I walked into class yesterday and found myself nervous. The class was a whole new group of students. They’d had a different teacher the previous period, Joan, a wonderful British woman I’ve come to enjoy working with. My reptilian brain went into competitive mode: they probably liked Joan so much that they’ll be dissatisfied with me or even hate me.
Realistically, I know it’s not a contest. And moreover, I know that students don’t have that much invested into who’s teaching them. It’s like I’m always saying: “No one is paying as much attention to you as you are.” Still, I wanted them to like me. But mostly, I wanted to set a tone. Joan had told me that one of the three groups I was getting this period was restless and that there was a group of young men in particular that was very difficult.
“Don’t tell me which group,” I said. I love a game. I love to guess.
However, I was also afraid of being influenced by her experience with this group of students. It would be confirmation bias: if she says, “Group 2 won’t sit still,” my brain will see Group 2 as never sitting still. Right?
So what happened? I walked into the room with each new group, and I treated them exactly how I treat all groups of new students. I take attendance, looking up and at each student as they say, “Here.” I tell them that they need to put their cell phones away, informing them that it’s one of my ‘things’. (The other being chatter during the lesson.) And I structured the lesson around trying to learn everyone’s name, which I explain in a separate post. I’ve read up on learning names, and I realize I have my own method.
And they were all pretty well behaved. The third group that was unbelievably loud while they were entering the room and while I was setting things up to start the lesson. It was that kind of racket that rattles my bones. (I haven’t felt that kind of ‘loud’ since my last school, which entailed teaching young dance students who had issues with sitting still.) But even the third group settled down, listened to me and participated in the lesson. I haven’t asked my colleague which group it was, and I will wait to do that. I want to see how things progress.
In the end, all of the lessons went as planned, which is to say they went well. The tone was set, and we set a good foundation for moving forward. It’s interesting to observe myself in these lessons. I learn a lot: namely, that I’ll be fine.
Update: The third group was the group Joan was talking about.