ESL Discussion: What's your favourite age group to teach?

Motivation for students

Motivation all the way… Photo by symphony of love

My god I’ve had such a great month teaching English to a group of mainly university students. It’s been a dream. Actual students who want to learn English, can see the benefits of improving their lives with English, and are motivated, autonomous learners.

I’m not sure if the fact that I’ve only been teaching about four hours a day, and in the morning instead of the afternoon, has had a major influence in my decision. But I really enjoyed helping this group get ready for their PET exam.

To be fair, it’s been a super intensive month, which is exactly what the course is designed for, but having such positive, keen learners has made teaching them a pleasure. I must admit that a few years ago I would have been caught out with a few vocabulary and grammar questions, so I needed to be on the ball, but I love that aspect of teaching. If only I could teach university students all through the year.

It’s not that I don’t like teaching kids and teenagers. Every age has their pros and cons. For example, kids are innocent, fun and up for doing most activities, but they can be a handful and overly hypo. Teenagers can be interesting at times, some are keen and eager and up for learning, but the self-motivation is lacking something, well, actually everything, and conversations often fizzle out quicker than a sparkler.

So, I have to say that university and adult students, for me, are the best type of students to have. Of course, it’s not possible to teach these type of students all day every day, and kids and teenagers are the biggest market these days, at least in Spain they are. But I wouldn’t mind having a couple of similar classes throughout the year.

Why have I enjoyed it so much?

  • Stimulating conversations: We have spoken about a range of topics and most people have something to say, which has created a lot of speaking practise and loads of new vocabulary. We’ve had a laugh too, and there’s been quite a bit of banter flying about.
  • More in common: These guys were younger than me, in general, but I still have more in common with them than kids and teenagers. This allows for more a comfortable atmosphere and interesting dialogues. They were teaching me things as well, like interesting scientific facts about the environment and weird animals e.g. did you know a platypus has poison in it’s ankle?
  • Autonomous learners: They took notes, without me telling them too. It’s funny but even a couple of the students have been eagerly doing the next activities and getting ahead of themselves, you’d never catch that at teenage level.
  • Classroom management: I had to move a chair once, but that was about it. These guys even rotated around the class and didn’t get stuck to their favourite seat. Fair enough, I did mention not getting too attached to their partner, especially for when they do the official exam, but still, they made an effort.
  • Avid listeners: They took heed of my skills advice. Doing various listening, reading, and speaking activities, which were skills based, created pretty good interest. There were no long faces, frowns, or dirty looks.
  • They humoured me: I got a few giggles from my bad jokes and tiresome anecdotes, which for me is the main part of teaching.

So, there you go. I’ll be asking my boss in September if I can be the new University Student teacher, but as we have hardly any adults, that’s gonna be tricky. What about you? What are your favourite ages to teach and why? Do teenagers and kids do your head in? or maybe you can’t handle adults?

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