Talking to the walls

on Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Discipline is paramount in teaching children. No matter what you say or do, if there is no emphases in discipline, your class is MOST probably going to be out of control. So far, I've witnessed a couple of scenarios:

Scenario 1
The teacher is talking in front of the class. The teacher is standing with a firm look on his face, with an authoritative voice, chest up and broad shoulders very angular, book in hand, reciting something related to the subject matter. The students listen attentively, almost unnaturally, giving him the best physical portrayal of attention and obedience. The class is quiet, orderly, and more noticeably to me, the classroom feels empty.

Scenario 2
The classroom is rigorously copying the notes given by the teacher with vigorous speed. The class teacher is also going at 140kmph with his pointy, writing down notes on the whiteboard with the best cursive writing you have ever seen. The students look up every 4 seconds, hands continuously moving wherever they decide to look, and the students sit down in an orderly, quiet fashion. Noticeably to me, the classroom is hectic.

Scenario 3 
The teacher is talking. The students are talking. The teacher is talking about the subject matter, the students are looking out, facing another, giving each other messages, shouting each others names, making a complete fuss with paper and anything they can hold in their hands. The teacher unabashed, goes on with her class with an unshaken look in her face as though unaffected by the environment. Noticeably to me, the classroom is distracted.

Which one of these scenarios portray discipline? Which one otherwise?

Personally, non of them paint the picture of discipline. Discipline to me, is something that goes beyond silence and obedience. Discipline to me, is something that means beyond reproach. Not about attitude in the classroom, but attitude towards the learning process. Do we want a quiet classroom that allows us to lecture all day long without the slightest hint of student response? If we have response, how do we want that response? Is it in terms of writing down something? If it is writing down something, is it writing down something that we have already written down?
Production is the highlight of my classroom all the time. Additionally, it is also an essential part of the concept of discipline. Sometimes, I forget the importance of input because I feel that the production of students have no limits. They can give you so much you forget that they are the ones learning. When students are in the production process, they are always focused, whatever the form of focus is. They are intensely trying to solve the puzzle and present materials that they forget that there is a written rule of discipline. The discipline happens naturally - they do it without them knowing it's a form of discipline. In order to get them like that, I have to firstly ensure that they want the production process; they want to do more and want to know what else they can do. I as their teacher must always be prepared to show them that there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Therefore, interest to me is a prong of discipline. When students are interested, discipline is an automatic engine that they experience in the learning process. English as a second language can be a problem when it comes to interest. You want them to know an interesting concept, yet they can barely understand simple instructions. You wish for them to follow instructions, and they fail to comprehend vocabulary. It is a constant challenge to enforce language practice onto them while trying to get them interested. So the trick is to keep instructions simple, and the task at hand engaging. I for one have always believed that a disciplined class is a class full of students eagerly awaiting to do the next task.

You might be thinking, that's just a fact, there is no real argument in what I've just said. Hey, you know what? I completely agree with that fact. It's true. These things aren't new, not fresh, not even something that I came up with all by myself. It's just that sometimes, it's difficult not to state the obvious when you don't see the obvious happening. You go back to the fundamentals, walk through it once more and speak in your head..

"Are my students just listening to me, or do they want to listen to me?"

"Are they doing my work, or do they want to do my work?"
"Am I getting into their heads? Or am I just talking to the walls?


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