If you think adult students are boring and focused mainly on learning, you may be underestimating their inner children. Today I’ll share with you some magic you can enjoy with your students.
I started my career of a teacher in a primary school and survived two years (not because of children who were awesome and I still stay in touch with them, adorable bundles of joy and horror but because of the merciless educational system that promotes tests and coursebooks and not fun and communication). Then I worked in a teachers’ training college (and that was so much fun), moved to Ireland for a spell (one day I’ll write a book on Brazilian students in Ireland!) and when I got back to Poland I returned to teaching all age groups.
You probably know I love teaching teenagers – some say it’s because I’m quite immature myself. I enjoy teaching children – they’re so honest and pure when it comes to expressing themselves. But there is something about the adults that I had pleasure to teach that convinced me magic is not lost once you grow up – all you need to do is let them find their inner kids and see the miracles happen.
It’s quite impossible to make friends with kids and teens, but sometimes a group of adults turn out to be a group of people who are not only interested in learning English but also spending time together even after classes. I guess the reason behind this is that it’s quite difficult to make new friends once you turn 30 (unless you’re a part of a fandom) and if you spend two or three hours per week with the same people and you don’t talk shop, you may consider them first classmates, then mates and finally proper friends.
To tell you the truth, I do have some long-lasting relationships that started with English classes and I find this aspect of my work most precious. And they it all started with “today I’ll take you to the pub and we’ll have a pint, and play a board game in English…”
I love storytelling and I believe this is something that motivates people to speak English – we all have stories we want to share. It’s fun, making stories with kids, but they’re usually fantasy-based tales, with teenagers you should be prepared for weird and sometimes incoherent stories, but with adults you may try various genres, topics and ideas, be that crime story, romance or psychological drama. They will provide plot twists, interesting characters and all the fun younger students won’t include like…
3 Inappropriate jokes
Say what you will, sooner or later the adults bring in some more or less inappropriate topics (in-laws, bosses, politics, religion, partying and, naturally, sex). As a teacher I have heard some jokes that made me blush (and I have some serious suspicions that was my students’ aim), but I’ve never told them to stop, as long as the jokes were not meant to hurt or offend others.
I believe the ability of telling a lie and a joke in a foreign language is the best proof of one’s linguistic skills, so let them joke as much as they want – it makes our classes funnier and people are more engaged and friendly towards one another.
4 Realisation teaching is a job, not a hobby
One of the things I love about the adult students is mutual understanding of the work-oriented attitude. Even if teaching them is my job, I know how I sometimes feel after six hours of teaching, so when they are knackered after a particularly long day at work I can show some sympathy. On the other hand, the adult students don’t take you for granted – unlike kids and teenagers who presume you teach them because it’s fun (oh the joyous deception).
Such realisation helps both sides of the process, as teachers are conscious of students’ requirements and students realise that the classes are teachers’ work and not pure pleasure of spending time with them.
5 Glitter and stickers
Most people don’t believe it, but my experience tells me the adults are even more eager to earn a sticker for a well-written test, perfect homework or active participation in the classroom than the actual kids! Naturally, the idea of rewarding adult students with stickers requires a proper attitude of a teacher who has to present stickers as a long-sought prizes, otherwise the whole trick won’t work out. But once they get the point, there is nothing they won’t do to get a sticker.
And then you bring some glittered stickers and all hell breaks loose, trust me.
Why do I find it awesome? Because learning a language is an experience childlike to the core – and it’s so much easier to grasp this experience when you embrace your inner child, learn to laugh at mistakes and enjoy the process of learning new things.
Stickers, jokes, friendships – they are all means to use the language the way it’s meant to: to meet new people and have fun with them. Business, studies, tests come later – but making adult people feel like children, enjoy studying and communicating and have fun while learning – something they have probably forgotten – this is the most rewarding feeling a teacher may enjoy.