Difficult – even unimaginable! – as it may seem, teaching teens can be fun and fulfilling

Even though teenagers are dubbed an annoying section of learners who generally pose multiple difficulties to teachers, the secret to success in teaching teens lies in the manner in which we deal with them.



Teens face life-changing exams at a time when their bodies and brains are coping with serious changes. No, teenage years are not easy for teens… and definitely not for their parents and teachers, either! Teens can be a lovable yet aggravating bunch, who seem to contradict themselves on every level. They love acting like they know everything; yet sorely lack in experience. Constantly striving for individuality, they simultaneously crave peer acceptance and yearn to fit in. The confidence most teens project often masks a vulnerable insecurity. To top that, when they appear to get a kick out of testing and challenging authority, it makes an educator’s job doubly challenging.

Fact is, even though teenagers are dubbed an annoying section of learners who generally pose multiple difficulties to teachers, the secret to success in teaching teens lies in the manner in which we deal with them. As a teacher, you can guide them to navigate this tricky phase as happily and successfully as possible by understanding the changes and challenges they face. Yes, it could imply more work for the educator but the rewards would also be that much sweeter!

Hitting It Off

An educator’s sense of entitlement has to go. A teen is not going to lay gifts of respect and obedience at your feet just like that. It has to be earned. Building a rapport with teens is vital for success. And it cannot be faked – teachers need to develop an authentic interest in them and their lives. False concern or saccharine sweetness will have the opposite effect. Refusing to bother to make the effort would most likely result in learners who learn nothing, and criticise and whine about everything you say or suggest. It isn’t all that difficult either; connecting briefly with teen students at the start of class, chatting informally about their lives and interests can go a long way in establishing a rapport and building a bond.


Beating Boredom

Variety is truly the spice of student life. Easily prone to boredom, an educator can use variety to keep teens interested. Varying topics and types of tasks would bring an element of unpredictability into the classroom and attract a teen. Even changing the order in which tasks are generally conducted can inject a dose of freshness into the proceedings. Put a little effort into coming up with original and unexpected tasks – an online search can help. Remember the few times in our childhood when we enjoyed a class that didn’t take place in the classroom? Try changing the location on and off – after intimating the higher authorities of course; a grassy garden, the school library, even the school terrace. Plan a different class with specific tasks in offbeat spaces. Keep them hooked!

Interest Factor

It is worth investing time getting to know your teenage students’ interests. Conduct surveys preferably at the start of the year to figure out what actually appeals to them. The results would help you plan better. The answers as to the teens’ preferred activities, whether listening to music, watching films, or YouTube videos, will help generate content for future classes. Topics that are chosen by majority of the teens can form the crux around which you weave engaging sessions. Yes, the preordained syllabus can prove restrictive but what’s to stop a good teacher from organising reading, listening and speaking tasks around these topics of interest?

Choice Matters


Allowing teens to do just what they please could create mayhem! So how do you offer them that all-important element of choice? You need to identify and set the main objective of your task. That is non-negotiable. The choice comes in as to how the teens could choose to do it; the tool they use or the way they present it. For instance, if you want the students to write an essay, providing alternative titles for then to choose from gives them the power of choice. Alternatively, if the students need to make a presentation on a particular topic, they could choose the tool they want to use to make the presentation; a poster, a video, even Powerpoint.

Truth & Dare

Teens thrive on challenge; the right dares can keep them keen and even captivated. Avoid playing it safe. Raise the difficulty bar when it comes to creating tasks. Assignments which require more concentration could raise their interest levels and increase their engagement. You can make the classroom an even safer and more secure environment for such ‘risk-taking’ by letting them know that they will not be mocked or condemned for their mistakes. Competitions are a smart way of getting teens involved in the classroom. The whiff of a competition element would most likely see all teen students plunge into tasks – kicking tail is a huge high at that age! Competitions can be made a regular monthly feature, as you keep track of points. Add prizes and you’re in business!

Teen Challenges

Help teens achieve better self-control by limiting distractions during times when concentration and memory are most required, such as pre-exam revision. Talk to your students about what distracts them and reach a realistic compromise on issues such as time spent with their mobile phones.
Sleep-deprived teens? You could discuss the importance of sleeping well by talking about common sleep mistakes and tips for getting a good night’s rest, which leads to better grades.


Beyond Classroom

As educators, creative exploration in teens should be encouraged even if it does not seem practical or syllabus-oriented. Organised youth activities such as camps, teen tours and recreational programmes can help teens build deep connections and deal with their issues. They engender a sense of positive belonging. Teens need to have opportunities to enjoy good, clean fun that they would not be ashamed to talk about the next day. With teens it’s vital to help them see their special gifts and their potential rather than their limitations. Discussing inspirational figures in different fields can be a motivating trigger. Bottom-line: A good teacher in the classroom could well be a great motivator in life!

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month. 

Team ScooNews would like to thank Ms Sandra Lee and Ms Zeenat Bhojabhoy for their valuable inputs.



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