Today was a difficult day for me, but it didn't start out that way. In the morning, I got up at 3:00 am to have a Skype chat with someone from Mexico. After that I went back to bed until 7:30. Then around 10:00 am, I drove to school for my one o'clock class. Unfortunately, there weren't any parking spaces, so I had to wait for a while. The, just before class began, someone told me that I would have to move to another class. I said, no problem because I figured that they'd all be just about the same.
As it turned out there was a problem. It was a computer classroom, and I was teaching English pronunciation. First, we couldn't get into the classroom because it was locked, and then when we finally did get in, I realized that with 60+ people it was going to be really crowded, yet still doable with the help of a little technology. Unfortunately, all of the computers were locked, so I couldn't even use the CD that I had planned on.
So I taught for the first hour just using my voice; however, because I couldn't see many of the students behind the computers, I couldn't see how many were speaking correctly or speaking at all. Also, I began to notice that many were playing with their cell phones, and I couldn't easily get to them because the class was so crowded. Then suddenly, as the attendance list was being passed around, I noticed one student checking off previous days as though he had been there when he had not. When I took the list and looked at it, I noticed that some other students had done the same. What the heck, I thought to myself.
Suddenly, emotional energy began rising up inside of me. I wanted to yell and scream, but instead I stopped myself and took a few moments to breathe. Finally, when I was certain that my emotions were in check and I was the one directing me, I began to speak: “You guys, this is not the way we do things. To say that you were in class when you were not is dishonest, like lying and cheating.” I wanted to tell them that the attendance list is not there to harm those who don't come to class but to give credit to those who do. Instead, I said I would pass the list around again, and that they should white-out the check-marks that were incorrect.
As I was driving home, I wondered why I had allowed my emotions to arise in reaction instead of me simply stepping back, considering the best way to respond and then doing so. Now in writing this out I see that, in having to change classrooms at the last minute, I had indeed adapted to to less than optimal conditions. However, what I didn't do effectively enough was to lead all of the students in the same way. In other words, while most participated in the lesson, many seemed to give in to entertainment, text-messaging and/or playing on their phones. Herein, I realize that I have not within all my classes come to an agreement on the point of using phones during class. How can one be here participating in class while he or she is text-messaging and/or playing on the phone?
So form this experience. I forgive myself for allowing myself to react, and I commit myself to (when/as/if I find myself in a similar situation) take as many moments of breathing as I require to consider and apply a solution that includes an explanation as to why it is neither necessary nor beneficial for all the students if a few cheat on the attendance sheet.