It’s inevitable when teaching that at some point you are going to come across some disciplinary issues particularly when teaching children. Children can turn from little angels into little devils in the blink of an eye and even the model student can turn into your worst nightmare.
When I came to teach in China I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t come across to many problem children after hearing how well behaved and hardworking Chinese students were. Then I found out that I would be teaching only teaching 5 students all from the Middle East in the international department of a primary school. I thought what a sweet gig only 5 students to teach, easy to monitor their progress and keep a tight handle on discipline. How much easier I would have it then those teaching massive classes of 50 plus. How wrong I was!
At first teaching only 5 students sounded very appealing. The first time I met them they were sweet as pie and I thought fantastic this will be smooth sailing I can get on with the teaching and they can get on with their work. It was not long until I discovered this wasn’t to be the case.
It turns out the 5 students I was to be teaching had for the last few years gotten used to little or no discipline. They were allowed to run amuck in the classroom, walk out whenever they wanted to, fight with each other, speak over the top of each other, be slack and were allowed to play games (the non educational kind) instead of doing classwork.
When I came to the school smiley happy new Aussie teacher the students must of thought great we can try the same on her. But they were quick to discover that although I wanted them to have fun while learning I wasn’t going to take the same crap the other teacher’s had and I certainly was not going to put up with bad behavior.
I hardly remember my first lesson but what I do remember was having fun learning about them and introducing myself but also not neglecting to lay down the law. It’s so important that in your first lesson you let the students know just what kind of teacher you are going to be and what your expectations are of them.
The next day I brought into class the class rules written down in big letters on brightly coloured paper and stuck it up on the wall right next to the black board so that the students could always see it. I started off the lesson drilling the rules and asking the students questions about them to check their understanding.
Over the next week I noticed that one student in particular was always playing up, disrupting other students, not doing his work and playing rough with them at lunchtime. Warnings and punishments didn’t seem to work. What I did notice was that when he was praised for good work he’d always strive to work harder at least for the next 10 minutes. I rethought my whole strategy and decided to go with the whole reward good behavior by giving the students a reward to work towards.
I devised the star award system. Each student has their own tally sheet stuck on the wall. At the end of each lesson if they have been well behaved and completed all their work they receive a star stamp. At the end of he week if they had received 10 stars then they would each get a chocolate and at the end of 3 weeks if they had earned 30 stars they would receive a star award.
This system worked quite nicely for the next 2 weeks with the students eager to do their work to receive their stars. At the end of each lesson they would huddle around me in anticipation of receiving their stars.
However there are just some days when no matter how many warnings I give them they continue to misbehave. In this case I will not award a star or deduct a star from their tally. This worked fairly well with students eager to earn back their stars. One morning I came into the classroom to find the students cleaning it scrubbing the walls no less in hopes of re earning the stars they’d lost.
I had one particular day when all the students even my model teachers pet was playing up. At lunchtime they were fighting and hitting each other and had to be pried apart. Then one decided to push one in the pond while the the one retaliated by throwing water at them. I gave them each a very stern talking to and when they refused to apologies that was it I had had enough of their misbehavior. To punish them for misbehaving all day I whiped off all their stars earned for the last week leaving them with zero and told them that they continued to play up then I would have to contact their parents. At this stage I had gone from being their favourite teacher to their favourite teacher they’d love to hate. Despite this I still had them groveling at my desks to earn back there stars.
Next lesson despite the warnings and loosing a weeks worth of stars the entire time the students talked, kept getting up from their seats and generally just misbehaved. When the class ended and they were all hyped up for world culture which traditionally had been a class that I had made extremely fun and creative, their favourite class. The class began and I dropped a bombshell, as they were so badly behaved in the previous class we would not be doing their favourite world culture class instead we would be writing.
I lined up all the desks in front of the poster of rules and got them to silently without looking at the person next to them write out all the rules. They must have figured I was serious because for once there was deathly quite. When the overachievers finished writing out the rules yelling out ‘number one finished’ I swiftly got them onto doing their English and science homework. Needless to say they have been extremely well behaved since.
I’m a teacher who puts a lot of effort into planning my lessons and making them as fun and interactive for the kids as possible. But I’m also a teacher who doesn’t take any crap. Although it pains and disappoints me everytime I have to punish them, deduct a star or make them write out the rules it is essential to let them know who’s boss and to have the upper hand. The moment you start to let your students walk all over you is the moment you loose all control and gaining it back is one of the toughest things you can do!