Monday, August 9, 2010

calling a time-out

I stopped class with 1-G today. The speaking exercise was getting sort of disordered, which is normal for them, but a couple other things happened.

A major part of my classroom management is a corner of the board that has three boxes, with one, two, and three frownie-faces in them. That last one also says "Inspector," the last step on Ye Olde Ladder of Consequences. The inspectoria is the school's disciplinary arm, and because this is a select school, the inspectores have a certain amount of power that they don't necessarily have elsewhere--too much disciplinary trouble and they'll be kicked out of a school they tried reasonably hard to get into. Kids usually take the board reasonably seriously, especially if they're one step away from getting booted instead of two.

As happens occasionally, one girl went and erased her name off the board. It's one of those signs of the lack of hierarchy and authority in schools. I'm not sure what they're hoping will happen, but I just kick them up to the next box.

Then I noticed that another girl, instead of holding one index card, was holding a stack: she'd taken the cards for the next exercise off my table. She also didn't give them back immediately, like a really obnoxious child (which, for this particular moment, she was).

Clearly we all needed to have a chat. I had everyone sit down, and I thought for a minute, and then sat on my table. This is unusual, and gets everyone's attention.
"Okay. I don't know exactly how it is here in Chile, but in North America, taking someone's stuff is disrespectful. Here, too?"
Nods and murmurs.
"Good. Now, do you guys know why I have that box in the corner of the board? Why I don't just send you to the Inspector immediately?"
"To write down who's bad?"
"Hmm. Not exactly."
Bruno speaks. Bruno, who's usually a step away from the Inspector, every class. Last week he came up to me after class, looked me in the eyes, and shook my hand, and he's done it since, every time I see him in the hall.
"To give us an opportunity."
"That's right. To give you a chance. Now, all these activities we do are ways for you guys to practice and use English. The way English is taught here--"
"It's really bad."
"Right. You don't learn a lot of English in your classes here?" Nods and murmurs. "That's why I'm here. To help you guys practice so you can learn. A lot of you say 'I can't, I can't,' but I know you can, because I gave you a test and I talked to each one of you, and I'm really proud of all of you and everything you worked hard to learn. Think you can keep going with class?"
Nods and murmurs.
And off we went.

I like my kids.

Also, I appear to have the patience of a saint.


  1. I'm torn between a wry comment pointed at you and one pointed at me. lol. So here they both are:

    But apparently not the modestly.


    Of course! How else could you date me?

  2. That and, moments like these reward your patience and breathing through your difficulty. Kudos, teacher Chris--you're awesome. They are clearly learning more English than in their usual classes, and also learning other (possibly more important) things. Nice work.

  3. Aw, thanks.

    I updated the dialogue--I forgot I told them I was proud of them. I think that helped.