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  • Rachel Cicioni

Why I've Grown To Love Teaching Adults

When I started MyFrenchU, I expected to teach French to homeschoolers and tutor some high school students. That's why my very first social media post for my new French teaching business was directed at my homeschooling friends. You can imagine my surprise when it was adults who responded looking for French lessons!

Three things surprised me during my first year in business. First, I had very little interest from homeschooling families. (In fact, in four years, I've only had two homeschooled students.) Second, I was shocked by the interest from adult learners, particularly retirees. Finally, I was surprised by how much I really love teaching adult learners.

To be clear, it's not that I didn't expect to enjoy teaching French to adults, it's that I was nervous! I'd never taught adults before and there's very little research on adult learning of foreign languages. I was insecure in my pedagogy and wasn't sure how to begin. Plus, ALL of my teaching materials were geared toward middle school and high school students. Long story short, I went for it, and I'm so glad I did.

Here are a few of the reasons I absolutely adore teaching my adult students:

  1. They are some of the most interesting people I've ever met. Most of my adult students take French because they want to be better travelers, to maintain mental acuity as they grow older, and/or they studied French in high school or college and finally have time to study it again. Whatever the reason, I'm grateful we chose to work together because I enjoy our lesson time immensely.

  2. They are fantastic students. My adult learners are motivated, responsible, and frequently go above and beyond anything I ask them to do. Oftentimes, I need only to point them in the direction of a linguistic or cultural rabbit hole. By the next time we meet, they will have learned so much that they teach me something.

  3. They'd rather not be graded. Our focus is the acquisition and improvement of language skills and cultural competence. We do assessments and diagnostics to measure progress and adjust as needed, but we don't need grades just a starting point and a finish line. Grades are not necessary and often lead to additional anxiety. Personally, I think grades are the enemy of joy-filled learning and view them only as the commerce by which we "do education".

  4. They are not beholden to a school calendar. Adult students often take lessons year-round which means consistent income. Their lessons are usually ongoing with no specific end date. AND I love that my retirees can meet during the day while my own children are in school. (Plus one of my adult students and I swap services. One hour of yoga/pilates = one hour of French.)

  5. They help me grow as an educator. My adult learners challenge me to find new ways of presenting, chunking, and explaining concepts. They make different connections to the material and skills than my adolescent students which helps me to look at content I've been teaching for years in new ways. And because there's so little research on best practices for adult learners of foreign languages, they're happy to be my guinea pigs when I try out different techniques and methods.

I've always said, "There's nothing more irresistible to a teacher than a student who wants to learn." As you build up clientele for your business, please don't shy away from teaching adult students. Teaching adults was never on my radar when I started teaching French privately, and now my adult students are some of my favorite people to spend time with.


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