Teaching Adults

When the prospect of teaching in Korea was merely a seedling, I made the decision that I would prefer to be teaching children rather than adults. I opted for the elementary to middle school age which is common in most hagwons. So, what a surprise it was when I arrived in Korea and was informed that I would be teaching a smattering of adults alongside my children classes. Apparently, this has become the norm in many hagwons since the deterioration of the economy. Directors have branched out to accept adults in order to keep themselves afloat.
The first time that I stepped into an adult’s class I was terrified. The idea that they wouldn’t like me, which never crossed my mind with children, hounded my every thought. The fact is that children are encouraged and ultimately forced to attend hagwon by their parents, whilst adults can decide whether they want to continue attending for themselves. There is generally no exam that adults need to pass, so their perseverance at English can be slightly enervated.
My first adult who quit never informed me of their intention to do so. It was all “you’re the best teacher” one week and absent the next. I felt pretty despondent about the situation. Gradually, I learnt that adults have a far shorter attention span when learning than children. On average they last around 3 months, their attention wanes a little and they disappear. I’ve become unfazed by students abandoning the classroom; new students replace those that leave and they have a whirlwind romance with English.
Despite their short life length, adult lessons are actually rather enjoyable. These are students who choose to come to class, in contrast with many children who are unmistakably forced to attend. They are ardent with a desire to devour the English language. Also, you can step away from the rigid technique of following the book that is expected in a children’s classroom. Adults want to talk, they’re interested in your life and they will even tell you gossip about their own. A friendly attachment will form as you stumble over the precarious road of translation. Then one week they’ll stand you up and they’ll never return again.


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