There remain few subjects in the field of education able to produce the emotive responses contained in the title, ‘class management.' Class management, unlike the content knowledge of education or its delivery, is an abstract.
Ever since the demise of rote, corporal punishment and the introduction of progressive education, in which each learns at their own pace in supposed nurturing surroundings; class management has assumed the alpha and omega; the search for the Holy Grail without which knowledge cannot exist.
Although not wanting a return to the days of forced education by violence as it's commonly referred to, the desire for a western progressive system of education in Thailand unsurprisingly produces similar effects to the declining standards of behaviour in the west, from which arises the hitherto unknown problem of management. Providing a major reason for both the poor attainment of foreign language levels in Thailand compared to the rest of Asia and helping to produce a replica western generation.
Understanding the system
The phrases, ‘creating learning cultures' and ‘effective teaching' assume total student commitment to learning and aim at perfecting a system of behaviour in which this occurs. Yet conversely, if all wanted to learn there wouldn't be a need for class management.
Only a few decades ago, a common knowledge consensus about streaming agreed that certain students naturally adapt to academia, yet others to the arts or trades which require different skill sets. Moreover, the students who fail in one discipline often excel in another, yet with the onset of equality all now succeed in everything, with added expertise at the click of a mouse.
As the TEFL community eagerly await the practical answer to Thai class management, the continuing silence of progressive educational experts becomes self-explanatory. Class management, although employing techniques, isn't so much a process as a mind-set requiring a separate skill set from that of delivery, a point often missed in progressive education orthodoxy. Nevertheless, let's briefly state three practical examples.
Ban mobile phones
Let's begin with a truism; the best educator in the world is unable to compete against Facebook and Twitter. Don't even think about it and therefore start by removing the cause to eliminate the competition, which remains standard practice elsewhere.
Banning mobile phones in the classroom initially produces effects similar to being taken off life support, yet generates immediate positive results. The usual suggested ground rules of clapping your hands for silence and expecting positive results based on the belief that 16 year old testosterone fuelled teens hooked on Facebook will suddenly behave as responsible mature adults is about as naively optimistic as it gets.
Similarly, asking the school to intervene in discipline issues is a wasted endeavour as they haven't a clue either and it's why they hired a foreigner, in the forlorn hope that if all else fails you'll substitute the missing entertainment link.
Target your audience
Begin by understanding your audience. There's a reason the teenage group remains attracted to quickly changing images and consequently, why the average attention span equals that of a goldfish.
Learn to spot the glazed expression, fidgeting, the rising noise levels and act on it. Introduce participation requiring a collectivized response to save face; boys v girls for instance, a like for a correct answer and an unfriend for wrong. Who voluntarily wants to be unfriended?!
Additionally, hangman or guessing games such as ‘I spy' provide ideal starters. Don't introduce activities because they're fashionable; use them as a double edge sword to achieve class management, as well as learning.
Stand and deliver
Organize your lessons around age related topics. Learn to disguise English grammar using food, travel, mobile phones or music. With a little ingenuity, it's amazing the amount of grammar and conversation squeezed out of a simple phrase such as, ‘I love French fries.'
One of my original favourites included silence. When the noise levels initially began to rise I'd stop, sit down and pick up a book. As the speaking ended, rows of faces suddenly become attentive wondering why and it's then that I'd quietly explained that the lesson comes first and every noise interruption decreases the topic related ten minute Mr. Bean video at the end by one minute.
Invariably, as the best punch lines occur at the end, the groan as the class came to an end half-way through the video wasn't usually repeated the following week, proving that memory retention remains alive and kicking.
Yes, it's hard work. Faking it by going through the motions becomes obvious both to the school and students and arguably the reason behind the high staff turnover in a majority of schools.
Previously, education revolved around teaching; in today's world it's about reducing your own stress levels to prevent a burn out resembling a nervous breakdown!
Did that book you read last week fail to provide the answers to class management? Never mind, the next one containing similar promises will be out shortly.
Read the full article: Thai Education and TEFL Class Management.