1. TEACHING TEENAGERS- A BLESSING IN DISGUISE OR TORTURE?
Just try to imagine never having experienced the following: black and white TV (with only three channels and no remote, no less!), vinyl
discs and cassettes instead of CDs, Live Aid, the Soviet Union, Dynasty, the outrageous clothing and hairstyle, studying without the
aid of the Internet, phones that you dialed instead of pressing buttons and cameras that you couldn’t see the picture you had taken.
Welcome to the world of the teenagers in the year 2011.Such images would probably resemble the Stone Age in their eyes .Among
teachers, adolescents are often considered to be the toughest, most challenging group to deal with, even more than young learners.
Personally, I’ve always loved working with teenagers, although my first encounters with teenage classes left me seriously pondering
the possibility of choosing a different profession…..Looking back, I’m very pleased I decided not to, for all my years of teaching have
been very rewarding.
All teachers are well aware of the fact that, as teenagers are undergoing massive hormonal changes in their body and their brains are
not fully developed yet, their behaviour is far from what we adults would call “normal”. Being extremely impulsive and volatile, curious,
rude sometimes and always in a hurry, it is next to impossible for any teacher to really and fully understand them. It takes serious
effort and genuine interest to approach them enough to do so and make them willing to listen to you, as they are naturally inclined to
be distrustful of adults and ready to defend themselves if you try to patronize them.
In order to overcome this obstacle and be deemed worthy of their trust, a teacher should be “armed” with indefinite sources of
patience, perseverance and above all love for their profession and children. We have grown into adults and immersed as we are in our
daily routines, we have forgotten about our own adolescence. Likewise, we tend to forget that they are still so young, that they have
special needs, however sophisticated, mature and knowledgeable they may appear to be. Logically then, there’s this huge information
gap between students and the teacher, which is something the latter may actually use to their advantage. Show genuine interest and
do not be afraid to learn from your students. After all, they practically know everything there is to know about the latest fashion,
music, technology and gadgets, not to mention Facebook, MSN and texting. This reversal of the traditional teacher-student roles is
something that will be refreshing for the teacher and will give the student a feeling of self-esteem and eventually will bond them
Similar to the previous point, is to actually care about who your students are. A teacher, who truly cares, should know as much as
possible about each and every student’s personality he/she teaches. Every tiny, little detail matters: who is into sports cars, who loves
dancing, who is a talented painter and generally what they’re up to in their free time. It also proves to be invaluable to know which
teenager has a sick parent, whose parents are divorced or if a teenager is orphaned or adopted. This profound knowledge of one’s
students’ passions, interests, weaknesses and afflictions is a useful tool for a teacher, so that he/she can behave accordingly, with the
utmost respect and understanding towards their students. In this case, the role of the parent is crucial. A teacher needs to establish
a firm relationship with his students’ parents, to gain more insight to help him/her make teaching more complete and effective.
Additionally, it needs to be stressed, that it is of equal importance for students to be aware of their classmates’ personalities and
interests. This makes for better dynamics in the classroom, as happiness and camaraderie are highly conducive to an effective learning
environment. Moreover, it allows for better organized class activities that will capture and keep their attention. It is also really
helpful in the resolution of disputes, should they arise.
As regards the issue of knowing your students, there is something to be considered carefully. More often than not, students will want
to know more about the person teaching them. Teenagers are disarmingly honest. This sincere curiosity may in fact lead to some really
uncomfortable, unsettling questions. It is vital therefore that the teacher decide beforehand how much of his life he is willing to
reveal, which of course is clearly a personal, subjective issue. It is, however, a generally accepted fact that an open classroom
atmosphere helps to set a common ground, creates a positive learning environment, one of mutual respect and understanding.
As it is a well-known fact that teens are an audience that is hard to please, a resourceful and alert teacher should constantly be on
the lookout for original material that will capture –and hopefully – hold their interest. Teenagers usually love to work in groups, where
they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge or any latent talents and qualities. They actually feel great about what
they do know rather than feel bad about what they don’t for a change. It’s a great means to boost their self- confidence. The
teacher’s role in this particular case is rather limited, though by no means less useful. He may function as a facilitator – and why not-
as a learner, because we actually have a lot to learn from our teenage students, more then we’d ever care to admit, even to ourselves!
It needs to be emphasized that apart from being loving, thoughtful and respectful towards your students, it is of absolute importance
that we not forget our primary role: that of the teacher, setting high standards, having expectations from them and maintain the
necessary discipline for the lesson to flow smoothly. As such, we need first and foremost to enter the class with a well-thought out,
interesting lesson plan in mind, incorporating a variety of activities, challenging enough to keep them alert, thirsty for new knowledge
and flexible to the extent to allow for changes, if need be. As mentioned above, discipline is important for an easy flowing lesson. It’s
stunning how easily one gets carried away by the relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The teacher needs to find a way to balance
successfully between humour, liveliness, friendliness and the need for the strict sequence of the lesson to be maintained, however
impossible that might seem at times.
2. On a closing note, it is worth pointing out that the profession- or calling- of a teacher, apart from being highly rewarding, is also
profoundly humanitarian. A teacher offers not only knowledge on a given subject, but also teaches students basic human values, such
as love and respect for oneself but also for other humans and the Earth we live on. As it is part of our job to help shape the
characters of the adults of the future, all these have to be considered. There’s no point in being an excellent teacher of any given
subject but failing to address these issues. An added bonus to teaching teens is that a teacher gets to stay young and rejuvenated,
whatever his age. Some of the views that teens express are often quite refreshing and surprising, so by being open-minded enough,
one can actually discover a new perspective to reality.
My 14 years of teaching teenagers have taught me that it takes a lot of love, respect, patience, understanding and commitment to be
able to live up to their expectations and needs. One needs to play so many roles simultaneously: teacher, facilitator, consultant… I
consider it a great achievement and honour to have created such a bond with your students as to be remembered with love and
respect. It is by far the ultimate proof of a job well done and the highest degree of recognition a teacher could aspire to achieve. The
way I see it, it doesn’t get any better than that.