Respect and ESL Classroom Management
Respect is a two way street
A large part of ESL classroom management starts with respect; and that is a two-way street, where you respect each other. Management of disrespectful children is difficult enough, let alone with a language barrier, but if you handle yourself with calm and authority you will be on the right road without having to resort to anger or harshness.
Enforcing the rules from the very first day of class, and never varying from the established set of rules, is the first way to earn respect from your students. If you keep the rules to the letter, students will always know what to expect. If the rules are the same every day (and for every student) there are no unexpected consequences for anyone. While your students might gripe about the rules, children really do need a set of standards to go by, so they know what is and isn’t allowed. Secretly, they want to be told what to do! Children need boundaries to feel secure and to be able to focus on their work.
Children do not respect a teacher who is not consistent. Therefore be consistent in your rules and your attitude. Above all, never play favorites. Good classroom management means the rules need to be in place for everyone, from the student with the best skills to the worst. If you play favorites, your students will know and they will think less of you for it. You also can’t slack off if you are having a bad day – this lets your students down completely, because they will never know how far they can bend your rules – which only encourages them to try.
Treat your students the way you want to be treated. This means that no matter what, you never embarrass your students or talk down to them. If you treat them this way they will not trust you and without trust you will have a hard time earning their respect. They need to know that you are in control of yourself and your emotions. If you, as an adult, cannot control your temper, why should they? Children really do learn by example; so part of your job is to be their living example.
If you care, they will
Get to know your students. In informal conversation, ask them questions about themselves. Do they participate in a sport? Play an instrument? Do they have a special talent? If you can get across to your students that you care about them as people, you’ll more than likely earn their respect. Students sometimes see teachers as robots. They can’t believe they have real lives and interests and that they actually care. By asking each child questions and having conversations with them about life outside of the classroom, you’ll be letting them see that you are, after all, human – and one who takes a genuine interest and cares for them.
Give them hope
Praise and encouragement where it’s due can go a long way. If you constantly tell someone what they are doing wrong, they might just give up. In order to flourish as a person and with language skills, a pat on the back can make all the difference. Praise good behavior and good work, too. If you have a negative attitude in the ESL classroom your students will too. But if you can always find the positive things, even within a negative situation, your students will notice this and model your behavior. When a student tries to be like you, this is the ultimate in respect.
In most cases, if you publicly acknowledge a student’s good behavior, whether it’s in front of the class or a note home, the student will have a more positive feeling toward you and learning English. If you are always correcting a student, either in behavior or language skills, they will probably feel anger towards you. Remember there is always something good in everything and it’s your job to find it! If you can find a balance of giving negative and positive feedback to your students, they will truly respect you. For every negative piece of feedback, be sure to give a positive comment, too.
It can’t be stressed enough that respect goes both ways. In ESL classroom management, this is especially true. There might be cultural barriers a child is up against and you, as the teacher, need to be as understanding and compassionate as possible. So do your best to put yourself in your students’ shoes and really try to think about how they may feel.
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