How to teach teenagers #1
My 100% subjective tips and tricks to enjoying teaching teens.
Teaching is quite the task to begin with. It requires patience, personality, the ability to work under pressure, and incredible organisational skills. Teaching teenagers seems to be a controversial subject among teachers - some love it, some wish children stayed 10 forever. I’ve never been a part of the latter, but it took me quite a while to love my teen-teaching experience. Here are some things I’ve learned about co-existing with teenagers and not only surviving the school year but also succeeding in teaching them something useful and even having fun.
1. They are not 7.
As much as we want to regard teens as cute little kids who want to play, sing, and be adorable all (most?) of the time, once they are hit by the puberty train they find neither comfort nor fun in whatever they adored doing a couple of months back. Treating 15-year-olds like kindergarteners might backfire quicker than you think, leaving you with no authority and labelled as cringy.
2. ...neither they are 30.
Unfortunately, even though they are not little kids anymore, neither they are adults. Teenagers are in that terrible moment in life when no matter how hard they try they don’t possess the wisdom (or at least experience) of some adults. While controversial, thought-provoking topics are advised to foster logical and critical thinking, playing a part of the movie Se7en might not be a correct activity choice.
3. They are smarter than you think.
Under no circumstances teenagers should be treated as if they’ve just woken up from 300 years-long comae which left them clueless about the world. In 2021, when they can, and do, spend most of their time online, browsing through youtube, social media groups, and various wiki pages, there is a slight chance they know about certain subjects more than you and if not, they can and will look things up quickly enough to surprise you.
4. Don’t try to be cool.
I know it’s cool to be that “cool” teacher instead of a regular one. A teacher who understands games, TikTok's, and new slang. Unfortunately, there is a thin line between cool and cringy - once you fall into the cringe hole, you’ll most likely not escape it. If you have to say you’re cool, it means you’re not, and that’s ok. Own your personality - honesty is always better.
5. You are not friends.
It doesn’t mean you should be super strict or unempathetic. Being cool and friendly with your students, no matter the age, is always a good idea until it’s not. Beware of becoming too accommodating as you wouldn’t want to lose your authority as a teacher. You are still their teacher and you deserve respect.
6. ….but so do they.
It breaks my heart to hear about so-called educators who treat teens as yet another brick in the wall. We are, as teachers, in the classroom not to give another test or take attendance but to help, listen, inspire, guide, and motivate. We would not be there were it not for the students, and adolescents tend to be undermined and overlooked the most. Respect is a two-way exchange - why should we be respected if we can’t show it to others?