Monday, September 5, 2011

Enough Talking, Already!

The school director is fed up.  Enough is enough.  He spends class periods just walking up and down the halls, listening for excessive noise coming from classrooms.  In the last week, I have had no less than 8 interruptions during my class time by the school director, the principal, or the high school office assistant.  Most often they have an excuse—dropping something off for a student or giving me a message—but several times it has been simply to poke their head in the door and tell my students to quiet down, or stop speaking in Spanish, or to get off the desks.  (Some explanation for that last one—we were playing a game of Jeopardy, and I told the students to move their desks closer together so they could converse in their teams.  Rather than doing that, however, some students chose to sit on the floor in the aisles, or on to alternate between sitting on top of the desks and standing near their teammates.  Everyone was pretty focused, so I let it go.)  I’m told I’m not the only one experiencing these unexpected visits by administration, that some of the other new teachers are having issues too, but it definitely puts me on edge knowing someone could be listening in on my classroom or waiting in the hallway at any moment. 

I knew before coming here that talking in class would be an issue.  The American teachers who were here before me told me.  Every single one of them.  And they did not lie.  A month into the school year, my students are still not pros at coming into my room, sitting down, and silently beginning their journals at the beginning of class.  If a student comes up to ask me a question before class starts, the rest of the students take my distraction as the perfect opportunity to escalate the noise level.  I can get them quiet again—but it means telling the student in front of me, “One moment, please,” and then raising my voice over the din to let the students know I’m still in the room, and the rules are still in effect, and there is a PROBLEM when I can’t hear the student standing two feet from me in front of my desk.  This should not be necessary in Week 4. 

But it is.  As a new teacher, I welcome ideas to keep them quiet for longer periods of time.  For now, I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t believe in yelling, and that if I become negative, things will only spiral downhill from there.  So every class period, I put on music that my students enjoy, I smile as I make my rounds policing the room and reminding them they don’t need to talk as they write, and I reward them when they manage to quietly focus on the task at hand for five or ten minutes.  

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