In the world of adolescents, teachers are a drag. Well, they can be and most usually are. How to battle this without seeming to try too hard? How do you get around all the prejudice? How do you manage to grab their attention and hold on to it and have them open up in your classroom? And I don’t mean for one lesson, but for a much longer period in time. Mind you, all these things are done in the target language.
- Invest. Get to know their names ASAP. Use a plan, draw a chart, print their photos but make sure you know who you are dealing with. If you teach in a comprehensive or highschool or other type of school, try to remember if you taught their sibling(s), cousin or other. This is key. If you don’t know who they are, why should they bother getting to know you? Tip: organize your class with a plan and request they sit that way during the rest of the year.
- Be kind. Notice little things. Like when they are tired, wear new clothes, have their birthday. Ask about their last class. Did you have a haircut? Was that you in the paper I saw? It costs so little time, but will prove very rewarding as this will lead to opening up.
- Care. Each lesson I start with “them-time”. What’s your day been like? Did you have a good testweek? How are you getting on with school? What is your hardest subject and why? Have you played a gig recently? Take 5 to 10 minutes for this. Tip: have them introduce themselves in one of the first lessons in and take notes on hobbies and siblings and such. Eventhough my students know I wrote this stuff down, they still like the fact that I bothered at all. And it provides excellent material throughout the year.
- Administrate. Keep track of who gets to speak. If you always have the same students converse with you, it’s never ‘their’ turn and it bothers them that it’s always the same student hogging the teacher. Whereas if you make sure everyone gets to go, it’s seen as fair. I’ve had students remain behind in break time still speakinn English, and I see that as a clear sign they are very much at ease.
- Inquire. Watch the news with them and ask their opinion. Usually, some item will elicit a response and this can set off a nice group discussion. Impromptu speaking is the best, but make sure the students stays well within the target language. If they tell you in their native tongue: “I can’t do it, I don’t know the words. Please, can I just tell it in ...”, I always reply that I had no idea what they were going to say anyway, so I make them go around the problem they were facing. Doing that over and over will familiarize the class with your method and the fact that you are out to get spontaneous language, so there is no “I don’t know” or wrong or right.
- Respect. Take them seriously. Yes, their view is much more restricted than yours, but hey, that’s teenagers for you. They’ve not learnt any 50 shades, they know the 3 primary colours and that’s fine. If you ridicule them in any way, or tell them off because of age, they’ll shut down and you can wave any type of trust goodbye.
- Browse. Bring recent stuff into the class and ask your students to help you get the materials in. If you bring in a new clip about some fancy, sci-fi topic and they haven’t even seen it yet, again, they feel you’ve made an effort and they’ll respect you for it. Besides, the topic will appeal to them because it’s new. Tip: Use students’ materials if they are willing to provide some.
Hopefully these tips will be of assistance and please notify me with any feedback relating to this.