Author Archives: rebecca

Administrative Stumbling Blocks

Background croppedIn this post you’ll find basic contracts, bills, and templates for your self-employment as an ESL teacher in Germany, as well as advice on setting your schedule and prices.  It’s going be a long and detailed explanation with German-to-English translations for each document, so get some popcorn and strap in.  Before you print out any of the templates or contracts below, be sure to replace the dummy info with your own, and feel free to change the text to suit your needs.

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From the mouths of baby Germans

ThumbkinKnow what?  Know what?

Little kids have limited control over their impulses, and no understanding of timing or relevance.  They might tell you strange things at strange times during the English lesson, and you have to do your best to not overreact. Let them know that you heard them, respond a little bit, but don’t let it derail your song, story, game, or lesson plan.  This is yet another reason for you as an ESL teacher to learn the native language of the children you’re teaching: for example, the child could either be asking to use the bathroom, or he could be recounting the time his sister peed on the sofa. Continue reading


Teaching Kids: Discipline and Troubleshooting

Discipline cardsThis is one of the most important parts of classroom management, and I’m dedicating quite a bit of space to the topic.  Children behave in unpredictable ways, and it’s not always “bad behavior.”  They’re not acting up because they dislike you or because they’re naughty.  Some children are naturally louder or more spontaneous than others while some are more calculating and cunning, often flying under the radar until a classmate is in tears.  It will be up to you to determine which behavior is tolerated in the lesson, and only experience can teach you to identify rebellious or distracting behavior. Continue reading


Teaching Kids: Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

KidsLessonThe Language Playshop is a results-oriented course where learning is fun and automatic.  The children are given the tools to recall information on cue, and to review the information at home with the help of their picture dictionaries.  The words learned in the lesson are actively acquired, while phrases, sentences, and questions are learned through games, songs, and general interaction with the teacher.  Because chaos hinders learning, the lessons are fun yet highly structured, so classroom management is of the utmost importance.  Fairness and respect are valued, providing a positive learning experience.  This leaves the children with a better grasp of the language and a more motivated attitude toward learning English. Continue reading


Necessary Paperwork and the Government

BooksBlankSmallBefore Working:

Do not attempt to start working without permission from the German government.  You’ll need a qualification such as a TEFL Certificate, Bachelor’s Degree, Associate’s Degree, or government-issued license.  There are lots of online courses to get those basic qualifications.

If you’re studying at the University, there might be limitations on how much you can work.  On the upside, getting permits when you’re already a student might be easier than starting out as a tourist.  Some answers can be found here. Continue reading


Finding a Teaching Location for Adults or Children

CafeRestaurantIf you work for a school, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to your classroom’s location.  But if you’re fully or partially self-employed, you’ll have to find a balance between convenience, cost, travel time, and personal boundaries.

At home:

Naturally, you’ll want to find a comfortable place to teach.  This could be your living room if you don’t mind other people coming and going, and if children’s boogers on your sofa don’t bother you.  The downside is that students know where you live and the boundaries between work time and free time will be blurred.  You might also have trouble getting people to leave at the end of the lesson, or convincing people that you’re a professional teacher.  It could also be forbidden in your building, so ask the landlord first.  The major upside is that you don’t have to travel, and your overhead costs are almost non-existent.

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English Schools vs Self-employment

8.1-teacherWhen you first arrive in Germany, you’ll be tempted to apply for work at one of many commercial language schools, none of which I will name here.  These schools are not traditional schools because the “students” are really clients.

What I’m calling a traditional school is one where the students, if minors, are mandated by the government to attend.  Think elementary school and high school, be they public or private.  The teachers of these schools have to hold certain degrees and are specifically qualified to work there.  They are civil servants and hold that title indefinitely.  The kids finish school with either a High School diploma or other certificate.  The German school system differs from the American system in too many ways to mention here. Continue reading


About “stealing” students

Students are property.  There is value in referrals, advertising, and reputation.  If you’ve earned a student “cold”, that means that someone found you and hired you to teach them after seeing an advertisement that you put out there.  That student is yours and you can decide to teach them or not.

If you work for a language school and a student likes your teaching style, it is unethical to give that student private lessons without the language school’s permission.  You can even be fired from the school and possibly sued, depending on your contract.  It doesn’t matter how much the student will pay you compared to how much the school pays you, or compared to how much the student pays the school.  The school has earned the student through their advertisements and reputation.  Conversely, the teacher is also property of the school.  Students who buy the cheapest, shortest course at a school with the aim of finding a good teacher and switching to private lessons are also treading on dangerous grounds.  Many course contracts include a clause to prevent poaching. Continue reading


Random Nuggets

An ongoing collection of little thoughts:

  • Ones and sevens are written differently in Germany.  If a German person writes a phone number with 0511 on a scrap of paper, an American might dial 0577.  Nines and the letter ‘g’ in German handwriting are also similar to an American.
  • You get what you give.  If you never recommend fellow teachers, they’ll stop recommending you.  If your lessons are skimpy, so will be your reputation.
  • Don’t expect people to pay for your services if you steal the services of others.  If all of your materials are stolen from the internet, your students could just use that same internet without you.
  • “Fake it till you make it” only applies to confidence before a presentation, not your qualifications to give it.

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The Hardest Kinds of Lessons

1.1-boredYou’d think that sitting around talking would be the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not.  Whether you’re teaching adults, teenagers, or little kids, there will come a time when you’ll wonder where your life went wrong.

The one-on-one tween:

This kid is failing English at school and his parents are punishing him with private tutoring once a week.  The parents are lovely people who paid the course fee without complaint, and everyone wants to see the kid’s grades improve.  Except the kid.  He doesn’t give two flicks about English or you or your brilliant activities.  He won’t open his mouth to save his life. Continue reading