Yesterday, in my first grade class, we were learning about different kinds of soil. One of the workbook questions asked the students to draw something that they would see in soil. Typical answers would have been ants, worms, rocks, dead plant or animal matter, etc. Sky drew a stick figure in his soil, and when I asked, he said that they were bones. I told him that it probably would not have been a good idea to draw bones, and let’s just stick to rocks and worms. But alas, he ignored me and continued on with his drawing, when out of nowhere, he happily exclaimed, “Teacher, it’s Michael Jackson!”
So I’ve been really busy with studying for the GMAT (which is no fun), looking forward to Thanksgiving and my birthday, and also planning for Kevin and Zhou to be here in Taipei next week.
Allen spent most of class time today with his left hand down his pants. When I caught him the first time and told him to take his hands down his pants, he told me, “Teacher, I like.” Ten seconds later, his hand was back in his pants.
Again, “Allen, take your hand out of your pants.”
“Because it’s dirty.” Then realizing the different connotations of dirty and not wanting to be the one responsible for scarring the child, I added, “Because you have to go wash your hands all the time.”
Two minutes later, the hand was back.
“ALLEN. Hand. Out. Of. Pants. NOW.”
“But Teacher, it feel good.”
Sigh. “Yes yes, I know, Allen, but you can’t do that in class. You just can’t, ok?”
Needless to say, he did not stop anytime soon and insisted on raising that particular hand and touching things with it, so I had to go fetch the alcohol spray and spritz the culprit of a hand every two minutes.
By the way, Allen is in first grade. So don’t be so horrified.
Teaching has taught me a few things such as teaching insolent junior high boys makes my face break out more due to the stress. It also makes me want to come home some days (like today) and just eat a pint full of ice cream and listen to Eminem.
More importantly though, teaching has made me a much better public speaker now. You learn how to gain confidence and how to get your point across when you have to stand up in front of ten squirmy, fussy kids and teach them elementary physics (which you learned and forgotten years and years ago) in their second language. Or when you have to make a fool of yourself so you can properly convey the meanings of certain words to first graders. So when a situation comes up, like today, when the school asks you to watch an English speech competition and then surprise-ask you at the end of it to stand up in front of 300 middle schoolers and fellow teachers and provide suggestions for improvement, (which you didn’t know you were going to so you were only half-paying attention during the speeches), you can really go up there and do it with one-third the trembling and butterflies that otherwise would have been all there and more a year ago.
I’ve also learned how to keep my cool a bit better. Taking a deep breath and just going completely silent when the class is being very noisy and disruptive is a lot more effective than shouting at them until you’re hoarse. The students will catch on rather quickly when you’re just standing there, staring them down, and emanating silent seething rage. I’ve also mastered the mean Asian-mom stare. That’s also very useful. But sometimes, when the fuse is blown, you gotta do what you gotta do and just unleash the wrath of a woman really driven mad. But I really try to keep it to once in awhile to preserve the full effects.
Classroom management is very difficult in my junior high classes. I realize that positive reinforcement is the best way to go when it come to anybody, but it only goes so far with a room full of twenty middle school boys. I usually end up threatening punishment like staying after class or writing spelling words ten times. Does anyone have any suggestions/tips that work particularly well, especially for the boys with really bad attitudes?