Dealing with the client that isn’t in the room

Today we hear from IHWO Young Learner Coordinator Xana de Nagy about the importance of dealing with parents as a YL teacher and manager.

As YL teachers we all know that classroom management, the appropriate approach and relevant materials, to name but a few areas, are crucial to successful teaching. The children are happy, they are learning and so we are meeting our goals, right? But when they leave the classroom and go home, it’s the parents that want to know what they learnt, how they learnt it and if they are getting the results, they (the parents) signed up for. So, shouldn’t YL teachers also know how to deal with the all-important clients that are absent from our classes?

Teaching YLs means keeping both the children and their parents satisfied. After all, they are the ones paying for the lessons! There is often a mismatch between parents’ expectations and what happens in the ELT YL classroom. As a result, it is essential that schools, YL managers and teachers keep the parents informed and make them part of the process: by meeting them and getting to know them.
I’m sure that all YL teachers can think of a situation when they learnt some essential information about one of their learners through meeting the parents. So, it is not only about keeping the parents ‘in the know’ but also getting them to help us do a better job of getting to know our ‘other clients’ – this time, the ones in the classroom.

The age of the children we teach often prevents us from being able to get important details about their previous learning experience, learning preferences, etc. from the learners themselves. The parents and/or caregivers can provide this via parents’ evenings, for example. How often, where, and how to run these, is something that a YL manager will need to consider. What should be done if the teacher doesn’t speak the L1 of the learner? What if the parents don’t speak English? Should there be time set aside for these meetings or should they be held in regular class time? Who will cover the lessons? etc. These are just a few of the many questions that a YL manager will need to consider.

Parents and caregivers also need to know about the organisation of courses, the aims and methodology used in lessons, extra-curricular activities and so on. It is always a good idea to involve the parents in these activities and make them feel part of the school.

YL managers need to consider how they can help teachers to make this relationship between school – parent/caregiver- teacher as smooth as possible. After doing CELTA or another initial teacher training course, teachers are armed with a range of tried and tested principles and procedures that can help them with their teaching. However, unless they have done a course focusing specially on teaching YLs and Teens, dealing with parents is something they will need help with as it won’t have been discussed on their pre-service courses. Schools and managers can address this, for example, by running a seminar with teachers to discuss possible scenarios and how they can best deal with them.
The main thing to consider is that YLs are not alone in the learning process. Just look at the waiting room in any language school while YL classes are in progress. The more we prepare teachers and managers to include the ‘absent client’, the smoother the learning (and teaching) process will be.

Want to learn about this and other important topics related to managing a Young Learner Centre such as Course design, resource management, policies, communication with teams?  Please see more information about our next Young Learner Centre Management course.