Before arriving in Beijing, I rarely had encounters with children outside my own family. In terms of ESL teaching experience, I had only ever worked with adults, and even my TEFL training only briefly mentioned the difference between teaching young children and older children. The prospect of teaching children as young as 3 years old was honestly a bit daunting. Not only was I not fully prepared to teach young children in my classes, but I was definitely not prepared to love it so much.
Teaching young children in an ESL class can seem overwhelming at first, for both parties involved. The students are taken away from their parents (for only a brief time) and put in a classroom with an adult foreigner speaking to them in an unfamiliar language. Some students cry, and others are a bit too excited by it. Young children bring a lot of energy into the classroom, and without the language to communicate yet, it can seem impossible to control the class in the beginning.
However, teaching young children has quickly become one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. Children are like sponges that absorb the language around them. With practice, they begin to listen and pick up everything you say, and eventually become quite eager to use their new language skills to impress you. I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly proud when I hear four-year-old students who couldn’t even say their own names in the beginning of the year greeting me, describing pictures, singing nursery rhymes, and even reading!
Working with these kids has taken me back to childhood, making me remember what it was like to be so carefree. Young children can be so enthusiastic about learning English, but you have to keep classes fun! Sing as many songs as you can and don’t be afraid to be silly! Aihua Starter classes are a great break from the complications of English grammar and the stress of exam season. Go back to a simpler time and be a kid again!