Have you done a bad job if you run out of time during a lesson?

Diary submitted by Marianna O.

As someone who does not have prior experience in formal teaching and that is better accustomed to informal group teaching scenarios where the content is not as structured or pre-planned, I was worried that I would not cover all of the material within the forty minutes allocated to the lesson. This was very obvious during my first lesson as I had managed to cover all of the content within the first twenty minutes. This allowed me to improvise and ask the student questions surrounding the topic. We had a genuine and organic conversation which put me at ease. Overall, I felt as if the student really enjoyed the lesson, reducing the pressure for my next lessons.
Surprisingly, I really struggled with time during my next few lessons. The lessons seemed to be going really slowly but before I knew it, the time was up. I had not covered all of the content and felt that I had to rush through the material once I had realised what little time we had left. There was one case sin particular where the student and I had only covered half of the content that I had intended to cover. I felt as if this was my fault but could not identify where I had gone wrong.

According to the British Council, the pace of a one-to-one lesson is decided by the student and their needs rather than an institution’s course/term structure. I understand this to mean that while the material provided by the language school serves as a good starting point when planning and structuring the lesson, the student’s wishes and needs must come first. I was able to consider that it was not necessarily my fault, neither was it a bad thing that we did not manage to cover the content that I had intended to cover during the lesson. On reflection, I noticed that I had struggled with timing in the next few lessons because the students were at a lower level compared to the student that I had taught for my first lesson. These students had many questions and spent more time to complete each activity. I began to wonder whether getting through the lesson plan within the allocated time should take priority over answering my student’s questions and ensuring that they feel confident that they have fully completed each activity before moving on to the next exercise. The British Council advise that you need to be very flexible over time, lesson and course aims, and material when teaching a one-to-one class. This could mean forgoing some of the exercises planned in order to allocate extra time to explaining a grammar point and/or vocabulary associated to the lesson if the student does not understand.

To conclude, it is important to plan lessons so that all content is covered in the given time. However, the amount of content covered in each lesson sometimes depends on the student’s ability and existing knowledge. For students at a high level, it is likely that lessons will finish earlier than planned, especially if this is your first few lessons with the student. It might be helpful to plan a few extra exercises or discussion topics in anticipation of this. For beginners, it is not unusual to struggle to complete all exercises planned as more time should be dedicated to answering questions and strengthening weak areas. If this is the case, it is not a bad thing. In fact, you have done what is expected of you as a teacher of a one-to-one class.


Kaye, P., 2008. TeachingEnglish. [Online]
Available at: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-one-one
[Accessed 4 June 2018].

Have you done a bad job if you run out of time during a lesson? TEFL Trainer

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