According to MEC instructions, auxiliares de conversación do not have to deal with misbehaving students in the classroom. In reality, however, you will absolutely have to deal with misbehaving students in the classroom. That’s just kinda how things go.
Of course, students’ behavior will vary from comunidad to comunidad, school to school, level to level, class to class, and day to day. Many of your classes will be THRILLED when you walk in the door- but there will be others that are not so emocionadas to see you.
Here are three of the most fundamental steps you can take to effectively manage your classroom and show you “mean business” as an auxiliar de conversación.
1. SHOW OFF YOUR TWO SIDES: TEACHER & DISCIPLINATOR (IN ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER VOICE)
Having “two sides” is incredibly effective, but only if you wait for 100% silence. Explain to the class that it’s really important for everyone to be able to hear you when you are giving instructions or teaching. Ask for volunteers to explain why. Remind them it’s also important that they can hear each other when they are speaking. Then let them know that if you are interrupted by students talking over you, or if a student is interrupted by other students, you will raise your hand (or any other nonverbal signal you want). This means that you are no longer teaching, you’re in “discipline mode.” Once 100% of the class is quiet (and not a second before), you will say “thank you,” put your hand down and continue.
This can only work if you follow it religiously during the first few weeks—ALWAYS stop students if they are interrupting each other, and DO NOT resume teaching until everyone is quiet. This doesn’t mean everyone except 1 or 2 students—this means everyone. Even if you need to wait 5 minutes- wait 5 minutes. The main English teacher might not support you in this, so that would be up to you. But, the reason this is so effective is that the few students who are talking over the others eventually get negative feedback from their peers: “Hey— be quiet.” They might only be quiet for your class, but this is fine- that’s all you care about.
One other note: do your best to keep your face and body relaxed while doing this (don’t show the class that they’re getting to you); instead, show that you are so calm that you could keep this up for hours if need be.
2. USE PROXIMITY & MOVEMENT
Proximity can be just as effective as showing your two sides. If Hector keeps talking in the back left corner of the room, keep your lesson going but start naturally moving towards him. If he stops, move back; but if he starts again, go stand by him for a few minutes.
Most of the teachers I taught with were always at the front of the classroom, but you can stand wherever you want. And you can move around. It sounds obvious, however a lot of us forget because it’s been a long time since we were in elementary or middle school: when the teacher is standing by your desk, alarm bells start ringing. “AM I GOING TO BE CALLED ON?” “AM I IN TROUBLE?” “WHAT’S HAPPENING?” So, take advantage of that and consciously wander around the classroom.
Even more important than you moving is your students moving. If your students look bored, they probably are, especially if they’ve been sitting and taking notes for over 10 minutes. GIVE THEM A PURPOSEFUL REASON TO MOVE. I’m not saying tell them to take a 2 minute break, I’m saying find a way to use movement to add to the lesson. One easy way to do this is to assign someone the job of “PE coach” and have them remind the class to exercise every 15 minutes. Then, do one of these activities:
FIND A PARTNER THAT YOU HAVEN’T SPOKEN WITH TODAY AND EXPLAIN WHAT YOU JUST LEARNED IN YOUR OWN WORDS
GET INTO A GROUP WITH TWO OTHER PEOPLE THAT HAVE THE SAME COLOR HAIR AS YOU AND MAKE A METAPHOR TO EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT YOU’re LEARNING
STAND BACK TO BACK WITH SOMEONE FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CLASSROOM. PERSON A SAYS THE DEFINITION OF A VOCABULARY WORD AND PERSON B GUESSES THE WORD. REVERSE ROLES AND REPEAT.
3. Teacher Stare
The Teacher Stare strikes fear into the heart and soul of any student within 50 yards—er—meters for the non-estadounidense audience. Another non-verbal tool, this is really just giving your best RBF to a student. (There’s a vocabulary word for your 4 de ESO class!) Depending on how distracting the student is being, you might just glance at the student for a few seconds, or you may completely turn towards them (i.e., move your feet so your entire body is facing them).
To show that switch from teacher to DISCIPLINATOR, be well-mannered: If you are talking with a student or the class, say “excuse me, class,” before turning and giving Teresa a Teacher Stare. Once she stops what it was she was doing, say “thank you,” turn back, say “sorry about that, class,” and resume teaching.
Nonverbal vs. Verbal
In case you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, nonverbal is key when correcting behavior in front of an audience. Most of the books and articles I’ve read support the idea that discipline should be handled privately— by talking one on one with the student. Why? A few possible reasons: the student might be seeking attention, you don’t want to embarrass a student in front of others, and because you always lose when battling the class clown (my personal favorite because I’ve learned this the hard way multiple times). Think about the last one this way: this student is basically the 14 yr old Spanish equivalent to (insert your favorite comedian here). You, on the other hand, are not. This student is KILLING IT. Regardless of what you say, he has a better come-back ready to go, he can say it faster than you, and he will never let you have the last word. So, the only way you can “win” is by not giving him an audience. Talk with him 1-1.
This is probably NOT how you will see it handled by the majority of Spanish teachers you encounter. By no means am I saying one method is better than the other. They are just different ways of teaching based on different cultures.
I tend to do the opposite with praise. I will usually commend students in front of others if they’re doing a good job (more to come on this in “guided practice” and “independent practice”). There are, however, exceptions to this, especially if students have told me it makes them uncomfortable.