The types of students you’ll encounter as an English teacher for adults and how to deal with them

There are many types of students that you will encounter in your foray into the world of teaching business English.

There are two main rules here – 1. You are the boss of your classroom and 2. Stay calm before you address the student!

Here are some of the most common students that you will encounter and what to do with them:

  1. The Dinosaur – This student is usually a lot older and often spouts comments that may be sexist, racist or xenophobic in nature. They may state that there are too many homosexuals around or try to justify to you why the “N” word is not racist. You have to be more patient with them, they are from a different generation. I think the best way to deal with this student is to question why they believe what they do and listen to their answer. You can explain why their attitude might not be accepted in society but don’t expect to change their point of view or have them come around to yours. Challenge them by questioning their beliefs as often they have never even questioned why they believe these things but may be just parroting what they hear in their environment and address the issues but don’t expect to make leaps and bounds. Also, listening to people who have different viewpoints helps you to become a more empathetic teacher and be able to listen and challenge without becoming hostile.
  2. The Quiet Achiever – This student often sits in the back of the classroom because he or she is shy and afraid of being singled out in class to answer a question. Despite this the student takes copious notes and pays attention in class, all while never uttering a word. This is not to be confused with the Mouse.shutterstock_127943531-589588b25f9b5874eec632b5.jpg
  3. The Mouse – This student does not utter a peep in class and often has nothing to contribute. When asked a question they may respond with “I don’t know” or “I never thought about it before” and often this is down to shyness or general lack of interest in the classes. To engage this student it is good to pair them with a stronger student and when calling on the answers from the team they will feel less alone with someone to back them up.
  4. The Know-It-All – This student knows everything – interrupting to regale the class with a tale of their personal experience or answering all the question. This student might also question everything you have to say and is often very dominant. The best tactic in a group is to pair them with other students and switch pairs often so that not one student will always be burdened with the most talkative student and when calling on them nominate the quieter student first. In group discussions, call out the other members of the class first to give them an opportunity to speak. Alternatively, if you have more than one dominant student in the class, you can pair them together so that they can see how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot. In the case of dominating students, it is important to manage the classroom well and if needs be, interrupt them.
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  5. Doubting Thomas – This student questions all your definitions and answers. It is best to ask this student to look up their query and come back to you with the answer and they will be able to enforce their knowledge and you can prove that you are right without having to appear arrogant.
  6. The Gossiper – This student insists on talking during the class to their classmates and usually in their native language. The best thing to do in this case is either to ask the student to share their conversation with the rest of the class, change their seating frequently so that they are not always sitting with their friends or introduce a “swear jar” for L1 use. Every time they use their native language they have to put a cent in a jar. iStock_000075908411_Medium-574b74f35f9b58516548a60b.jpg
  7. The “I can’t speak English” Student- This student lacks serious confidence. They keep telling you that they “don’t speak English” even though they have an efficient level of English. Some ways to build confidence is to praise and affirm that they are making progress, this can be done by initially establishing realistic goals for the year. When correcting, prioritise on their major errors and don’t correct every single error or interrupt them, allow them to finish speaking and give them feedback without using negative terms, never tell the student “no, you’re wrong”.
  8. The Day Dreamer – This student is zoning out in class and thinking about their next meeting or lunchtime. This student is distracted and not focused on their class and perhaps the style of teaching is not engaging enough for them. In this case, it is advisable to draw the student out with more physical or creative activities allowing them to engage better and not be bored by a book-learning class. Always make sure that classes are dynamic and interactive to encourage better participation and presence in class.
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  9. The Texter – This student is constantly checking their phone or distracted by messages, even answering calls in class. As a business English teacher, your student will most likely have their phone in class and messages and e-mails will pull their attention away from the class and it will take them time to refocus on the task at hand. This is a tricky issue and it is important to establish some rules regarding mobile phones in your classroom at the beginning of the term, i.e. If they need to answer a call make sure that they step out of the room. These rules should be agreed upon rather than imposed and get the students to suggest what they think is acceptable etiquette in the classroom. Some understanding is necessary as due to our ever-connected world of business it is harder and harder to prohibit phones from the classroom and often your student may need to address some important issues while your class is going on.rawpixel-656714-unsplash.jpg

What do you think? What other methods are there to deal with the problems above? What other type of adult learners do you know?

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

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