Class discipline in the countryside

This is my first semester teaching in Taiwan. I am teaching in a public primary school in the countryside. Grades 3-5 are going pretty well. Yes, the children are naughty sometimes and I have to be creative in dealing with them, but they are, for the most part, good natured. One of the grade 6 classes is also pretty good, but the second class is really unruly. There are six boys in the class who decided even before I got here, that they were going to be disruptive. The second sixth grade class has a history of doing this with foreign teachers…any advice? I have the Chinese teacher in the class with me…but it has not been helping so far. Any suggestions or insights would be appreciated.

Have them stand at the back of the room, facing the wall, with a pen in their mouth to keep them quiet.

I kid you not.

It’s what they do with unruly students at my wife’s school.

How long do you plan on being at this job? If it’s only one year then write it off and do your year.

If it is more than one year, than do the following:
-Ask what appropriate punishment is and how it should be administered, because a lot of schools see you and the Taiwanese teacher doing the same thing in 2 totally different ways. For example, the Taiwanese teacher may be able to strike children, but it would get you fired.
-Ask who should administer it.
-Learn to speak Mandarin or Taiwanese.
-Videotape your classes, put up fake ones and alternate them so a student never knows if he is being watched or not. You’d be surprised at what you see and how you view yourself teaching.
-Play games, turn every class into a game. Taiwanese equate English learning with games and play time.
-Learn the names of all your coworkers and how to pronounce them. Always use the term teacher and get to know them. Try to humanize yourself to your coworkers rather than being some sort of alien in their midst.

There’s just no easy answer to your problem. I generally make them walk up and down the stairs for 30 minutes at my school. It tends to teach them how serious I am. I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks for the suggestions. I do speak Mandarin - I lived in China for more than 13 years before this, but I do not have a vocabulary for disciplining children, and I am usually trying to juggle so many things in class that I don’t have time to access my Mandarin brain.

Some of my personal Mandarin/Taiwanese favorites:
-Is this your first time in English class?
-A-MA!(when they go uh, because they learned to grunt off of grandma)
-Ho jiu bu shangke, shangke bu ho jiu
-Are you sure you’re not supposed to be in the special class?
-I just wish my students weren’t so dumb.
-If anyone asks, I’m not your English teacher.
-Ni(men) buyao lian!
-You can’t feed yourself either?
-You know those pampered useless dogs some people have? Well, your parents got you instead.
-How do you remember to breath?
-Don’t worry, when you grow up you should be able to drive a truck or a bus.

-with your fingers- make a 3 then an 8, this really throws them off, but don’t do it to girls

I’m in a similar situation to you. I live and work in the countryside. I work primarily at a junior high school, but also at an elementary school. They’re just at that age (adolescence) where they’re going to become like this. Girls engage in their own version of it. Perhaps it’s not as frequent, but I find it harder to deal with girls when they’re really evil than boys when they’re really evil because most boys are fairly dumb and hardly subtle when they act out. The girls are extremely subversive when they really act out. Be glad you don’t have any such girls!

One of the biggest problems you will face in the countryside is that they simply don’t have as many good teachers, both in terms of abilities and standards (including behavioural). When it comes to being placed in a job, everyone does an exam, and the person at the top of the results list gets to choose where he or she goes, and so on down the list. There’s not a 100% correlation between being an idiot in practical terms and being bottom of the exam list, but there is probably a fair overlap, and if you were a bright, enthusiastic Taiwanese education graduate, where would you rather go to teach, a top school in a major city or some no name school in a banana field? Likewise, the idiots are not going to last at the really top schools. The workload will be insane and everyone from admin to colleagues to parents to students will be breathing down their necks. Of course, there are some good teachers in the countryside.

So, how is this relevant? There will be a certain ethos in any school. This ethos will be formed by the people there – the administration, the teachers, the students and the parents. Broadly put, at good schools, everyone will be focussed on the task of getting on with learning. Often, that can manifest itself in an absurd obsession with multiple choice tests that don’t mean very much, but never the less, there will probably be no room for anyone to screw around. A friend of a friend of mine works at one of the top girls’ senior (and junior, I think) high schools in Taizhong. His issues revolve around how to get the most out of his extremely bright and conscientious students! If only it were that way for all of us. The reality, broadly speaking, in a rural government school, is going to be that people care considerably less about education. If they cared more about education, they wouldn’t be farmers, or the children thereof. They wouldn’t be the slack teachers or principals who were bottom of the list and didn’t get to choose a better school to work at.