Jan 15, 2010

In which I bemoan my lousy teaching

I'm gaining more and more respect for the teachers I know in New York City and elsewhere. I'm having a devil of a time with the intermediate phase. With the grade 7-8, I could mostly rely on a grumpy persona and reasoning to keep the class focused; 4th graders are a different beast. After an hour or so, they get increasingly fidgety and restless, and thus harder and harder to keep on task. It doesn't help that I don't yet know most of their names and can't speak their language very well.

On a side note, I have to say this has been the best thing to happen to my Setswana by far since I came to my permanent site. These Grade 4s have not been taught English at all, which makes my head spin. I was talking to the new principal and she said that the previous Grade 2-3 teacher refused to teach the kids English, and my old principal agreed with her. When the guy from the Department of Education came earlier this week, he said that we were the only school in the entire district that was "in such egregious violation of the regulations." I have a feeling my old principal knew what was coming which was why he skedaddled.

I had a simple introductory class and some straightforward rules, but I think a better idea would be some kind of a reward pathway where I could threaten them with the loss of a treat or some such if they don't behave. I'm thinking a behavior chart where they earn points for correct answers and good behavior and lose points for getting up, hitting each other, etc. I also need to do a lot more activities. They clearly hate sitting down for more than an hour or so. My first project I've got in mind (which hopefully I can drag out over a couple weeks at least) is building some bridges out of tightly-rolled newspaper and tape.

In retrospect these kind of things seem blindingly obvious. I've never been an elementary teacher (well, save last term, I've never been any kind of teacher), and the training we had here was like learning to be a doctor by watching one episode of Grey's Anatomy. I'm trying to dust off memories from that time in my life and making some improvements to my classroom as well; finding some colorful posters and so forth to hang up. Anyone else have some ideas?
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  1. I have been using a ticket system where I give out tickets for good behavior and work, then hold an auction at the end with prizes. Working pretty well I think.

  2. Ditto to Noah's post.. a ticket or sticker system works well with that age group.