Welcome to
ESL Printables, the website where English Language teachers exchange resources: worksheets, lesson plans,  activities, etc.
Our collection is growing every day with the help of many teachers. If you want to download you have to send your own contributions.





ESL Forum:

Techniques and methods in Language Teaching

Games, activities and teaching ideas

Grammar and Linguistics

Teaching material

Concerning worksheets

Concerning powerpoints

Concerning online exercises

Make suggestions, report errors

Ask for help

Message board


ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Difficult students    

Difficult students


Difficult students
Hello friends,
I hope everyone is doing great!
i īm writing hoping that maybe somebody could help me. i īm a young teacher (i īm 26, however have quite a lot experience in teaching). recently, i īve started teaching a new group. well, it īs quite difficult because the students work as border guards and they are (at least a large group is) at least 15-20 years older,mainly male.
the problem is that i feel they don īt treat me seriously. i mean, there are 3 students who try to compromite me, showing my lack of knowledge, experience and so on.
i never claimed i know everything, because let īs face it, nobody does. there are some thing they have to learn and nobody can explain that to them.it īs a rule and that īs it! they ask random questions or ask me to translate words i sometimes don īt know (trust me, they are really specific!) and i know they don īt do it because they want to know (they don īt need that at this level- pre-intermediate) but to reveal my lack of knowledge.
do you have similar experiences? any ideas how to deal with that?
thanks in advance

20 Apr 2010      


Hey Martyna,
I just found this really good ebook (with free enewsletters) about classroom discipline.
It īs definitely worth checking out! 
http://www.classroomdiscipline101.com/  --> sign up for the newsletter/buy the ebook
http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Craig_Seganti --> lots of articles where he discusses ideas
It really opened my eyes to a lot of things because classroom discipline is one of my weakest areas.
I know how emotional/stressful situations can get, especially for someone who has entered into the noble profession of teaching in order to share knowledge with others.  Hang in there, though!  I think it īs a good idea to reach out to other colleagues (like on this site) and in your school.  They can probably help you with clear routines, rules, and CONSEQUENCES (something the links above really emphasize). 
Big hug from Canada.  Hope it gets better!

20 Apr 2010     


Hi there!
If you do not mind I have just sent you a private massage. Do not give up! I always tell my students that learning languages never ends. There are no people who know all the words in their own mother tongue so how can you expect anyone to know everything? There are dictionaries !  I remember my secondary school students trying to do the same - I just honestly admitted that I do not know and I checked it in the dictionary - and then I used the word they asked me during the tests... (as you said sometimes they ask about words that are not really useful just to check you...)
They are adult men so it might be their childish way of... well.... picking you up or just showing off....
Best wishes!

20 Apr 2010     

Jaya Radhika
Russian Federation

One of my colleagues once said : "I īm not a two-legged dictionary..."

20 Apr 2010     


I found these sites and especially the last  one has a lot of useful advice for teaching adult students


This kind of situation can really be frustrating but don īt give up.Have patience, self-confidence and everything will turn out to be easier than you first thought.
We all know what it takes to teach a class "smoothly"


20 Apr 2010     


thanks a lot for all your advice! i īll put it into practice

20 Apr 2010     

banska bystrica

Dear martyna,

I can imagine your situation, although I īve never experienced something exactly like that. Last days I īve been thinking about the teachers ī authority and their respect and I just cannot come to a conclusion... I don īt know why some people can īt appreciate that there is somebody who wants to teach them something and why they feel like destroying all his/her effort...  It is very sad when these people are adults, because they are bad models to their kids (that is something what really makes me frustrated Unhappy) There are two things that I always try when I have a difficult student and usually it works: humour and  direct questions. If somebody wants to compromise me, if it is possible I try to react in a funny way (not to offend or insult the person, but to show that I can take things easy) or I ask direct questions like: Why do you want to know that? Why don īt you like this or that? In your case I would ask the people what their aims are... if to learn useful (pre-intermediate) words and stuff, or if they really want to find out what you don īt know from advanced level or specific fields ( buy the way, from time to time I would directly remind to them their level and competencies)... If this doesn īt work, I don īt push myself to teach them at all costs. Teaching is a process where both sides are equally important and it īs for their sake to be aware of that. In such atmosphere, (as you described it)   they cannot learn and you cannot teach (I would tell them this point-blank).

It was just yesterday when I had a women in her 50s in my class and she didn īt like the cards I asked them to describe (actually, they were cartoon jokes, but of course, the point was not to laugh but to speak, she just didn īt get it, although I explained the task)... She was puffing all the time, she didn īt speak (everybody else did, they really liked the activity), I asked her if she wanted to change the card (she did, 5 times!!), she kept on grumbling..... I just ask myself, whose pity is it? Mine? I don īt think so.....She didn īt use the chance to speak and I wasn īt unable to get to sleep for that. I would have been sorry, I always try to do my best, but I know her, she is just that kind of person, who is complaining all the time and about everything... Do you think she is good at English? No... because she never respects a teacher (my colleagues told me the same about her behaviour)....She gets what she gives.....

I wish you a lot of energy and humour!!

Good night from Slovakia.

20 Apr 2010     

Catalina Sorina

When we did our practice in schools (we were students in university) our coordinator told us to find out several difficult new words in the mother tongue and ask them to explain those words in exchange to their malicious question. I don īt know if it īs good or working, I haven īt faces it yet (I īm only 23 and teaching for 2 years), but ...

20 Apr 2010     

United Kingdom

It is working Catalina. I īve once tested it. I had a very difficult student, who kep asking me about very difficult and specific words and he even threaten me to inform the authorities that he was taught by a teacher who      didn īt know the language. One day I asked him to explain one word for me and he was really ahamed when I told him that this was a Polish word.  It never happened again

20 Apr 2010     


Hello! My students somtimes ask me some words that I can īt remember at that time or I don īt know. ( by the way they don īt do it maliciously )Then I tell them that I īm not a dictionary. If you want to learn , learn it by yourself. This is the simplest way I think. Don īt forget. Whatever they do or say,you are always better than them and you are the head of the class.


20 Apr 2010     

United States

Have you been able to identify if there is a "ringleader" amongst your students who are being purposefully annoying? I learned this first from the TV program "The Dog Whisperer" and then later again in a TESOL program - you must identify and reprimand the ringleader of the misbehaving students. If your class is anything like mine have always been, it īs pretty easy to see who is the cause of the disruption. Direct your actions to that student first, and to the others involved next.

I think the recommendations on what actions to take given here by the other teachers are very good. Try some of them and see which works for that student best. But NEVER let the misbehavior go on without your involvement, don īt ignore it and hope it goes away. If you ignore the problem, it will continue and become worse.

20 Apr 2010     

1    2    Next >