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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

July 15, 2003

Discipline

Kids To what degree should a teacher be strict? As I have stated in previous articles, the teacher should have an evenly distributed balance of firmness, friendliness, fairness and focus. But how firm (strict) is firm? How friendly is friendly? Each teacher brings his/her own unique personality and set of values to the English classroom, and I do believe the teacher should be true to these values. Yet children are eager to know what their limits are. Therefore, the concept of discipline and its standards needs to be clearly established early and should be consistent in all classes. Students find comfort in knowing what the teacher's expectations are, and they also feel gratification when they can meet those expectations.

Here are some suggestions for teachers concerning how to nip discipline problems in the bud; in another words, how to prevent their ever occurring:

1. The teacher needs to show respect for the students, and the students need to show respect for the teacher, their classmates, the subject matter and themselves. No real learning can go on without mutual respect.

2. The teacher should learn the students' names right away. Students are more responsive to teachers who have gone to the trouble to learn their name.

3. If it is the teacher's policy that Japanese should not be spoken during class, then this should be made clear from day one. The teacher can say, "No Japanese," and point his/her finger in front of his/her mouth and frown while saying it. Also, a further amplification of this is to give signals with facial expressions and body language to let students know that speaking Japanese is not the way to succeed in English class or win the teacher's approval. (I make it a rule not to respond to students when they speak to me in Japanese unless it is an emergency.) Teachers should respond positively to students who speak English to them or to each other. In other words, the way to further earn the teacher's respect is to socially interact with peers and the teacher in English.

4. Students need to bring materials to class. The teacher can give the following examples to illustrate the point: when they use the pool during PE, they need a swimming suit; when they play a song during music class, they need their recorder, and, likewise, when they come to English class they need their materials to do all the activities. Teachers can show their approval when the students come prepared and their disapproval when they do not.

5. Homework should be done. If it is not, then the teacher should ask the student how the problem can be solved. The student could have three choices. For example, the first one could be to come to school early and do the homework before class. The second choice could be to stay after class and do the homework before going home. The third one could be for the teacher to call the mom to ask her to support the child at home. In all my years of teaching, the children have always decided to come in early or stay late. No one has ever wanted the mother called. I think this works because the child senses the teacher respects the child's position and believes the student can handle this challenge on his/her own.

6. Poor behavior is energy moving in the wrong direction. Children who are potential behavioral problems can be turned into teacher's assistants. For example, they could pass out notebooks, workbooks, take attendance, bring messages to the office, turn off the CD player, erase the blackboard, help newcomers in the class. This way they can channel their energy in a positive direction, earn the teacher's approval and respect and have a positive influence on the other students.

7. Students should play games in English, not Japanese. When a student speaks Japanese, that student should lose his/her turn. This usually sets the tone for the rest of the students who will gladly play the game in English because they don't want to lose their turn. In addition, the children should treat games with respect and put the contents back in the boxes at the end of class. Then one of the students can hand the game to the teacher and say, "Here you are," to which the teacher would reply, "Thank you."

8. The teacher should make a habit of acknowledging and thanking students when they hand in their homework or notebooks. A caring teacher always tries to affirm their good deeds, such as erasing the blackboard or handing out materials with a polite "Thank you" and a smile.

9. Be an interesting teacher. Speak simple English. Water down and shorten what you say for children without condescending to them. Gesture. Repeat. Demonstrate. Show them how. Show them your approval. Show them your respect.

10. Remember when you were their age and you could only speak one language. Look at how wonderful they are. They can read, write and speak a language that is VERY different from their mother tongue. Let them sense that you are in awe of their efforts.

11. Make every student feel that YOU think HE or SHE is special.

If you can promote all of the above, you should have few discipline problems with your students. And what is more important, you should be able to REALLY enjoy your classes.



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