Okay, so I have a small study class for kids (actually two, one for anuban age and one for young Pratom age). It was always a bit raucus, but now it is terrible. The number of hard working kids has dropped, and those that have stayed are becoming as badly behaved as the naughty students, who now seem to dominate. Most classes are a real pain to get through and leave me with a big headache.
I don't speak Thai. I do have a Thai assistant, who I intended to run interference for me. Unfortunately, she seems very reluctant to enforce any discipline, or even raise her voice, and often gets a deer in the headlights look.
I am worried about a) the potential for physical damage (some of the kids hit each other, a situation I try to defuse asap) and b) the potential damage to my reputation.
Now, there are obviously many discipline and behaviour modification strategies around. I use these in my full time job. However, these kids (or their parents) are paying customers, and I have much less leeway with making them kids lose face, cry etc as I would in my school.
Being too strict would reduce customers, and not being strict enough will reduce customers as well! Does anyone have any practical suggestions?
Please note, while I'm sure the material I prepare can be tightened up, it's not that bad, and doesn't seem to be the cause of the bad behaviour (although I am willing to be corrected).
Last edited by LaGuardia; 6th May 2012 at 20:55.
Getting control back is always difficult, it is much easier to keep control in the first place. Seems like the kids think you are a bit of a walkover and you must get some boundaries in place or the situation will not be salvageable.
I would talk to the parents of the worst behaving kids and then go over some classroom rules with the kids (with a translation if required to get them to understand). The best way is to remove the more troublesome kids (the ringleaders) or target them one by one. Standing in a corner etc or whatever appropriate punishment while at the same time with the other kids make sure they are engaged with something they perceive to be fun or interesting. Kids hitting each other needs to be stopped ASAP and I would start with those kids and separating them out.
You can also look at putting the kids in designated seating plans to keep the worst offenders apart or splitting the class in to 2 (one part for you and the other for the TA to try and keep difficult elements apart). I don't know how many you have in each class or what your class environment is but you can get control back if you try.
Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
Good common sense suggestions. I think we are too soft on them- we tried so hard to be popular and they took advantage of that...
I think parental input is a good idea, though I do worry about how to make it fly without loss of face- it can be difficult to say that their kid is annoying or lazy, which is actually what it boils down to! But this seems like what we should do (in a nice way).
You have to be strong with misbehaving kids and keep tasks short fun and engaging. You really have to consider whether this private gig is for you if you're struggling to control the kids. For me its either approach the parents or find another private gig. Forget about feelings, face or reputation. Are these students you have found or through a learning centre. Young kids particularly anuban are tough particularly if you have no Thai.
I've found even use of carrot and stick methods work.
You stick is obviously setting out your rules and sticking to them, and having appropriate disciplinary actions but as you said, trying to regain control is always tough. Make a big poster with your simple rules and pictures to help them understand - visual reminders are so useful at a young age. 5 that have worked for me:
1. Eyes are looking
2. Ears are listening
3. Voices are quiet
4. Bums are sitting
5. Mouths are smiling
Make it into a song with gestures - you say the line, they sing it back. Run through a few times, get quicker and quicker. 'Whisper' number 3. Finish each round with 'everybody's happy!' or something else wonderfully cheesy.
The other obvious one is make a "Superstars" and "Monkeys" chart for good/bad behaviour - get 5 stars you make them a little certificate saying they're a Bronze Star, 10 stars, Silver Star, 15 Stars Gold Star - 25 stars - SUPERSTAR! or something similar. Take a photo of you giving them a certificate and make a big deal out of it, kids AND parents will appreciate that. You could even give them a time frame and award a little prize for whoever has the most stars by week 10 or whatever. At the same time have naughty chart that at 3 unhappy smilies means they sit alone, 5 they stand up, 7 they stand outside, 10 you see their parents or whatever you've decided upon.
Maybe dedicate a lesson to classroom commands. A simple 'Simon says' game can do the trick. 'Teacher says stand up/sit down/open your books/go to page 4/find a pencil/write your name/hands on your head' etc etc. Include things like 'teacher says listen/be quiet' and appropriate hand gestures that can then be used in your class. I.E. use the 'shhh' gesture and the last one to do it has to do 5 jumping jacks/recite the alphabet/answer the next question or whatever you've decided. Make sure you do the gestures too. You can also suddenly start the game if you feel like you need to get attention back on you - a quick stand up sit down stand up sit down stand up sit down stand up turn around - will hopefully distract them from whatever antics are going on and you can go back to what you had planned.
If your TA doesn't help you, it might be worth spending a bit of time learning some Thai so that you can, when necessary, use it. If you don't use Thai in the classroom already, a few simple commands out of the blue might be enough of a shock tactic to shut them up and even get a few laughs too.
Keep it fun and change the activity every 15-20 minutes where possible as attention spans are short. Parents will be happy if kids are happy, kids will be happy if they're kept busy doing games/songs/light hearted activities. You said you have well prepared materials, make sure you're delivering them in the right way. All teachers can have great materials but poor delivery, or perhaps a better way to word it is inappropriate delivery, can make a big difference.
If you have a Thai TA, I assume this is for a language school. That would also make me assume that you're being paid per hour rather than per student. If this is the case then you do not have too much to lose from students dropping out, but the agency does. Talk directly to the manager about these problems, and find out what the school's policy is for discipline, if any. If there isn't, perhaps you could run through a few of the behaviour modification tactics you use at your full time job, and see if these are in line with the agency. If they aren't, ask for recommendations.
If you're concerned about enforcing discipline because you don't want to weaken your reputation - look at it this way - by your own admission, most of the hard working students have already left. There has already, unfortunately, been some damage done. In order to strengthen opinion of your teaching ability, you have to keep those active students that do exist or you will end up babysitting the troublemakers who couldn't care less about how much they learn. So, you need to get tough. You might make one of the troublemakers cry, but that might shut the rest of them up and the hard working kids might stay in your class because they can actually work. One parent may pull a bad student because of it, and yeah, it's not great, but all the parents pull their hard-working students? That's worse. It says a lot more about you as a teacher.
From your post it doesn't sound like this is your own private class, but if it is and not an agency run class, have you considered breaking it into smaller classes? And if that is the case...finding a better TA??
Can sympathise with your situation, it does sound like a nightmare! I agree with the other posts, some kind of reward system (rather than a punishment-based one) would be good. Maybe start with offering sweets for good behaviour.
At my school I got my TA to write out a note in Thai that basically said 'your son/daughter/failed medical experiment has been a pain in the arse all lesson and you've been wasting your money sending them here.'
I told my students I'd be sending it home to the parents of any bad kids and pretty soon they were listening intently.
1. Are you their regular class teacher? 2. If they go to a non-inter or non-bi-lingual they will be SICK of paper.
Try kinaesthetic or visual approaches. Got a lap top? Net? BBC KS1 and KS2 have been gold for me. Bookworm 2 interactive spelling game has been gold too. All good carrots on the stick. The time for consequences has passed I'm afraid. Square away a brief (15 min) worksheet so mum will think it's 'real' education then have constructive fun with them. Sanook is a real and endearing Thai cultural trait. Good luck!
"Ka warea te ware. Ka area te Rangatira."