A Teen Educator Failing Miserably

For some, I might seem confident and a bit tech-savvy.
However, with teens it seems that I’m bond to failure. That’s how I feel so often. Teaching them is like a roller coaster. Yes, don’t get me wrong! Sometimes I fear I won’t reach them. Every time I prepare my classes I have the feeling that I’m about to fail miserably. It is like that first part of the ride in the roller coaster when you really don’t know what’s next and your stomach swirls.

Roller CoasterMy classes are always a box of surprise. Teens never stop to amaze me when I get to that adrenaline part of the ride – being in the classroom. They are always surprising me with their wittiness, creativity, eagerness to do something different. What I’ve come to realize in my ride is that every time I take for granted what they like, what moves them, what ticks them, that’s when I fail. There’s no way out. I use the book, but I can’t just follow as it is. Why? The topics are totally apart from my teens’ dreams, reality, daily lives. So, just like they have to adapt to me, to my own teaching style, I must be open to adapt to them, right?

Last class, for example, I wanted to give an example on the board and invited them to give a name of a famous person. Oh my! I could see the sparkle in their eyes talking about Megan Fox and Ian-I-Don’t-know-who! They wanted to show me photos, they wanted to know if I thought they were cute. And when I said they were not my style. They wanted to know who I liked. Well, “besides my husband??? Andy Garcia!” . “Andy, who, teacher?!” “Oh never mind…” This is exactly the bridge we need to cross to enjoy the ride until our next failure or until our next adrenaline rush.

So, how do you feel about teaching teens?


  1. Knaus May 14, 2013 at 17:51 #

    Great post. That’s why we love teaching. We fail miserably at times. Other times we see the giant bulbs over their heads and the gleam in their eyes. We agonize wondering if a lesson will work. We bask when it does and reflect when it doesn’t That’s teaching.

    But teens and preteens magnify everything. It’s a 1000 foot rollar coaster instead of a 10 foot. Higher highs, lower lows, and much more anticipation.

    • Carla arena May 15, 2013 at 01:20 #

      Knaus, that’s exactly it! and, yes, it is all magnified as they are so immersed in their own worlds. Anything not perceived as adding immediate value to their lives is considered a waste of time for them, so we do need to find ways to be relevant and engaging. Certainly a constant task!

  2. Dani Lyra May 14, 2013 at 22:27 #

    I totally sympathize and feel the pain and the joy of teaching teens. I wish I could inspire the every single class!

    • Carla arena May 15, 2013 at 01:22 #

      I think we all do, Dani, but it is not always easy to be inspiring all the time. We are only humans and totally bond to great successes and huge failures!

  3. GilMattos May 15, 2013 at 13:57 #

    Dear Carla…

    Yes, it is always a challenge, I’d say. I’ve been teaching this group of Pre-Intermediate teens here – they are 12 – 14 and I feel just the way you describe here. You know I am a big fan of music in the classroom but recently I’ve been “afraid” of playing “my” music around. I ask them what kind of music they like, who their favorite singers/bands are and oftentimes I have no clue who they are talking about (lol).I am glad we have the likes of Adele, Lana Del Rey, Coldplay…that most are OK with and I’ve been introduced to some good stuff as well. They have also appreciated some of my 2 cents at times. Yeah…we live and learn and share and live…

    • Carla arena May 16, 2013 at 00:53 #

      I know exactly what you mean, Gilmar! Well, I am also clueless about their favorite bands and famous artists, but we just need to be open to really listen to them and make them feel we care, right?

  4. Jack June 14, 2013 at 14:29 #

    I miss my teen classes. They were an incredible challenge but it pushed me to try and make things as relevant as possible for them. Using a textbook that has been created for teens is terrible, especially ones that are even just a year old. One language school I worked for gave me a lot of creative license and I ended up really enjoying that class. They felt that they were doing something special and it was a team effort. Another school was all about testing; that class didn’t go as well.

    • Carla arena June 15, 2013 at 14:15 #

      Jack, I guess that’s the key, institutions giving us teachers creative license to adapt, remix and create with our students.

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