Thursday, 26 March 2009

Little Villains

There's this class of twelve-year-olds. When you're with them for ten minutes you may think they're all crazy. The volume! Speaking loudly is not enough, they have to shout. When they drive each other crazy, they shout even more. Then they fight and instead of stopping when I say something, they start explaining the reasons - not in soft voice, I assure you... geeez!

Trying to put things in order you cannot help noticing all the other activities: swinging on chairs or putting legs on the nearest chair, picking noses and ... ugh!... or touching each others notebooks, pencil-cases or anything else just to annoy them, writing notes that fly through air to reach the adressee.

No matter what I say, no matter what I do, they just won't listen.

But if I have a closer look, I realize there are soooo many really really good kids in this class. Even if they are left alone, not bothered directly, called names or anything, I feel they are being bullied in a way by the noise their classmates are making while they are actually willing to study to know something - they find the stuff interesting!

I decided today not to focus on the noisy part.

They did all sorts of things.

"Teacher! His phone is ringing!"
"So what? Not my problem."
"He took my pen!" - not from an innocent boy.
"I don't care!"

They didn't get it.
I answered in soft voice or not at all to any such complaint. We did the exercises I had in mind. While doing them, I was making a list of the good students. I assigned another exercise, but told the quiet ones to gather around two desks. I gave them dominoes to play with. Vocabulary dominoes. They liked them. They found and learned some new words.

What's more important - the rest of the class didn't like that! They argued! They said I wasn't being fair! I ignored them. Surprisingly, most of them did the exercise in the workbook I told them to do. Two of them did it quietly and brought it to me to have it checked.

Good! They're getting the message. A battle won. Another one tomorrow.

Or not. After all, they're kids. And not bad ones. :-)


  1. I have a lot of respect for any teacher. Sounds like you're one of the good ones ;)

  2. I personally, have never wanted the job of teacher. It's far too hard to keep children in line, especially when their own parents don't care. I don't know about your students obviously, but I know far to many parents and kids in the school system here, that couldn't care less if the kids passed the grade, failed or were expelled. It shows horribly in the way they treat each other, and in the lack of respect for the teacher and the classroom as a whole.

    I tip my hat to you dear lady, it takes a lot for someone to be a teacher, and then to go that step further and do what you did in this post. You managed to reach a couple of unreachable students. That takes heart, commitment and a true love for what you do!

  3. Thanks!
    Well, it's not really like that - I've been teaching for years and don't feel too successful when it comes to discipline. And children's rights come first - and the naughty ones come before the good ones or at least so it often seems.

    The problems you're talking about sound even more serious though. Here the parents want them to be successful, to make progress and to behave. But it's too often that they say: "We cannot deal with him/her any more. We don't know what else to do." I don't think you have the right to say so when it's your child. You shouldn't expect teenagers to agree with you a lot or acknowledge your efforts or knowledge. What you say matters, though, whether you can see it at that moment or not.

    Thanks again, Skye! :)

  4. I too just have to admire your patience and dedication. I teach adults, and sometimes struggle to keep things on track and in focus, but it's more a matter of setting up conditions for them to collaborate and learn from each other than this constant barrage of disruptive noise. Things tend to go a bit dead if I talk too much at them in front of the class, even if I feel I have more understanding of the material than they do. Teaching is an art, not a set of techniques - sounds like you are good at experimentation and at following your intuition - all fueled by genuine concern for your students.

    Your students are at a difficult age to be cooped up indoors for lengths of time. I read somewhere that some classrooms have found giving students exercise balls to sit on helped keep them stay focused, as they can quietly dissipate some physical energy by small movements as they sit. When I read that, I wondered how that would work - would the students start rolling the exercise balls at each other or even throwing them in the air?

  5. Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. I believe you might have come over from mo. stoneskin. :) I think your exercise with the students sounds wonderful. No child that age likes to be ignored, and they're old enough to see that the "other" type of behavior is being rewarded. I hope it pays off for you!

  6. I hope so, too! Thanks!

    Bye the way, I have this habit of stopping by if I like the post. If not, I just click on to some other blog... Yours made me laugh. Hope you're feeling better now.

  7. great portrait of your class and kids. funny too!