Saturday, May 19, 2007

Magical class management

So far, I have to say, this semester is going pretty well. I don't have any real problem classes. The lone, lonely boy on Friday mornings is responding a little (yesterday went well), the terribly noisy, fantastically low-level, and seemingly impossible class of third year students is behaving, despite (or perhaps because of) my completely ignoring the syllabus, and even my very large class is fun to teach when the equipment works. None of my classes seem to have yet succumbed to gogatsubyo, although it's early days yet. (Sometimes gogatsubyo hits in rokugatsu.)

In that very large class yesterday, I had decided there was absolutely no point in trying to get the students moving around and swapping conversational partners. There isn't enough space for that, and when I tried it last week and the week before, using different methods each time, the result was total chaos. This time, I left them where they were sitting, went around and counted them off into groups of six or so, and told them that each time we did a new conversational activity they should do it with a different partner from within that group. In most classes I would not even try that, but this lot has been so cooperative that I thought it might work.

It did.

Later, when it came time to do a listening activity from the textbook, I discovered that the tape player I had chosen from the resource room (to avoid using the ridiculous machine in the classroom) was one that had a limit on how high the volume would go, and the limit was not very high. When I discovered this, I sighed and asked the students for their cooperation, again.

"This machine is stupid," I explained. "It will not play loudly. This is IT."

I hit the play button, played a little, then paused it.

"We will have to be VERY quiet during the listening," I said. "But it's just a short bit."

They nodded seriously. They're a lovely lot.

I played the section I wanted.

After I'd played it, some students asked me to play it again. I did.

This time there was some quiet talking going on at the back of the class, interfering with the sound. I stopped the machine and asked the naughty boys to be quiet. They said they would, and I started the machine again.

They started chatting again.

I hit the stop button and glared at them mock-seriously.

"I don't know what to DO with you," I said. "I don't want to walk all the way back there every time to tell you to shut up!"

I looked at the empty row of seats in front of me. The classroom is way too small for forty-five students, but there has been so much furniture crammed into it that there is seating for at least fifty and no space to move. Anybody who sits in the front row finds that they are RIGHT IN MY FACE. They run the risk of being spat on in moments of teacher fricativeness and can tell what I had for lunch if I haven't cleaned my teeth. Even the very keen students who usually sit in the front row don't want to sit there, and sit one row back. I am happy with that. I don't particularly want them counting the hairs in my nostrils.

I looked at the empty front row, and back at the boys in the back row.

"Maybe I should ask you to sit here," I said, jokingly. "Then I can shout at you without having to move. But ... oh dear, look." I pointed. "One, two, three, FOUR seats, and one, two, three four, FIVE naughty students!"

I shrugged and prepared to start the listening activity again. I figured the attention they'd had would be enough to make the naughty students behave themselves.

The bad boys grinned, looking a bit embarrassed. Then, to my astonishment, they started a round of janken. At the end of that, three resigned-looking students quickly and quietly moved to the front row, and two separated themselves in the back row so they couldn't chat and disturb the class.

I suppressed my shock, smiled, and carried on with the lesson, trying to give the impression that I was used to this and that it was perfectly normal for students in my classes to organize their own punishment.

After that everything went well. I had three naughty boys right in my face for the rest of class, being good and funny, and we all had a lovely time.

The whole episode was extremely disconcerting, but also wonderful. I LOVE having magically self-punishing students. I get to keep my cool, the problem is solved quickly, the good students don't have to wait patiently while I deal with class management, and everything goes smoothly.

Now I just need to figure out how it happened, so I can apply the same technique in my OTHER classes when I need it.


kenju said...

They must like you a lot to do that!

Nils said...

Wow. That is amazing... for two reasons:
1. If people in the classes I have were like that (even a tiny little bit), I'd be A LOT less stressed at the end of the day... students not...studying really gets to me for some reason
2. I had to read up about Janken and the Wikipedia article mentions the anime Black Lagoon, which seems really cool. Lesson learned: good things come at you when you're expecting it the least (=

melanie said...

First they invent self-cleaning air conditioners and now self-punishing students! Wow this is a country of convenience.

Once you figure out how you got it to happen, let us know, I know I could certainly use it in my classrooms!

Lia said...

That's incredible. I want to be a teacher, and I want to have students like that.