Being a teacher in a foreign country has certain amounts of allure to it, given the fundamental reasons for people participating in this profession are money and travel, but there is also an aspect of joviality tagged on to it too. Having fun in the classroom, especially at a private school such as York, is vital. We are an extra-curricular school for those students lucky enough to be given more lessons on top of their ordinary nine-hour public school schedules.
Getting the Balance Right
At York, we infuse a syllabus designed by the state with as much excitement as possible. The pull of this style of teaching is high and attracts people based on the fact that you too can enjoy the classroom as well as the students. The positives of this are apparent when the children have fun, enjoy coming back week after week and that they are also learning something along the way. The downside of this philosophy is that you are still teaching children at the end of the day and when confronted with a classroom of excitement and opportunity, some of the students will not just push the boundaries of normal behaviour, but they will wholeheartedly shove the boundaries over the edge, smiling as they do so.
Before you know it, an innocent game of ‘dodge-ball’ can become a last-man-standing fight to the death. Enter in to the fray – discipline. This is something that many people don’t acknowledge a great deal when they first start becoming a teacher. During my training course in Prague, I perhaps taught between fourteen and fifteen hours of ‘real’ classroom lessons. This though was done with the students having an average age of about thirty-five years old. Classroom management and disciplining stretched to the odd statement of “speak in English, please” or maybe the seldom use of “remember to put your phones on silent, please”. Both requests were adhered to easily and quickly. There is a huge difference to the present and I have to admit that it is probably something that I have found the hardest to improve. Shouting or being angry at children just isn’t my bag.
The good thing concerning improving your discipline, however, is that the students don’t really make it that hard for you to change your ways. For some, if they gain an inch, they will take the mile too. It is the one thing that I wish I had learnt more of when doing my training is the use of good discipline. It can be tricky too when you have an over-active classroom of adolescent boys and girls running around but it does get much easier to order them about, telling them to respect each other, show responsibility for their actions and to listen to your directions.
You have to quickly diagnose situations depending on what you have just seen, how trustworthy the eye-witnesses are and your general opinion on the nature of the student. The consequence of their actions should always be matched by the punishment and it has been a balancing act of decisions for me and others to meter out the correct one.
Luckily, the worst I have witnessed myself has been nothing more than play fighting, insensitive insults, tantrums or lashing out at an inanimate object. One student did spray me with fake snow early on in my inexperienced teaching life and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Mostly because all I wanted to do was burst in to laughter myself. I knew I couldn’t let it go though and refraining from laughing was very important. I did so and verbally acknowledged the fact I would be dealing with him after class. He kept quiet for the rest of the lesson and since then I haven’t had a repeat of it.
Other times, the decisions of some students don’t even require me to step in and solve the issue as other students will happily embarrass their own classmates. Often, the best form of discipline is not the role of being a strict disciplinarian and I don’t want a classroom of robots in front of me. I find this form of teaching creates a very rigid backdrop whereby the set vocabulary will be learned but little else. I prefer to encourage the students to address themselves and this can harness their energy to good effect instead of rolling around on the floor mimicking an animal of some description.
Of course, sometimes students can take advantage of this freedom, but once you have set out an understanding between yourself and the more mischievous students, you can really start to expand on the curriculum. Peer embarrassment is also very effective. At an age when everyone wants to be ‘cool’, this can be harnessed to good effect especially with the older students.
Classroom management in all its guises needs to be respected and used with good effect. The more a teacher has up their sleeve to combat the ever different situations you can witness every class, the more you are likely to keep the class under control. So far, I have had no real breaches of respect and the more I learn, the less this will be likely to happen. I hope.