Can You Tame A Wild And Crazy Class?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

That question is one that unequivocally seems to reveal that a class of wild and crazy students should be one for teenagers who in most cases hardly know who they are. At that point of their lives, they want to experiment with adulthood and are in one blind hurry to be seen as adults. They may have had their first go at sex or have boyfriends or girlfriends, have started smoking or drinking and most importantly, they may belong to a peer group. Anybody who must teach a class as exuberant as this must know the following:

(a)you must be a master of your subject matter. This means that you must always be about ten minutes ahead of your students in Physics if that is what your subject area is. You may do just as well know a little English, a little Art or some foreign language.

(b)the first class is crucial. That is where you establish your authority as the person in control and be seen as one. Tell them whatever rules they must follow whenever they are in your class. If they must knock on the door if you are already in class before them, let them know about it in a clear, firm, tone of voice. But that is not it. They must know WHY they must knock on the door for them to get in your class. If they must come to class with their dictionaries, they must be told WHY. If they must be neatly dressed in your class, you must explain it to them.

(c)you should be decently dressed. Sometimes half the job is done by the kind of self confidence you exude when you are well shod. A lot of the times, students respond to you as their role model in certain areas and when they come together in their respective peer groups to discuss their teacher. As much as we discuss our students in staffrooms that is the way they discuss their teachers and how much influence you have on them.

(d)be their friend. Listen to them. Give them that unrare opportunity to talk with you. Listen to them. You may as well discover that a symbiotic relationship where you learn a lot from your students even about yourself will result. In most cases, I have walked into a class to teach but find out that I learn quite a lot by listening when they talk. Paradox isn’t it?

(e)watch them play. Pick an interest in what interests then. Participate in their play (passively of course). Watching them play means that you are genuinely interested in the things that make them come alive. Take for example a student who hardly wants to participate in class activities; is not interested in turning in his homework but is active on the field, maybe as a soccer goalkeeper. Knowledge of this is a useful took in the hands of any teacher worth his salt.

(f)respect them. You have to be able to realize it that the way you treat them in most cases tells the kind of person you are. They are in a most difficult phase of transition from teenage hood to semi-adulthood. If they are treated with respect, chances are that they may take a cue from you and treat you too with respect. However, treating them with respect is not to mean that you must not know where to draw the line. You must draw and know when and where to draw the line.

(g)encourage class participation. Let me tell you this tale about a class I once handled. That school was like a graveyard. There was usually no ‘noise’ when classes were on and students were to be seen and not heard. You saw them outside only during break for lunch. If there was a ‘noise’ the teacher was said to be unable to control his class. This went on for a while until one day we had a class that had something to do with a drum. So I brought a drum to class. There was some ‘noise’ and the head teacher complained that my class was noisy. I refused, insisting that my class was ‘lively’.

This is my story concerning how I managed the wildest and craziest class in my school. But first, I must let you in on it that my methods were a little crazy too. Inexperienced, still fresh from university and was just like one of them. At first I was assigned to teach and be form teacher to the most junior class in the school and I guess this was where I built a reputation of being a ‘hard’ nose. No, I was not a hard guy. I just loved those kids and would never allow any one of them stray. I flogged them (it was school policy to flog) when it was necessary and played with them when I could. In a class of about 200 in classes A,B,C and D, I knew all of their names and if there was one not in school on a certain day, I knew. Some parents took notice. The school took notice too.

Maybe this was why I was asked to take on the most senior class. Crazy Kids. ‘Wild’. Teenagers. They’d heard of me and I knew about them too. I didn’t want that class and they didn’t want me either. They didn’t want any teacher full of himself coming to bother them but I had to earn my bread as their class form teacher, didn’t I. I determined to be as strict and as ‘hard’ as possible. They told me much later after we became good friends that they too were determined to make it difficult for me.

First day in their class was crucial. As I walked in and stood before them to make the speech I had researched, something came over me. I looked at them and saw myself in their faces, as though I was before a mirror: the faces all wore anxious frowns like mine. Twenty faces. Boys and girls watching me. Big frowns on their faces. The way I saw it then, anyone of them could just as well be standing there in front of class as teacher if they didn’t have school uniforms on. Maybe this was why I smiled. Curious, my mirror, that is, half the class smiled back at me somewhat uneasily. That was my cue to introduce myself and tell them I had heard about them as the wildest and craziest class but I didn’t believe a word of it. Were they wild and crazy, I asked of them. Three-quarter of the class said they were not. At the end of that first crucial class, I made it clear that I was prepared to let the school treat them as the adults they are (their biggest worry was that the school treated them as kids rather than big boys and girls) if they behaved like adults. And they did. But that was because I listened to them air their grievances. I respected them as much as they did me. We were friends only in certain areas. We had a good time together as class teacher and students. When it was time for me to leave, it was a painful departure.

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1 comment

Anonymous February 21, 2007 - 2:04 pm

I am a teacher also and reading your observations and experiences made me smile. You have insightful details on how to teach (and reach) teenagers of these days.

Thanks for sharing


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