“Should I feel bad if I’m not into teaching kids?”
Why don’t you like teaching kids?
This is a question that is usually posed in a tone of bafflement at best, horror at worst; as if not wanting to teach kids is some kind of heresy and marks you out as a child-hater. So let me tell you here and now that it is OK not to like teaching kids. Just as it is OK for you not to like broccoli, or chemistry or skateboarding, it’s simply a matter of personal taste, interest and aptitude.
Not wanting to teach children doesn’t make you a bad teacher
It was simply never my ambition to teach children, nor what I trained to do – in both the Cert TEFLA that I did and the CELTA that replaced it, the A is for adults. Teaching children requires a different skills set and a different mindset. So I don’t buy the idea put about by some schools that a ‘proper’ EFL teacher should be ready, willing and able to teach all age groups. Try asking a university lecturer to teach a bunch of 8-year-olds, or a primary teacher to conduct a seminar with a group of undergrads! Which is precisely why Cambridge English now offer dedicated courses for those wishing to teach youngsters – CELT-P (primary) and CELT-S (secondary).
Different skill set
In my view (and limited experience), teaching children often involves placing much more focus on social/life skills and classroom management at the expense of language skills. And it’s teaching language skills I’m interested in and good at, not in teaching children to take turns, put up their hands or the value of sharing. This is all essential stuff, of course, but I simply don’t find it sufficiently challenging or rewarding. And the younger you go, the closer teaching becomes to entertainment anyway, it seems to me. That said, I take my hat off to those teachers who do this as it can be magical when you see it done well. It just isn’t my thing.
Then there is the whole pushy parent scenario, which makes me very uncomfortable. I’m sure you’ve come across them: those parents who sign their children up for classes at the earliest possible opportunity – often with the best of intentions, though not always – when their poor kids, not surprisingly, are much more interested in Lego or Fortnite than learning English, but don’t get a choice as ‘mum and dad know best’. And then, equally unsurprisingly, these children tend not to engage with the lessons, or worse still, become disruptive. But when the parents then don’t see a return on their investment in the form of class-topping results at the end of the term, it is the poor teacher who is first in the firing line.
And finally, don’t get me started on the whole sexism thing whereby it is all too often assumed – still today, in the 21st century! – that female teachers (especially those with children of their own) rather than male teachers (even if they have children of their own) will automatically have an affinity with small children so teaching them will come naturally and they end up being timetabled accordingly, regardless of their preference or skill set.
So remember: there is nothing wrong with you if you don’t like teaching kids. Or broccoli.
Fran Mackereth has degrees in Law with French from the Universities of Leicester and Strasbourg, and in Business with Economics from the Open University, from which she graduated with First Class Honours. During the seventeen years between the two, she taught EFL in the UK, Germany and South-East Asia, having gained her CELTA back when it was called the Preparatory Certificate in TEFL (and dinosaurs sill roamed the earth). She has taught all levels and all ages, both in groups and 1:1, but her primary area of interest has always been Business English, both in-company and in-class. Following a fifteen-year break from teaching, during which time she ran an award-winning blacksmith’s forge with her husband (yes, you read that right), she moved to Italy and returned to teaching. Since her return to the classroom, she has also qualified as an interlocutor for Language Cert oral exams, gained a Certificate in Online Teaching, delivered teacher training courses and written ESP materials. She is currently participating in a Creative Writing course through the University of Cambridge.
Photo: Classroom in Chicago 1920s