The Challenges of Teaching Teens

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Teaching teens is very different to teaching other age groups. We could say that about all ages but there’s something about teenagers that makes them more challenging than other classes. We’ve all been teenagers so we know what it’s like to go through that stage of life. But even though we can empathise with them it doesn’t make it any easier for us to teach them.

The most common challenges teachers face when teaching teens:

They’re not children, but not adults either

There is probably no bigger insult than speaking to a teen like you would a child. Teenagers are most certainly not children and should not be treated as such. Try not to be condescending towards them or baby them. Rather err on the side of age and talk to them the same way you would talk to your adult students. Take their opinions seriously and listen to what they have to say.

They are individuals

Each student in your class will be experiencing something different in their day-to-day lives. Whatever happens outside the classroom will have a huge impact on your students’ behaviour inside the classroom. Try to remember that your students might be dealing with issues which may affect their behaviour.

Discipline can be a problem

This is possibly the biggest reason teaching teens is difficult. There are a load of physical and emotional reasons teens act out. Even though we may treat them like adults they can still sometimes behave like children. In these situations it’s best to explain the rules of the classroom and potential consequences of their ill-discipline carefully and calmly.

Maintaining interest is key

One way to try to avoid discipline issues is to make sure your students are interested in the lesson. This is really important for teens. Adults can pay attention to be polite or because they know they should. If teens aren’t interested, they won’t bother trying to fake it. They will just get on with whatever they want to do, even though that may have nothing to do with the lesson.

Be relevant

Following from this, you need to make sure your lessons are relevant to your students. Try to keep up-to-date with who and what are trending with the younger generation. Don’t rely on your coursebook to provide you with popular culture references because chances are, it’s outdated. By talking to your students you should be able to keep up with what’s hot and what’s not in their lives.

All teachers enjoy teaching different age groups. Each age group has their own challenges and rewards. Teens, however, seem to get the raw end of the deal in terms of reputation. Don’t let others put you off teaching teens until you have tried it yourself. You may find them more rewarding than you expected.

Comments:

In my experience working with teenagers, it has been really good, as most of the time I try to get on well with them. When you sympathy and empathy, they low down their guard and let you enter into their world.
It is a great challenge as you mention, buty also a great opportunity to help the world to be better raising teens eager to help others.

María Susana Arvizu Rojas, 15th November 2019

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