Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Reflecting on a Bright Start

It was 3.15pm. The dreaded Friday Lesson 8 was about to start. I stood in the corridor bracing myself for a room of impatient young learners, unable to sit down, focus or stay on task as the end of a long first week back at school was finally in sight. As the bell rang, I drew a deep breath and opened the door...

The usual cry of "öğretmen geldi!!!" ("the teacher's here!") went up as I walked in and then... everyone stood behind their desks and waited quietly...

"Good afternoon," I said.

"Good afternoon, Mr Dodgson," came the reply.

"Ok, today you will need your notebooks and a pencil," I informed them, expecting a rush of children to start squashing each other against the lockers at the back of the class.

Nobody moved.

"Where are your notebooks?" I asked.

"Here, teacher," said one girl pointing to her desk. "Of course," she added "because you said we need our notebooks every lesson."

 

A completely flipped experience compared to last year... Image by @pacogascon via eltpics

For a second or two I wondered where I was. Last year (as you may know from my recent post), it would have taken 10 minutes just to get most of the class's attention with threats of extra homework or promises of games and/or videos at the end of the lesson offered along the way to get anything done on Friday afternoon. And yet, here were my new class, ready to start a lesson just like any other.

We then proceeded to do the lesson I had in mind with hardly a student off task or any hint of the madness I had come to expect last year along the way.

In truth, I shouldn't have been so surprised as this rounded off quite a calm first week in which I got to know my new classes well - we had discussed class rules, expectations for the course, introduced the class blogs and Class Dojo, and generally set up a positive tone which I hope will continue throughout the year.

There was only one 'moment' in the entire week that tested my class discipline skills. That came on Thursday when I entered one class and the students were all over the place, talking, shouting, screaming, throwing paper planes and, in a couple of cases, assuming I didn't know Turkish and greeting me in a manner not really appropriate for students addressing a teacher. I just told myself to remain calm and waited for the students to settle down. When that didn't happen, I went to the teacher's desk and told everyone to take thier seats.

"But wait - not you," I said to one girl who had just addressed me as abi (a very much informal Turkish term meaning 'big brother' used when addressing men outside the family but not really acceptable when talking to a teacher). "And not you," I said to a boy who had been literally crawling all over the floor as I waited to start the class. This was repeated until I had singled out 8 students who had not been ready. I asked them to recite the class rules we had agreed upon the previous day and reminded them they should show me the same respect that they would to any other teacher. I then awarded all the other students a point on Class Dojo but informed those students that they couldn't have one - all done without any shouting or even a raised voice (not just from me - last year, it was my students who would have been shouting and complaining at this stage). I then noted their names and informed them I wouyld be watching their behaviour for the rest of the week closely.

The rest of the lesson passed without incident and the next day, the whole class was ready before the bell even rang. That lesson also passed pleasantly and at the end of it, I queitly called those students whose names I had taken the previous day and let them see that I was erasing their names from my list. There was relief and thanks all round and, for now at least, all is well.

If I can solve every 'issue' in a similar way this year, I will be a very happy teacher.

And Friday evening was a treat. I relaxed at home with my family. No stress, no headache, no despair, no complaints to subject everyone to at the dinner table. I hadn't had a post-school Friday like that for quite some time. Here's hoping it's the first of many. :)

4 comments:

  1. Yeah. I did the same thing and it worked! I have 5 simple rules before the lesson (where they have to recite before the lesson) and they will only being given two warnings. The third would be to the principal's office. No one dares and if they well behaved, rewards will be given to them. Thanks to god everything went well in the past few months. :)

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    1. Simple warnings with clear steps included always seem to work with kids. Instead of jumping straight in with "I'm going to call your parents", it's better to say "I'm going to give you a chance to make this right."

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  2. Bright, clever and interesting as always! Love and learning a lot from your posts, Dave!

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