Teens as teachers

Leadership roles for teens include teaching younger youth, which builds skills for teens and youth.

Oftentimes, adults overlook the potential of teens as teachers. Teens in teaching positions can have very impactful outcomes for both the teens and youth that may be lost if not given enough attention. Creating opportunities for teens, providing them with the tools to succeed and offering support during the teaching process will help create the most success for teens in their teaching role. After the teaching activity is completed, adults should meet with teens to help them “digest” and process their experience. Michigan 4-H leadership programs can help adults work with youth in leadership capacities.

To begin with, teens may not see themselves as leaders or teachers until invited to participate in a teaching experience. Personally asking teens to participate may appeal to those who already know they would like to be part of teaching experiences, but there are some teens that would be great teachers that have not seen that ability in themselves. A personal invite may prompt them to check out the teaching experience.

Scheduling an orientation or a “teach the teacher” session is the first step in helping teens prepare for their teaching experience. Items to be shared or discussed at the orientation might include characteristics of young people. Who are they teaching? What are the “normal” characteristics of youth this age? What might the teens expect from youth? Above all, prepare them for the unpredictabilities that exist when working with children. Help teens be prepared for just about anything by giving them a backup plan, which includes adult advisors help if situations are too challenging. Helping them be prepared for the unexpected and having some flexibility when then things don’t go as planned will help.

If it is a group teaching experience, make sure the teens have a chance to bond by using team building activities, which creates a bond that will allow them to work together better during the event. There are many great team building activities that are fun and educational at the same time. Some activities may be used by teens during their teaching experience also.

What and how will they teach the subject matter? Work with teens to create a lesson plan that breaks the teaching time into small units with topics or activities that will be done during that time. Once the lesson plan is complete, have teens practice the lesson plan together if it is a group event and make changes as needed. Also, help them enjoy the teaching experience and see the impact they are making with youth.

Working with teens after the teaching experience to process their experience helps them internalize their experiences so that they can use lessons and skills gained in future teaching activities. Some questions to help teens process their teaching experience are: What went well with your experience? What would you change next time? What was the children’s reaction to lessons? What techniques worked well to get their attention? Having teens interact and process group experiences together helps them learn from each other as well.

After processing the experience, it’s always good to ask if teaching is a possibility for their career plans. Michigan State University Extension’s  4-H Youth Development program resources in career exploration can help teens look at careers that may help.

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