November 7, 2012 by gemmalunn
This is a bit of a cheesy post but I thought I’d spread some warmth and positivity on this breezy winter morning.
I’m having one of those weeks – not the frustrating, what am I doing? weeks (that was last week!) but an I love my job, how could I ever want to do anything different week! For the past 6 months I’ve really been trying to focus on getting lower level students more involved with activities. I teach mixed ability classes of up to 36 students, so trying to challenge more advanced students whilst keeping lower levels engaged is somewhat demanding! I’ve been consciously trying to give extra, individual support and plenty of encouragement. I also asked higher level students to help the lower level ones on their tables, thus creating a pack of mini teachers! They relished the chance to help explain words and tasks and it’s lovely to see them helping each other.
And it’s paid off, with my grade 3 girls (15-16yr olds) at least. I had a ‘moment’ a couple of months ago when during a speaking activity I noticed every single girl was getting involved, speaking English and enjoying it, I was so proud it even bought a tear to my eye! I think it was Harmer (2005) who said, after stating the challenges of teaching teens, that there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a group of teens getting involved with an activity; and he’s right! I made sure I gave the whole class a lot of praise at the end and I have had high levels of participation with grade 3s ever since.
Grade 2s (14-15yrs) have been a different matter, they are your typical teenagers and I do sympathise; I can still remember what it was like being a teenager. Last week I was feeling really frustrated as I’ve been putting so much effort into these classes trying different activities and techniques to keep them interested and participating but I was getting poor results and running out of ideas; thinking maybe there was nothing I could do they are just teenage girls! However, I bought this up at Saturdays Reflective Practice meeting and it helped to talk about the problem and get some perspective.
So, I went into yesterday’s grade 2 class feeling slightly more optimistic, (even more so after reading Ratnavathy’s post ‘the eyes of your mind’). This particular class have been branded by other teachers as ‘the worse class’, yes they are challenging but I’m not for negatively labelling students and classes, surely this only exacerbates their behaviour. Anyway, it was the 6th and last time I was doing the lesson that after much reflecting and tweaking still hadn’t been a great success. So imagine my delight when this class, albeit in a noisy way, happily and enthusiastically completed all the activities and played the game properly- the first class to do so! Finally, a breakthrough! I told the class how proud I was of them and that they had been the best class in the last week (something I’m sure they don’t hear very often) they all cheered and looked pretty pleased with themselves and left saying ‘thank you teacher’ and ‘I love you’!
I returned to my desk and happily told my co-teacher the good news; she was relieved as I think she thought I was about to walk out last week! That’s when she told me she had spoken to some grade 2 classes and told them I was ‘sad and depressed’ I suppose she couldn’t say frustrated and pissed off! They were shocked and worried, then it made sense as why so many otherwise nonchalant grade 2s had been saying hi and smiling at me lately, clearly worried!
Maybe the breakthrough came about as a result of my persistent efforts or maybe because of my co-teacher appealing to students’ more sensitive side. I suspect it’s both. This particular journey has taught me a lot, above all to never stop caring or showing your students that you care.