TEFL & Teens: How To Keep Sane In The Classroom

Classes with teen learners split the TEFL teacher population. Many teachers look forward to their teenage classes and find that they provide the most interesting lessons, whilst others just don’t know where to start. If you fall in to the latter camp here are some tips to help you keep sane in the classroom:

Show an Interest. During speaking activities show an interest in all of your students’ answers. Even if your students respond with a disinterested scowl or blank glare to your questions, keep your enthusiasm up. Over time, showing respect and interest in what they have to say will encourage them to speak out in class (making your job a lot easier).

Group Tasks. Working in groups can be a great way to enhance class interaction, bonding and engagement. However, with teenage classes this should be treated carefully.  When you first start teaching a class of adolescents, take a few weeks to observe the existing relationships. Use this time to work out who would work well together and how they could complement each other’s strengths. Shy students tend to pair well with confident and helpful students, whilst excitable students benefit from a calm partner.

Fact Find. Teenagers, like the rest of the human race, just want to feel important! Show that you value them and see them as individuals by finding out a small fact about each member of your class. Perhaps Ji Won likes to wrestle in his free time, or Ana is a member of a garage rock band. Once you’ve gathered this information,  you can casually drop it into conversation with the students and use it to tailor class lessons to them.

Be a Teacher, Not a Friend. Whilst it’s extremely important to make your class feel valued, it’s equally important to make sure they respect you as a teacher. Set clear boundaries and, if they are broken, have a set of consequences. If you want to encourage student ‘buy in’ then agree appropriate punishments through a class vote.

The Golden Rules. The worst thing you can do in the TEFL classroom is to present your students with a complicated list of rules. They won’t be remembered and will make you look pedantic.  If you’re struggling to decide, ‘respect your classmates’ and ‘respect your teacher’ should cover everything.

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