What it’s Like to Teach 3-Year-Olds, 18-Year-Olds, and Everything in Between

Which would you rather? 

Summer or winter? 

Good looks or wealth? 

To teach 3-year-olds or to teach 18-year-olds? 

Although I am primary school trained, during my years as a relief teacher I experienced teaching the tiniest to the tallest of students. Sometimes I’d even go from teaching kindy kids to filling in a lesson for high schoolers within the same day. Having experienced teaching 3-year-olds to 18-years-olds, I feel as though I’ve had a chance to observe some of the advantages and disadvantages of teaching each age group. I may have my preferences, but I’ll let you decide what yours are based on my brief list of observations below: 



Oh, the joys of toddlers! When you’re working with little ones you can expect to be instantly liked and trusted by them. They are filled with happiness and curiosity. They live in a world of make believe which can be fun to use in your teaching. They are also extremely entertaining, and love to share their stories with you. 


There will be days where you find yourself cleaning up broken glass, dealing with toileting accidents and controlling tears and tantrums.  



In the early primary school years, the development the students go through is clearly noticeable, which is rewarding to see. You get to help them learn foundational skills that they will take with them throughout the rest of their schooling and celebrate these achievements with them. These years are also great for creating imaginative, themed teaching programs and the children generally get along quite well, or at least tend to make up quickly.


You’ll need to tie a lot of shoelaces, deal with a lot of ‘dibber dobbers’ and know how to control a condition called ‘ants in the pants’. 



By the time you reach the older primary years you can expect the children to be able to read, write and tie their own shoelaces. They’re mature enough to have decent conversations with you that go beyond the topics of fairies and dinosaurs, and their deeper level of knowledge and understanding allows you to cover some interesting and varied topics in your teaching. They are gaining confidence with their learning and their unique budding personalities bring great diversity to the classroom.


This is an age where friendship issues can be more prevalent. They can also be less open and trusting of you and will let you know if your themed teaching units are too ‘babyish’.



Students in the middle school years can direct their own learning very well. They have a sense of humour and a wealth of knowledge that they’ve stored up from their previous years of schooling. You spend a lot less time teaching basic skills like how to rule up a page, and a lot more time extending the skills that they already have to prepare them for the exciting and highly anticipated experience of high school.


They can give you a lot of attitude and boy/girl relationships are a big deal at this age. Also, they can decide NOT to direct their own learning very well too. 



High school students are almost adults and it’s exciting seeing them embark on the new and unknown future that is before them. The classes tend to be smaller and more focused, so you can become an expert on the content you’re teaching while your students become experts too. Their independent study skills are now well-developed, so you can spend your time focusing on teaching them content rather than teaching them how to study.


They can become quite stressed by the pressure they’re under and are hard to control if they decide they don’t want to follow instructions. Also, most of them will be taller than you. 

So, there you have it. No one could ever claim that the world of teaching is boring. To be honest, I truly do find joy from working with students of all ages, just for different reasons. Now, which would you rather?

Feel free to leave a comment sharing your favourite part about teaching the year level that you work with!

*DISCLAIMER: These observations are completely biased. For a more accurate guide of a child’s development please find a more reliable source. 

If you’d like to read more of my musings, then take a look at this post where I reflect on the power of children’s drawings.

Have a question or a request? You can contact me at blueskydesignsbymrst@gmail.com.

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