I started teaching three years ago. I was an IT freelancer and this was my first time facing 16-18 year olds. My education is from India and when I started teaching my British ‘Cultural Capital’ was next to none.
I took over the classroom from my predecessor mid-November. Now, I understand, that it was not an ideal time.
Until Christmas, I literally cried everyday. Back in India, students listen to teachers as there are consequences and the culture is different. In my class none of the student would listen to me and I had no idea what was going on.
I attended Teach meet Oxford organised by Amjad Ali on 18th December and thats when things changed for me. I started using Twitter actively and tried reading Teaching and Learning books/blogs . The first book I bought was based on activities that can be done in class. But with no relationship with students and no control over their behaviour this was not possible. I lost interest in the book and just gave up. I even thought of giving up teaching. Over the Christmas I followed lots of teachers on twitter, read what they were saying, collected lots of tips. By January, I had worked on my lessons and was ready to face the class again with some behaviour management tools under my belt.
Fast forward three years, and I feel confident that I can manage any group now. The first thing to remember is that you are the ‘Adult’ in charge of the room and you have the power to change the atmosphere of the room.
A positive and motivational culture can be achieved in a classroom by following a few key points :
Always greet students at the door – The tone for the lesson is set up outside the door. Take control of the door as the students enter the classroom. Position yourself as an authoritative leader at the door as students enter the classroom. It gives the message that they are entering your classroom now and will be ready to take the instructions. I have a very difficult and big level 2 (16-18year old) group and this works wonder with them. I always set up the room and stand at the door guiding each student where to go in the classroom.
Routine and Structure – Having set routines and a well structured lesson helps minimise the behavioural disruptions. This include entry/exit routines, stopping work to pay attention to teacher, having clear lesson goals, never asking a student to do something they don’t know etc. I have some rules in my class and I insist on everyone following them including myself. I start every lesson by quickly reminding them the rules. I have them printed as a poster and refer to them as and when needed.
The images above shows the structure and rules that we follow in my class.
Relationships – I am a firm believer of holistic approach and think that every behaviour has a story behind it. Having a good relationship with students outside the classroom puts the pressure on the student to behave well in class. Trust them and make it clear that you trust them.
Earn Respect – You need to be able to have an informal chit-chat with your students in the language they speak. Learn the students language. Watch films/shows that they watch. Look at their fashion, look at the humour they are into. Get down to their wavelength. Display the behaviour you expect to see.
Rules and Responses – Involve students in establishing guidelines for the classroom. Have them displayed in the classroom and refer to those whenever required. Having ‘rules and responses’ for their ‘choice of behaviour’ formalises the expectations.
Positive Reinforcement – Use positive language and non-confrontational statements to reinforce the behaviour we want students to display. This reminds them what they are doing right and encourages others to do it right as well.
Some of the sentence starters that work wonders in class are :
- “Thanks very much for being on time, I see you have got your notebook and pen. Well done!”
- “I see all of you have settled down well, I am just waiting for a few more to settle down.”
- “If you want me to treat you like an adult, I expect you to……”
- “I am very respectful to everyone and expect the same in class.”
- “You will not see my phone throughout the lesson and I don’t want to see yours.”
- “Eyes on me and toes pointing towards the screen.”
Consistency – Be consistent in following up the rules, routines, structure of the class. Be fair. Give clear detailed instructions leaving no room for manoeuvre. Explain if you have to go against a rule in class. For example, I do not allow late comers in my class. I am always in class 10 minutes early and ready for the lesson at least 5 minutes before the start of the lesson. Once I had to allow a student to enter the class when she arrived 10 minutes late. At the beginning of the lesson I explained to everyone that ‘x’ will be late and this is the reason I will allow her to enter the class.
Address small problems in the bud and bigger problems outside the classroom : Most of the misbehaviour can be dealt with quickly and easily on-the-spot, such as making eye contact with a student or group, moving closer to a student or group, reminding them of a rule or the expectations in class. Read : Bill Rogers top 5 on-the-spot strategies . Never address bigger problems/disruptions in class. Take the student away from the audience and then talk to them.
Professionalism : Teaching students the importance of professionalism and embedding professionalism as a skill in the curriculum can have a very positive impact on students. I always tell my students that ‘Attitude’ is the key to be successful in life and classroom is a place where you can practise your attributes. I always ask to be professional and notice professional behaviours in class. This transfers the ownership of behaviour on students and they ensure that they are behaving well in class as not only their teacher but also their peers are noticing their behaviour.
I highly recommend reading ‘When Adults Change, Everything Changes’ by @pauldixtweets . I have started a recognition board as suggested on this book and will write about how it works towards the end of this year.