Welcome back to Learning Online!

Part One | Part Two

This week we’re looking at ways to evaluate your online teacher. Having knowledge of a subject does not automatically make you a good teacher in that subject. That’s why people go to school to teach [duh]. However, when dealing with languages I’ve noticed tons of people who think being a native speaker is enough. When working with a teacher online you want to make sure that their teaching style works for you, and that you’re getting your money’s worth. If you want to know what to watch out for while working through your lessons, read on!

Are they organized?

One of the biggest roadblocks to progressing through your language study is a lack of organization. This applies to your teachers as well.! Students count on their instructors to have a plan of their own, as well as guide them through it. If the teacher isn’t put together (in their process or their thoughts), how can the student depend on them?

Lesson Format

Lessons should ideally follow a consistent format. Once you’re a couple lessons in, you should know what to expect as far as tasks you’re required to complete. For instance, with my Korean teacher I know that I’ll have to do at least five things during our lesson or as homework:

  • Dictation Exercise (Either writing out sentences or recording myself speaking0
  • Creating sentences from grammar points of the week
  • Reviewing PDF lesson of the previous chapter as well as the new chapter (she gives the new chapters as homework for next class)
  • Talking about what I’ve been doing since the last time we met
  • Correcting sentences from the previous week

Of course she switches it up from time to time, but for the most part I know exactly what’s expected of me. Trust me, it relieves a lot of stress. I don’t like surprises unless they’re tiny, cute, and puppy shaped.

Lesson Delivery

Most of us know at least one person who talks in circles. Hell, some people do full on corkscrews. You know the ones. They can’t finish one thought before they get the next one out…(guilty). It’s one thing when it’s your annoying coworker. It’s another when it’s the person you’re currently counting on to teach you advanced Hungarian.

A good teacher will express themselves in a concise manner. They won’t jump all willy-nilly between subjects and have you completely lost. Make sure that if you’re having a difficult time following along, you let the instructor know. This is especially important with there being no fact-to-face contact. It’s can be difficult to tell when someone’s struggling a bit.

There should be a main focus and the teacher should stick to that focus. It’s very easy to get caught up and go off on a tangent, especially when you’re passionate about the subject you’re teaching! But don’t be afraid to give them a gentle nudge back in the right direction if they start to drift. Try asking a question or suggest going over a certain point in more detail.


Record exercise patterns


Are they prepared?

There’s a few things as irritating as coming to class and finding that the teacher is woefully unprepared. Granted, this is usually an issue on the student side, but i have definitely had classes where teachers have literally been like, “Um. So yeah. I have no idea what we’re doing today. Let’s just go over what we did last week.”


Let’s not.

Teachers, even if they aren’t using specific textbooks, should still show up armed with a set of tools. If you’re taking lessons geared more toward reading, they might have articles for the two of you to work through. Focusing more on speaking? Teachers should have at least a few conversation starters at the ready just in case. No teacher should be habitually unprepared.

Side note: I say ‘habitually’ because, well, shit happens. Teachers are people too! You just don’t want it to be a constant thing.


Recap at the end of lesson


How well do they communicate?

Ah, communication! You’d think that as language learners if anyone’s going to be an expert at communication it’d be us. Nope. Not exactly (…guilty. Again.). Sometimes even teachers struggle when it comes to having open and honest communication with their students.

Note that there’s a level of subjectivity here. I feel that any good teacher will give you consistent feedback on how you’re performing, as well as areas where you seem to be having the most trouble. Using my teacher as an example again, she always tells me what it is specifically that I need to improve on.

Damn you, Korean intonation.

Not everyone needs to be told outright or reminded often. It all depends on how you learn best and knowing what tips you from, “I’m totally willing to improve my skills,” over to “Sweet baby cheezus I suck at everything and this is a disaster.”


Tip: Ask for feedback

I know it seems like a lot to think about, but you’ll be glad you did!

What are some things you take into consideration when evaluating how well your teacher is working for you?


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