Teach English in Yangcheng Zhen - Yuncheng Shi

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One major issue in teaching worldwide is discipline in the classroom. Many teachers struggle with this and there are numerous books and journals about the topic. At present, I teach ESL, Visual Arts and other subjects in a school in China. Coming from an environment where physical abuse was outlawed in schools, it bothers me when teachers resort to physical and emotional abuse to discipline. I grew up in an educational system where physical punishment was used to maintain discipline. It made me an angry individual between my teenage years to my late twenties. I had to work extremely hard to heal the trauma and emotional scars caused by physical and emotional abuse at home and school. Through Visual Arts, therapeutic exercises and some very caring individuals I was able to overcome some difficult periods. The resulting effects of physical punishment manifested itself in my constant anger and passive-aggressive behavior. There is a link between corporal punishment and social issues in our post-colonial society. According to Bereton (2010) in the 1900 teachers viewed themselves as ‘lion-tamers’ desperately trying to maintain control among ‘young savages’. This approach did not have any positive outcome in a society that made its money from the violence of slavery. My country is reeling from the effects of decades of abuse of children both in and out of school. Gender violence, especially towards women, is sometimes liked to physical and corporal punishment. ‘This aspect of the society also helps us understand the ubiquity of violence against women, especially ‘wife-beatings’ among all social groups …it was often carried out in public …’ (Brereton, 2010). In many societies discipline in the classroom is often linked to corporal and other forms of punishment. This is something that I don’t and will never ascribe too. I have witnessed questionable disciplinary actions administered by teachers at my present school. Being a foreign teacher in a different culture, I am careful with how I address it. I normally raise it with the school’s administration. They indicate their awareness with the situations. Discipline must not be misconstrued for punishment, the two are by no means the same, however many teachers believe they are. In order to create discipline in the classroom, a teacher must have established rules. Letting students know what is expected and what isn’t. It, therefore, becomes a teaching a learning exercise. I started teaching my Grade one ESL class by establishing some basic simple principles such as raising one's hands when wanting to answer a question. I try to foresee as many problems as I can but as issues arise I would implement new rules. Before implementing rules, I would discuss with the class why the rule was necessary and get feedback. Then I would present a story about the rule and elicit responses on the results of breaking the rule. As a class English signs and posters are created to demonstrate understanding. Less able students create signs with more images and a few words while more able students create signs with images and sentences. These rules are then posted in the classroom. This approach creates more adherence to rules and students are always ready to monitor and remind their peers about existing rules. This technique has helped in changing student behavior including running in the classroom, pushing and hitting. This is much more effective than shouting at students or resorting to physical approaches. Teachers must always be mindful that they are under constant scrutiny by their students. Therefore the behavior they model will affect and in cases be imitated by the students under their care. Therefore as a teacher of ESL in China, I don’t shout, or raise my voice because I don’t what my students to model that behavior. However, one cannot neglect the cultural differences in education that exist in countries like China. One such is teaching a class with parents present. In my country, this is never done unless a formal request is made by the parent and approved by the school. Nonetheless, I have invited parents into my visual arts classes while I taught in my home country, and have encouraged parents to participate in these classes. This creates bonding between parent and child, and many parents enjoyed the experience. So it came as no surprise when I had to teach in front of parents. I was also required to conduct a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the topics covered over the term. After my lesson, the parents gave feedback on what they noticed. Firstly, I was commended for the amount of work I did, based on the photographs and other information in the PowerPoint presentation. Next, I was commended for the level and amount of English the students were speaking. Finally, I was told by two parents that they felt I needed to be more firm with the class, and instill more discipline and rules. My class was deemed slightly undisciplined because one student indicated he was tired before our warm-up exercise. I identified that he was tired and told him to remain on the ground and he could do the warm-up from there. The parents felt that more firmness was required. However, before the teaching session, the class put on an eighteen-minute (18) performance in the auditorium with full make-up and costumes. They prepared for it intensely for three weeks and now they were all tired, some more than others. I was also tired and empathized with the student, allowing them some freedom. What the parents agreed upon after much discussion was that I should be allowed to do what I thought was best since they were all pleased with the results. It is because I created a relaxed environment in the classroom, where students felt safe, uninhibited and confident to contribute to the learning environment that such progress was made. However, I will suggest the school develop a discipline matrix. Since discipline when approached in the correct way is very helpful to student development. References Brereton, B. (2010). The Historical Background to the Culture of Violence in Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean Review of Gender Studies - A Journal of Caribbean Perspectives on Gender and Feminism, 1-16.