I used to think that I am a good teacher, that I can keep my students engaged and motivated, that I can always come up with the right decision. Illusions of early teaching years. Illusions of disciplined Chinese classrooms. But the moment, I stepped into a Turkish classroom, was a real eye-opener.
I work in primary and secondary classes in a private school. The management is supportive, but classroom management is a field they can hardly help with as it is about respect and rapport. I had to learn how to control kids in grades 1 and 2 plus middle school (grade 7).
I honestly read a bunch of books on classroom management and tried to put the ideas into practice. I attended workshops on the same issue and still, the situation remained same. I was laughing at marvelous ideas of “show Ss a funny picture to get their attention”, “ask Ss to sit nicely”, “use a noise chart to control the sound” and more.
My problem was not just to make Ss listen to me. The scale was much greater: students were walking and even running around (certainly without a permission). We could spend up to ten minutes just to start the class. I was lost in the buzz which absorbed all other sounds. I didn’t dare even thinking about pair-work. You got the idea.
This year I don’t have this trouble anymore. There are bad days for classes, but who doesn’t have them? Here is my recipe:
- You never get another chance for the first impression. Even if you know the students from the previous year. The first day of school is a fresh start. Be super clear about your expectations.
- This is from all the books, but still “Be consistent”. Once you have settled the rules, follow them no matter what. Tears, shouting back, short “no” – it’s ok. Give time but no matter what make the rule be implied. A few public scenes with you as the winner – and others will be more careful.
- Stay in touch with parents. It’s a huge “no-no” in my school, but what can be more powerful? I always talk to parents in front of a child, so that they know what is going on. I make the stress not on unruly behavior but on its bad influence on the overall academic result. In most cases, parents are very supportive and they do know how to influence their kids. One more important note – I always keep parents updated for a while. After a week I may say that the child has improved so much (don’t forget, it’s said in front of the kid). Positive feedback is the most valuable in this case, not only for kids but for their moms and dads too.
- Get support from the school authorities. Just let them know about the situation and ask for a permission to use their name to keep the discipline better. But make sure that you really can approach them in case of a force major when the class is totally unruly, and you’ll have to do what promised.
- You should have a crystal-clean record of everything that you do in class. Check the books (really check, up to spelling) and make students finish whatever they didn’t. Check everything – it will give a reason to be ready for the class – no more missing books, and to catch up with the workload – no one wants to stay at the break time to finish the task. BTW those record will make you look super professional and organized as well.
And, finally, be serious. And same to everyone. It was also hard, but I managed.
All in all, I can say that this year my classroom management has jumped to a totally new level of quality, which allows me to do more activities and trust my students more.
Nothing new but following those five rules daily for a month or (in tough classes) two, the situation has nothing to do but to improve.