So…my co-op screams at the kids. They’re afraid of her. That’s how she controls the class. That’s what she is encouraging me to do: be mean and intimidating, because they won’t respond to anything else. And they don’t respond to my management techniques. I’ve tried to be nice. I need to be a…
So I wrote an answer then realised I can’t explain myself in 140 characters. When I was training, the emphasis was on balance. Balance between being positive, neutral and negative.
To start with, when calling “full attention”, make it clear that this is what’s happening. I teach teenage boys so I use “your attention thank you” or “voices off, eyes this way” or “pens down, eyes this way” or “looking and listening thank you” (on a side note, never say please, it gives them an option not to do it, say thank you because you expect them to do it). If the room is really noisy, I clap once too add extra emphasis. If you’re teaching younger kids you can do clapping rhythms or songs.
Hopefully at least one person has noticed and are looking at me, so I say “thank you ….”. Start by praising those who are doing the right thing. I tend to limit this to five people. You can praise with body language as well (thumbs up etc). Make this a quick process.
Then move to neutral techniques such as calmly saying “Johnny, you’re still talking” or “listening thank you Tom” (use names!). If the class is nearly quiet, WAIT. Just wait in silence (maybe with your finger on your lips depending on the age) count to 20. For the final few to do the right thing. If the class is quiet enough when you start waiting, you shouldn’t need to do any more than this.
If it is taking longer than 2 minutes to get full attention, start using some negative techniques but continue using positive. Use an edgy tone “Thomas you are STILL talking” then switch to positive “thank you Lucy and Sarah for sitting quietly”. Have a consequence for continued talking e.g. a timeout zone.
It takes practice, lots of practice. Remember to start clearly, begin positive and smile! Be firm, expect silence, wait for silence and do not allow anything else. Stick to your guns.
When they start working, tell them what noise level you expect (if they are a “problem” class, do not expect silence until you’ve worked with them for a while). Use terms like “quiet” or “partner voices”. As soon as one person is not doing this, point it out, don’t let the class get out of hand. If it does, stop the lot of them, restate your expectations and start again.
Be aware that noisiness when work is expected is generally from one of three things:
a) the work is too easy and they’ve finished
b) the work is too hard/the instructions aren’t clear
c) you haven’t hooked them in yet and they don’t see the point of the task/learning
Make sure you’ve covered these bases.
You can and should teach without screaming, it’s not healthy for the students and it’s not healthy for you. I have never met a class which only responds to being screamed at.
I know it’s hard: on my first placement, one of my supervising teacher’s management style was to shout, remind them that he was a dean and, on two occasions, threaten individual students. He told me I should only work at “high decile” (students with wealthy families” or private schools because, being a young female, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the behaviour of anyone else. Since then I’ve worked at a decile 2 (1 is lowest), at a decile 8 (10 is highest) with students of low motivation and now at a decile 5 boys school. It has absolutely nothing to do with students background or behaviour; develop relationships, use the techniques and be interesting.