Going to an all-girls private Catholic didn’t do much to prepare me to work at a public high school in the so-called Bronx of Madrid (see most recent post).
A few weeks ago I was talking to another teaching assistant who also works at a high school in Madrid. She was telling me about one of her younger classes in which she had everyone in the class tell a story about a time they told a lie.
While listening to her story I smiled and nodded and acted like this kind of behavior in the classroom was completely normal. But what I was thinking was: YOUR STUDENTS ARE WILLING TO TELL STORIES ABOUT WHEN THEY TOLD A LIE? USING COMPLETE ENGLISH SENTENCES? WHILE SITTING QUIETLY IN THEIR DESKS AND WAITING FOR THEIR TURN? I’m happy if my students speak to me in English. About anything. English profanity is acceptable in my classroom.
The thing is, I’ve had conversations like this with other assistants. No one else seems to have discipline problems. My theories for these discrepancies between my teaching experience and others’ experiences are: 1. Móstoles really is the Bronx. 2. We all go around pretending like we know what we’re doing. But really nobody knows. 2. I DO NOT know how to discipline my students and need to start figuring it out ASAP.
I attempted discipline at the beginning of the year, but what happened was we would end up sitting either in silence or completely chaos for the entire class without accomplishing anything. So I adopted the ignore the troublesome ones and they’ll stop attitude. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly working.
The past week was the beginning of a crackdown (If you know me, you know that my crackdown in the classroom is probably about the equivalent of the crackdown of a goldfish.) Really though, the breaking point was when some students started damaging the school computers and throwing pencil bags in class. At the time I was like, I guess I should do something about this. Now as I’m writing it, I’m like, vandalism and throwing things in class?! I had forgotten that that wasn’t normal. Or at least, I don’t think it’s normal… That’s where the all girls private school thing doesn’t really help. Are throwing things in class, profanity, and putting other students in headlocks normal in coed high schools? Or in public high schools? Or in Spanish high schools? Or even in any other classes at my school?
So, as much as I don’t like discipline or disciplining, it’s a part of my job and I’m bringing it back. Starting with the basics. First, I moved the kids out of the computer lab. (Too many breakable objects.) Next, I made sure that they stayed in their seats during class. No touching other students. More specifically no putting other students in headlocks. The funny thing about students putting each other in headlocks during class, is not that it happens, but that when it happens, it takes me a second to be like, oh, I should probably tell them not to do that. Such is the life of a teacher.
Note: This post refers mostly to my younger students. I have some students and some classes that are very well-behaved. And in general, my students are awesome. When they do break rules, I never get the feeling that it’s out of spite. It’s just cause they’re kids. Sometimes I have to put up with a lot, but I appreciate the fact that they put up with me too.