English First – Tianjin China

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A look at some of the classroom’s worst case scenarios and how to deal with them.

As teachers we are blessed with the joyous opportunity of working with young learners. At the best of times they are cute, amusing and a lot of fun to teach. However, even the most adorable of little angels can have their off days. So here’s a look at some of the in classroom nightmares and some ways the teacher could go about dealing with them.


548197_10151077747561453_1769453228_nMany younger learners can find their new foreign teacher to be a little scary. Never before have they seen such a big nosed, bearded, odd looking foreigner. This strange first encounter will often result in a very teary faced three year old. Along with other issues such as leaving their parents for a consecutive amount of time. I personally have a few methods of dealing with crying students. My first method is to start the lesson and hope that when the crying students see the other students enjoying themselves, they will calm down and join in. If after 10 minutes they are still crying I find a simple hug and some reassurance can also work. However, I do not spend too long pandering to criers and I always advise the teaching assistant to do the same. The one thing that is extremely important for a young learner to understand is that crying will not solve anything. If you spend too much time hugging or giving all of your attention to a crying student this will only send the message that if they cry enough they will eventually be allowed to leave the classroom to see their mother.

Bathroom goers

IMG_0055What I often find works best for younger learners, by that I mean 3-4 year olds, is taking the whole class at once. Of course at the very least we all want to prevent our students from having any accidents in the classroom. But as educators we also don’t want to allow for too much valuable class time getting, for lack of a better pun, flushed down the toilet. I usually tend to take them after the first class segment and set the expectation that they can only go once in the whole lesson. So far the ‘now or never’ approach has been working well in terms of cutting down on the amount go toilet breaks, as well as accidents, during class. On an Academic level there is always room for opportunistic language there too. I usually tend to have my classes of 3-4 year olds ask and answer the question, “Can you wash your hands?”, when lining up to wash their hands after.


Not that this is really much of a problem, at least with younger students, however sometimes they can also be unwilling to let go. If this is the case just count down from 5. Failing that, have your assistant help you peel them off. Just be sure they understand it’s nothing personal. We should always think carefully about our interactions with young learners.

Students hitting each other

68835_441290561452_7691297_nIt’s always important to deal with this kind of situation as quickly as possible. Quickly separate the students involved by moving them into different chairs. If the incident occurred during group work, move one of the students into a different group. Always make sure these kinds of incidents are communicated with your progress assistant and reported to the parents. How about an apology? Prevention should also be at the back of our minds..….

Students hitting you

In this situation it very important you pre-empt as much as possible and protect yourself at all times. Make sure your teaching assistant explains that this behavior isn’t acceptable. If the student becomes too much of a problem remove him or her from the classroom and seek extra help from other staff. Make sure that this is then followed up with a discussion with the parents with your progress advisor. Always keep your Director of Studies and Senior Teacher aware of any challenges you are facing.

A student won’t sit down

First ask him or her nicely to sit down. Failing that, stop whatever you’re trying to do until they have taken their seat and settled. If that still doesn’t work give them the 5-second countdown. If they still don’t sit down, take their chair away and make them stand. Quickly enough they’ll want nothing more than to sit down.

Students are trying to eat during class

Sometimes young learners give each other snacks at the beginning of class. This is great and really good for building friendship / rapport. However, make sure the eating has stopped when you want to start the class. Remember that piece of cake or that chicken wing from KFC won’t exactly do wonders for your students’ attention span.

Perseverance, patience and creativity go a long way to over coming a variety of challenges we face in the classroom….Never give up…No one shoe fits all….and when in doubt you could ask yourself: What did my teachers do when I …..?


English First – Tianjin China

This school is holding interviews for teaching jobs now, apply today!

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