Thursday, January 4, 2007

Is this YOUR class or OUR class?

When facing a class of 20 students, some tasks can be difficult. For example, you cannot correct each student's essay thoroughly during a lesson because you cannnot keep 19 students waiting with questions while attempting to review one student's paper. There are various ways of dealing with this dilemna. For example, the teacher can review the essays when students are working on a reading or listening assignment, or simply do all the proofreading after class. The latter is often not a teacher's favourite choice, especially if he/she is not paid for that time by his/her employer (...visions of my Dad's face having to correct papers after work when all he wanted to do was have a snack and get to the piano).

There is another problem that can occur when teaching a large class. Sometimes there is a well meaning student who thinks that his/her questions are appropriate to ask at any time of the lesson. This goes for questions that are off topic. This goes for questions that are personal, i.e. to clarify things misunderstood by them alone. When students do this, it is actually rather selfish. Depending upon the professionalism of the teacher, such students can end up usurping his/her classmates' time in a way that can reach various levels of ANNOYANCE.

Of course we cannot resort to the method used in the picture here.

So I pose the following question:

Have you got any good one-liners to use with students who have a tendency to use class time as some sort of private tuition time?

Looking forward to your comments!

p.s. such students will not hesitate to take up the teacher's break/lunch time as well so it is important to really nip this behaviour in the bud.

p.s.s. Farsi proverbs would be especially appreciated.


Monica said...

Perhaps this is more of a problem in a non-profit organization than in a commercial language school. In the latter, a teacher cannot use embarrassment as a means to stop the behavior of an aggressive student with a snide remark lest we lose a well-paying client. Usually the course taken is to bring the problem to the manager's attention. Promptly the manager privately informs the student that the teacher can only spare a minute to answer specific questions as the group has the goal of completing the syllabus within a short time. Seizing a business chance, the manager recommends a few private lessons, which a four times the price of group lessons, to ask any question desired.

Mark said...

Hi Terri,

good question. Personally, I have just had to learn to be really assertive. Overall, though I handle it this way.
1. Humour the student, let them ask
2. Listen patiently
3. Let them finish
4. Look them directly in the eye and say "OK, I know the answer to that but I don't understand how that relates to what we are doing right now. Do you have a question about the lesson? No? Okay, then maybe you can talk to me after class."
5. Unless the student has a problem directly related to the lesson, they have from the time I say "see you next time" at the end of class until I get to the staff room door to ask a question and get answer. That is as much time as I have to spare. On top of that, I tell them explicitly "Sorry but I have no extra time, I need to eat something before my next class." On the odd occasion someone tries to bribe me with gifts, I smile ,say thank you, put the gift in my basket and just head for the door. Gift-giving is sometimes a way students try and buy more time. Japanese students are famous for this.

Unless the student needs help with the class, it's a no go. I had a student once who waited til the end of class and asked me in a nice loud voice what the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses were. Needless to say we had not even touched on those for the term. I told her "We don't have enough time to talk about that before the end of class. It's 9:30 pm and I haven't eaten yet".

Be brutal, but be fair -- to yourself as much as anyone else.

p.s. the 'I have to eat' excuse is always a good one.

KadidiaTerri said...

i used the i have to eat one yesterday big time and thought nothing of it (that's when the students learned the informal meaning of the word "starving")

thanks for your tips Monica and Mark :-)

still eager for a good Farsi proverb ...

ummahzy said...