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The Ultimate Guide to Teaching: Children vs Adults

Whether you have a deep passion for teaching or simply adopting it as a part of an easy ex-pat lifestyle, many people out there choose to play a vital role in the field of education. But before each prospective teacher delves into that world, they must ask themselves a very important question; what kind of students do you want to teach, children or adults?

Both are completely unique groups that come with their own set of challenges. Though teachers may often mix the two, you better believe everyone has a preferred age group! So in that case, let’s look at some of the biggest differences between teaching children and adults.

Who Requires More Materials? – Children

Though the amount of materials you need while teaching will vary based on the topic or the type of class, children generally need a lot more than adults. From mountains of worksheets to helpful PowerPoints and a plethora of real-world props, kids require a much wider range of materials that will help in the learning process.

When it comes to adults, materials aren’t always necessary. A few worksheets or some on-topic textbooks might be helpful from time to time, but you can leave those plastic fruits and enlarged wooden alphabets at home (even if they would be more fun!)

Teaching adults children
Counting with helpful flashcards

Which Level of Work Is Harder to Teach? – Adults

Though teaching kids can definitely be exhausting, the work itself is by no means difficult! You’re teaching basic concepts like A is for Apple and the fish can swim, it’s not exactly rocket science! You already (or at least should!) have a firm understanding of everything that you’re going to teach, you just need to find a way to explain it!

For adults, topics are explored much more in-depth. Your knowledge of the subject may be limited, meaning you’ll have to study it yourself before you even have a chance to teach it! The older students also ask more complex questions which you might not be able to answer on the spot. It really challenges your own abilities!

Who’s Easier To Explain To? – Adults

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the concept of “the banana is yellow“, no matter how old you are. However, as soon as you delve into the more complex subject matter, then it becomes more difficult to explain to the younger ones.

Children have a smaller range of vocabulary or could only have a rudimentary understanding of the language. Thus, when it comes to teaching more abstract ideas, then it becomes much more of an uphill battle.

Not only are adults more capable of understanding trickier subjects than children, but they usually have more prior knowledge of the subject. All in all, you have a much better chance of explaining difficult concepts to a grown-up.

Let me explain…

Who Learns the Quickest? – Children

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right? Of course, it depends on the individual, though it’s pretty well established that children are little sponges that soak up new information faster than a sheet of double-ply! Kids only need to be introduced to a topic a handful of times before they can easily learn and apply it.

Adults on the other hand are not quite as fast-paced. It could be because grown-ups dedicate less time to their learning, or that their schools days are simply too long gone! That being said, some individuals just have a mind for learning languages, like those individuals who can already speak 4 or 5! Despite those lucky few, the rest of us are forced to fight a losing battle.

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Who Requires More Patience? – Children

Children are some of the most wonderful and adorable little creatures on God’s green Earth…while other times they’re complete little monsters! By far the biggest reason most people have against teaching kids is their tendency of becoming absolutely uncontrollable at the drop of a hat! Even the sweetest teachers can be pushed to their absolute limits!

This is never a problem with grown-ups, in fact, quite the opposite. If you have a middle-aged adult misbehaving in class, then there’s a real problem! Generally, adults choose to be in the class, and are spending their hard-earned money to be there! Put simply, adults want to learn, children don’t.

The most annoying sound in the universe

Who’s More Fun? – Children

Spending the day with a bunch of adorable little kids can be some of the most fun you can possibly have at work…as long as they behave of course! Each class is made up of catchy songs, fun games, props, exaggerated body movements and comical voices, the kinds of things you wish you could do in your boring office job. And on top of that, how much fun you have as a class is down to you as the teacher!

The curse of old-age applies to adult classes as you quickly realise they’re just not as fun! It’s a much more buttoned-down affair, a business transaction. Of course, you can still have fun with your students whatever way you can, but it just doesn’t match the energy and enthusiasm of a class full of kids!

Teaching adults children
Time for some fun!

Who’s More Tiring to Teach? – Children

At the end of a long hard day of playing babysitter, educator and all-around entertainer for a group of ADHD-riddled children, you should be utterly exhausted! Kids require 8+ hours of your undivided attention, where you’ll always be the main focus of the class and act as the helpful guide leading the children through every small step of the process!

Teaching adults requires much less energy on your part and you lose the need to moonlight as a babysitter/amusing clown as you do for children. As they’re more independent, the students are also able to take responsibility for their own work meaning you can take more of a back-seated approach.

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Who Shows More Focus – Adults

No matter how well you teach or how interesting you think you are, children will lose focus, it’s just their nature! Kids have a very short attention span, and what’s more, they don’t really want to learn, it’s just because they have to! So you’ll dedicate a small (or even large) proportion of your time trying to regain their focus and ensure you don’t lose it again!

Adults actively choose to learn and spend their own money to do so. They literally can’t afford to lose focus! Sure, everyone has a bad day from time to time, but you won’t have to waste any time on getting their attention.

Teaching adults children
Private class with an online student

Who Needs More Responsibility? – Children

Raising a child is a huge responsibility, and for 8+ hours a day, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of teachers! Their education and their understanding of a subject are ultimately decided by how well you do your job. Adults on the other hand are simply given the building blocks to advance their own learning.

And it’s not just educationally. You have a social responsibility to help guide these children in life, to ensure they grow up to be functional members of society. On top of that, you also have to ensure they don’t break a leg by running through the corridors or crack their head while swinging on a chair! Adults just don’t need to be coddled in that way.

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Who Has a Plan To Follow? – Children

Whether you’re teaching in a class full of kids or giving private lessons, you usually have a lesson plan to follow. Tried and tested methods will have been figured out and a specific set of steps need to be taken. All you have to do is assess the students current level, and follow your lesson plan accordingly.

For adults, it’s a little more complicated. Even though the student may tell you their ambitions and expectations, they don’t know how they should be achieved. It’s up to you to figure out the best way to improve their English. Each student is different, and one method may not work for another. By the time you’ve figured it out, the student may already have decided that you’re just not the right teacher for them.

Which Has More Specified Topics? – Adults

For the most part, children’s classes cover a wide basis. From reading and writing to phonics and sentence structures, their lessons tend to look at the entire spectrum of the subject being taught.

For adults, such umbrella lessons aren’t that necessary and are usually more specialised. Teachers often ask beforehand what the student would like to improve or accomplish. Teachers don’t want to waste time reviewing things that the student already knows, and tends to focus on whatever the adult say they want to focus on.

Should I go over it again? Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

Who Gives More Scrutiny? – Adults

Nobody likes someone looking over their shoulder while judging their performance. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what teaching an adult is! In each and every class the student is judging your ability to teach them and asking themselves whether or not they should find someone else. In combination with their higher expectations for the classes, it puts constant pressure on you to perform to the best of your ability!

On the other hand, children don’t know whether you’re a good teacher or not! Unlike adults, these children aren’t here to judge your teaching performance, they’re simply there to learn. Of course, over time their parents can tell if you’ve been teaching them well by the performance of their child, so it’s not all that laid-back. And of course, you still have to deal with some dreaded helicopter parents who believe they know best.

Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!

Thank you so much for reading The Ultimate Guide to Teaching: Children vs Adults! Check out these other helpful articles!

TravellingWelshman

A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.

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