My thoughts

Why kids are fun to teach
March 22, 2008, 1:58 am
Filed under: Intermediate, Uncategorized

I used to work at a conversation school in Japan, which was my first experience teaching kids. We taught everyone–adults, kids, companies. The policy of the school was that every teacher had to teach in all areas. Some teachers complained, but I think it was a good policy. A typical day included some inhouse adult and kids classes in the daytime, and then going outside to a company or two in the evening. It made our work more interesting and gave us lots of different experiences, and it also meant that all the instructors were also flexible in the types of classes we could teach.

Two of my three years at this school, I was a head teacher, which means that I was a manager of the teachers. I got to hear all their complaints, and many of them complained about the kids classes, especially some of the male teachers. They found them difficult and uncomfortable to teach. They preferred the companies. For me, it was the opposite. I loved teaching the kids. In fact, I was the only teacher to ask for more kids classes, especially the very small kids. However the office staff gave me more companies and less kids, and the other teachers less companies and more kids.

I became sort of the “expert” of teaching kids at our school. The other teachers found teaching kids difficult, so I had regular training meetings with them about teaching kids. We shared ideas for games and activities. I also met with teachers to help them plan classes.

Here are some of my ideas about why kids are fun to teach:

1. Curiousity. Kids are curious about everything, and it is fun to see them excited and interested in language.

2. Humor. It is interesting to see what kids find funny. It could be a sound you make, and they find it fun to immitate it. I was teaching a class of American 1st graders (6 years old) here in Seattle. We were going over the weather, and I said “sunny.” And they got excited because one of them is named “Sonny.” I think humor is important, kids need to have fun when they are learning.

3. Eager to please. Most kids want to please their teacher, they try so hard. They get so excited when you give them positive attention.

4. Innocence. Kids are innocent, and it is nice to be around. Most of them are sweet and lovable. They have interesting ideas about the world,.

5. They give you presents!

6. You get to sing songs and play games with them.

7. They look up to you. Some are impressed with your skills. I remember when I was showing a kindergartner how to write a word, and she said “How come grownups are always so good at writing?!”

8. They draw you pictures, give you hugs, and get sad when you go away. It is nice to feel so important!

9. They make progress very fast, and it very rewarding to see. It is also neat to see how they develop. Some of the students that I taught in Japan were 6 years old when I started. They were studying the Sesame Street Picture Dictionary and sat on the floor. I graduated them to a table and a real textbook soon after that. When I left, they were 9 years old, amazing at English, and on the 3rd level of the textbook series. They could have good conversations and were really motivated about English.

10. Knowing that you made a difference in a child’s life. For me this was Kaede, who was 5 years old when I became her teacher. At the time, I taught her privately. She was very shy. She would speak with me in her class, and to her older sister. She rarely spoke to anyone else, even her parents. Her grandmother and mother came to me, and told me that they were very worried about Kaede. She had an interview for kindergarten and did not speak at all. Her mother felt guilty, perhaps it was her fault that Kaede was so shy–she had been stressed when she had been pregnant with her. I told them not to worry, but not to push her either. I said that Kaede might grow out of it. They felt better when I said that I had been very shy at that age too. And she did. I only had Kaede for a year, and then I had to switch with another teacher. When I left 2 years later, she was thriving. She had friends at school, talked more, and even talked a lot in her English class. At a school party, she played the piano in front of everyone. Her parents said I was her best teacher, that this is possible because of me. I disagree, she did it, but I like to think that I helped a little.


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