I have been teaching English for more than 3 years but I haven't had any chances to teach Corporate classes until I started working at The Future English Training Specialist in 2011. Now, I have handled some companies, such as Mahkamah Konstitusi Republik Indonesia, Actavis, WIKA Gedung, and TNI AD. From all companies I have taught, Mahkamah Konstitusi is the most memorable. I guess it is because I have been teaching there since March 2011. I have made a great relationship with my students there (but personally, I prefer calling them my partners). We even have our own discussion group in BlackBerry.
So, Have I got problem teaching Corporate classes?
I must admit that I’ve got more problems in Corporate classes than the common classes. The student’s age, position in the company, level of English, willingness to learn, and punctuality are some problems that teachers (especially me!) mostly encounter in the class. Even I got a complaint from my first Corporate class because of those. This is why Corporate classes are challenging. Now, let’s discuss each problem:
Based on my experiences, most of the students are older than me—even some of them are as old as my parents! This means teachers have to prepare suitable lessons and games. Never rely on ready-made lesson plan. Teachers need to analyze the classroom’s type then tailor their own lesson plan. Once, I gave my Corporate students a drawing game where they had to draw a picture and the others made a guess what it was. It turned out really bad—aka. a nightmare—nobody wanted to draw or guess. Finally, I figured out that some students were reluctant to play because they think they are old enough to play silly games. However, in other class, the situation was totally 180-degrees different. It was a huge success. We played the same game and the class was in chaos! Everyone was shouting and defending their guesses. At the end of the game, we shared a very hard laugh.
The point is, no matter how old your students are, analyze the classroom’ type first. Try to read the composition of the students. Are they reluctant or willing to play TPR games? Do they like studying in peace? Do they enjoy having a discussion on the latest news? When the teachers have found the type, it’ll be less painfull to tailor the lesson plan.
Position in the Company
Another challenging problem in teaching Corporate classes is the student’s position in the company. From Junior to Senior staff and from manager to head of department. If the class is arranged by the position, sometimes it’s easier to design the teaching plan. Unfortunately, teachers sometimes also get mixed class, where staff, manager, and even the VP sit together in one class. Here, a possibility of student’s reluctance to participate in the class is higher. Well, just picture yourself as a junior staff and the managers sat next to you, then you had to play or study in groups with them. How awkward it could be!
Of course, not all mixed classes are like that. Again, it goes back to the company’s environment. There are some companies where all staffs from the lowest to the highest positions get along really well. Then you won’t have any problems about it. Lucky you d^.^b However, as a teacher, we can’t pick the class that is easier to teach or has less problem by ourselves.
So how to solve the problem? Again, you need to read the classroom situation—whether they are mixed or not—find out whether they are okay studying with their bosses or not. When you have gathered enough information, you can start planning the lesson. Moreover, be cautious about how to correct senior student with in front of the juniors.
Level of English
Knowing the student’s level of English is essential before starting the class. Otherwise, there will be a havoc. For example, you prepared a lesson about describing changes using USED TO (mostly this is taught in intermediate level) then you discovered that the student’s level was basic—even worse, foundation—Trust me, there would be a silence so long that it was almost eerie in the class because none of the student could figure out the lesson.
As far as I know, every English institution usually gives a placement test to get the information before the class starts. Based on the result, teachers can prepare the lesson well. However, when the institution doesn’t provide the test or the company doesn’t want it (usually this situation happens when it is a conversation class), the teachers should give the test by themselves, just to know the composition of the English level in the class.
Personally, in the first meeting, I start the class with a chit-chat and try to get to know each other. I find this very useful and effective because you can guess the student’s level of English from their answers. Finally, you can tailor the most suitable lesson for your class.
Willingness to learn
Have you ever had a class where whatever games to play or practice to do, the students refused? No matter how interesting the game is or how easy the task is, they keep refusing. I have. If this situation happen, maybe the students are lack of willingness to learn. In my opinion, mood shares the biggest cause for the problem.
Students’ mood—especially the bad one—can really colour the class’s atmosphere, let’s say grey and dull. Bad mood may affect the class, even other students. There are many root causes of the bad mood. Tiredness, stacks of work to do, boredom are just some of them. Unfortunately, it is the teacher’s job to live it up. So, how does teacher colour the class in excitement?
I remember one of my colleague told me about teaching Corporate class,
“We are not only an educator, but also an entertainer. So keep them entertained everytime.”
Since then, I really take the advice seriously. One way to boost their willingness to study is to entertain the students. Try sharing jokes, show a funny picture, or even play a funny video. From there, you can initiate a discussion without them realized. It will be better if you can find jokes, pictures, and videos related to your lesson. However, teacher should set a clear boundary about this. The portion as an entertainer has to be smaller than an educator. Don’t make yourself as a clown. Oherwise, you will end up getting your students’ respect.
How would you feel if you had spent hours of preparing the class and on the next day most of the students came 30 minutes before the class ended—even worse, none of them came? Angry, disappointed, exaperated, even frustated must be some that come across the mind. Well, this happens a lot especially when you teach government’s institution, especially in my country. I’ve go no idea why the students rarely come on time. There are many reasons to this, lack of willingness to study, lazy, too tired to study, have got lots of fishes to fry, and still counting. Some of the students may be paying for the classes themselves, whilst other will be sent their by a company. Students who pay for their own classes tend to be more interested and motivated. For students sent by their employer, it is possible that they could see this as time off work, or even as a permission to skip the class.
Regrettably, teachers have to be ready everytime. Prepare more than 1 lesson plan (including games, warmer, and practices) because it is possible you are going to deliver the lesson in 30 minutes. Then, how do we deliver the lesson? Personally, I usually go straight to the language target for the day and drill it. I keep the practices for the next day and send the lesson’s note to their e-mails, sometimes with additional practices to do at home. This will save the time. Moreover, this strategy works really well on me.
At last, these problems can’t be used as an excuse to give up the class or even quit. Teachers must be creative and full of ideas. Of course, the students expect us to be able to handle the class well. Sometimes, we get inspiration in the hardest situation. The bottom line is, keep yourself ready, prepare well, and collect various games and practices. We’ll never know when we need them.
P.S. I wrote this article based on my personal experience.