Mastering student recruitment is an essential first step on the road to success for freelancing teachers. But it is only part of the process. Student retention is also one of the most important indicators of success for a teacher and is an important aspect to focus on.
A high retention rate is one of the marks of an effective teacher because it shows that students feel they have benefited from the teacher’s methods and enjoy the learning experience with them. After a freelancing teacher has convinced a student to book that first lesson there are several things a teacher can do to ensure that the student wants to continue learning with them in the long term.
The starting point has to be with the teacher demonstrating to the student that they meet the minimum standards of professionalism and courtesy. First, the teacher has to be dependable. As teachers, we are all aware of how inconvenient it can be when students cancel lessons on short notice. It can be just as inconvenient for the student when the teacher cancels on short notice. Almost everyone understands that life happens, but too many cancellations will cause the student to lose confidence and respect in the teacher. Second, the teacher must be consistently punctual. The student pays for the lesson time and may feel slighted if the teacher has a habit of being late.
Third, the teacher must always be present in the lessons. They should be consistently attentive, interactive, and diligent with the student. This is especially true in error correction. The student knows that they are making mistakes. They want the teacher to correct them and will feel like the teacher is either not listening to them or doesn’t care enough to correct their errors. All three of these behaviors will damage the student/teacher relationship and the student will find another teacher pronto.
The preliminary meeting is key. The first lesson should show the student that the teacher thinks about learning in the long term. The teacher needs to show the student that they are evaluating the student’s language level and assessing their needs in the initial meeting. The teacher also needs to listen attentively to what the student says are their goals and concerns. The teacher needs to demonstrate to the student that they understand the student’s goals and needs and that they take those goals as seriously as the student does.
The teacher should ask the student questions such as, “What is the hardest part about learning English,” or “Why do you want to improve your English?” These questions will inform the teacher about the student’s goals, their level, and their difficulties. With this information, the teacher can personalize the lessons by focusing on the points that the student was most concerned with. At the end of the lesson, the teacher should discuss their findings with the student. They should discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses and what kind of lessons or long-term learning strategies will benefit them.
Then, in every lesson, the teacher needs to give the students reasons to continue booking lessons with them. First, the teacher should make the lessons fun and engaging with interesting and interactive activities. The teacher should use a variety of different lesson types and materials with audio and videos to keep the student from becoming burned out by monotonous lessons.
It is a good idea at the end of every lesson for the teacher to send the student their next lesson PDF or material. Once they see that lesson and the activities they are going to do together, the student will want to book that next lesson.
The student’s progress needs to be measured in some way. This can be done with formal or structured evaluations. Or, it can be done by raising the language level of the lessons the teacher is using with the student. Either way, when students receive positive feedback, they feel successful and they will be encouraged to keep booking lessons with the teacher that helped them achieve success.
One dilemma freelancing teachers face when it comes to retention is how raising prices can affect it. One thing teachers on italki can do is to create a “Special Package” or “Long Term Student Package” with one of their six lesson plans. The teacher can leave this package at the old rate, or a discount, and open it when one of their selected, long-term students want to book the package and then close it when they’re done.
So, to retain students the teacher needs to demonstrate in every lesson that the teacher shares their commitment to learning English and has a long-term plan to help them reach their goals. These best practices will help teachers achieve their goals of forming long-term professional relationships with their students.