By Amine Mechaal
By Amine Mechaal
Rabat – While in Rabat, I served as an English-language teacher trainee in a practicum at both Lalla Aisha Middle School and High School, and as the teacher of community service courses at Moulay Abdellah High School. During this time, I encountered different types of students in each class that I taught. There were students who were self-motivated to learn the language, those who were less motivated, and those who were not motivated at all. These are the most difficult to teach, because often times they are only present because they had to be marked as such in order to avoid facing problems with the administration.
The last category was more likely to misbehave in the classroom. For this reason, I thought that asserting my authority would be the proper solution to regain control over the classroom. Indeed, I used a loud voice to get their attention, and I acted angry many times so that they would follow my directions. This method proved to be successful at first, but I soon realized that, unfortunately, it only had short-term positive effects, because the students soon got back to misbehaving. It was only then that I realized that authoritarian approaches to classroom discipline and management are not the solution. As an alternative, I tried to develop new techniques to give my students the motivation that they needed and help them develop self-discipline, and I was really amazed with the results.
Trust leads to motivation, and motivation prevents discipline issues
Since motivation is the key to an effective learning process, I initially wondered how I could motivate my students, until I found out that developing trust was the correct answer. Teachers’ attitudes can affect students’ performance and motivation. If the teacher trusts that his or her students can learn and do a good job, his or her students are more likely to trust in themselves and their abilities. That’s why I tried to devise activities that were challenging, meaningful, and achievable, because I could instill in my students confidence and motivation and make them feel proud of themselves while completing the tasks.
I also tried to reduce my speaking time to the minimum and give my students the chance to speak their minds. In most of the discussions that we had in the classroom, I was there only to moderate, guide, and correct if need be, and students did everything else. As a result, I noticed that they became more engaged and active instead of uninterested and passive, and I confronted fewer discipline issues.
Responsibility is fundamental for self-discipline development
Enhancing my students’ sense of responsibility was another aspect that I had to work on in order to help them develop self-discipline. In the first days of my practicum, no one cared about what I was saying. Instead they were talking to each other, laughing, or doing anything except paying attention to what I was trying to teach them. Sometimes, I felt as if I were talking to myself. I knew that I had to do something about it, because they are the ones who should be concerned about their education and should be aware of their duties as students, rather than being told what to do all the time.
The first thing that I did was to create an interest in the subject I teach, which is English. In order to do this, I developed listening and reading comprehension lesson plans that highlight the importance of English nowadays and the opportunities that the English language provides to its speakers. Students were really surprised with what they read and heard. As more time passed, I noticed that they became more attentive and interested in learning English. I recall one time when two students were talking to each other while I was delivering the lesson. I heard one of the students seated near the back, who had never been interested in the material, tell them to stop and let him focus on the lesson. Only then did I realize that I was on the right path, and that I was finally starting to do my job as a teacher.
The process of creating a calm and productive classroom environment starts with the teacher. The actions or attitudes of the teacher towards students who misbehave can make the situation either better or worse. Almost every day we hear news stories about students being aggressive towards their teachers, sometimes resulting in physical attacks, and we always blame the students. They are actually only partially to blame, however. We should consider the fact that not all students in Morocco are coming from well-educated or responsible families. Therefore, not all of them are expected to behave well, and it is our duty as teachers and educators to help them get ahold of what they haven’t been taught by their families, not to reprimand them all the time. After all, this is what the term ‘education’ means in the first place.
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