Mr W finally sent me an email confirming the time and place for my data collection work. That was Tuesday. I was thrilled when I got the news cos I had wanted to work with those students so badly. The time given was Thursday, between 9.00 to 11.00 and the target participants were seven advanced-level students who taught IELTS in their home country.
Now before I get into that, let me tell you about my experience of dealing with non-compliance and defiance in the classroom. This may sound off-topic but I need to give you some background information on this issue so you could understand the crap I had to go through this morning.
Several years ago, I taught English in a suburban secondary school in Papar. My students were 13 year-old kiddos who had just graduated from Primary School. Despite being in Form One, most of them still behaved like 6 year-olds. The boys especially. Anyway, one fateful day, while I was teaching in class, one student decided to cause trouble by displaying some unacceptable classroom behaviour. I have forgotten what he did but it totally disrupted the lesson and started a commotion in class. The boy's name was Mark. As a form of punishment, I told him to stand up. To my surprise, Mark refused to stand up. He just sat there, acting cool as if I didn't exist. When this happened, the rest of the class went really silent and turned their attention towards me. I could feel my face turning hot as I saw red. Bright RED.
Challenged and angry, I ordered Mark to get out of the classroom and go to the basketball court. Since I wasn't one of those scary teachers who bring a cane everywhere, Mark didn't think I was serious. He wouldn't budge and just sat there looking smug. That did it! I went to his table, looked at him in the eye and shouted the words at the top of my lungs: OUT, RIGHT NOW! That took a lot of energy from me but I managed to get him out. I know what you're thinking. I should have kept my cool, but I was 22 - young and inexperienced.
So. Mark got to the basketball court and stood there. The smug expression was still plastered on his face. To my students' delight, I brought them all out to watch the show: The English teacher vs. Mark. I told Mark what he did was unacceptable and that all he needed to do was say sorry. Mark kept quiet. Three minutes passed by and still no apology. Fine. He left me no choice. My dignity as a teacher was at stake so I had to do something. To punish him, I asked him to do the leap frog action by squatting down on all fours and jump around the basketball court. "Lompat katak 5 pusingan! Sekarang!" I spoke in Malay, stressing the word sekarang. Mark started to squat down but that was as far as he went. It was obvious that he wouldn't degrade himself in front of his peers. The whole class looked at me with the expression: What now?
I didn't want to shout like a teacher gone psycho so I left the kids in search of Cikgu Edward. He's the Discipline teacher and the most fearful person in school. I told Edward what happened and requested for his assistance. He was more than willing to help. When Edward got to the basketball court, the look on Mark's face was priceless. Edward roared "Lompat katak sekarang juga! Ikut arahan Cikgu Alice!!" and Mark went leaping like a frog in a race. After 3 rounds, tears started spilling down his cheeks and I began to feel sorry for him. I told him to stop and got the other kids to get back to their classroom. By now, Mark was sobbing uncontrollably. What followed next was a tearful apology from Mark and me giving him a stern warning to not repeat the same offence. That was the first time I had to deal with a defiant student in class.
This post is not about ways of dealing with classroom misbehaviours or the most effective approach in minimising them. I thought about this incident because a similar thing happened to me this morning. You see, after years of teaching in the Uni, I'm so used to having students comply to my instructions and requests. From time to time, there may be grunts and sighs and hate-you faces but in the end, my students normally do what they are told. To be honest with you, I never had a lot of trouble with this. So when something like today happened, naturally, I'd feel upset. It was so unpleasant because I was suddenly reminded of my current status as a student and that I have no authority in class.
Remember Mark? Well, during my data collection session today, I had the greatest misfortune to work with seven non-complying students who were exactly like Mark. Except, they were all teachers and they all looked older than me. What really happned? I'll tell you all about it in Part 2.