Culture Clash

I pride myself on my classroom management skills. Apart from a couple of disaster lessons in my first teaching post, I’ve always found it pretty easy to keep a class under control. I don’t shout, don’t take things personally, and in general manage to maintain a good working relationship with my students.

I’ve realised lately that this has absolutely nothing to do with my teaching skills, and everything to do with the students I teach. There are the difficult kids, the stroppy kids, the needy kids, the lazy kids, I’ve basically had all the usual suspects traipse through my room. They all have one thing in common though. They may have had different individual experiences, but the educational systems they’ve grown up with have all had fairly similar structures to the one here. We have a common understanding of how class should work. And being kids, they need the safety of that, and it takes a lot for them to decide to take the risk of upsetting the balance.

For the past week, and the next two, I’m teaching Qatari kids. I taught them last summer too, and found them pretty unruly, but manageable. This year I’m teaching a mixed level class, from beginner to intermediate, and they are walking all over me. I have no idea how to get back control. I asked them what school is like in Qatar, and they told me the teacher hits them if they’re naughty. I’m (probably) not going to do that. So what can I do?

The most difficult thing about teaching these guys is that they’re really, really nice. They just have no respect for my role as the teacher. Which makes me feel like a really rubbish teacher. If I catch a guy using his phone, he’ll come up and put it on my desk, I won’t have to ask. Ten minutes later, he’ll wander over and take it back. They are not making the same connections as I am with regards to actions and consequences/punishments. They never answer back, they are never rude, they never disobey a direct order. They just stop carrying it out as soon as I’m not looking at them. They tell me jokes, they clean the board for me at the end of class. But while the class is in session, they do whatever they please. The worst thing is the noise level. I never shout in class, because I have the fear that if I shout once and nobody listens, I’ll lose all power forever. I never shout in this class because they wouldn’t even hear me. And they hit each other, constantly, and laugh. And of course they’re all boys. No female influence to calm things down.

This is basically a cry for help. If anyone has any experience or advice which could make my class even a little bit more productive, please, please, tell me!

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