In preparation for the TESOL France Colloquium, in which I talk about Classroom Management, I decided to reflect a bit on the term and why I don’t like it 🙂
A quick and lazy search on Google using the term Classroom Management will yield among other googley-garbage results a wikipedia entry on the topic, which if I am even more simplistic and a bit more critical defines it as ‘running a lesson without disruption’ and ‘keeping thing under control and as planned’. It also says it is linked to motivation, discipline and respect.
The management of motivation: it is in my experience one of the most difficult things on Earth. I think teachers in general are not prepared to do it in a way that is person-centered based; meaning, to provide conditions for intrinsic motivation to grow. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is quite easy. Use control, force, bribery, blackmail, sense of humor, circus techniques, reverse psychology, whatever. I just think that these gimmicks don’t last long. You either create stimulus-dependent learners or else… — But there ARE ways to do it, a mix of both -in and -ex*.
The management of discipline: easy! Take the army, for example: uniforms, strict timetable, controlled and limited space, rigid hierarchy, among other things. Not too difficult for schools and teachers to adopt a similar style (I’ve heard some already do!).
The management of respect: I don’t know about this. For me, respect is bottom-up; highly unmanageable if top-down. If imposed I think it is actually discipline, like the above.
There’s a lot more to classroom management than the above, evidently, and a whole lot more than a simplistic wikipedia entry. But in essence, why do we use the word management? This word is deeply associated with control and supervision. And it’s hard not to think of business when hearing it. If we run a lesson, like a business, will we get better results? Maybe… If we control what everyone is doing, will we achieve the outcomes? That is what the term suggests. Just look at other TEFL jargon: monitor, drill, lesson aim, target language, etc.
If the concept of management is appropriate, how much does it contribute to achieve what is proposed at the outset? That is, language learning. I’ll let you answer this one.
Yesterday, I got a link to a blog on Twitter, whose author proposes leadership instead of management. I don’t think it is leadership either.
What is it then? And why a word is so important?
- My answer to the first question at this moment has been: Ecology (although I’m not fully convinced yet).
- To the second: when we don’t have ALL the hard data (most of the times) that tells us precisely what to do, we turn to metaphors. Metaphors are indispensable when trying to make sense of learning and teaching, and I think they should be revised as times go by and management is too last century. Just saying…
Next, I will try to articulate what I mean by ecology (just to clarify, it’s not about garbage recycling and eco-friendly cars).
Links of interest:
- TESOL France Preliminary Programme (pdf) – I speak on Sunday, 6th November, 10am.
- Classroom Management? by George Couros (the link I mentioned above)
- *Ten ways to motivate the unmotivated by Ken Wilson (who called me an iconoclast the other day)
- Complexity & ELT – A poster I designed last year that explains the basics of a complexity/ecological perspective of language learning and teaching
- E is for Ecology – Scott Thornbury’s elucidation of the term when applied to applied linguistics (applied to applied?? :-))
- The value of pair work – Another pre-conference post I wrote around the topic of classroom management, hosted by my dear friend Cecilia Coelho (@CeciELT)