A Note on Teaching

So I guess I’m going back to trying to post daily again. Anyway, I wanted to talk about teaching a little bit. Specifically, teaching in a middle or high school full-time. If I were going to give a piece of advice to a new teacher going into this kind of role, it would be this: once you lose your class, it’s almost impossible to get them back.

I’ve been working in a Mexican middle school for around seven months now. Although I’ve taught this age group before, I’ve never done so full-time. Unfortunately, in my first weeks here, I made some mistakes that are still affecting me today.

The thing is, I was placed with a class who are well-known for their behaviour problems. Having only taught teenagers in a summer school environment, I was not prepared to deal with this new challenge. I dived in with the stick, when I should have been developing a carrot-based relationship with them. As such, I am now not such a popular teacher in that class, though I am elsewhere. I failed to develop that relationship in my first weeks here, and that has caused innumerable problems in every class I have with them.

The main problem I’m facing is one of disrespect. Whereas in other classes one can simply walk in and wait, and ultimately the class will quieten enough that the teaching can begin, it’s not so simple with my class. For some reason, they have become accustomed to disrespecting me and receiving little or no punishment. Honestly, it’s exhausting and it means that I feel there is no point in planning complicated, interesting classes only to be largely ignored.

I can hand out zero-grades and extra homework, of course, and I do do that when it is appropriate. The class is exhausting, though, and I find myself dreading the time I spend with them. I would much prefer to go into the other classes I have had a chance to work with in the last couple of weeks. I really feel that I have grown as a teacher, but I am being held back by my original class’ poor behaviour and the mistakes I’ve made in response to that.

I suppose this is advice ton future-me who has a new class somewhere else. If it also helps any other new teachers who are starting out in this career, let me state it again:

The best thing you can do for a class is build a relationship with them.

I don’t care if you hate them, if they make your life difficult or they hold opinions you find personally offensive. You can’t let them see that. As soon as they see that they are not the delight of your day, career and life you will begin to lose them. They need to feel that you love them and want to help. Any less than that, and you’re doomed to crowd control for the rest of the year.

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7 thoughts on “A Note on Teaching

  1. Sometimes it’s luck, at least i think so, sometimes you get along great with student and other times it’s horrible, you just have to trudge through it, good luck!

  2. You’re absolutely correct in this! Building connections with them is so important– it leads students who would normally not care in the class to participate because they want to do it for you.

  3. Pingback: Discipline and the Classroom Relationship (with a side-salad of self-loathing) | Kosmopolite

  4. Pingback: Facing a Teaching Fear | Kosmopolite

  5. Hey,
    You know, I’m an English teacher in France… well… the point is not that they don’t feel my ‘love’… the point is that they don’t give a shit about working !
    This is really annoying…. People say ‘oh, English is really badly taught in France’… but the kids… they don’t care, they’re not learning….
    How do you want us to make them improve themself… ?
    We’re not super heroes, are we?

    Anyway, good luck about your class… if you find a way to keep them interested without them having to work.. let me know ! 😉

    • Hi, thanks! Funnily enough, you catch me just as I’m returning to teaching in a secondary school after a couple of years of teaching adults. I think the thing is to make them do the work, make it as fun as possible and hope that something sticks between now and when they realise it´s important.

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