is worth 10 points. You need to have a decent pool of letters, say a minimum of 64. Each student picks 8 letters and they take turns at trying to make a word and score points. As its pre-class and I am trying to build a friendly and co-operative spirit all the letters can be placed face up so that the students can control their level of difficulty and help each other during the game.
I also try to find out what things the students are interested in. Fortunately, I can speak some Thai and can work out what the younger children are trying to explain to me most of the time.
Stickers are a highly effective reward for students during class. If I can find out that a child likes the Transformers or is a fan of Frozen then I will bring stickers with those themes in order to provide meaningful rewards during class time. It is also useful to link learning vocabulary to student interests during class as a means to maintain motivation.
Improving as a teacher
Once the class starts it is strictly English only by orders of the owner so this is a great opportunity for me to practice honing my skills to teach English in this mode. I have been able to develop my miming skills by studying the provided curriculum materials and by watching the techniques of the support staff.
Working in the after school has helped me to develop the ability to match my speaking skills to the ability of my learners to comprehend my instructions more accurately. I enjoy the smaller class sizes as well. I have more time to work on phonics and to assist students to perfect their English through drilling and encouraging them to ask questions to each other.
As my after-school uses computer and video technology I have also been able to develop my skills when teaching students with technology. I am able to see which activities are of more interest to them and have used this knowledge to improve my own teaching methods when I return to the classroom environment at school. Having students break the words down into syllables and preparing lessons where students practice pronouncing and differentiating between different groups of phonics are techniques that I am now better at providing in class.
After working at the school for two months I was offered an additional class to teach very young learners for two and a half hours on Sunday mornings. I was very pleased with this as I am already teaching K1 and K2 students in my regular at school lessons.
Patience and Energy! Patience and Energy!
These were the two key attributes to bring into a small room of up to nine young pupils who can laugh then cry, speak beautifully then go mute, or tear down the curtains and damage equipment like flashcards in an instant. It really is a bit of a teaching rollercoaster when dealing with such young children but the moments when the lessons go well make the effort worthwhile.
Holding the attention of the students is not an easy assignment but there are a few techniques that I have employed during the last six weeks that have seen the students gain confidence and to keep me in the job.
Imitating animals like monkeys and horses always works well. I have a couple of "naughty" boys in the class but I can win their attention if I mimic a monkey or pretend to be a horse and let them ride around the room for thirty seconds. The girls always respond well If you make some positive comments about their dress and all kids love an action nursery rhyme. If the students start to fray I can bring them back into order with a rendition of "Incy-Wincy Spider" or by falling to the floor after singing "I'm a Little Teapot."
A quick list of familiar and easy to perform instructions like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" or "This is the Way We Wash Our Face Early in the Morning," generally wins the attention of the students and gets them back into the swing of following the teacher's instructions again.
Staying extremely upbeat and giving heartfelt praise to each student when they perform a task allows me to maintain an upper hand with my energy levels. High energy levels tend to have a gravitational effect and are highly effective at keeping the students trying as the lesson continues.
I have learned not to have "too much energy" as the young learners need time to have short breaks throughout the course of the lesson, so its definitely necessary to slow down at times and convey a calmer atmosphere when students have to listen and repeat words or answer questions.
Teaching at an after-school has been a worth-while experience. Sometimes the days can be quite long especially when you teach all day at a regular school. This is a challenge but if you are willing to build your endurance and self-discipline then you will gain the rewards of more experience and some extra cash to boot.
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Would you mind telling me the name of the language centre that you used to work at part-time? That is, Ii would very much appreciate it, and thanks in advance.
By Richard Constable, Bang Na (21st December 2020)
I worked for years in a language school on weekends to supplement my full time income. The place I worked at ran 5 week long courses so there was almost no prep once you'd been through a couple of groups. The money was great too as the groups were generally quite big (15 -20 students). I was paid 100b per head per hour and as the lessons were 3 hours long it usually meant 5k+ a lesson. The 5 week long courses also meant you got quite good at it, recycling the same jokes and anecdotes. Preferred it to my regular job!
By Frank, Bangkok (15th December 2020)
Nice article, but I would caution readers that this is now illegal without a work permit now. In fact, a job in an after school center, without the work permit, could land someone in jail now, along with a large fine. Things aren't so smiley anymore.
By Brian, Parts unknown (29th November 2017)
I like LC the plus side you can really help a student in a private class by providing classses to the level of the student. It can be good pay and many opportunities for extra classes most evenings and weekends.
The downside is nepotism, greed and terrible resources along with cancellations.
I also choose a LC that has great resources, has a purpose for helping students, works with the parents to allow teachers to actually teach the students instead of the student taking over the class wanting to play games more than learning.
Just like at school it's more about behaviour and helping the student in succeeding in their purpose.
By Sash, Bangkok (29th September 2017)
I very much enjoyed my time working in language centres. Students were great. It was a good opportunity to make new friends and I learnt a lot. My first full-time job was at a language centre and I have great memories of it. I continued after to work in a LC part-time to subsidize my full-time job. All good.
I have my full-time job now and I do extra classes online. When I compare part-time LC teaching to part-time online, there's no comparison for me. I loved my time at the centres, but I won't ever do it again. It's simply not worth it anymore. Even if they were paying 600-1000 an hour.
By Craig, Bangkok (27th September 2017)