Teaching is a difficult profession that requires patience and adaptability. Each class presents their own quirks and challenges, but these often vary by age. Any new teacher must decide which age range they prefer teaching, and this can be difficult without experience. Today, I will reflect on the differences between teaching adults, teens, and children so you are able to make an informed decision before pursuing higher education.
Let’s begin with the youngest of our groups. Children in school are typically between the ages of 4-12. There is significant development during this time, and encounters with unprofessional teachers can leave an impact on them when venturing into middle school and beyond. Teaching elementary-aged students requires an incomprehensible amount of patience, for numerous reasons. The first is the lack of maturity. Children often pick up habits from their caretakers, and repeat them without considering the consequences. If you teach a child whose parent bullies them, you may see a bully in the classroom. A spoiled child may expect the same behavior from you. We cannot control how parents raise their children, so teachers of this age must expect the absolute worst, and realize that getting through to these kids may be more difficult than they anticipated. The second reason is a concentration of energy; when have you ever seen a group of kids that could all sit still? The third is the severity of consequences placed on teachers who discipline their class. Teachers may find more success reforming children’s behavior, rather than punishing them for it.
Teens, on the other hand, require patience for other reasons. Teens can act unusual, as they are discovering their identity and must try to find what works. You may also encounter more intense behavioral problems, clique formation, and a lack of respect for authority. However, teens also have a better ability to reason, so there is a good chance you can talk through problems with your students, rather than resorting to time-outs or other punishments.
Where you see a huge departure is with adults. Unless you are teaching a general education requirement, most of the students in your classes will be there because they enjoy the subject. You have a great opportunity here — you can either make the class engaging, or you can make it boring. Your students will react appropriately. While you don’t have to pretend to be their age, it can also help to relate to them in some way. The biggest problem when teaching adults is the lack of motivation. Without strict boundaries, like those in high school, students can care more about their social life than their classes. However, there will always be a few good students each semester who make the position worthwhile.
Children, teens, and adults are significantly different in terms of maturity and habits, so it is no wonder that teaching them varies just as much. While each offers many positives, there are also negatives to keep in mind. No matter what you decide, be sure to thoroughly think about what every day may look like for you, and whether you have decided to teach the right age group.