What are the difficulties that arise when teaching teenagers and how to overcome them?

Diary submitted by Nicoletta, Valencia, 2020

In this reflective diary I will explore the difficulties which I encountered when teaching teenagers and I will explain how I attempted to tackle these challenges. 

It goes without saying that whatever age your students are there will be different challenges that arise. The principal difficulty that I experienced when teaching teenagers was the lack of engagement throughout class time, many of my students expressed to me how they didn’t care to learn English and that they were made to turn up to lessons by their families. When I first started my placement, I found these comments to be quite discouraging however, it is important to be aware that as teachers we only get one glimpse into our students lives when they step into our classrooms and every student comes with a different vantage point 

“negative attitudes don’t come out of nowhere – they’re almost always symptoms of underlying issues. With a bit of compassion, strategy and wisdom –all of these issues can be dealt with, paving the way for a positive, healthy and enriching school experience.”

I learnt that maintaining the student’s interest and engagement I had to use humour. Through humour, I noticed that a lot of my students were able to relax and they felt a lot more comfortable during lesson time. In addition, I would start off each lesson with asking the students what fun things they did during the weekend or if they had watched something interesting that week, through this medium it allowed more of a comfortable environment and the students quickly became more at ease when we followed through different activities throughout the lesson. Furthermore, I assured to dedicate the first lesson that I had with my students as a ‘get to know me’ lesson. By doing this it was a chance for the students and I to learn about each other’s interests and passions, it allowed for me to note down their hobbies and it gave me ideas as to how I could try and engage more with my students throughout the time I would be teaching them. According to Jennifer Fisette, an associate professor of physical education “   Students’ thoughts, feelings, and attitudes generally determine their level of interest in learning and participation in class. For this reason, getting to know and understand students should be a primary goal in teaching.”

Another way which I tried to motivate my students was to try and incorporate more of a dynamic setting in the lessons by getting the students to do activities which involved them getting up from their seats and walking around the classroom interacting with other students for example, going around the room and asking questions in the conditional II  and practicing it through this way. 

In conclusion, the main issue that I found when first working with teenagers was the lack of motivation that they exhibited. Nevertheless, the more I learnt about my students interests along with my use of humour and light-heartedness allowed the students to come out of their shells and participate a lot more in the lessons.

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