Mai, a student teacher, has been teaching for 8 weeks now in a first grade classroom in a secondary school. Here is an example of how she reflects on her teaching.
For the past few weeks, I have been having a problem with six students. These students can't seem to remain engaged in class activity during class time. At times, these students sit and do nothing, whereas at other times they get into arguments with each other and other students, disrupting the rest of the class. Their disruptive behaviour became even worse during what! consider ”best class activities such as group work, role play, games, and class presentations.
I was becoming increasingly frustrated with these students and my inabili iy to address the situation. I needed to figure out a way to help these students, and gain better control over my class.
Initially, I tried to figure out how to deal with the students' disruptions and off-task behaviour. I focused on devising ways to present those students with specific consequences for not compiling with the teacher‘s directions. I thought of some strict classroom management techniques I studied during my methods course, and decided to give them a try. I sensed that my students did not understand the consequences of their behaviour. I felt that if I did not demand, sanction, and punish inappropriate behaviour, the entire class would soon be out of control. If I wanted to be successful, I needed to "get tough".
However, during a discussion of my situation with my colleagues and teacher educator, I began to see the "problem" differently. The discussion made me consider questions like these"
- Does the problem lie entirely in the students and their actions?
- Can a different technique or approach solve the problem?
- What are the assumptions I have about these students A the nature of the problem?
- What are the values embedded in my chosen solution?
- What effect does the context of the classroom have on this problem?
My teacher educator also advised me to read about group dynamics, teacher/learner style conf lict, and to learn more about those students' background. I started to understand "the problem" in a different way. One thing I learned was that these students level of English was an obstacle; they had herd time following class during free activity time, they responded better during structured controlled practice time. I am now reconsidering the way I group students in my class and am looking for alternative ways to support those students during free practice time.