I was 23 and 24 years old while I was teaching high school students in France. The age gap between me and the students I taught wasn’t huge, yet, establishing one’s self as the authority figure in the classroom, especially as a young teacher, is a facet of the teaching experience which must be dealt with.
Right from the start it is important to do some of the following:
1. Set ground rules for interactions in your classroom.
It’s easier to loosen the reigns later on than to tighten them back in. Tell the students what you’d like to be called, expectations for completing in-class work and homework, and so on. If you’re working with a co-teacher, consider their wishes as well.
2. Don’t let the students know that you speak and understand their native language (well).
If you do, students are likely use this as a crutch: speaking less English to express themselves, and thus weakening their own learning and understanding of the language.
3. Introduce yourself, your background and where you’re from. Share some of your personality.
This way, students get to know you as a fun and interesting person, not just another English teacher from some anglophone country. The students can then appreciate and respect the knowledge and teaching abilities you bring to the classroom.
4. More importantly, get to know your students.
Get to know what makes them tick, what inspires them, and their struggles and achievements with English language learning. This will help you to customize your instruction to the class and its level, while also honing in on the skills or difficulties of certain students.
Have a few shy students in your class? Get students to open up to and share with you, and their classmates, by playing some fun icebreaker games. This will ease tension and spur conversation.
5. Prepare to run into your students outside class.
Whether you live in a small town or a large city, running into students outside of class is bound to happen. Don’t make the experience an awkward one. If you think it will be awkward, it will be, whereas if you see the experience as just another run-in with another person, it will be remembered as such.
Humanizing -yourself and the students- is a key to connecting and succeeding in teaching.