Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Classroom Management in the FE Classroom; Fun, boring or leave.

How do we tackle consistently poor student behavior in our classrooms? How do we pick our battles and be on the winning side? What students want to leave and what students are always just going to cause you grief? Most importantly, are you going to let student behavior drive you out of your job?

Today was a real eye-opener to the feeling of resentment that teachers feel about poor student behavior. Why are we here? Who is to blame? Is this fair? Although some see this role as glorified babysitting, I believe that the value we give our learners in a further education environment outweighs their need to go to work straight out of school. The current system is not a perfect one, however if we constantly consider the faults, we don't give ourselves time to praise the students who do excel and perform to the best of their ability.

I tried something new in class today, frustrated with my lessons and poor behavior from a particular group in the morning, I said to them, "Right, I have three options for you, we have a really great activity planned today so you can take part in that and we can have a really good lesson, alternatively you can work through a worksheet I have which isn't anywhere near as fun. the other option is the door, you leave and get reported to your tutor". The main thing here is, I described a lesson as fun? Use positive language to describe the work you are going to do, don't downplay your time and effort, be genuinely enthused about what you are going to teach in the next hour.

I tried it with another group, most were happy to get on, and some actually opted for the worksheet, I realized something remarkable, even my worst behaved students who opted for the worksheets thinking it was less work than the activity completed the whole thing in this time. That's more work than they've done in the last week! I will be sure to develop this approach more going forward and recommend you try it out for yourself. The thinking behind this is simple, if you are expecting adult behavior, treat your students like adults, it's surprising what a little choice will do to make your students views feel valued and encourage them to complete their own tasks.

I've been working hard on implementing behavior approaches in how I speak to students in this way. Think about a really bad argument you've been in with a student, it's never fun, but think about how you could have approached this differently, my first piece of advice is never raise your voice or sound angry, they have won if they can see they've gotten to you. My second piece of advice is be overly nice with your students, encourage them, help them with their work and tell them how sorry they are that they feel that way about your Maths/English lessons. This approach makes the student appear irrational, it's almost like dealing with a bad customer, apart from if you were selling them a mobile phone, they probably wouldn't be as rude.

The final thing, is mobile phones. The bane of any FE teacher's life. Mobile phones do so much and are so capable of being brilliant resources in your classroom, your Senior Management would encourage you to use phones where possible to embed some technology within your classroom. Mr OFSTED probably agrees with that theory. Within compulsory English and Maths, I encourage you to be strict on mobile phone use within the classroom, i.e. no phones on tables, on loud or in hands. How you tackle these issues is again as adults, ask your learner if they feel that this is a valid use of their time. If you get a sarcastic answer, remind them about behaving like adults (rudeness should not be tolerated within your classroom either) and ask them to put it away. At this point most comply, if there is nothing, another simple choice. Put it at the front of the room, or leave. Most choose the former, no great loss if they choose the latter, You're always going to be less interesting than a cat video.

How you choose to tackle these issues in your classroom are completely up to you, I would encourage you to think about your own teaching style and how you function within a classroom before you change too much about your lessons. I would also encourage you to bring change in gradually. Small changes are extremely effective and could be the difference between you finishing class with a smile on your face, or in tears.

Value your students, value your profession, value your time and effort and most importantly, value yourself