When I was a student-teacher one of my facilitators used to forever give us scenarios with the fictitious trouble maker Lil’ Johnny. It was a source of great amusement and I must say it helped to spice up her class.
We all had, of course, had a Johnny before. And we had all pretty much already come to the conclusion that Lil’ Johnny was a kid with issues. Hey, who doesn’t have issues in this world today? Why would we think Lil’ Johnny was any different?
The problem, though, seems to be that 7 years after laughing and role-playing and scheming strategies in that classroom, I’m now faced with a culture that is almost completely alien to the one presented to me in that room.
I find myself daily in a classroom that wants very much to look like this.
It seems like instead of having one or two Lil’ Johnny. I’m faced with 45% Johnny’s and even some Lil’ Janes to compliment them. Which makes me feel like my classroom is
It’s not a great feeling returning to the staffroom feeling like you’ve just starred in a scene from some world war 2 movie. You know the ones where the men are cornered in the trenches and can only throw the occasional grenade out and hope it hits the right target.
It’s ‘noice’ to imagine that all those fancy strategies like “Ignoring unwanted behavior” and “calling on the student once” or my personal favorite” waiting for the class to settle itself” etc. etc. etc, are always the answer. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Unfortunately they seem to be completely inadequate in the face of some of the cultural and social problems we have in the Caribbean classroom today.
(Yes, I’m singling out the Caribbean classroom because I feel like it is sorely neglected in the field of modern psychology, especially given all the pedagogues who lecture and self promote but do precious little to help us to establish the psychological base that we can work off of to better aid our students)
It’s enough to make a girl…
Alas, that isn’t the answer either. Sigh, what is a girl to do? It was during a guilt trip my youngest tried his very best to lay down on me, that it occurred to me. A genuine, authentic eureka moment! Empathy as a classroom management tool!
Hold on, relax. It’s not as messed up as it seems.
I started with the class with the most and most outrageous set of Lil’s. I set up the class to do a cooperative learning exercise. Each group got an objective, an outline of their content and time to plan. I watched and listened, maybe cackled a little as some elaborate presentations were planned. Skits, lectures, song sessions, you name it, they planned it.
Then came the presentation day. And boy, did my babies put out. Some of them performed some works of educational art. I loved it, and for each act of greatness, there was an act, by the Lil’s spread among the groups, to disrupt the wonder.
Little faces turned to me in dismay, little hands were thrown up in exasperation. Until the biggest Lil in my class stood up and delivered a speech for good behavior so inspirational that even I was taken aback. Dude!! something might even have gotten stuck in my eye.
After class, a few of the Lil’s cornered me. I was made to listen as they said things like “Teacher wha mek dem sooooooo rude?” “Teacher ah so you feel every day?!?” “Teacher me sorry bad jack.” “Teacher nar do it again, me cyan teach nobody again.”
I chuckled, it was fun. A little revenge, a little life lessoning, and the next week even though there were some minor disruptions I never had to look at anyone like this…
I find that with a little heavy complimenting, and a few sweets my classroom is a bit more civilized. It’s not pristine, I didn’t solve anyone’s life angst, but our learning environment might just be a little more heavy on the learning.
And for that maybe I might spend a little more time thinking of that class like this…