First sessions are nerve wracking, because you often have no idea what to expect. Whether this is your first Fluentify session ever or just a brand new student, we wanted to go through some of the common fears expressed by tutors and how to manage or prepare for them.
1. How should I open the session?
Even for experienced tutors, we’ve all been in that situation where the session starts and there is a moment of silence as we wait for the other person to say something… it happens so don’t panic! Once you connect to the session, give the page a second to load completely, make sure that you can see the student clearly, and then say:
“Hi! Nice to meet you! My name is ____.” This is a great way to start because this will be a very familiar phrase for your student and they know exactly how to respond (sometimes robotically), but it will put them at ease.
2. What if the student doesn’t understand me?
Some students are so nervous during their first session that they completely freak themselves out– you will notice this by the looks of sheer terror or completely blank expressions on their faces. For many, this is the first one-on-one conversation that they have ever had with a native speaker that has lasted more than a minute. If at the beginning of a session a minute has passed and the student is still looking at you like they haven’t understood anything, it’s time to take a step back. Start your introduction over- at a painfully slow pace- and make sure to articulate each word clearly.
Use simple phrases and questions that they should know how to respond to (How old are you? Where are you from? etc.). These warm up questions will usually help them feel a little more relaxed and they will slowly start becoming less panicked and more engaged in the session.
TIP: Keep your body language positive! If the student is struggling, make sure to keep smiling, nodding, and using simple phrases such as “No problem! Don’t worry”.
3. I am having a hard time understanding my student
Watch your facial expressions too- just like when a student is totally lost you might be showing that pretty clearly. However, it is your job as the tutor to make the student feel comfortable, so try to check yourself and make sure that you are smiling and welcoming. If you are having trouble understanding the student then simply ask “can you repeat that?” or you tell your student to write the word or phrase in the chat.
You can guide the student by asking simple questions and getting the answers so that you start to understand the student’s accent and where he/she is making mistakes which will help you as the session proceeds.
TIP: Don’t use negative words when asking the student to repeat something such as ‘I’m sorry I don’t understand you.’ Continue to use positive words such as ‘Can you repeat that last thing you said?’ -or- you can blame the connection to not make him/her feel self conscious! ‘I lost you for a second, what did you say?’
4. What if my student won’t talk?
There are absolutely cases when you are going to have a student that is silent. When this happens you can do two simple things- First, take time to do your introduction simply and slowly. This will give the student time to adjust to your speed and accent while giving him/her time to think about what to say. Second, have a list of questions to ask with a mix of closed (yes/no answers) and open questions. Make sure to ask them in a simple, clear way so that the student doesn’t feel caught off guard.
If you go through all of your questions and the student still isn’t warming up, just take the rest of the session to talk about how you envision structuring the sessions, what kind of activities you can do, and what kind of exercises you will send the student to do.
TIP: Write this list of questions and extra topics before the session so that you can refer to it if needed.
5. Student doesn’t have clear goals
Sometimes you’ll have a student that tells you that they don’t really need English for any specific reason, they just really like it and want to improve. That’s totally fine! In fact, this can even be an advantage for you. This allows you to really design a plan and select topics that you think will be interesting for the student and fun for you to teach.
6. My student hasn’t even cracked a smile
While this may seem rude or aggressive, usually it just means that the student doesn’t understand a lot of what you’re saying or that he/she is, again, terrified. Make sure to keep speaking slowly, clearly, and to be even more enthusiastic and smiley than normal.
TIP: Don’t reciprocate with discouraged expressions, it will just make things more awkward! Take a deep breathe and keep smiling
7. How should I correct my student in our first session?
There are two ways to handle corrections- you can either do them as the student makes mistakes or take some notes and for the last 3-4 minutes of the session you can go through them together.
For a first session, however, try to keep the corrections to a minimum during the student’s introduction. This way you won’t tear down their confidence immediately.
Towards the end of the session you can start giving the student some corrections and see how he/she reacts.
TIP: There are some students who want to be corrected to improve their accuracy and some who just don’t- that’s okay. You’ll figure out quickly if the student doesn’t have a great desire to speak perfectly, but rather just have time to speak. In these cases, don’t feel like you need to give constant feedback, but make sure to add some notes in the feedback form.
8. What should we talk about?
Focus on your introductions- tell the student about yourself, maybe some interesting facts that might prompt him/her to ask questions. Then listen closely to your student’s introduction and think of some questions you have while he/she is speaking that you can ask when he/she is done. Your students will be most comfortable with personal information so don’t rush them through this part.
Then, ask about their past English experiences and preparation. Have they only studied in school? Taken some courses abroad? This will help you understand their level as well. Move onto their current situation/ what they are doing with their lives. Student? Job seeker? Retired?
Use this discussion to move into their motivations for learning English and if they have specific goals for your sessions together. Make sure to talk about how you usually structure sessions, how you will address his/her goals, and explain the feedback form.
TIP: If this is the person’s first time ever on Fluentify, spend 2 minutes talking about technical things such as how to use the chat, where to find the feedback form, etc.
9. We can’t connect! Help!
This is probably one of your biggest fears, which is totally understandable. While you can’t control how good your student’s connection will be, always make sure to do the “Test The Platform” option before you start your sessions so that you can make sure everything is okay from your end. Because there are a number of connection scenarios and steps to take, we have broken them down in another article for you here.
10. Student is late/ doesn’t show
You will absolutely encounter those students who are a few minutes late to every session. Once you know who they are you can just wait patiently for them to get there. However, with new students you can’t be quite sure and you want to make sure the student has a chance to complete at least a part of the session if he/she is running late. In this article we have explained the 8-step process to managing late students and missed sessions.
What other concerns do you guys usually have when working with a new student? Let us know!