However, there are some classes who are more difficult to get through to. They equate fun in class with playtime, they don’t respond easily to attempts to get to know them and generally they give every teacher a headache! I have one such class this year. All their teachers past and present say the same: “do your best and try to stay calm.” There is also no real support system in my school for helping teachers deal with difficult classes or students. We are simply told to sort out problems in the classroom in the classroom. To make matters worse, one of my lessons with this class happens to be on a Friday afternoon when they really are not interested in doing anything resembling work (at least this Friday is a public holiday here so I get a brief respite)!
Image courtesy of JoetheLion
Anyway, this is one of the classes in which I have a ‘pink elephant’, that being the term used by Jason Renshaw on his excellent blog to describe an observer in class. My pink elephant is a new teacher with no classroom experience beyond his CELTA. He’s been given a schedule of classes to observe and has been doing so over the last couple of weeks. I decided together with a colleague that he should teach part of a lesson to prevent him getting bored and to give him some hands on experience. The weather seemed to be a good topic to start with. At first, I let him take charge of one of my better behaved classes and then told him he would do the same for my ‘difficult’ class. He gulped but then started to brace himself.
And what happened? He stood at the board, elicited some weather words, drew the pictures and drilled the question and phrases repeatedly. He then did an exercise from the book, checked the answers one by one, writing them on the board as he did so, and drilled the words again. So, the lesson was very much teacher-centred with lots of teacher talking time and the only interactions being teacher to student. Furthermore, there was little deviation from the vocabulary and language covered in the course book.
However, as I was making these observation, I noticed something else: What were the class doing? They were sitting good as gold and listening to everything. They eagerly shot their hands up every time he asked a question with no complaints or arguments about not being called upon. They did the exercises in full and out their hands up to call the teacher over to check their answers. I had never seen them like that before!
That got me thinking what had happened and why. Were they on best behaviour just because he was a different, new teacher? (I seem to remember they were not so bad for the first lesson of the year). Had he simply got lucky and caught them on a good day?
Or, was it the case that a teacher-fronted, rigidly structured lesson held their attention better than my attempts to encourage them to explore, collaborate and have some say in the direction of the lesson? Generally, the class teachers here have a tendency either to lecture or to spoon feed knowledge to the students and I sometimes wonder (especially with this age group) if some kids take liberties in any class where they are handed more responsibility. For the sake of good discipline, should I be retaining tighter control over all aspects of the lesson?
Food for thought over the holiday weekend…