Last week, I found myself being stared at by students because one student was really talking too much. This happened twice with two different groups.
In one of these groups, when the one talking too much started to beat about the bush on some opinion he had already made clear, another student would jump in with a polite “Sorry, to interrupt, but…”, and luckily the con- element of conversation was re-established. But that was not all of the time; sometimes they expected me to mute one and pass the “microphone” to another. The talk-show-host role of an English teacher, I suppose.
In the other group, when the more talkative student took over, nothing happened; one student simply turned off and started scribbling on his notebook, another raised her eyebrows in discontent and few others looked at me as though I was the only one in charge of managing the conversation.
It is this last thought that I would like your comments on. I don’t feel like it is my duty only to balance how much each student talks. I do that of course, and lately I’ve even paid more attention to it; trying to offer everyone equal ‘time’ to say something (esp. because this second group has a lot of debates and open panel discussions). Moreover, a week before the last, I offered this group some activities which overtly focused on interrupting (and being interrupted), turn-taking, taking the floor, etc.
I’ve spoken to some teachers about it in the past, and some said it is my job, and only mine, to manage classroom conversation. Okay, as I said I’m not denying this responsibility, but at the same time it is the students’ responsibility to have the best lesson they can have in any given circumstance, so I think if a student is bothered because another one talks too much, s/he should interrupt.
They should definitely do it; and I can’t help but expect them to. Especially because in my view, I’m not working with oppressed children who are never given a voice. They’re all adults, they’re all paying for the course, and they all participate in a negotiated syllabus.
It’s difficult for me to get my mind around the idea of them depending on me to stop someone’s words, when I have nothing to say, just to give them theirs. This kind of thing never happens outside of lessons, so why does a conversation lesson have a total different code of conduct? And in the end, isn’t being able to manage a conversation toward one’s interest a communicative competence they should aim at?