Well, That Shut ‘Em Up

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Teaching is great fun and can be very rewarding. That said, there can also be tremendous challenges as well. My experiences with some of the 7th and 8th grade classes have been a bit trying. Today I was hopeful when I showed up for my most challenging 7th grade class and found about 6 students out with the flu. Not that I would rejoice in their illness, but the class size has often been a source of distress for me; having so many kids out sick decreased the number of problems that would occur if I focussed attention on a problem.

Normally, if one child causes a problem and I try to address it, at least one other problem will pop up in the interim. Today was no different, but the problems were restricted to ignoring me and chatting about the lunch menu or the window that got punched out before class (I can understand why that is distracting). Recently this type of Spring Fever behavior has been widespread and I am tired of dealing with it. I tried just stopping mid-sentence and staring at them until the were quiet. A couple times this seemed to work, but as soon as I started talking again the students did as well. They genuinely get a look on their face like they don’t understand what the problem is; however, a couple of students in that class do like to study and they looked frustrated. Unfortunately, they won’t speak up to stop the other students as that would impair their popularity.

Finally, I just told them in Japanese to sit at their desks and study pp. 80-81 independently. They got very quiet immediately and studied or stared at their books pretending to study. I was amazed at the transformation. For a long time nobody said anything even though a couple of them were doodling on papers hidden behind their books (with self-congratulating looks on their faces because they were ‘fooling’ the teacher.) I think this is a mode of study that is ingrained in them from infancy so they know what is expected of them.

When the teacher finally arrived I asked her many questions about the transformation; however, shortly after she entered they started to get noisy again. I went to the front and reviewed the material with them and finished the class. Now, I think I might try starting every class with independent study time. It’s just a little sad that I didn’t discover this sooner; we only have a few classes left.

I really want the students to think about how much of the taxpayers money they are wasting when they turn the class with a native speaker into silent study hall. However, I am certain any explanation would fall on deaf ears. I often explain things like this to the teacher and leave it in her hands to determine how to address it with the students.

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6 Responses to “Well, That Shut ‘Em Up”

  1. simaldeff Says:

    “Money of the Taxpayer” and “Study for your future” are things too far away from the world of a teenager for them to begin to care.

  2. びっくり Says:

    びっくり負け! You are definitely correct… I don’t know what I was thinking.

  3. simaldeff Says:

    I though english for kids (not class but like groups of 3 to 4 kids) and something that worked is let them speak or write stuff about subject that makes them looks cool.
    In my case it was reports about Harry Potter or letting them speak about soccer or with girls clothes … I teach at middle schooler in there home … so making them do “cool-looking” expression would motivate them toward popularity in their class.
    Just an though … I don’t have enough experience to swear it’s what made my class go smoothly.

  4. Keven Says:

    I’m sure Stacy will pipe up as her daughter seems to exhibity many of the same tendencies. It’s much easier to realize the value of an education when you got your job based on what you know. When you are 14, everything is, for most kids anyway, handed to you. You may have to do a few chores, but even failing to do that doesn’t normally mean you won’t eat that evening or end up without a roof over your head.

    I think it’s as annoying as it is inevitable that most 14 y.o.s don’t understand the value of learning something.

    Ironic that at some point in the future, they will be the ones embarrased to talk to a foreigner because they didn’t learn English very well when they had the chance to learn from a native speaker.

  5. Sunkissd1 Says:

    Here I am piping up as predicted!

    How rude of you teachers to interrupt the kids while they are talking and doodling! Don’t you realize that whatever is going on with and within them is significantly more important than anything on your agenda as an adult and educator? Ü

    The kids are too self-absorbed to be able to think beyond their wants and desires to even ponder the whole wasteful tax dollar situation. When I try to talk to Squid about the difference between stress at school vs stress in the workforce, she really doesn’t get that one thing not only affects our standard of living, but our survival as well. If she doesn’t do her homework, it doesn’t have any real impact for her aside from the fact that she’ll get a bad grade and lose her cellphone priviledges. Keven made a very true statement about her. She says she wants to be a Veterinarian when she grows up, but she’s not doing anything to secure her future in that direction. Somewhere in her brain she thinks college acceptance and education are a given, not something to be earned or striven for. They are very short-sighted at this age.

  6. びっくり Says:

    Certainly I look forward to your teenager insight. I hope she finds a way to become motivated to seek out her dream. One of my nieces wanted to be a vet when she was young but, for various (and somewhat comlicated) reasons, she didn’t put in the necessary effort (which is no small task). Without providing details, I will just say that her adult life has been less than ideal. SQUID, choose a different path please.

    Of course, teenagers don’t have a monopoly on this behavior. I had an acquaintance who wanted to sell a successful internet company with me. We would be billionaires! Very exciting, but he entirely left out the part about needing to create a company and turn it into something successful. (Or convince the buyers that it was successful, at the very least.) I would ask him, “OK. What service or product will we provide?” That usually ended the conversation quickly. 😉

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