By Michelle Power
After the decision on where you would like to teach is made, the most important decision to make is what age group to teach. Without a doubt, your students will have the biggest impact on your experience teaching abroad as the majority of your time will be spent in their company. If you’re wondering which age group to teach, you should bear in mind that it’s largely down to personal preference. There is definitely a difference in the class style and dynamic between children and adults and you should keep these differences in mind.
There is no easy age group to teach. Every level has its own unique challenges and rewards. Many teachers, in particular those with past experience of a specific category, will gravitate towards this age group, their comfort zone, which is perfectly fine, but for those who are new to teaching or embarking on a career change – you have an important decision to make. If you are feeling unsure the TFA team have compiled a range of factors to consider to help you make this important decision.
Approach to Study
One of the major points to consider is that children and adults learn languages differently. Children’s natural ability to acquire new languages is strong. Pronunciation and vocabulary tends to be acquired a little more easily for younger learners, especially given the fact they are willing to make mistakes, this willingness is a gift to teachers.
Adults, on the other hand may encounter more difficulties as they deliberately and consciously learn a language. Absolute adult beginners for example will be a far greater challenge than their junior counterparts. Children, as already mentioned, have no major aversion to making mistakes, so rarely feel intimated by a new language. They are also not afraid to be silly or play games – you may struggle to get this from older learners.
Your Personal Motivation for Teaching
Children are fun; trust me when I say you will never laugh more in the work place than you will in a classroom of young learners. Young learner classes are typically more dynamic too, with much more variety than adult classes. If you are the type of educator who likes to see immediate progress, teaching children will be incredibly satisfying as they tend to retain much more information. Generally with children you feel more involved in their learning journey, and at the risk of sounding trite, that you really making a difference in their life. As far as jobs go, that’s pretty rewarding.
On the other hand, if you lean more sharply towards the academic components of the class, then adults will be a better option for you. Adults tend to be more serious and are naturally more predisposed to focusing on tasks. Adults are usually studying for a specific reason or with a particular goal in mind. There is a much stronger emphasis on the academic with older learners, with content for adult syllabi being much more intellectually stimulating too. So if, for example, English grammar is your sweet spot, then adult lessons will be the best option; young learners will really not care for the finer learning points of the present perfect continuous, of that you can be certain.
Motivating Factors of the Student
It goes without saying that the motivating factors for learning language vary drastically from children to adults. Young learners are certainly not driven to learn a new language. Their attention span in class will be fueled by curiosity, imagination and their relationship with their teacher.
Adults, on the other hand, will have very specific reasons for learning English. They might be preparing for university abroad, or trying to improve their English skills for their career. This makes the job of their teacher more strategic. Students will expect you to closely monitor their progress to help them reach their specific goals.
Your own Personality
When you are teaching children, you are going to deal with a wide range of emotions as children’s moods can alter very quickly, even in an hour-long class. You’ll realise quickly that it is far more difficult to control a class full of young learners than a room of adults. If you are easily adaptable and can think on your feet, this type of learner will suit you. Being patient and able to adapt easily will help you a lot in a classroom full of young leaners. If you are more goals- orientated and task-focused, adults will be a much better fit for you.
Availability of Jobs
Finally, it may be the case that your heart is set on a particular country and the jobs for your preference are simply not available. Advantages for teaching children include the fact that there are a lot more jobs. Kids across Europe, Asia and the Middle East are learning English both in school and as extra-curricular classes in the evenings or weekends, so the demand for teachers is enormous. If you are keen to teach adults, do spend time investigating the availability of jobs.
Overall the best advice we can offer you is don’t rule out either category. You may find you have a lot of pre-conceived notions that are not serving you well. Ask friends, do research, get all the information you possibly can; only then can you know you’ve made the right decision.
Good luck from all the team at TFA.
For details of our job openings teaching adults or children, check out our jobs page: http://www.teachersforasia.com/esl-teaching-jobs/. For an overview of a position teaching adults, click on this link to our featured job: http://www.teachersforasia.com/general-business-english/ and for teaching children, see our featured job in Shanghai: http://www.teachersforasia.com/young-learners-shanghai/.