The question of how to handle and motivate disengaged and rowdy pupils is one that I’ve put a lot of time and energy into considering. I’ve read several books on classroom management, regularly trawl through the TES behaviour forum and spend time looking at teachers blogs for inspiration. You see, up until mow my teaching has been quite sheltered – nice children hand picked for university outreach days, the advanced English classes during my year abroad and other university students when choreographing or directing for university performances. I don’t have a lot of experience with troublesome teenagers (though I’d better be careful not to mention this in the interview).
I do have some thoughts, though, based on the few problem classes I had during my year abroad combined with my own school days. At school I found that the teachers who could best manage a class were the ones that didn’t shout and didn’t lose their temper, but they also didn’t cave in to student demands or allow bad behaviour.
In Germany there was one class, the class that wanted to know about my personal life when asking me questions. They were the ones who didn’t want to speak to me in English and who claimed not to understand me. And there was a small group of boys at the back who didn’t want to learn English. I can understand, this was a vocational college, not a grammar school, and they were they to learn accountancy, not English. This was compulsory though, so they had to put up with it.
The lesson I remember best was one where we read from a play about footballers, with the students taking turns to play the characters. They liked it, it was a good play, not too difficult and about a very popular topic. What really surprised me was when one of the boys in the back repeatedly volunteered to play anyone he could. He always put his hand up rather than shouting out, because he knew that if he did he wouldn’t get the part, which he did a pretty good job of. This one lesson idea has formed the basis of what I hope will be my idea of classroom management. Find something they enjoy doing and use it as a reward. For many of the disengaged pupils punishment can be worn as a badge of honour, what they need to learn is that it’s better to be rewarded for things done well than punished for bad behaviour, even is this does result in kudos from their peer group. The point is that a punishment is not something they care about, whereas if they lose the chance to do something they like they may well do what’s necessary to get it – even if that does mean sitting down, shutting up and getting on with their work.