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How To Love The Troublemakers

Posted by Emily Cummings on 6/29/17 3:26 PM

ILP ChinaOh my, the kiddos you will be teaching can be C-U-T-E. But even if they are the most adorable kiddos in the classroom, they can still be sort of difficult. No matter where you’ll be teaching, knowing how to love the troublemakers will make your semester a whole lot better.

When I was a spending a semester living abroad in China, I had a hunch one of the rowdy boys in my class was going to be a handful. From day one, I could see him squirming during class and speaking Chinese to his gang of rowdy friends even though I had an "English only" rule in my class. I knew if I didn’t find a way to love him, it was going to be a tough semester.

Pst: Wanna know more about the cutie kids and the amazing noodles, fabulous adventures to the Great Wall and just more about living in China? Come check out this free guide

No matter if you’re one of the volunteers living in Moscow or part of the group that call Krakow home, there will be students you might not get along with in your class, and that’s okay! Turns out teachers actually do have favorites. We have some tips that can help: 

  • Be Patient
  • Let Em Sit Next To You 
  • Work More One-On-One 
  • Show Them Your Love 

Be Patient

Shocker. Kids that you think are totally unloveable need your patience which is the opposite of what you want to give them, right? You can get more ideas from your ILP group about how they are more patient when teaching English class, but counting to 5 in your head before reacting is a good way. Or maybe instead of getting upset at how they turned your cute Lion face-mask craft into a way to launch spit wads across the room, you can laugh about it in your head so you don’t lose your cool. 


Let Em Sit Next To You 

Woah, not the answer you were expecting, but having your most troublesome students right next to you lets you work more with them one-on-one (we talk about that more in a minute). They may be better behaved if they know the teacher is keeping a very close eye on them. If that’s more distracting, your ILP Head Teacher may be able to take them out of class for a moment or sit with them during a particularly difficult day. 

ILP Mexico

Work More One-On-One 

I had one cutie in my class that had a hard time following instructions, which I felt was ruining my whole lessons, day-in and day-out. But as I got to know him better, I realized Garrett was just a very creative little kid. He threw a fit because I gave him 3 pieces of tape, but his creation needed 7. He didn’t like relays, because he’d rather make up his own relay rules. Once I realized that he wasn’t trying to sabotage my lessons, he was easier to handle. I started having more creative lessons so Garrett could have a good time and I could have lessons that didn’t need to go perfectly. 

 ILP China

Show Them Your Love 

But they are unloveable! Not quite. Sometimes, the trickiest kids just need a little more love. Paying extra attention to them right after class, or giving them a high-five whenever they do something right will make them feel special (and maybe even less likely to lash out during English class). You may need to fake it for a while, but hopefully after a few days, you’ll be able to feel a little love in the middle of all that frustration.

Go With The Flow

So you had an awesome craft planned out for your English lesson and your students were going to glue sparkly glitter all over their paper crowns. Cool.

But then Johnny grabbed the cup of glitter and dumped it all over his head. Cool.

I mean...shouldn't you have seen that coming from your hardest student? But there's no time to go back now! You count to 5 before reacting (because you read that strategy a couple paragraphs up). If it doesn't take you too far off track, just run with it for a minute. Instead of immediately getting angry and sending Johnny out of the room ...try working with it. All of your other students are way more interested in Johnny's sparkly head right now than anything you could be doing. Point out what a mess it is. Laugh with the rest of your students. Have everyone help you clean it up and talk about how glitter is EVERYWHERE. And laugh some more. So what if the glitter doesn't actually get glued onto those crowns like you planned? 

Tomorrow's lesson might go a little better. Maybe you won't put any of the teaching supplies within Johnny's reach. And you definitely will rethink the glitter right? But you're going to come to class thinking proactively about how to react to Johnny's interuptions instead of feeling bitter.


Again, every ILP group goes to their foreign country with a Head Teacher who can help you figure out the best ways to handle some of the rough kids. And ILP is here to help too! We even have can help volunteers with their fundraising for a semester abroad, or help brainstorming lesson ideas (like these Drama lessons or tips to get you through).

And to get a little more help (like how else ILP can help you out) just click that green button: 

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Topics: In the Classroom

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Over the years of assisting more than 6,000 volunteers in their desire to travel and make a difference in the lives of others, ILP has seen what works and what doesn't.

We've gathered our tips here for making your semester abroad a successful one.


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