Diary submitted by Aoife B., Valencia, 2020
Section 1: Tell me about a time you have had to handle behavioural issues with a student. Discuss examples from past teaching experience, with details of the situations, the way you solved the problem and whether you achieved success or not.
What behavioural issues have you encountered and how did you handle them?
I am fortunate to have had very few behavioural issues in my classes, potentially thanks to the fact most of my classes are teenagers, who generally pose fewer behavioural problems than children. However, I have had difficulties with the behaviour of a particular class of teenagers. For context, this class is taught online using Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic and it is taught by myself and another TEFL intern. I have chosen to reflect on this issue as it has been difficult to overcome and as teachers, we have found this behaviour very discouraging.
The main issue we have encountered with this class is that most of the girls do not engage with the class at all. They come to class but always have their cameras turned off and their microphones muted. When we ask them by name to answer a question, they are slow to respond and often do not appear to know which question, or sometimes even which activity, we are on and it is evident that they are not following or paying attention to the class.
Another issue we have had with this class is that one or two students leave the class five or ten minutes early. While we considered that this could be down to technical issues, it has happened on several occasions which has led us to believe they are leaving intentionally. The other teacher and I find this disrespectful, as we do not believe they would physically get up and leave our classroom if it was a face-to-face class.
On reflection, I believe that the other TEFL intern and I did all we could to try to resolve their behaviour. We addressed the issue of them always having their cameras turned off on multiple occasions by asking them to turn them on and telling them that the consequence if they did not cooperate and participate would be that we would speak to their parents. We followed through with this and informed the Director of the Academy of the problems we were having. He spoke to their parents, however this made no difference and their behaviour remained unchanged.
We used a variety of approaches to try to engage them and encourage them to participate, for example asking them by name to answer a question. We have found that if we ask a question and leave it open to anyone to answer, it is the same girl who answers every time and the others sit back and let her do all the work. We have tried a combination of worksheets, videos and quizzes, using many online resources to vary the content of our lessons. We also tried to include topics that we feel are current and relevant to teenagers, such as social media, TV and advertising.
In the end, this issue was resolved by the Academy Director joining the Zoom class one day and speaking to the students, setting out what he expects from them. Since then, at the start of each lesson, we have reminded them of what he said and they turn on their cameras and microphones and participate more willingly when asked.
From reading various blogs online, I have found that demotivation and this type of behaviour are very common in teenage learners. Some blogs suggest varying the tasks and using material relevant to them, which we did, and also recognising and praising students’ good work. They also advise giving students the choice between different activities, or even which one to do first, which is not something I have tried during my internship but an approach I could try in the future.