- On 02 July 2021
- Tags TEFL Florence
Classroom Management with Relationships
Imagine. You’ve passed your TEFL course and received your certification. Congratulations! What a great accomplishment! You’re getting settled in a new country, and you are starting off with your first responsibilities as an EFL teacher. It is an exciting time! You finally get to put all of your hard work and preparation to the test. You have a great lesson planned for the first day and some great icebreaker activities to open with.
And then, the students arrive. You’ve equipped yourself with teaching strategies, brushed up on your grammar, but what you do next is critical for managing your classroom for the rest of the term.
Whether you teach children, teens, or adults, classroom management is a necessary aspect of a functional classroom, and it is also one that we don’t always look forward to as it is frequently paired with the idea of discipline and consequences. Some EFL teachers have previous teaching experience, but for many, this is the first time they are in a role like this. Regardless of your background, classroom management is not something you need to be fearful of, and it can even be a positive tool to make your classroom a safe and enjoyable space to learn.
Thinking back to your own school experiences, classroom management may sound like classroom rules, rewards, and punishments. Considering how many EFL students are high school and university students, or working adults and beyond, this concept doesn’t really seem to fit with what we are trying to accomplish with our students. You are the teacher, and you have objectives to reach with your students. But you also want to be friendly, well-liked and relatable. Plus, what if your students are older than you? How can we impose classroom rules on them?
When managing the behavior of a classroom of adults, it is all about relationships. We can manage our classroom of students not with a poster of classroom rules, but instead through the rapport and relationships we build with our students, that they foster with each other, our actions, and our reactions to events that occur in the classroom. Students may behave in a way that interrupts a class when there is a need that isn’t being met. Maybe they don’t know what is expected of them, they’re confused, they’re bored, or there is some other issue outside of the class. There are so many strategies out there about classroom management, but a few themes are always the same. Even as adults, our students are still students who are looking to the teacher (you) to do certain things in this role:
Students want stability and consistency- We always feel better when we know what to expect. After a couple lessons, students should be able to anticipate the way your classes go: when homework is checked, how discussions work, how to ask questions. Give your students voice and choice, and set classroom expectations and goals together at the beginning of a course. Then, stick to them and help maintain the environment that they helped design!
Students want to know that you know what you’re doing- Your students are here to learn English and to make progress! Even if they are the same age as you, or older, you can’t just wing it with them. Chatting with students to catch up at the start of the lesson is important, but you need to be intentional and purposeful. Show that you are a well-trained professional and come prepared with materials, lessons, and activities that will serve them and their needs.
Students want to feel safe- Group classes can be a mixed bag of personalities. Tensions may rise, people may interrupt the flow of the lesson (yes, adults can also be disruptive and off task!) At any age, being a language learner puts us in a vulnerable position. Your students are taking a sort of risk by opening themselves up to learning something new, and your task is to maintain the flow of the lesson and a safe learning space. Gage the situation and respond to the disruptions promptly. Call on students directly to help get participation back on track. Be purposeful about grouping or seating to prevent or stop any issues. By having a good rapport with your students, and them with each other, everyone will feel safe to open up and learn together.
By taking these steps to create a functional and supportive classroom community, students will feel more invested in the time and space you have together, the group you’re in, and the common purpose that you’re working towards. When this happens, we can continue to manage our classroom through the relationships that we have built.