It’s almost the end of the year and time for lots of holiday reflections so here goes my ten cents worth.
6 things that should be discussed in every class
1)The class rules
Not just “don’t speak…” but a discussion where the teacher explains their expectations and negotiates rules. This is very useful as you may find out about religious commitments which mean common lateness or part-time jobs which equals no homework, not to mention cultural differences about speaking in class.
2)The role of the teacher
When I’ve taught mixed nationalities there is always a difference in perception of what you as the teacher should do. In mono national classes the students may (not always) share the same view but you may not actually know what it is. Thus, if you have 30 students all expecting a professional teacher-led style and you don’t do that then something may kick off. The opposite is also very true where students expect a ‘cool uni grad’ and you are a professional teacher who doesn’t want to go out drinking with your students.Nothing is wrong with either approach but it’s good to put everyone’s cards on the table.
3)The role of the student
As above, this needs to be laid clear and getting THEM to agree to what they will do in and out of class is better than dictating it.It’s empowers them to take control. As a friend said “I just open the room, provide opportunities for learning and offer guidance, they have to learn themselves”. Encouraging more class input is a great idea from choosing homework to the topic for each class.Active students can even add stuff to a class blog.
Summative, continual..What and how and WHY? Class participation marks are common to compliment/replace final test grades but from my own trial and error either I just give wholistic mark or I have endless categories and mathematical calculations to do to find a final number.This is bind boggling.Saying “look, I need to assess you and this is how I could do it but I want to be fair so I can give you a representative mark” works for me and shows the students that I want to help them NOT fail them.
This should never be an issue but at least once or twice a year it always is for me, somewhere. Find out what your school policy is and follow it but also tell/discuss it with the students so they are clear about it. I’ve had kids start fights in class, pull out knives, swear (at students and teachers), kids walk out, whole classes refuse to work, some students refusing to work with others and even whole class rebellions. When it is clear what will happen then as one discipline trainer said in an INSET day “you just follow the procedure” and you can even say “you have broken the rules, you know what happens now, I am just following the rules”.
6)How you and the students feel about the class
After a week, a month, a term it’s good to get FB.I used to do this in 121 mini tutorials but they dragged on for a week. Having an outing or just going for a tea/coffee for an hour is a great time to do this. I tried focus groups on one course which representatives from each class and a different teacher conducting it. This worked quite well, especially as none of the students knew each other or the teacher.
Of course, saying how you feel is good too and admitting that you are not happy with something shows that you are a real person and interested in the students, which can only be good.
At its best these ideas work with normal classes but with ‘disruptive ones’ as some schools call them, they can actually completely change things around. I once was whisked out of my class at 9am to swap with one teacher after ‘an event’ and it was tense with lots of aggression and a bad atmosphere. so, I just said “let’s go get a coffee in the park” and I just asked what happened and why. 1 hour later we had redesigned their class, chosen a new teacher and the rules and we ended up with a great weekly marketing project lesson.