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Old 12-26-2013, 07:37 AM
Location: Birmingham, AL
87 posts, read 129,798 times
Reputation: 87


Not sure if this needs to be posted in the Work and Employment forum, or this forum, because my question is mostly stemming from issues with my work, but the problem also extends to situations outside of work as well. I recently received my TEFL certification and have started working as an English teacher. I teach several classes, small and large. My largest is 15 students that have just finished HS (post-secondary studies). The class is great, however, I have a *small* problem with classroom management, as I personally feel very uncomfortable with being an authority figure.

Let me preface - usually in social situations, I am very quiet and like to hang out around the fringes, not being the center of attention. I also struggle with getting the thoughts in my head (which are running at 200 miles an hour) to come, coherently, out as words from my mouth. I feel woefully unconfident at teaching primarily because I feel that my social skills/intuition are lacking, and I know with practice and time it can get better, but I worry because I don't know that I even have that kind of time, if I am being paid to do a job that I don't feel I am satisfactorily completing in the here and now. If I don't deliver - they have every right to terminate me. I have observed other teachers in passing (not for an entire class) and I see that they are able to take command of the class, not as a dictatorship or in an effeminate way (the teachers I saw were women), but subtly and firmly. I need to be that person as well. Now, the school I work for has asked me to submit a form detailing what I feel I need to develop as a teacher, but what I feel I need most are things that aren't exactly tangible - it's not methodology or specifics in grammar, things like that...moreso the things that make teaching an art form and not an exact science.

Every day I get so nervous before class, thinking that this is the day that the students are going to go bat-s**t crazy or something. Oh, I also have a problem with consistency and defining rules, that is something I know confuses the students. All my life up until now, I have made an art form of going above, around, and under the rules, if you will; now I am supposed to enforce them, and it feels all kinds of wrong. I think, too, my discomfort stems from knowing that I don't know everything - or even, a lot of things. I think to myself, how can I tell this young person what to do, even as there are a lot of things I don't know? I don't want to come across as bossy or domineering...and my attempts to meet in the middle don't come across as quiet confidence, more like competing with the students.

So what do I do?
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Old 12-26-2013, 07:44 AM
Status: "I used to have a lead foot, but now it's aluminum." (set 16 days ago)
Location: Lancaster, SC
5,352 posts, read 3,687,322 times
Reputation: 6775
I don't mean to come off as snarky and dismissive, but here's the thing: you didn't just wake up this morning or last week and realize you don't like being in a position of authority. You've known this about yourself for a long time. So was there no other career path you could have chosen? Now that you're here, you have two basic choices -- 1.) Quit and find another career path or 2.) Buckle down and remake yourself into someone new. Read bookson the subject. Be assertive. Ask the advice of fellow teachers.

One thing I learned when I got in a position of authority is that the other party should never know you have internal doubt. I used to be a TV photographer. I'd get sent out to cover stories (without a reporter) where I had to get someone to do an interview who did not want to do an interview. I hated asking them for it, but I had to. So I developed a character that I played when I got to these points in time. It wasn't really as elborate as it sounds, but when I switched him on, I could get about anyone to do an interview with me under any circumstance.

But as a teacher, you should never let the kids see you have any conflict whatsoever in doing what you do. They will not respect you at all if they sense it.
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Old 12-26-2013, 08:13 AM
2,612 posts, read 4,590,733 times
Reputation: 3937
Unless you are working in a prison or juvie then there should be few if any management issues with a group that age. Especially if they are there voluntarily, which I assume they are. Just remember that they want to learn, and teach them what they need to know. You do need to be confident in your lesson plan and your materials - that's probably the most important thing. That can only come from preparation and experience. You'll have to wait for experience, but you can put more time into preparing your lesson. Also, never be defensive. You do not have to be the ultimate authority. If you don't know, say you don't know, but you'll find out. Trying to pretend you know everything when you don't, and being too authoritative because you're afraid of not being in charge are both rookie mistakes.

I teach the same age group and watch other teaches yelling at students and acting very authoritative, and it doesn't work. I never do that. Never. I use my first name and treat all students as equals, and that's how I feel comfortable. I do not have any classroom issues and never have. On the few occasions that one arises, it's usually something minor and only a single individual, and I handle it without getting really authoritative or bossy. This has worked for me for many years - in complete defiance of all the classroom management strategies that the experts and schools push.
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Old 12-26-2013, 08:16 AM
Location: Squirrel Hill PA
1,865 posts, read 1,743,130 times
Reputation: 3800
It sounds like you could really use some workshops in leadership. I am a strongly introverted person but also have natural leadership. I think this comes a lot from being a horse trainer. With horses one has to learn to be the leader without being the dictator. There are some good equine assisted programs/worksops to help with this issue that you might look into.

SkyHorse Ranch - Equine Guided Education and Coaching

Home Eponaquest Worldwide

There is also a great book by a horse trainer named Mark Rashid called Considering the horse The heart of passive leadership that you might find worth reading. Yes it might seem like if you are not a horse person this does not sound like a useful thing but the principles Mark learns from the horses become useful in daily life. I think you might find it helpful.

I have also found that taking up the martial art aikido gave me a lot of confidence and better ability to handle conflict situations in a peaceful way. Aikido is an interesting art because the focus is resolving the conflict without doing further harm if possible. It helps you learn to remain calm and relaxed and on control in the face of a stressful situation without running away or giving up control. It would be worth while to find a good dojo in your area and try a class or two. Explain to the instructor why you are interested in the art and they can help you to see how it will be helpful.

Don't give up on this. You can become a leader in your class room you just need to learn how.
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Old 12-26-2013, 05:47 PM
17,165 posts, read 22,189,403 times
Reputation: 31289
i omce had to give a speech in front of thousands of people....
i panicked,,, i made it out to be ten times worse than it was... i fed my fear

anyways,,,,after reading much online to channel anxiety, and stage presence, i was still nerved up, so while talking to an older relative,,, he chuckled and said "if you dont feel comfortable in your own skin, then step in someone elses" meaning... be an actor,,,you create the character and visualize the results,,,,let that play over in your head..

and my god, that worked , and once it works a few times the confidence will come
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Old 12-26-2013, 06:06 PM
Location: State of Waiting
607 posts, read 717,414 times
Reputation: 1390
Do you not have a mentor there in Prague? some other teachers to connect with? I am sure many others have felt this way!

Sounds like you just need practice... and this comes with time! Have you encountered difficult situations yet? Have you tried practicing a script in front of a mirror, just to get comfortable with the words - how and what to say, etc?

You don't have to fill every second with words... try and relax a bit. And remember, your students are there because they WANT to be!!!!
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Old 12-28-2013, 12:41 AM
2,008 posts, read 1,801,912 times
Reputation: 3337
If you do something you believe in, you'll have control because you believe in it and your students will sense your conviction and follow someone who believes in what they are saying.
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Old 01-25-2014, 05:42 AM
Location: Birmingham, AL
87 posts, read 129,798 times
Reputation: 87
Thanks to everyone for the responses. To update - following a discussion with some of the school directors, I have now started work with the smaller, niche classes the school offers, instead of the large public class I was teaching before. So far, this has been much less stressful. I am not sure what it is, but the bigger groups just seemed to cow me. I think with time I will be able to manage, but for now I will probably stay on the side of the smaller classes. However, I am taking - and applying - the advice of everyone here, to moreso "act" the role until it comes more naturally. I think, I also struggle with thinking on my feet, and because of this it is hard to be an authority - or feel confident in being an authority - because I feel like my students are more socially adept than I am, and thus can see right through me O.O
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Old 01-25-2014, 05:46 AM
25,947 posts, read 25,887,181 times
Reputation: 26678
I was constantly pegged for being a manager and I always declined gracefully because I knew in my heart I was not good at managing other people. I was very good at group projects and making sure things got done I needed from other people and I was good at managing my time and my own projects, but I was not good at the responsibility of telling other people what to do and being responsible for them. It is what it is. Some people can and some people can't.
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