I have been teaching for a long time, almost 20 years now, and I like to believe that I have learned a few things myself, and even that I’m a better teacher than I used to be.
When I started teaching, I used to get angry at students pretty often when they were talking too much, or sleeping, or not paying attention or any of the other ‘misbehaviours’ that students do in the classroom.
At some point along the line, I gave up being angry because I began to see that if it had any effect, it was usually a temporary one. I found that it was much more effective to actually engage the student in some way, to redirect their ‘misbehaviour’ into a behaviour that better fitted my goals for the classroom.
Of course, there are times when that anger is still present, and sometimes it might even be justified, but it doesn’t come out in shouting, but instead simmers below the surface and sadly comes out in more subtle ways such as me not being fully present for the students or creating busy work for them.
And sometimes it comes out strongly in other ways. A few months ago, a student kept falling asleep in class, time after time, even after I gently woke him and tried to engage him in various ways.
Finally, in frustration, I rapped my knuckles on his desk near his head in order to wake him up yet one more time. Unfortunately, although the rapping knuckles wasn’t loud enough to wake him up, it was hard enough to really really hurt my knuckles, to the point that weeks later, they are still sore, and I figure that I must have fractured something. Of course, the student didn’t realize any of this and only woke when the student next to him tapped him on the shoulder.
After this incident, I tried extra hard with this student – to engage him, to call him by name, to get him interested in the class.
And it worked – he actually began to smile, to take part in the class activities and to become engaged.
Now, if only I had tried that before I fractured my knuckles.