What are we going to do now?

I knew what needed to be done, how to get a class from point A to point B. But I struggled so much trying to think up ways that would engage them and help them to learn, and I wound up falling back on the me-talk-you-listen fashion (aka ‘chalk and talk’) that I was trying so desperately to avoid.

— Tym, What are we going to do now?, redux

I’ve been trying my best not to do the ‘me-talk-you-listen’ thing and so far I’ve been rather successful (in not doing it). But it means that lesson planning is slightly more complex because I’ve got to figure out ways to get the boys to articulate their thoughts or teach each other so that the knowledge is shared.


The biggest problems I’ve encountered so far:

  • It’s VERY tiring. I’d much rather be the performer because talking is much easier than Socratically coaxing other people to do the talking and the thinking.
  • It’s VERY hard to do it in a classroom of 40 people because you have 40 different needs competing for your attention. I’m still trying to figure out how to delegate work to the students so the ratio because something like 7 : 1 instead of 40 : 1. I feel like I’m hampered because the classroom isn’t really mine, I don’t have the full spectrum of I.C.T. resources at my disposal, etc. – but it could just be a mindset.
  • It’s VERY hard to prod 40 people into being engaged. I know the boys who’re sleeping or not listening aren’t really doing it because they don’t want to listen or don’t respect me. I’m trying to figure out how to “reach these keeds”, because I know the inattentiveness is most often caused by problems outside of the classroom.
    • Even if the problem is inside the classroom e.g. lack of engagement, I think students owe it to themselves to let their teachers know how they want to be taught. I’ve been talking to the boys and asking them for input. So far, the feedback is that the methods I’m using have been better. I’m trying to get a wider range of student views to either confirm this or quash it entirely and try something else.
    • Perhaps this is actually a systemic problem; a corollary (my favourite word in recent weeks) of the compulsory education policy. Maybe you just can’t teach people what they don’t want to learn/people will only learn when they’re ready to do so.


The most irritating thing I’ve had to encounter so far: them not reading instructions. I’ve been the most meticulous of handout givers (I am feeling very guilty about them trees) and I always provide detailed instructions in case the boys aren’t listening. But they don’t read the instructions either and constantly badger me with questions to which the instructions already provide the answers to, which irks me to no end because it’s not an efficient process at all.


What I will continue to do:

  • Keep asking. I will not abandon my policy of asking people what it is they want and giving it to them, because I think that’s the way I’m going to feel like it’s worth it.
  • Keep trying. All signs point toward ‘chalk and talk’, but perhaps the best thing to do is to amalgamate the twain for this group of students i.e. have a bit more lecture-style moments, and reduce the group-work slightly. Maybe the students just need some form of reassurance from the teacher?
  • Keep writing. I seem to have this very bad habit of not writing things down on the board. It seems the kiddos are visual learners, and I realise that I failed to realise this because I probably forced myself to change my learning style quite early on to suit the lecture-based style of teaching that teachers often use i.e. I’ve become a much better listener – according to my supervisor in the school, he says I’ve got “the mind of a debator” because I can remember all the ideas based on what the students have said. *shrugs* But not everyone’s the same, and I have to remember to write things down on the board as often as possible.
  • Keep laughing. I only start to feel stressed when I’m not enjoying myself. It’s like performing on stage, you know. One must enjoy one’s self before one’s audience can enojy the performance. I must have fun while doing this.

By the way, if anyone leaves any comments which don’t help the situation, I will first scold you for being uncaring, then I will delete the comment. Ground rules, people.

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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