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HELP! How do I address the bad feeling that has developed in my class?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by jackhold, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. Hi everyone
    I have found myself in a strange situation that I never thought would arise and was looking for some advice on how to move forward.
    I have a top-set Year 10 class consisting of 17 very mature, able and (previously) enthusiastic boys. It is probably the 'best' group of students in the school, in terms of attitude, ability and behaviour.
    However, despite a successful year last year, I have noticed a degree of bad feeling growing in the class and it is having a significant impact on the boys' (and my) enjoyment of the lessons.
    Put into context, these are my most able students. Whilst a couple are much weaker than the others, the class is generally working at a good level. However, a few boys are particularly chatty and I find that I have to repeatedly stop and ask them to be quiet. More often than not, this is met with protests of innocence and 'why are you always picking on me?' comments... Sometimes, their attitude is so shocking that, on occasion, I have really had a go at them, which I rarely have to do.
    Anyway, the chattiness has led to sloppy work and some boys struggle with things that they coped well with in Year 9. I find that I constantly nag at them about their work rate and, even though the class are producing some really good stuff, I am often heard pushing them for more.
    A number of boys, when completing a written task about school, recently made comments about their Spanish teacher being too strict (something I've never been) and too negative. They said they find the classes boring, even those that say they like the subject. In itself, this would not be enought to upset me, but even I have noticed a degree of negativity during lessons and it is starting to spread to other boys in the group. I feel a barrier has formed between me and some of the students and, no matter what I try, I never seem to overcome it.
    I attribute the situation to a number of possibilities:
    1. I was too lenient in the past so that now, when I reprimand them, they feel they can argue back ad this aggravates the situation.
    2. I have not been clear enough in my expectations.
    3. I push them too far and do not recognise their good work enough
    4. Because of their ability/maturity etc. I forget that they are still children and fail to deliver lessons that are fun or engaging.
    I admit that I do not always plan their lessons as methodically as I used to. I have very challenging classes who take up much of my time and I realise that I might have neglected this class slightly but I really am keen to get them back on side.
    I know they are teenagers and that a teacher should never take student comments personally but it is impossible to deny the negativity that has developed in the class.
    Any advice on ways to move forward would be gratefully appreciated.
  2. Dear jackhold
    You have thought this through very carefully and I think you have evaluated the situation really well, but don't beat yourself up about it.You want to improve the situation and it is all to your credit.
    What you could try:
    Talk to the chatty students - explain the situation and where you are coming from. Be positive and constructive. Say that you had been very impressed with their work but that you now fear that their chattiness is having an impact on their work and on the rest of the class. Let them think of possible ways forward - it would be good if it came from them...otherwise you could suggest that they change seat for a week with the possibility of moving back if the quality of the work is improving. In all cases keep the communication channels open.
    If you feel the situation is still not improving, you could put together a survey for the whole class- what they like doing, what they find easy/difficult/ suggestions of activities.Take five minutes of a lesson and talk to the class as a whole then let them fill in the survey - give them enough time and let them work individually- it can be anonymous if they want.
    Good luck!
    I am sure the situation will improve, and they will realise what a caring and thoughtful teacher they have :)

  3. Hi
    i have just signed up and find a very interesting post on the first page.
    may i give you a little history so you know my back ground.
    I am a Master practitioner and teacher or coach in N.L.P. Hypnosis, Life-coaching, neuro associative conditioning and emotional intelegence training. I coach students and teachers in emotional intelegence which gives everyone the ability to free themselves from their inner emotional conflicts.
    Having had more than twenty years experience with people of all ages within the feild of behavior and emotions i hope i can help you in some way.
    You metioned that you have an idea where you may be going wrong regarding your students. none of that matters now.
    what does matter is how you are going to progress from now on.
    There is a universal statement that we use in N.L.P. you can not always control your enviroment or the people in it, but you can control yourself.
    What you focus on is what you experience and you are focusing on the negatives at the moment.
    If you are doing the same as always and what you have done in the past has always worked then something else has changed. it may be the students themselves.
    You say they are older now and so something may be going on there. its difficult to say with the information i have but it may be that the emotional intelect of the students is being challeged by other students. you say they managed easily last year, but that was last year and now is a different time. Sometimes students can change over a matter of days or weeks and on occasions in hours or minutes when they start to doubt themselves. That inner voice is a great friend or your worst enemy
    It may be a good idea to run through in your mind how you are going to move forward from now on. remembering that you are the teacher and so you teach to the best of your ability as you usually do.
    as far as the students are concerned, it may be that the individuals who are being a distraction are doing it for a reason that you are not aware of. sometimes when students lose interest it is becuase they are finding it difficult and rather than admitting this, they will use other behavior to distract from their fear of failing. Rather not try than fail.
    I agree fun in a lesson is always a bonus and it helps people learn and remember, whilst something that is to serious is just no fun at all. what is certain is that they will carry on learning new negative associations if something is not changed and anchors created are hard to break without the correct methods.
    Another interesting problem that occurs is that poeple think that other should know how to behave but as you say you may not have explained exactly what is expected from your students.
    Dont beat yourself up about this, your concern shows you have passion and caring for your students.Explain to them what they can expect from you and what you expect from them, and build a rapport that will create a teacher student contract of respect.
    take care and be well.
  4. bristolmover

    bristolmover New commenter

    Invest in a few really well planned lessons to get them back on side?
    Fun stuff such as speaking... a class survey: 'trouvez quelqu'un qui...' to find out more about them?
    Good luck
  5. Thanks all so much for the words of encouragement.
    It certainly is something that is playing on my mind... Especially now as one of the parents wants to organise a meeting with me and the year head! She wants to explore the possibility of a 'personality clash' and the son's belief that I pick on him! It all seems to be escalating and I can't think where it has al come from... [​IMG]
  6. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    I find this one of the most interesting topics as I think that this has possibly happened to me in the past, but, being less sensitive, I ignored it and it went away. I did nothing different but in retrospect I would probably have spoken to the boys individually as they seem to be more receptive on a one to one basis and hoped that this appealed to their better selves. I agree with the use of podcasts as a motivator for boys along with ICT and competition. With an able year 10 group I have instigated a continue the sentence type activity which the boys love(the girls less so) where they are allowed to add 1-3 words to the sentence or start a new one if there is a sense break. It's French but it will work in any language. I am amazed at what they know and can think of...e.g. one started the other day...j'ai quinze....poissons tropicaux...et...un grand chien....noir et marron....qui...me plait...car.... il est...vraiment mignon. On writing it down, it does not seem so impressive, but with no preparation time and instant speaking I thought it was very good. They have also liked a cluedo type game where the suspects have a sentence in French and the one with an error is the guilty party. This can be done on a theme or grammatical concept. I did one recently on the perfect tense in French with 10 different scenarios and it was much appreciated.
  7. parkykeeper

    parkykeeper New commenter

    it is awful when a class turns on you but I think they are finding the content of what is being taught boring- it is GCSE after all but it doesn't have to be boring!

    e.g. they have just covered the topic of school- why not challenge them to design an ideal school or a school of the future (these used to be coursework assignments for the old AQA GCSE) which works well with better students. It gives them greater freedom to be more creative. They would probably suggest there being no Spanish- the mood they are in at the moment.

    Have you tried an "inquiry based" based learning approach to a topic.
    - you give them the overarching theme such as a healthy lifestyle and instead of YOU deciding what is needed to teach the topic, they have to work out for themselves what is needed in terms of vocabulary and grammar, what they already know and what they are hazy about and what they need to learn for the first time. You may need to give them some "advice" along the lines of "have you thought about how you might include......" so they don't miss out the things that you WANT/NEED them to learn.

    YOu can then divide the class into groups to research the vocabulary items e.g. for food, sports, verbs (in the infinitive form) etc and they produce the resources to teach the other groups. The same can be applied for the grammar aspects.
    All you do is then facilitate the research and the presentation of each group to the rest of the class. It helps if you give them deadlines - otherwise it could go on for ever.

    It sounds risky but it works well because it puts the responsibility on the students and if they are teaching others they need to really understand it so it helps cement the knowledge in their own minds. It can also improve their presentation skills. Students can be very creative and imaginative and they may even come up with some refreshing ideas that you could use in one of your future classes.

    If nothing else it makes them appreciate just how much work you have to do for every class.

    Other subjects use this type of approach. If you have time, try observing the same boys in a different subject and see what activities the students engage in during the lesson.

    It's probably best to do this with a small topic e.g. tourist information or booking accommodation that you would normally teach in just a few lessons but be prepared for it to take a bit longer than that the first time you use this approach.

    I have used the above approach to regenerate enthusiasm for the subject, It seems quite alien at first but it will make your life easier and should improve your relationship with the group. Just go for it!

    Good luck. I hope things improve
  8. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Just don't blame yourself too much. I teach a lot of those 'creme-de-la-creme' boys and they still enjoy a bit of a powerstruggle with the teacher.
  9. Thanks again for all the advice... It has all given me a new perspective on the situation and a few things tu think about.
    I have a meeting tomorrow with one of the boys (!) so maybe it will be productive an we can move on from all this...

    Thanks again
  10. Well, the meeting happened...
    Thankfully, the HoY was very supportive and facilitated a frank discussion, giving the student the opportunity to air his grievances. At the end, he said he was happy but my feeling was that he felt heard but not understood. Let's hope we can move on from this...
    My next challenge is to try and address the bad feeling that has developed within the group in general... This is particularly pressing as I have an obs with them on Friday! :-(
  11. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Year 11 this time of year I wouldn't have said this is uncommon. He and they are starting to realise they don't have much time left and as others have said they will probably be realising this in other subjects as well. Maybe also as already mentioned he and they have winged it pretty much up to now and they are only just discovering what it is like to struggle. Would suggest (as you have said) that more praise and support is in order.
  12. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Y10 actually, Random, according to OP.
  13. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Sorry misread it. I still think the point about winging it previously and now finding GCSE difficult and looking for someone to blame is the problem.

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