How to show your students who is boss!

I spent the first three years of teaching trying to be my students’ 'friend' rather than their teacher. Sure I was teaching them English, but my classes were absolute chaos and the kids and teenagers had me wrapped round their grubby fingers. When I started teaching younger learners and teenagers, and preparing them for exams, I started taking the job a tad more seriously. 

Over the years I’ve found my own way of dealing with a troublesome class and making sure they know I’m the boss. That doesn’t mean that they hate me, well, at least most of them, but it does mean that I dictate what goes on in the classroom, at least with respect to behaviour and participation. Here are a few tips on showing your students that you are the head chief.

That's enough to scare any student!
Photo by Bas Tadema
I don’t shout at my students any more, he says. I find that a silent stare at the naughty kids works wonders. They might be chatting in Spanish, messing about with a pen, or even sneaking a look at wassup on their mobile. My stares are generally enough to scare any kid, or at least make them get back to what they were supposed to be doing.

Over the years I used to go off on one and shout or throw books on the floor, but I always got worked up, and the books got tatty. Stares and silence is much more powerful, I think mainly because the students think you’re about to blow. I’d like to be a fly on the wall and watch myself one day.

Send them out
Run this by your director, but sending out a naughty student, or even ones that aren’t listening to you, is a great way to show them who is in charge. I only got sent out a couple of times as a kid, but it scared the crap out of me, especially thinking the Head was prowling about like a vicious leopard. This term I’ve only sent out one student so far, but other years I've send out one or two students in the first two weeks of term.

Why send them out?  It shows they have over stepped the mark. They get embarrassed in front of the others. They worry that the director will find out, and their parents. It shows them it’s your class and what you say goes.

How long for? Not long. Mainly because they miss whatever is going on in class. One or two minutes is fine. I normally go out and have a 'chat' before they come in. Just to make sure they realize why I sent them out.

Red and yellow card
I’ve mentioned this in other blogs, but it’s worth stating again. I have a red and yellow system with my students. In the first class I say I will give them red and yellow cards for things like not doing homework, speaking too much Spanish, or bad behaviour. 3 red cards in a term means a telephone call to their parents. I’m not sure why, but they really hate getting a red card; they look so guilty when you hold it up in front of the class (get a whistle and a black t-shirt for added effect). Two yellows in the same week results in a red. Make sure you keep a note and, even more important, make sure they know you are keeping a note. By the way, I’ve never had to call a parent.

Sometimes I just give students a lecture on their behaviour, or that they are speaking Spanish, and remind them how much their parents are paying each month. This works really well at the moment because of the crisis in Spain. Kids are kids after all, and sometimes they just need to be reminded the effort their parents put in to pay for their kids to have a better education and life.

Why are you here?
I’ve only had to do this three times in my eight years in Seville. It’s a last resort when the class are playing up, not doing work, speaking a lot of Spanish, or just being a pain in the ass. After I have stared at the class and got them quiet, I simply write on the board ‘Why am I here? Presentation to me, and maybe the director, next class, 100 words.’

It works splendidly, darling. They know they have gone to far and have ground you down into a tiny rubble of pebbles. The best bit is listening to their presentations, which are normally pretty good. Then you realize that they do care about their education and appreciate your effort. Try to keep a straight face when they are shaking at the front. Oh I do sounds like a meany!

Be fair
If it’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the years is that kids and teenagers have good memories. If you promise something, like a song or game, then make sure you do it. If you don’t then you run the risk of losing respect from your class and then they will play up even more.

You decide when there’s a game
Games are a great way to motivate students and improve their memory. I’m all for games which have a focus on the lesson, or at least the course. I don’t normally do games until the 2nd month in a course, and that’s sometimes because they keep asking me for a game. Once they realise that if they ask me for a game they won’t get one, they stop asking and then I do a game. I never use the word ‘game’ either, they are all activities.

Photo by wishvam
Be persistent
Teaching is a hard job. You’re at the front of a group of people all day and have a lot of responsibility. Sometimes you might have days when you just can’t be arsed to keep on top of behaviour and Spanish in class. Well, that’s just tough cookie. I think it’s key that you keep strict with your students, even on a Monday when you’ve only had 8 hours sleep over the weekend. The day that you let up, they’ll walk all over you.

So yeah, I probably sound like a right boring and strict teacher, but my students know my classes are fun and challenging and they learnt a lot. At least they realise that by the end of the course. It’s all about gaining their respect in the first couple of months. One year it took me three months to get a group of teenage girls in order, that was a hard one, lots of sleepless night, but you’ve just got to stick at it. Good luck.

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