(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/2aubhWG)
I’m going to add another part to the title – Classroom Presence, what actually is it? And how do you sustain it?
I was part of an interesting observation lesson today. The teacher was well prepared, knew the grammar well, used all the CELTA key teaching techniques and was punctual, professional not to mention a nice guy. The class were bored, disengaged and eventually disrespectful.
What could have possibly gone wrong?
Good question. This is the very thing that happens again and again all over the world in classrooms, to teachers and everyone ends up blaming the class. The students or children are just down right disrespectful, unruly, don’t care about anything and should be beaten with a stick until they submit!
Well…sometimes there are difficult classes, admittedly, but these are not as common as you think. I’m going to jump right out there and say that in most cases it is the teachers fault, why? Because they probably lack ‘classroom presence’.
I remember one occasion when I was a new teacher in a school and the previous teacher told me that the class was very difficult and wished me all the best. Not something you want to hear. As it turned out the class was a little bit tough initially but actually once I go to know them, they were quite amazing, so many personalities and so much great energy. The previous teacher came into the room on one occasion for a few minutes to collect something then left but later came to me and asked me a question.
She said “I came into your class today and I couldn’t help noticing how quiet and busy they were. I looked over at the little girl who used to make my life a misery and she was playing with something – and disrupting others, just like she did when I was teaching her – then you suddenly looked at her and she stopped and put the thing away. So I ask you – how did you get the girl to do that without even saying a word, by just giving her one look?”
To be honest with you, I couldn’t answer the question. It really is something that you either have or you don’t have. It had something to do with confidence and being able to command an audience (if you like). Like an actor going onto the stage – it takes great confidence to stand there and be yourself and let everyone think whatever they want about you and not care, except care that they listen to you, because you have something important to say, and they better listen.
That in a nutshell is ‘having a presence’. Whether it is in the classroom or on a stage, it is all the same. If you rely on your mind and logic to work out the way to deal with other people (namely your class students), you are doomed to fail. You need to find that sweet spot of being able to relax and be yourself, and at the same time make sure everyone is watching you and not wasting your time.
In many countries classroom presence consists of instilling so much fear into the students that they are afraid to speak. In other places classroom presence is the extreme opposite with zero injection from the teacher. Both are pointless and allow for limited learning.
My suggestion is that if you are a new teacher and you are having problems managing your class, stay the distance for at least 6 months then ask yourself this question – ‘Am I enjoying teaching?’ If your answer is ‘yes’, then do whatever you can to find techniques to deal with your management problems. If you aren’t interested in dealing with these problems you are headed for a lifetime of being eaten alive by the class, each and every day. Something no one would ever want.
Tough call but true.
Would like to know more about what others think of what classroom presence is all about too!