Ask me, tell me

Really, simply speak up!


It finally occurred to me to simply ask one of my bright but unfocused eight-year-olds why she sometimes dashed around the classroom like a superball soaked in espresso.

She said she sometimes didn’t understand the lesson, and that discouraged her from trying her best.

When I explained that she needed to tell me when she didn’t understand something, that diving into the nearest pile of erasers wasn’t helping me help her, she seemed genuinely surprised at the simplicity of my request.

Moments later, she was much calmer and asking questions about the lesson, which she had never done before.

I in turn had been surprised at the simplicity of the solution to my problem: simply speak up!

Really, how had I overlooked the obvious solution?

4 Responses

  1. How do you handle students who are unfocused and bouncing off the walls?

    • Hi Robert!

      I do so like it when you chime in!

      (This is what I *think* I do….someone watching me might note that I do something else…!)

      The shorter answer is that I first try to figure out why they’re unfocused and bouncing off the walls. Kids are kids, though, and I know that even they may not know why they’re bouncing off the walls. Shouting at the students doesn’t work for me, but respecting the students does.

      If it’s a one-off day, say, because of the weather, school, and home the students have excess energy to burn, I’m likely to lighten the lesson by picking out what *must* be covered and then saving the rest for another day. With the younger learners, I’ve sometimes ditched much of the lesson and simply started playing high energy songs non-stop until we’re all worn out. Can’t beat ’em, might as well join ’em.

      If it looks like an ongoing event, then I’m likely to ask Japanese staff to talk to the student(s) to find out what’s going on. When that happens, I try to leave the room, because I want the students to talk freely about me if necessary, and they almost always do. It may still take a few tries, including a few more talks with Japanese staff, but if I see progress, then I’m okay with that.

      If the talks don’t help, then we talk to the parents.

      Often I get the older students to police themselves: I told them what kind of behavior I want, and then I asked them what I should do when I don’t get that. Similar to baseball, they came up with what happens at Strikes 1, 2, and 3. They didn’t much like it when I promptly enforced the new rules, and curiously started behaving well in order to avoid their own punishments.

      But before I babble on a few more pages, can you tell me a bit more about the ages and what you’ve noticed about the students you get to teach? Feel free to email me directly if you prefer.

      As always, thank you for stopping by!

  2. I just noticed your reply! I’ll send you a email soon. My school started this April. I teach kids all ages but most (so far) are from age 2 to 12. I have a few little ones that literally bounce off the walls! Thanks. I hope to visit Knock Knock this summer. I’ll be talking to Devon on Sunday in Nagoya. Always enjoy your posts! Thanks


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