Teenage children can be frustrating. What a shock! However, we also know just how funny, insightful, and clever they can be. The challenge is finding ways to give them the opportunity to express the positive energy they can produce. Whilst also negating the negatives that so often afflict adolescents.
As a new teacher I have been guilty of my fair share of classroom sins. Too much teacher talk, inconsistency, dictatorship, and so on. These methods make me frustrated and unhappy at the end of the day. More importantly, the students pick up little knowledge and are bored out of their minds.
What to do, Ohhhhhhh what to do?!?!
That truly is the question. How can we get away from the stale activities associated with the classroom and bring in the excitement of the real world.
There is no magic bullet!
There is no one fool proof method to engage and get your students learning (and SPEAKing) every week. We must be mindful of all the factors that affect students readiness to soak up new things. From family life, to other classes, to time of day, it is impossible to account for all the external factors that may create a perfect storm to drive one crazy.
What can we control?
Ourselves. We have control over ourselves and how we hold ourselves. If we come into class frowning and short tempered our class will follow suit. Just imagine yourself in a class, learning a language, with a grumpy teacher. Language is difficult. A stressed mind is the least likely to accept and retain new knowledge.
A short anecdote
I have a difficult time with math. In high school I had a very demanding teacher that would put students on the spot. She was seemingly never happy. She drilled and drilled and drilled problems. I was bored, had difficulty with it, and was constantly reminded of my inability (or so I thought) to do anything right. All I ever saw were read marks. My mother can tell you all about my teenage self and my difficulties with algebra (you can trust me, no need to ask). I do not care to relate the number of evenings I came close to breaking down from the frustration. It made me miserable. I started to hate class. I would dread those hours of the week. A countdown clock would run in my head telling me just how long I had until the terrible hour arrived. It affected my entire day.
Would I have magically figured out algebra equations if my teacher has been smiling and engaging. Probably not, but that is not exactly the point. I most certainly would have been less stressed by the thought of class. I would have gone into class with a positive mindset saying, “I CAN do this and this, and I WILL figure that out!”
And the point is?
The point is that a positive student will be more receptive to knowledge than a negative student. We cannot control the external factors of life. We CAN control the factors of our classroom.
SMILE! Everyone likes a smile and its more powerful than a frown! Leave the grumpy guss at the door and the students will too.
Be supercalifragilisticexbealidocious. We are language teachers. Use props, draw terrible drawings, laugh, act! Find the kid in you. Be silly. If the teacher is goofy and outgoing the students will respond and feel freer to speak with or without mistakes.
Put away the red pen. Mistakes happen. I make a good number of them everyday. There is a difference between mistakes and errors. Don’t crush a students will by “fixing” every word, phrase, sentence they actually produce.
If the classroom expectations are clear, the directions comprehensible, AND we bring the “positivity” the students will be easier to engage, and readier to accept what is being taught.
A positive mind is a happy mind. A happy mind leads to a happy and healthy body. A happy and healthy mind and body lead to all kinds of unforeseeable benefits in every aspect of life.
English is not the only thing we get to teach our students.