To teach kids or not to teach kids…

I think a lot of academy directors would agree with me when I say that it’s very hard to find teachers who do a great job teaching children.

There’s so much more to the story than being native and holding a TEFL and I wanted to highlight this subject this week to alert naïve teachers of the sort of situation  they might be getting into. I use the words “native” and “TEFL” as first off, most parents are obessed that the teacher be native and secondly, TEFL is the most common training medium available to teachers looking for work abroad.

One thing is to like children, the other is to be able to teach them. And as the majority of TEFL courses provide minimal training if any at all in this very important area, the suitability of a teacher is something that both the academy and potential teacher should consider carefully before making a mutual committment.

I have to say at this point that this area isn’t my speciality, I deal more with corporate language training but as we’ve had some teachers bail out on us this year in our school saying that teaching kids isn’t for them, I wanted to raise some awareness around the issue.

The pedagogic considerations are perhaps the least important when it comes to teaching successful childrens’ classes as we’re all trained in the basic techniques on our TEFL courses. The issues which beg to be looked at though are:

  • Discipline problems
  • Gaining respect from the childrem
  • Dealing with different learning styles
  • Motivation of individuals

to name but a few.

To what extent are new teachers really prepared to deal with such issues?

It’s amazing how many teachers casually accept childrens’ classes saying they “like children”, want to widen their teaching experience etc. etc. but are then powerless in front of a group of 6 year olds!

What can we do to prevent this situation from happening?

In the first place it’s imperative that the selection and interviewing process is rigourous. Teachers need to be sourced who have proven experience in the field and who ideally possess a qualification such as the British PGCE or similar. Recruiters need to be tuned in to energy, a teacher with an insipid personality is going to be eaten alive (possibly by the same group of 6 year olds who made an appearence above). Assertiveness and clarity here is the key.

Initial orientation training by the school is essential and particular attention should be paid to classroom management, daily routines, reward systems and disciplinary measures available to the teacher. And of course ongoing support is a must. Teachers need to know that there is someone on the management team who will back them up and be there for them.

Which leads me on to another point – we’ve seen over the years that many teaches feel embarrassed to ask for help, many think they have to solve any classroom management problems on their own, and often wait until a situation gets out of hand before speaking about it. This is completely the wrong approach.

From an academy’s point of view it’s relatively easy to find your team of full time Young Learner teachers at the beginning of the academic year and follow the comprehensive selection procedure mentioned above. But if you need to replace a teacher mid academic year, that is really when the pressure is on as the groups in the academy simply have to go on the road. A well thought out substitution system is what is called for here but for economic reasons this is not always implemented in smaller schools.

I’m sure there are quite a few of you out there who can add some depth to this post, both from an academy and a teacher’s point of view. The main point I wanted to make here is that inexperienced teachers shouldn’t jump headlong into teaching a block of Young Learner classes in a school, even though the block hours are attractive, without really finding out what extra demands the profile of these classes entails. And conversely, schools should really examine exactly how well suited a particular teacher is before assigning the classes. In this way, parents and children will have more chance of getting the service they deserve and headaches will be reduced all round, well, except for the headacher the mere noise of a group of 6 years old naturally make anyway!

What have your experiences been regarding the teaching and/or coordination of kids classes? How could negative situations have been avoided?

I’d be very interested to hear your comments.



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