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Monday, April 15, 2013

Classroom Management

Colegio Los Robles- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Last week the director of the English department at asked me to observe the first grade boys class (the classes are divided by gender until the 7th grade) and give her some feed back the teacher’s the classroom management. I was surprised that she asked me to observe a classroom evaluate my CT since I am pretty in experienced myself, but I was happy to give my input. The way the classroom was organized reminded me a little bit of the scenes of classrooms in old movies. The desks were all arranged in rows facing the chalkboard with the teacher’s desk facing all the students. The room was pretty sparse, with very few decorations and materials. One of the few things hanging on the wall was a list of rules, but I got the sense that the teacher did not spend much time explaining the rules and setting expectations. The students came in from recess and began talking to each other and did not stop until the end of class. When the teacher was explaining the activity none of the students where listening, so when they began the activity she had to go around and explain it to all them individually. The students were not given any instructions on what to do when they finished their work so they just turned and chat with their friends.  This made me realizes how incredibly important it is to have established routines in a class. So much time was wasted telling at the students to be quiet and transitioning between activities. I think this also put a lot of extra stress on the teacher because she was behind in her lesson and had no methods of regrouping the class other than yelling at them.
The language also added a new challenge to classroom management that I had never seen before. The teacher spoke to the students only in English, but since their understanding of English is very limited, it was difficult for them to pay attention and understand what the teacher wanted. I think that if the students had some other materials to refer to while the teacher was talking, such as a handout or visuals posted on the board, the might have been more engaged and less disruptive. As a way of encouraging the students to speak only in English the teacher told them that I do not speak a word of Spanish so they have to speak to me in English. This was really hard to do because when I spoke to the students in English they gave me that blank stare indicating that I could be speaking Martian for all they knew, so I eventually started repeating the phrases in Spanish. This of course led to a minor freak out when they all realized I actually could speak Spanish and suddenly started bombarding me with questions.
The main method of discipline the teacher used was talking away recess time when the students misbehaved. I was a little bit surprised by this because the whole time I was thinking that the students could benefit from 10 minutes of running around the playground to get out some of their pent-up energy. At my last placement they gave students breaks as a form of discipline. When a student was acting up in class the teacher would ask him or her to step outside of the class and take a break until they regained focus. Several of the boys had to stay in for recess so by the end of the day they were bouncing off the walls.
I shared these thoughts about the teacher’s classroom management with the director of the English department but felt a little strange sharing my observations and making suggestions because I do not yet have a degree or much experience managing a class. However, she said it was really helpful to hear my thoughts because I brought in a new perspective after having completed two pre-pracs in the United States. I went into this whole experience thinking about what I could learn from completing a pre-prac abroad but I never really considered that it could be two way street and the people I work with would be interested in learning from my experiences!  

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