They’re as predictable as a flock of sparrows, classroom dynamics are. On Monday you teach the Shopping for Clothes Unit, and it soars like a hot-air balloon. Your lesson is so good that the class damn near gives you a standing ovation as you leave the room.On Tuesday you teach the Shopping for Clothes Unit, and it plummets like a lead balloon. By the end of the class, all you want to do is to crawl under your desk and put an end to it all.
Why is that, I wonder? Jill Hadfield and Alan Maley have tried to throw some light on the matter in their book Classroom Dynamics. Well, I’ve read the book, and I’ve adopted some of the techniques they described therein, and the results were patchy to say the least. Now I don’t want to say that these two good people don’t know what they’re talking about. What I do want to say is that their expertise and experience is with classes of European students, and a class of European students and a class of Asian students is alike as chalk and stilton cheese.
No-one has satisfactorily explained just how to adjust the dynamics in order to transform a reticent, non-responsive class into a vibrant, active one full of fun and quality learning time. But I’ll give it a go, anyway….
If you’re saddled with a class that exhibits all the liveliness of a Taleban prayer meeting, I think what’s called for is the George Bush shock and awe approach. In other words, wake the buggars up, give them a piece of your tongue, shuffle them around, make them laugh, make ‘em cry, jar them out of their “I’ll just sit here and do nothing, and then I’ll go home” frame of mind. Show them that your job is to get them to actively participate in the lesson, and that’s what you’re going to do, by hook or by crook.
Now the shock and awe approach requires quite a lot of energy on the teacher’s part, but hopefully, after a few sessions the class will have got the message. Your classroom is not the place for daydreaming, complacency, or passivity. Just the opposite. What you want, what you expect, and what you are demanding is the whole-hearted participation of each and every class member. Anything falling short of that is unacceptable. Not on my watch, anyway. Give it a go. Take no prisoners.
(By golly, George would be proud of me.)