Teenagers: They can be moody, constantly tired and at times, difficult to motivate. I can’t think why, as my experiences with them have been positive so far (and that’s probably why I like teaching English to teenagers). They understand my jokes and are happy to share their opinions on a range of topics once they feel comfortable with me. However, there are a few special few whose efforts to set themselves apart from the crowd will live long in the memory.
My current student, Cici, is a real individual – a confident, knowledgeable student who loves music, has her own unique fashion sense and changes her hair colour and style regularly. She’s also one of the most fearless students I know. There was one time she went to a Cosplay exhibition but had to rush from there to class without time to change. When she finally made it, she greeted us in a long blond wig, blue and white checked dress and long white socks.
There was also our Halloween party last year which was scheduled right after class. She was attending the party and decided it would be much easier to put her costume on at home. So you can imagine walking into class and seeing a student sitting there in white face-paint, dark eye shadow and a long black robe, with a fake scythe propped up nearby – and chatting and carrying on like this was completely normal. I can only imagine the stares she would have got from locals on her way to class.
Crazy Name Choices
Teaching English to teenagers can also have its funny moments. For example, two ex-students who were in one of my classes together, spring to mind – a girl called ‘Sorry’ and a boy called ‘Blah blah blah.’ When I first met Sorry, she had decided that she was tired of being a girl. Her hair was always short; she dressed in baggy boy’s clothes and took a huge interest in basketball and computer games. Blah was a typical boy in most ways but quite clever and very interested in American culture. It was mainly his name and being the most talkative boy in class that set him apart.
It was almost impossible to forget their names but so easy to use them in a way that occasionally turned class into a comedy routine. During one class for example, I was writing a new phrase on the board and giving examples on how to use it. After a few examples, I just lazily said ‘blah blah blah’, convinced they had understood.
“Yes?” Blah pops his head up, thinking I’ve called his name.
“Oh, I wasn’t calling on you, Blah. Sorry”
“Hmm, what?” Sorry says, surprised at hearing her name.
“No, I wasn’t talking to you either, Sorry. Sorr-I mean, apologies.”
Luckily, there was no one called ‘Apologies’ in class and we were able to continue.
Embracing The Challenge
Maybe the last but certainly not least, is Torres, who I started teaching at the height of the Diaoyu Islands protests in 2011. He was a good kid, if very patriotic who liked to randomly shout “Diaoyu Islands belong to China” during class time. Almost every presentation he gave and every speech he wrote for weeks ended with him defending the Diaoyu Islands for China, regardless of the subject we were covering in class. Part of me admires his persistence, but sometimes teaching English to teenagers like Torres doesn’t come without its challenges.
I know it’s easy to feel nervous when walking into class and seeing these tall kids towering over you but believe me, there’s no need. Be friendly, take an interest in them, don’t set them too much homework and it may soon become your favourite age group to teach.