Oh my, the kiddos you will be teaching can be C-U-T-E. But even if they are the most adorable kiddos in the classroom, they can still be sort of difficult. No matter where you’ll be teaching, knowing how to love the troublemakers will make your semester a whole lot better.
When I was a spending a semester living abroad in China, I had a hunch one of the rowdy boys in my class was going to be a handful. From day one, I could see him squirming during class and speaking Chinese to his gang of rowdy friends even though I had an "English only" rule in my class. I knew if I didn’t find a way to love him, it was going to be a tough semester.
Pst: Want to know more about the cutie kids and the amazing noodles, fabulous adventures to the Great Wall and just more about living in China? Come check out this free guide.
No matter if you’re one of the volunteers living in Moscow or part of the group that call Krakow home, there will be students you might not get along with in your class, and that’s okay! Turns out teachers actually do have favorites. We have some tips that can help:
- Eliminate Distractions
- Be Patient
- Let Them Sit Next To You
- Work More One-On-One
- Show Them Your Love
If there seats and desks are close enough to tap the windows to get the attention of friends outside or close enough to reach and tug at your wall decorations, restructure the sitting arrangement. Don't be afraid to work with your Head Teacher or Local Coordinator at the school about rearranging the seating chart ... or implementing a seating chart if you think that would help.
When I was teaching in China, the students spent time during class to swap pencils and erasers ... the solution? I worked with the Chinese teachers at my school and had the students select one pen and one eraser to use during my lesson. Then, there was no need to zip open pencil pouches and spend time chatting with friends while you debated which eraser set to user or which pen you were going to use that day. Waterbottlers were also distracting; kids would splash each other or shut their lids loudly when classmates were talking. You guessed it — students got a drink before class and after class. No more water bottles sitting on the desks.
There are times when the most difficult kids are being difficult because they are being distracting or are distracted. By doing what you can to cut down on those distractions, you may have a less disruptive class that's more inclined to listen to your lessons.
Kids that you think are totally unloveable need your patience which is the opposite of what you want to give them, right? Counting to 5 in your head before reacting is a good way to breathe if you can't muster up enough patience instantly.
Or maybe instead of getting upset at how they turned your cute Lion face-mask craft into a way to launch spit wads across the room, you can laugh about it in your head so you don’t lose your cool. Try to realize where your students are coming from based on their disruptive behavior. If they are chatting with classmates, maybe they need a bit of a break before moving onto your next segment. If they have time to get into the piles of markers or scissors, maybe you need to quicken the pace of class so you're not left with dead-air time.
Taking breaks for yourself is also important. Focus on an aspect of the lesson you really enjoy or one the class would love to help get a mental break from something that's been difficult to teach that day.
Let Them Sit Next To You
Woah, not the answer you were expecting, but having your most troublesome students right next to you lets you work more with them one-on-one (we talk about that more in a minute). They may be better behaved if they know the teacher is keeping a very close eye on them.
If that’s more distracting, your ILP Head Teacher may be able to take them out of class for a moment or sit with them during a particularly difficult day.
If that doesn't work, try monitoring the classroom by walking around while they are in class or doing group work. Have a tendency to hover around the students that typically cause problems and see if that issue irons itself out.
Work More One-On-One
I had one cutie in my class that had a hard time following instructions, which I felt was ruining my whole lessons, day-in and day-out. But as I got to know him better, I realized Garrett was just a very creative little kid. He threw a fit because I gave him 3 pieces of tape, but his creation needed 7. He didn’t like relays, because he’d rather make up his own relay rules. He had a hard time sitting still and following the order of things which got frustrating in a group-mentality ... I wished he would just follow the rules like the rest of the class instead of sabotaging my lessons.
But that wasn't he case at all. He was just a creative kid who wanted room to be creative in ILP classes. Once I realized that he wasn’t trying to sabotage my lessons, he was easier to handle. I started having more creative lessons so Garrett could have a good time and I could have lessons that didn’t need to go perfectly. I work more with him one-on-one so I could understand where he was coming from when he demanded extra pipe cleaners for his craft.
Show Them Your Love
Sometimes, the trickiest kids just need a little more love. Paying extra attention to them right after class, or giving them a high-five whenever they do something right will make them feel special (and maybe even less likely to lash out during English class).
You may need to fake it for a while, but hopefully after a few days, you’ll be able to feel a little love in the middle of all that frustration.
Go With The Flow
So you had an awesome craft planned out for your English lesson and your students were going to glue sparkly glitter all over their paper crowns. Cool.
But then Dima grabbed the cup of glitter and dumped it all over his head. Cool.
I mean...shouldn't you have seen that coming from your hardest student? But there's no time to go back now! You count to 5 before reacting (because you read that strategy a couple paragraphs up). If it doesn't take you too far off track, just run with it for a minute. Instead of immediately getting angry and sending Johnny out of the room ...try working with it. All of your other students are way more interested in Dima's sparkly head right now than anything you could be doing. Point out what a mess it is. Laugh with the rest of your students. Have everyone help you clean it up and talk about how glitter is EVERYWHERE. And laugh some more. So what if the glitter doesn't actually get glued onto those crowns like you planned?
Tomorrow's lesson might go a little better. Maybe you won't put any of the teaching supplies within Dima's reach. And you definitely will rethink the glitter right? But you're going to come to class thinking proactively about how to react to Dima's interuptions instead of feeling bitter.
Again, every ILP group goes to their foreign country with a Head Teacher who can help you figure out the best ways to handle some of the rough kids. And ILP is here to help too! We even have can help volunteers with their fundraising for a semester abroad, or help brainstorming lesson ideas (like these Drama lessons or tips to get you through).
And to get a little more help (like how else ILP can help you out) just click that green button: