The Most Important Moment Today

I told a class of 32 hungry 9th grade kids to applaud the actors who just did a nice job synchronizing actions with my words in a 20 minute 2-Ring Circus stint. They deserved it. Even if they didn't, I'd probably still have the class applaud. It's a frequent thing in my class.

It's what happened next that is very important. Two or three boys did not stop clapping when I said to stop. I use the Spanish word "¡Ya!" or "¡Para!" to express this to my kids, and it's clear as a whistle what I'm saying because I also use my body to communicate the meaning of "Stop!", by tossing my hands palm-down outward, kind of like a conductor does. Es obvio.

Those kids cannot get away with the extra clapping after I've clearly said "Stop!" It must be loud and clear that this is not ok. I shifted my body to a more relaxed position, took a step in their direction, and looked at each of them. I said, in English, "It is your job to show me that you understand what I'm saying in here. I said 'Stop!' and so you should stop. Is this clear?" If I stammer on this or avert my gaze because I'm scared to confront these young kids for this disruptive behavior, I will lose my position as the most powerful person in the class. I cannot do this. Not in a school. Not as a language teacher. My students count on me to be in charge.

Then, we practiced. I told them to applaud, and while looking right at the long-clappers I said the word and gave the sign again. Not perfect, but it was accidental long-clapping that time. Still not cool. I want it to be clean. We did the routine 3 more times until it was perfect. Then I went back to teaching. I cannot allow long-clapping or other disruptive behavior like it. Recognizing it and reacting to it was the most crucial moment of my day today.


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