What makes a bad English teacher for an adult student?

I talk a lot with my students and I’ve gathered the most common complaints they make about English teachers and their teaching styles when teaching adults. I’ve listed for you the 5 most important characteristics of bad teachers according to adult students.

Teachers who talk too much and won’t let the student speak.

Teachers who like to show off their own fluency in English.

It looks like some teachers like to show their students how well THEY can speak English themselves. They will give the lesson in such a controlling way there will be little student participation. The lessons are all about the teacher and the teacher is having fun, telling the student the story of his life.

Students are often shy and hesitant to speak.

They have to think for some seconds before they pronounce a sentence. But those kinds of teachers don’t want to wait. They will ramble on throughout the whole lesson.

It’s like the student has to interrupt their teacher…

..and usually polite students don’t want to interrupt so they just sit and listen. It would be the same if they turned on English TV, though, and cheaper 😉

Teachers who explain in an academic way.

Adult students are not at school anymore.

Some teachers are used to explaining concepts like grammar in a very academic and “serious” way. An adult student sometimes doesn’t remember what a “pronoun” or “adverb of manner” is in his own language, and frankly, at this point of his life, doesn’t even care 😉

The student will pretend he understands, but he doesn’t.

Sometimes adult students don’t want to come across as “stupid” or uneducated so they will nod their heads while the teacher is explaining, but they will not understand anything and the lessons will be of no benefit to them.

Teachers who teach too much grammar.

Grammar is not so important for an adult student.

An adult student usually studies English for work or for pleasure. In most cases what they need is to be understood, not to be perfectly correct.

Adult students get bored.

They don’t want academic lessons. They are no longer at school.

So a teacher shouldn’t teach grammar at all?

The answer is, a teacher should teach grammar to an adult student but in a context and trying to avoid studying grammar rules in an academic way.

Teachers who don’t adjust.

Every student is different.

Every student has his own, individual reason why he wants to study English. If the student needs to learn to speak English on the phone, the teacher should prepare the lessons for that purpose, not teach what the teacher wants to teach.

Students don’t want to waste time.

Adult students don’t have so much time as teenagers or kids. Teaching them everything is impossible. That’s why a teacher should focus only or mainly on what the student has asked him to.

Teachers who are boring.

Adult students often come to lessons tired.

They come in the evening, after work and the last thing they want is to study. Yes, they want to learn but they don’t want to study. That’s why they don’t usually like serious and repetitive topics but they like to personalise the lesson, share their work and not only related problems, laugh, tell jokes, relax.