This Facebook page is primarily intended for teachers using the ULAT (Universal Language Acquisition Tool) at theulat.com as a support to their work in foreign language instruction. I say “support”, because the ULAT is merely curriculum. It is you, the teacher, who provides the real “life” to what happens in the classroom or in your home. You alone can see the spark of enthusiasm that a new realization, a new achievement or a new relationship generates in the eyes of your students or children, as well as the feeling of tedium and discouragement showing you a change is needed. The ULAT sees none of that.
Consequently, please check back to this site on a regular basis. I would like to share perspectives and techniques that I found useful during my 30 years in the classroom teaching Spanish and French. These posts will be aimed at sharing ideas as to how to inject the “life” into your students’ learning which the ULAT website alone could never provide.
As a starting point, you might want to take a look at my ebook, located at theulat.com/INOTHERWORDS/CONTENTS.PDF as it contains the most complete compendium of all I would want new language teachers to think about as they are starting out in the field. And if you don’t have the time to read it all, its final two pages contain a summary of all of the book’s main points. They may whet your appetite to go back and read it in totality when time permits.
Preparing to teach: Rules for the classroom
As the school year begins, even before the acts of teaching and learning are considered, the first order of business is that of classroom management and, specifically, what rules you will lay down regarding student behavior. The most creative teachers in the world become ineffective if their classroom is chaotic and students are unable to focus.
The best book I ever read on the subject of classroom management was “Dare to Discipline” by Dr. James Dobson. Yes, I know that it was about parenting and not the school environment, but I read it even before I was married and the principles Dr. Dobson laid down clearly applied to a teacher’s role as well. It absolutely transformed my experience as a young teacher. I learned to keep my rules to an absolute minimum, to make them inviolable, to make the consequences of transgressing them very clear in advance to students, to steadfastly apply those consequences, even when inconvenient for me, never to apply them while angry and, after the discipline had been levied, to seek out ways to affirm my goodwill and support toward the offending student.
I had but three rules in the classroom. 1) Be in your seat when the bell finishes ringing. 2) Do nothing to distract me and to keep others from learning. 3) Do not leave your seat without asking permission. All three of those rules were aimed at intensifying the instructional experience, allowing nothing to impede learning and thus maximizing time on task.
It was my habit not to give students homework assignments, as I wanted them to have a well-balanced life, that is, to be able to develop interests outside of school, to enjoy family time without stress and to have a devotional life without feeling pressured by time-consuming assignments that would short-circuit their fellowship with God. That meant that class time had to be used to the hilt, with nothing being allowed to diminish those 45 minutes of instruction and learning.
I have heard it said that rules are like guardrails within which good things can run wild. Make your rules few, clearly enunciate the consequences for transgressing them, apply those consequences consistently and reaffirm your support for the student thereafter. Students will feel safe in your classroom if you do these things and you will be free to inspire and to teach unimpeded.