Students in an ESL class are frequently using put-downs with each other. Gaining negative attention is their focus. The teacher tried group building games, positive comments, lunch detention and structured study detention. This helped but problems still exist. The teacher is worried that these behaviors will continue to influence the class atmosphere.
A teacher in this situation feels... powerless because she can't stop their negative interactions. However, she can be responsible for addressing and enforcing consequences; frustrated because they are losing class time to a problem that she may feel should have been resolved by second quarter; frustrated because the classroom environment does not feel safe and these behaviors interfere with learning; frustrated, powerless because she can't control what comes out of a kid's mouth but she has to control what happens afterwards. A need to solve the problem; disrespected, not in control of her students, lose confidence in herself that she can't provide a safe environment or protect all of her students because of the use of bad language and put-downs; frustrated because it seems as if they are fighting a no-win situation. They are fighting against a culture where it is being more accepted and common place. It would also make a teacher feel frustrated because it is hurting the self-esteem of other students; confused on how to react because sometimes it is a "game" and other times it is a very serious matter. Many times each situation must be dealt with separately and the students must be taught what is acceptable and what is not; betrayed because even after stating the importance of appropriate behavior and language, the students are still choosing to put each other down; obligated to stop the put-downs. It also presents the opportunity for some great discussions on feelings, vocabulary lessons-- word choice, etc. Teacher would feel angry and pressured because she is trying to create a positive learning environment but is having difficulty maintaining it. Teacher would feel frustrated because it's difficult to get the students to quit using put-downs; or unsure if the method used was effective as it could be because the method tried was not successful long-term.
Theories behind practice:
Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Positive environment. Developmental stages. Importance of role models.
Impact on others:
Clear consistent classroom expectations are important. Re-examine the structure of the class schedule to see if there are other, positive ways for the students to vent.
A person who had not attended the previous sessions, joined the group today. This meeting was facilitated by two special education teachers (mentor and mentee). These were the two people who chose to pass when it came to sharing their episodes. It is evident that they were upset by last month's discussion. I thought that the discussion was uncomfortable for a while but the conclusions were quite good. I think that this may lead to much greater understanding between the various constituencies. This episode was shared by a new teacher. She was really struggling with how to de-fuse a very negative and volatile situation. The group really empathized with her. It will be interesting to hear an update from her at our January meeting. This session was much more amicable. I think the group is starting to trust each other a bit.