Being human and classroom management

We are just about coming to the end of the classroom management section of my summer course (Teaching French as a 2nd Language). The more I learn about classroom management the more I realize that most of it is about being human and doing the right thing.

Strategies that arose in relation to managing a 2nd language classroom in a way that stimulates learning weren’t much different than strategies for any class:

The one thing I’d say is different has to do with the nature of the emotional climate in the room – learning a 2nd language can be scary and stressful. It’s very much about performance in front of our peers and worries about being laughed at and ridiculed will take precedence over learning.

“We now understand that higher-level thinking is more likely to occur in the brain of a student who is emotionally secure than in the brain of a student who is scared, upset, anxious, or stressed.” (p. 461)
Mawhinney, T., & Sagan, L. (2007) The Power of Personal
Relationships. Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 88, No. 06, 460-464.
(pdf)

I’d say, however, that each subject probably has its own emotional climate to deal with. There are times as teachers that we act as containers for the emotion in the room, in the sense that we manage and contain student emotion so that they can continue with their learning. No wonder we are often so tired at the end of the day!

Do you think that classroom management is about being human and can transcend subject matter? Or do you think it is about something completely different? Does your subject have a specific nature that calls for specific management strategies?

holding emotion

I’ve written about this before. Yesterday I felt stressed – nervous, anxious, slightly on edge – and not because of me. We are starting an exam period (what a lovely way to come back from a 2 week vacation…not) and yesterday was the first of them. The exam began with some argument about what to do, how it didn’t make sense, how there was no way that they could finish in 2 hours.

It is especially during these kinds of situations that I realize part of my job is to manage emotion and in doing so, hold it.

I could have snapped back but I kept my voice low and calm. I moved from student to student, tried to connect with them individually, to let them know I see their stress, their frustration – the exam was a French one, a compulsory course that many students have a huge brick wall up about – and that they needed to plow on despite that.

Slowly, the room became still, with just a spattering of complaint toward the end of the period, when students became worried about finishing on time.

I was in bed by 7:30 last night though!