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It's All About Expectations (Yours and Theirs)
First-Day Brainstorming Helps Class Management, Says Caroline Gwatkin

Caroline Gwatkin, who teaches in Buenos Aires, Argentina, recently posted advice for a first-time teacher on the TESL-L listserv. She agreed to share her comments with the readers of ESL MiniConference Online.

Mina Loudiki is approaching the first day of class and asks for help in developing a positive rapport with students. I agree that one of the most important things to do is to 'set the limits'. How can this be done without 'heavy handedly' laying down the law?

The technique I use is brainstorming. I start by writing "your expectations" in the centre of the board, drawing a circle around it, and elicit from the learners what they expect from the course and from me as their teacher. You may need to prompt them by asking about the type of correction they'd like, amount of homework, percentage of time given over to things such as group work, individual projects or whatever you have already planned for the course. By the time you have finished they will feel as though they have 'written' the course!

But the second step is even more important. After erasing everything from the board you then write "my expectations" in the centre. Now you have the chance to set the limits. 'Hand assignments in on time' 'listen to and show respect for the views of others' are obvious choices, but you can also include 'smile when you understand' 'greet me/everyone in English when you come in' 'keep me off red herrings' 'help me with time keeping' 'make sure there's a plug on the tape recorder' etc. all of which will enhance your classroom management. They (and you) should, of course, make a note of all this, which you can refer to when things go wrong.

I hope this helps.

Comment by Caroline Gwatkin
Advanced Studies Centre
Buenos Aires, Argentina

2002 ESL MiniConference Online