What should we do when adult students “misbehave” in class? I have all sorts of examples. However, I’m going to comment on a few of them and see if we can share ideas. This is the first in a series of three blogs I’m planning to write about.
Some years ago I was teaching an in-company class. The group consisted of three men and two women. To everybody’s surprise all three women were pregnant at the same time- A, B and me. Our classes used to run from 11:30 am to 1 pm. The men in the class liked the timetable because they took a break from work to come to class and then they set out for the company’s restaurant to have lunch – a nice combination to provide their daily routines with a break
Ladies A, B and I used to talk about what we were going through before the guys arrived at the class. We talked about possible names for our babies, medical tests, the weight we had gained, our feelings and so on and so forth. Those first minutes in the class were really therapeutic.
However, once the class started lady B began to fidget in her seat. I couldn’t help noticing that and I asked her if she needed help. Her response was always the same: "no, thank you". As soon as I delivered instructions for the class, she started moaning. She was unwilling to do “creative stuff” in her own words. She seemed to be interested in drilling and repetitive activities.
B enjoyed picking on her classmates- men and A alike- if they showed interest in the tasks proposed in class. She said she was tired/hungry/bored/snowed under and she couldn’t believe the other participants were willing to work. She started to tease them. She asked them questions out of the blue until she had everyone’s attention.
I pretended I didn’t mind her comments and acted as a moderator when she happened to hurt somebody in the class (for example when she told A her future baby’s name was boring because it had been used too many times before). I also tried to show sympathy for what she was going on personally. I was worried about that particular class and gave it a lot of thought until I decided to give B a different set of activities to do while the rest worked on their tasks.
One day B came to class in a total bad mood. She kept turning back and having a look at the time on the wall clock. I was tired of trying in vain to make her feel good. I looked at her and suddenly said …
Me “B, why are you checking the time every two minutes?”
B “I’m extremely bored, I don’t care about your activities”
Me “Listen, I know you’re tired, you have a child at home who’s waiting for you, you have lots of things at work going on, are you sure you want to continue coming?”
B “Are you kicking me out?”
Me “I’m just asking you to do what you want to do. Nobody forces you to come.”
B “I’m hungry, that’s all”
Me “Ok, if that’s all, why don’t you try eating something before class and then we all work together and in peace.”
She gave me a cold look. That afternoon, B e-mailed me saying that she was going to continue coming because she loved English and enjoyed the classes and that I had no right to force her to leave. I just replied back saying I was happy to hear she had made up her mind. The following day, she was the first to arrive. She worked cooperatively until the very last day of classes. In the end, our meetings started to run smoothly.
I’m now attending an NLP course which is giving me lots of insights into rapport and class management. When I look back at that experience, I can’t stop asking myself if I was right or if I was too tough.
What do you think? Cheers!
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