Recently we got an email from a reader about the difference between teaching children and adults and I thought it would be a great subject for a post. First, let me say that the vast majority of jobs available are for teaching children (usually ages 5-18). However, there are some adult teaching jobs available and if you are willing to spend the time and effort looking you may find something.
I’ve taught both children and adults and I actually really like both for different reasons. Both have their pros and cons and I think it will be helpful if I cover these so that you can decide which kind of teaching you want to do. Feel free to comment below or send us an email if you have any more questions teaching English in Taiwan.
Pros of Teaching Children
Number of jobs
Quite simply, the vast majority of English teaching jobs in Taiwan are for children. Most of these teaching positions are at buxibans (i.e. cram schools). Every city has thousands of buxibans all over the place, so you may even find one near to where you live (although many people do commute by scooter or public transportation).
Getting a job at a buxiban is pretty easy, even if you have little to no experience, which is probably why the vast majority of people who teach English in Taiwan work at one. There are also some public school jobs available for certified teachers (must be certified to teach in your home country)
Consistency of students
At most cram schools you can expect to teach the same students for a long period of time. I know many teachers who have taught the same classes and same students for several years. This is pretty cool because you can really get to know your students and see how your teaching improves their English ability.
Teaching kids can be fun. A lot of cram schools want you to play games and make the learning process as exciting and interesting as possible. As you develop and become a good teacher, you will find fun and creative ways to engage your students and keep them interested in the material.
At most buxibans you’ll have a set schedule each week (i.e. same classes, same times, same students). Having a set schedule is great because it lets you plan around it and do other activities in your free time. Of course, new classes may open and current classes may close (if not enough students), but in general, you should find teaching at a buxiban to be very stable schedule wise.
Cons of Teaching Children
Teaching kids can be really tiring, especially if you have large and/or disruptive classes. From my experience, Taiwanese kids are definitely better behaved in class than Western kids. However, like all kids getting them to focus and learn can be a challenge. This means you’ll often need to exert a lot of energy to accomplish your goals for each class. This certainly isn’t the case for every class and some classes will seem like a breeze, but you’ll definitely have some that are challenge to teach.
When teaching children you’ll often spend a lot of effort on controlling your students and getting them to focus. Learning effective classroom management is definitely the key and for new teachers this can be a bit of a challenge. The good news is that most people are able to pick up classroom management relatively quickly and once they do teaching a disruptive class can become easier.
Students may not want to be there
When you were 8 or 10 did you enjoy everything your parents made you do? I certainly didn’t and Taiwanese students are no different. Many of them will like or even love learning English and these students are great. But other students are only there because their parents are making them go. Very often these students can be a challenge to teach.
Pros of Teaching Adults
Unlike children (even if they speak English well), you can have far more exciting conversations with adults. When I was teaching adults I’d regularly have fun conversations about things like the differences of life in Taiwan and the US, jobs, politics, relationships, money, etc. These conversations were all part of the curriculum and it was really cool to get paid to have interesting conversations with people from a very different cultural background.
You get to meet some really interesting people when you teach adults. I taught everyone from housewives to high-level executives and some of them were really fascinating and I enjoyed our lessons each week.
Want to be there
Whether it’s for personal or professional gain, adult students are paying to learn English and want to be there (sometimes companies will pay for their employees to learn, but they probably had to sign up and definitely want to be there). This means you’ll generally be dealing with people that are motivated and interested in learning English. This can make teaching easier and more fun.
Interesting teaching material
I enjoyed teaching adults because I found the curriculum to be interesting. We would regularly have lessons on interesting topics. For example, I taught a lesson about traveling to places around the world. We came up with a pros and cons list of each place and then debated where to go on a fake class trip.
Cons of Teaching Adults
Less jobs/Less hours
If I had to guess, there is probably one adult teaching job for 10 to 20 children teaching positions. They can definitely be found if you are committed to teaching adults, but it can take awhile. At the same time, many adult teaching jobs provide less hours and many teachers end up working for 2 or 3 different schools (this can also happen with children’s teaching positions)
Let’s face it, life sometimes gets in the way of things and adult students can often be busy with work, life, kids, etc. and English classes are often the first thing to go when that happens. This means that you will have students that skip classes regularly. I taught one class with 8 students for a company once and during the course (several months long) there were never more than 5 students in any class and it wasn’t the same people each time.
Less stable schedule
Many adult teachers teach at least a portion of their classes as 1 on 1 lessons. These kinds of classes are the most likely to be canceled for the reasons listed above. Most schools will have a policy in place to handle this (i.e. students have to cancel 24 hours in advance, can cancel 2 times for free, etc.), but more often than not this means that you won’t get paid for the missed class. This isn’t that big of a problem, but if you are going to teach a lot of 1 on 1 classes you should definitely discuss this with your school.
Another issue is that you may have to travel to companies to teach some lessons. This was never a problem for me and I enjoyed the experience, but it can eat into your time if you have to travel to a lot of places.
Harder to please
Fortunately I’ve had really good experiences teaching adults, but I do know some teachers who have had very demanding adult students. And if an adult student doesn’t like you then they may cancel classes or not register for a new session and tell the administration why, which can cause problems for you. However, if you come prepared and are a decent teacher then this is not likely to be an issue for you.