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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
When I was in school, there were some teachers who quite naturally commanded respect. The poise with which they ran the classroom, their knowledge of the subject matter, their skill with teaching endeared them to us. Though no class had a perfect behavioral record, the student body as an organism seemed to have an agreement not to mess with the good teachers. Then there were other teachers who had to shout or threaten the office once a class period. Their very nature and way of relating to the classroom was almost as an open enemy with a longstanding grudge. The classes they ran usually weren't very interesting. One payed attention as long as one was watched, learned just enough to pass the test and forgot it shortly after. Fascinating subjects like physics and history were made dry and dull. The current running through the class was palpable; the students rebelled. Some teachers had the opposite problem. Their spinelessness allowed children
to walk all over them. Students knew there would be no consequence for their actions, and 'the dog walked the human'. Once again, there are always times that every class will get out of hand. I remember my french teacher throwing up her hands in consternation a number of times. And there are always individual students testing their boundaries, seeing how much they can get away with in the world. It can be very difficult to keep order, and the frustration it causes may make one feel personally affronted. Don't. When you lose your cool in front of a class, you lose their respect. When you lose their respect, you lose the ability to hold their attention or teach them anything. The rest of the school year becomes a battle against chaos. Remember that it is easy to get overexcited when you are young and legally required to be stuck in a concrete building forty hours a week. Students' behavior is not your business until it interferes with the classroom setting or shows signs of larger issues. Dunce caps and paddle boards
are no longer en vogue. I feel that within the American public schooling system, the only one I've had experience with, too much of the emphasis is placed on discipline. School teaches people to be obedient beyond all else. The noose is pulled tighter and tighter. teachers exorcise their power daemons on their pupils. The idea pervades that there are no bad teachers, only lazy students. This is a very dangerous sentiment. When students act up on a regular basis, it is a sign that something is not working. Perhaps the lessons need more structure. Perhaps they need less, and more time should be devoted to playing with the language in order to hold student attention. It could also be that you are teaching over these kids heads, trying to force them to swallow what seems to be nonsense. Or perhaps you are teaching too slowly, giving them ample opportunity to understand the material, get tired of the material, pass a note and doze off. Sometimes there will be kids
who are sour. There will be kids who carry their anger with them and wait to direct it somewhere, kids who can't get along or use you for target practice. It's very important that you react to the behavior and not the child. Grudges will only escalate a situation. Be stern, but don't raise your voice. Don't promise any consequence you're not prepared to carry through with. If necessary, talk to the student in private. As far as a whole class getting riled up at once, have a bell system. The bell is rung to bring everyone to attention at once. Two bell rings, and you are trying my patience, three bell rings and it's bookwork for the rest of class! Some teachers, rather than try to compete with the noise level of thirty kids at once, begin talking more and more quietly, sending a hush over the class. Seating arrangements can also be edited to ensure that the two best friends who can't
stop chattering (and the two argumentative children who can't stop fighting each other) don't sit next to each other. Overall, as in holistic medicine, behavioral issues and unruly classrooms are only symptoms of a root cause. You can irradiate a cancer patient, thus attacking every part of them as well as the cancer, or, with a proper understanding of nutrition, you can prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. Classes have nutritional needs as well. They need a solid social base which is incorporated into the learning process. They need an ample amount of study time to process the information. They need to be monitored and taught at the correct level for their ability. They need a teacher they can trust to have their education in mind and their best interests at heart. They need to understand where their boundaries are and what is acceptable behavior. And above all, they need learning to be fun. When learning is fun, teacher and student are allied, and there's no cause for contention.
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