I have one troublesome class. They do not particularly care to be there, and many did not bother to be, though that was before I began to take attendance. To say I was shocked by their behavior is an understatement. Imagine arriving at Heaven and seeing graffiti on the Pearly Gates. It just is not expected. The same can be said of Chinese students acting the delinquent.
It is hard to instill order in a classroom when you haven’t the foggiest what the students’ names are. Understandably, this was the first class whose names I took an interest in. “Quiet,” is far less powerful than, “Zhou, quiet.” Students would be standing in their seats, lounging against the heads, calling to classmates on the opposite side of the room. Others would have their phones out, some talking on them, others taking pictures of who knows what.
Now, I consider myself a kind teacher. I also consider myself a lazy teacher. I turned a blind eye to the fermenting disobedience in earlier lessons out of a base apathy for students who did not care to listen. That was, of course, when they were a minority. A silent minority.
How I reined in this class is another post entirely, and one that might come as a boon to those teachers similarly burdened with disobedient pupils. No, we will fast-forward to a whipped class, though not entirely.
One girl, rather popular, had taken to blatantly using her phone during my lessons. I tend to turn a blind eye when a student attempts, fruitlessly, to mask their ill-attention. This, however, was just an insult. There was no guile. I promptly took her phone away, placing it on the podium at the front of the room.
When the class began a student-centered activity, I picked up her phone, which had been buzzing occasionally, and went to her WeChat. Fortunately, there was no password to bar my access. I found a group chat (of which there were some one hundred members) and typed, “I should not use my phone in John’s class.”
I brought the phone over to her, showed her the message, listened to her groan, and then returned, with the phone, to the front of the room whereupon the lesson continued.
After an hour, the bells sounded for a break. I went to the bathroom and returned to find the girl had reunited with her phone. I smiled at her, and she giggled madly with guilt. I left her the phone in the hopes that she had learned her lesson.
She had not.
Not long into the second half of the lesson, she began talking on her phone. In the middle of class! The phone once more entered into my possession, along with her bag. She had hastily stuffed the phone into it, and looked to me with a triumphant smirk, as though the bag were barbed with thorns!
The lesson continued without incident. Most had learned their lesson, and the theatrics with the girl’s phone was a reminder, one oft met with laughter.
When the second bell sounded, and the class was complete, she approached me, wanting her phone returned. I smiled for her and looked in her bag, which left me frozen with fear for a moment (there is a limit to what a teacher can do). I took her phone out and placed it atop one of the televisions that hung from the ceiling.
The girl, unsmiling, called one of the boys over, no doubt hoping for him to bring it down. I heard some muted calls of chair, to which I fervently said, “no.” I was not about to have one of my students break their neck because of this game. I was frightened enough as it was just sitting in one of the chairs!
The boy, the only in the class, turned to me, his grin sheepish. His lesson had been learned when, after taking three flash photos of me in the middle of an earlier lesson, I picked up his books and tossed them outside the door, telling him to leave.
I shook my head. All he gave the girl was a nervous smile that even Chinese babes seem prone to.
Her smile still lost, she walked over to the television, looking up at it, despairing. She made one attempt to recover her phone before making her apologies to me, defeated.
I would like to think she learned her lesson.