Classroom Management in 1-to-1 Classes

Classroom Management in 1-to-1 Classes

Reflective Diary submitted by Matt

I am extremely fortunate as the vast majority of my students are very responsive and comfortable in my lessons.  Indeed, I think one of my particular attributes is the ability the put my students at ease while engaging them with the content of the lesson.  However, as the one-to-one teaching environment can be intense, there are occasions when all teachers face challenges which test their classroom management skills.

When I first have I new student, I always start by telling them a bit about myself: my name, my age, where I’m from, how long I’ve been in Madrid.  After all, human interaction is a two way discourse, and I want my students to get to know me as a person.  I then ask them to tell me a bit about themselves, an exercise which encourages the student to speak (why else are they there!) while allowing me to get to know them.  I try to make jokes, ask questions based on their response, and ultimately attempt to show them that I am engaged and interested in what they have to say.

As mentioned above, this approach is usually successful, and in my time in Madrid I have had many students request that I teach them because they have found my manner particularly amiable.  However, obviously some students are more difficult than others.

Rebeca in a kids' classI can usually overcome these challenges.  Currently I teach a student who all the teachers at the academy (as well as the receptions and manager!) agree is a bit difficult.  He is very unresponsive to questions, his comprehension is extremely basic, and he seems to forget a lesson immediately after its termination, making any sort of progression immensely difficult.  He has three lessons each day, so is understandably exhausted by the last class, but this fatigue manifests itself in restlessness and irritability, which makes things tough for the teacher.  I have, however, managed to get through to him.

By taking the time to speak very slowly and clearly, using the odd Spanish word here and there to ensure that he understands, I have begun to see an improvement in his manner.  I highly suspect that his unresponsiveness is a result of his frustration and lack of confidence; after all, he is moving to England for work in two weeks and he can barely use the past tense.  Yet by empathising with his difficulties – my comprehension in Spanish is similarly catastrophic – I have found a way of teaching him in a more effective way.  Admittedly he’s still not an ideal student, but we can make progress together, which is the key thing.

Unfortunately you do sometimes have to concede defeat.  I once had to teach a nine year old girl, and the lesson was a disaster.  In the last paragraph I mentioned the notion of ‘empathy’, but how on earth was I supposed to empathise with a pre-adolescent girl?  I’m a twenty-one year old man, and the last time I spoke to a child of that age was my male cousin, who is now nearly fifteen.  I really struggled to find anything to talk about, and, seeing my hesitation, the student became incredibly hyperactive, climbing on me and jumping around the class.  It was an embarrassing situation for me, but one which I have learnt a great deal from.

Generally, however, my classroom is a calm and pleasant space where students feel at ease and can learn comfortably and happily.  I perhaps ought to invest in some toys and dolls though, just in case.