Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Changing tactics for late students

My classroom stress has dramatically dropped off, since I only teach a few hours per week. I am allowed the luxury of not having to commit to students for long periods of time, so I may as well make that short time pleasant for all of us. One constant obstacle is absences and tardies.

coming to class 4/5ths of the time
is all we ask...
Attendance is a big issue for international students because our governments expect students to go to school. If students don't meet these expectations, they are expelled, and sometimes deported. This puts everyone in an awkward position. After arriving a few days before class begins, our students have a really short time to figure out their new schedule and lifestyle. At the same time, teachers have to deal with constant interruptions, and the staff have to issue warning after warning to notify students of their attendance percentages. As a teacher, it is really easy to show you're annoyed at late/absent students for the stress of getting them caught up, but I think the real detriment is that the class misses out on their input.

American classrooms rely on students' comments and ideas, and I don't know how many of our international guests know this. That's right, we don't just need your money; we need you! The easy choice might be to hope that the laggards are kicked out so that the attentive hard workers can go on undisturbed. This is my biggest struggle as a teacher of ten years. There have been countless times when I wished all the losers would melt away and leave me with the winners. But, that's not only unfair, it's also lazy of me.

People need time to figure out expectations. I need to be a better communicator in making students feel their active presence is important, rather than simply shaking my finger and warning them about the dire consequences. This, with my teaching and other entertaining skills, will give my students a  much sweeter experience. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New position, and I ain't talking yoga!

Just when I started to feel bad about going back to the safe choice of teaching, my director approached me with the marketing opportunity I thought I'd missed! Turns out the place I returned to teach also needed someone to save the drowning student activities program.

However, we all know that new roles mean new stress! I'm getting through this by dialing up my pupil and aural cavities to maximum: observing like a mofo.

My first task was to submit an event calendar of both suggested and chaperoned events at my school. I've learned that modifying said calendar is a daily occurrence, but what ultimately matters is the face-time of announcing the week's events to students: a lot of them have a one-week sense of time, so my clandestine manipulations stayed unnoticed in shadow.

A regular part of the position is classroom announcements. By popping into 25 classrooms, I introduced myself to 350 people in one day! I think I get through the reluctance to talk in front of groups of people with two pieces of advice. The first is that no one really wants to laugh at a speaker for making a mistake; there's always empathy, considering that public speech is super high on the list of phobias. The second is, in the case that people do want to laugh at a public speaker, you gotta beat them to the punch and make them laugh.

Another long-term perk is that I also get to spend lots of hours with the desk staff instead of teacher time. I get to glean an occasional facet of being a student from another country. They're not magically dumped into a classroom, after all. There are visa concerns, scholarships, home stays, agents, other schools, and the occasional discipline problems, and my school has a person for each of those worries. Each student needs to be handled by 3-5 people, just at school!

*cackles maniacally* If ONLY...
Unfortunately, countless hours of manpower are wasted in calculating student attendance. The amount of admin work an absence creates is almost as much as being present and under care of a teacher! I'm shocked by how acceptable students think it is to miss class just to ask about their attendance. Luckily, my only part in that is haranguing students to cut their 30-minute smoke breaks short. Yes, they take 30-minute smoke breaks. No, I am not kidding.

My next goals are to plan a skit competition, get some student clubs properly up and running, and get our website and Facebook page updated on time. The best part about the latter two tasks is that I can apply this back to my own budding interest, Grammar Pimps.

I'm glad that I have the opportunity to do something new, while also seeing a new aspect of students. I wish I could say I've put the observations into meaningful action and gotten better at things, but that's a challenge on its way. 

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