Monday, April 18, 2011

Classroom Behavior

I firmly believe that students are responsible for their own learning - especially at third-level. Bad behavior in the classroom is something that educators at all levels struggle to deal with. Normally I do not discuss NCI business on this blog - this is a personal blog which does not reflect any views of NCI. In the past I have been accused (only once!) of using the blog as a commercial outlet for NCI - this is not true.

From CartoonStock.
Today I had my last lecture with a large class of students - for the next two weeks both Mondays are bank holidays, so the "lucky" students do not have me for the final two weeks of the semester. I have to admit that I have had a lot of difficulty with bad behaviour (mostly talking) in class - never have I experienced it so bad, and never have I been so helpless to do anything about it. I know some of my students read this blog, but hey - you ignored my appeals for quiet in class, so you'll probably ignore this too. I have never been so pissed off with such a small minority of people - only a fraction of those who attend class.

Bad behaviour in class is dumb for a variety of reasons:
  • Talking in class means that you are not listening to your lecturer
  • Talking in class means that you are preventing other students from  listening to the lecturer
  • Talking in class means that your lecturer spends a lot of time trying to control the class, instead of doing what they are there for - teaching
  • Talking in class means that you are rude and do not understand the basics of manners
  • Talking in class means that your energies are focussed on chat and gossip, instead of your studies
  • Talking in class means that you miss vital information on how to pass your exams
  • Talking in class means that you annoy other students in the class - today I experienced something I had never come across before, students standing up and shouting "Shut Up" to classmates
  • Talking in class means that you revoke the right to criticize your lecturer
  • Talking in class means that you annoy the lecturer big time - you forget that this person sets exams and marks your exam scripts (NB - this is NOT a threat)
I am at a loss as to what to do - this has been my worst experience working in education for 22 years. 

Ever since Fr Patrick threw me out of Latin class in 1973 I have vowed not to do the same to any students of mine - it just does not make sense from an educational point of view. I remember feeling so stupid (and terrified the Principal would walk by) - you don't learn anything out in the hall  when a class is going on inside. I will have to change this approach - this last class has forced me to abandon my passive approach that students are responsible for their own learning. I have a learning and teaching responsibility for every single student in my class - including those who can't stay quite for one minute.

Each class has a group who actually want to learn - in the above class there are exceptional students who behave appropriately, and have come to my class to learn. I thank these students with all my heart for their perseverance through a difficult semester. 

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