Teach English in Zheqiao Zhen - Hengyang Shi

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Oftentimes in a classroom, the burden of managing a classroom is assumed to fall squarely on the shoulders of the teacher. The teacher is viewed as the source of knowledge through which students can learn and it is thus the responsibility of the teacher to share this knowledge in a manner that is both appealing, digestible and feasible. Teachers may find themselves viewing students as potential obstacles to this role, as they must find a way to coax students into learning and taking part without disrupting a lesson. The impulse a teacher may find, particularly in cases where there is a significant age difference between the teacher and student, is to create an environment in which the teacher is viewed as a friend or peer of the students in the hopes of creating a sense of comfort and familiarity. While this impulse may help to establish a sense of trust or comfort between the teacher and their students, students may use this sense of trust to either overstep boundaries or become more vocal within the classroom, potentially to the point of causing a disruption. A teacher attempting to assert their dominance may find it difficult to then establish themselves as a more assertive presence in the classroom as they are viewed by their students as a confidant or peer as opposed to a figure of authority. On the flip side, a teacher may decide to take a stricter approach with their students from the beginning and in turn relax their authority once they have established a relationship in which students are willing to follow instructions within the classroom without causing a disturbance. While this method may create an efficient classroom in which learners participate in an orderly manner, the danger arises in minimizing a student’s ability to think creatively. Teachers taking a stricter approach may emphasize the importance of accuracy and discipline which may give rise to an atmosphere of fear and concern for achieving the correct result as opposed to problem solving. These two examples of approaching classroom management are part of a binary problem that most teachers will face at some point in their career. Usually, less experienced teachers will take the former approach, while more experienced teachers will take a stricter initial approach and then relax their authority over time. The question one might consider is what an alternative model for classroom management might look like whereby students are viewed as partners in the management process rather than the problem faced by teachers to be solved. As a student of theatre within university, one of the first steps taken in most practice courses, be they design, acting or directing, is to take steps to establish the class as an ensemble. The idea of the ensemble is basically a means through which students establish a rapport with their students through warmers and communal activities in order to develop a sense of trust amongst the students as a peer group. The teacher thus becomes the facilitator of an ensemble and the group is viewed as a collective whose cooperation facilitates learning. This example of the ensemble is demonstrated in the context of this course through the emphasis of synthesizing both practical exercises with group work and cooperative games. As explained in the context of this course, it is not enough for teachers to be simply experts in their field who simply offer their knowledge to students. Teachers must take on multiple roles within the classroom and assist in creating an environment in which students are willing to participate. The use of games and warmers not only help create a sense of comfort and familiarity but also help to develop a relationship between students and build a sense of shared responsibility. In doing so, responsibility is place upon students to view themselves as enablers of their own education by their willingness to cooperate and assist one another towards a shared goal. This in turn helps develop a level of shared accountability within the class and allows students to become partners in the management of the classroom. Students are thus not viewed as the problem to be solved by the teacher to maintain discipline and manage the classroom but rather as partners who can help facilitate their own learning, as stated earlier. The efforts of a teacher are thus not focused on establishing themselves solely as a figure of authority or as a trusted confidant but rather as a means through which students can challenge themselves and each other to take on a sense of ownership to their education and thus create the environment conducive to their own learning. In such an environment, students may be less likely to be disruptive, more willing to assist one another and more prepared to ask questions that may help their peers. The burden of managing a classroom is not simply a challenge faced by teachers but rather a question that must be reframed in order to be solved. In empowering students to take charge and ownership of their own education, teachers may find in students partners in the learning process and management of the classroom rather than obstacles to their responsibilities as a teacher.