Teach English in Xingren Zhen - Nantong Shi

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Rewards and punishments are common responses to student behaviors in the classroom setting. In this summative work I will try to outline positive approaches to influence student behavior whether in an ESL class or almost any teaching/learning setting. I am aware that from the earliest stages of human growth and development, persons learn to behave or exhibit behaviors that aid in meeting basic needs: attention (recognition and interaction as a person of worth and value), sense of power or some measure of control (a component of self-actualization,) and adequacy (self-awareness of potential and positive self-image.) [Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, 1997, Dinkmeyer, McKay, Dinkmeyer, Dinkmeyer, McKay, STEP Publishers, Coral Springs, FL.] Misbehaviors are usually a result of seeking attention, grasping for power in a situation, taking revenge when feeling loss of power/control, or feeling inadequate for the task or relationship at hand. Given this background for general human behavior it is important to translate an understanding of basic human behavior/misbehavior to the classroom setting for any given age or developmental level. The best reward that any person can get is to be acknowledged as a person of worth and value, to know they have a way to participate with appropriate power/control in the setting and that their own positive sense of self is important, underscored and supported. The TEFL course work appears to approach student/classroom management with these values in place. Repeatedly we have underscored the importance of building rapport with students, getting to know their interests, their backgrounds, their goals and where they are with their language skills/knowledge. This is a positive approach that may prevent students from misbehaving, checking out, or simply acting bored because they have not been acknowledged as valued persons – given basic attention. Of course students may come to a class with a pattern of acting out inappropriately to get attention or to grasp for power/control or act out in a way to cover for feelings of inadequacy. In any case, positive attempts to redirect behavior should prevail over premature initiatives of punishment. Sometimes giving persons leadership responsibilities that they evidence capacity to successfully fulfill will suspend inappropriate behaviors or disruptive behaviors. Allowing students to know the teacher, his/her interests, background, and preparedness for teaching/learning with them may aid in students feeling connected. Outlining the class structure and being explicit about finding relatively comfortable ways for students to participate, interact, and demonstrate their developing knowledge and skills will go a long way to prevent misbehaviors that could emerge from loss of face, feeling “called out,” or demeaned in some explicit or subtle way. Our TEFL coursework demonstrates many ways to help students approach the material through lesson outlines that help students engage in ways that are natural and interesting before entering a more focused study stage and then demonstrating achievement through activating experiences. Matching lesson strategies and resources to unique learning styles, interests or goals may also be critical to keeping students positively engaged and progressing. Being flexible and able to adjust when students are exhibiting behaviors that suggest they are not keeping up, are lost, or are wanting to disengage may allow strategies to be introduced that are positive and affirming so that disruptive behavior does not become prominent. One may approach the classroom as a group of responsible persons who can establish norms and expectations together. The extent of this group development depends on the maturity of class participants and, of course, the English language skills available for the students to fully participate. If group norms and expectations can be developed, this encourages all students to participate in positive “negotiations” around class expectations. There may be opportunity for the class to establish what behaviors are to be encouraged and what behaviors are not acceptable and the consequences that would be enacted. The notion of natural and logical consequences seems a much better approach to addressing inappropriate behaviors rather than enumerating “punishments.” Another important way to meet the basic need for feeling a sense of inclusion in the power/control dynamics of a classroom situation is to offer some choices between activities or readiness to move on or continue with a particular skill or theme. Choosing a part in a reading exercise or role play can be a helpful way for students to own their power/control in class work as well. Our TEFL studies have also highlighted the importance of finding effective timing and methods for correcting and offering improvements to the knowledge and skills of students learning the English language. Especially in the earliest stages of English language development students are encouraged to experiment, give it their best shot, and find comfort in expression in English without significant concern about accuracy and certainly little concern about fluency. Finding fun ways to practice new grammar skills, games, puzzles, or playful activities may help students feel growing adequacy, recognized for their individual development, and hold a sense of power/control over their learning process. It is noteworthy that shaming or degrading persons with name-calling or even public rebukes can have devastating impacts on students. Thus if there is a need for correcting or redirecting it is best done with positive suggestions, affirmation of any measure of progress, and self-discovery of corrections through pair reviews, open book reviews or individual reviewing and evaluation work outside of the classroom setting. It may be idealistic to assume that positive alternatives to punishment will always succeed. Nevertheless, it seems best to understand and address basic human need around attention, power, and adequacy. If the instructor is well prepared with positive strategies to help each student feel recognized as a person of worth and value, and invited to participate by sharing positive power and control over the role and activities the student has in the class, and is encouraged and supported in gaining greater and greater self-confidence and adequacy for the learning process, the need for explicit punishment should normally be averted. Only in cases of clear persistent disruptive behaviors or behaviors that bring harm to self or others and consistent failure of positive strategies to redirect such behaviors should there be implementation of appropriate levels of punishment or natural and logical consequences.