Sometimes I have a hard time getting the kids to pay attention. It seems like it’s hit or miss if the kids will pay attention in class. I do not like to yell in my classes so I don’t consider that an option. I usually have to say in a loud voice “oíganme” (listen to me, hear me) and most of the time that does the trick. Many times they just need to be reminded to pay attention, write something down, or participate in the activity. There’s almost always some chitter chatter during classes but that is very normal. When I don’t hear the kids quietly talking behind me I get nervous and turn around, fearing that they’ll all fallen asleep.
Today the kids were getting ready for the games that they’re going to have tomorrow. I’m not sure exactly what kind of games they’re talking about but I think it’s something like school relays. In one of my fifth grade classes they were making a sign with the logo of Real Madrid on it. They were all crowded around the table so I had to get the other kids into their seats. The problem is that if there is a big project, like making signs for the upcoming games, most teachers at the school are okay with and allow a few kids to be working on other projects during class. The kids in my 6th grade class were also making signs but did a fairly good job of paying attention.
A few of the kids in my sixth grade section A class were actually sent by the teacher to leave the school to go buy spray paint. The spray paint was for something involving the games tomorrow. It was interesting to me that they were sent there by the teacher. How many teachers in the US do you know that would give their sixth graders money to leave the school, go buy spray paint, and then return to the school with change and the spray paint? I’m thinking not many. But this is pretty typical here. I’ve seen some of the kids at my school leave to go get food and come back in between classes. Things are just done differently here. It’s like a different country!
So for the most part my first several classes went well today. Compared with other times they did a relatively good job of listening. However, I cannot say the same thing for my first grade class which was my last class of the day. I have been having a lot of problems with that class from day one. After teaching the class a few times and having a better idea of where they were at I changed my curriculum and teaching style for them. Almost no writing, lots of motioning and body movements, and we’ve read books and played games as well. But I don’t feel like I’m getting through to them.
Yes, I understand they’re in first grade and have the attention span of a gnat. I taught and then was the supervisor for summer camps at the YMCA for 8 years for children ages 3 to 5. So I’m used to dealing with large amounts of small children filled with energy. I personally have a lot of energy and can usually come up with different ways of keeping the kids’ attention. We change topics often and I try to teach them the same thing in a variety of ways so they don’t get bored. I like to make things fun and silly.
However, the shrieking, yelling, whistling, and making other noises all throughout class today constitutes obnoxiousness in my book. It only got worse when I asked in a raised voice for them to please listen to me and took away the notebooks of those kids who were rolling them up into horns. Well, monkey see, monkey do, especially when it comes to young kids. Soon they all had notebook horns and were whistling uncontrollably.
In all my time teaching camp, swim lessons, art lessons, doing story time, and teaching here in the past I have never felt so little control of the kids. I couldn’t even get their attention long enough to tell them if they didn’t shape up I was done teaching for the day. Eventually I just sat down in a chair and waited until the noise level came to a dull roar. I then told them that if they didn’t want to learn then they could leave but that I was not going to be teaching them the rest of the class because they were misbehaving. Not too long after that it got pretty quiet.
I felt bad telling them I wasn’t going to teach any more today but I was at my wit’s end. The sad thing is that it’s not the whole class. Some of the students do really well but they are overpowered by the ones who like to cause problems. I was also really disappointed because class started out so well today. I had planned out several things for us to do that would let them be more interactive and move around. About halfway through the class it all fell apart within minutes and before I knew it half of them were screaming like maniacs. This whole situation confuses me because the kids all seem to like me and are excited when I walk into the classroom to teach English.
I talked to Kathy for a while this afternoon. Kathy was a teacher in the US and has also taught some English classes here at the house. She suggested telling them I wouldn’t teach for the rest of the day and after a while if that didn’t work then to tell them I wouldn’t be teaching the class period if they couldn’t shape up. Her advice was right in line with what I was thinking. But I want to try again because I really want to teach this class. I’m not sure I’m ready to threaten them with me not returning, because I still want to try to teach them and I want to be sure I will follow through with the threat if I make it. And I won’t make threats that I know I won’t follow through with. Plus I really like the kids and I know they can learn.
Like I’ve said before, I think a major part of the attention span and behavior of the students has to do with the primary teacher. The personality and teaching style of the primary teacher seems to be reflected in the students. I’ve always believed that the teacher or professor was a huge part of whether or not I truly learned in particular classes and how well I paid attention. I know that there are always going to be times when kids do a better or worse job at listening and that this can vary by day. But when there’s constant chaos in the classroom then you need some kind of intervention. I’m going to try to brainstorm some more ideas to see if they work. Wish me luck!