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0797 Managing a Classroom

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 797: Managing a Classroom.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 797. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California, on the West Coast of America. Okay, I’ll stop!

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, become a member, help support this podcast.

Today, a story about a teacher managing his classroom. Let’s get started.

[start of story]

After three months of summer vacation, I was looking forward to the start of a new school year.



Okay, everybody, settle down. Take your seats and get out your textbook.

Charlie, eyes on your own book. And Kathy, do you have something to share with the rest of the class? No? Then put that away until recess.

Now, does anyone know the answer to this question I’ve written on the board? Don’t everybody speak at once. Raise your hand if you have an answer. Patrick, wait your turn. Therese raised her hand first.

Michael and Stephen, no talking in the back of the classroom. Tim, sit still and eyes forward. Pay attention. Mark, are you paying attention? I just called on you.

Duane and Frank, I don’t see you two jotting down the assignment for tomorrow.

Okay, everybody, read silently at your desks for the next 10 minutes.



I always forget how exhausting it is to manage a classroom full of students. How many months is it before our next summer vacation?

[end of story]

Our story begins when I say, “After three months of summer vacation (“vacation” is when you don’t work), I was looking forward to the start of a new school year.” Now the story begins, and I’m in my classroom talking to my students. I begin by saying, “Okay, everybody, settle down.” “To settle down” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to stop talking, to stop moving around, to listen to what I am saying. It’s something that a teacher would say to his or her students to get them to be quiet when they want to start their class. So, I say, “Okay, everybody settle down. Take your seats and get out your textbook.” “To take your seat” means to sit down, to go where you are supposed to sit down. It doesn’t mean to pick up your seat and walk away, it means to sit in your chair. “To get out (something)” means to go into your bag or into your desk and remove it. In this case, you’re supposed to get out your textbook. Your “textbook” is a book used in school about a particular subject. It could be history, it could be biology, it could be English, those could all have textbooks.

Then I say, “Charlie,” one of my not too bright students, “Charlie, eyes on your own book.” “Eyes (eyes) on” is a phrase we use when someone is looking at someone else’s book or someone else’s homework perhaps or someone else’s test when they shouldn’t be. “Eyes on your own book” would mean stop looking at something else and pay attention to your book, in this case. You could say, “eyes on the screen,” meaning everyone let’s watch what is on the television or on the movie screen.

“Kathy,” I say, “do you have something to share with the rest of the class?” Kathy is talking to someone else when she’s not supposed to. So one thing that teachers sometimes do to get students to shut up – to be quiet is to ask them if they have something to share with the rest of the class. “To share” means to tell other people, to say to other people. What the teacher is saying here is you shouldn’t be talking, and if you’re going to talk then you’re going to have to tell everyone about what you are talking about in your private conversation. So it’s another way of telling Kathy just to shut up, to be quiet. “Shut up” is a little rude; it’s not something you want to say to someone unless you’re angry with them. Well, you shouldn’t say it when you’re angry either, but anyway. I then say to Kathy, who’s not a very good student because she’s not paying attention, I say, “No? Then put that away until recess.” So perhaps Kathy is texting or playing a video game or perhaps she’s passing a note to her friend. But I tell her to put that away – meaning get it away from where you are now, put it in your pocket or your purse – until recess. “Recess” (recess) is a break that you have in school when the kids – the children usually go outside and they play for 15 minutes or 20 minutes in between your classes. When I was in school we had, I think, one recess break in the morning, so that for 15 or 20 minutes all the students would go outside if it wasn’t too cold, and walk around and play a game or smoke a cigarette – you know, what…what elementary school children do!

Well, back to my class here. I now say, “does anyone know the answer to this question I’ve written on the board?” “The board” (board) is the chalkboard, at least it was when I was in school. It’s a board that you can write things on with a piece of chalk. Usually the chalk is white and the board is black, that’s why we call it a “blackboard.” Now, we have what are called “whiteboards,” which are white pieces of plastic that you use colored markers on to write, but when I was going to school it was just the chalkboard. So in the story here, I’m asking if the students know the answer to the question I wrote on the board. Then I say, “Don’t everybody speak at once.” This is a joke that a teacher might make when no one raises their hand. No one says they know the answer, or indicates they know their answer by putting their hand up in the air. We call that “raising your hand.” I say, “Don’t everybody speak at once.” “At once” means at the same time. Of course no one is speaking, so I’m joking here; I’m reminding them that they don’t know the answer because they’re not very bright, my students. I say, “Raise your hand if you have an answer.” Then I say to another student, “Patrick, wait your turn.” “To wait your turn” means that you have to wait for someone else who is before you. You’re going to do things in order; in this case, in the order that people raised their hand. So first Therese raised her hand, so she gets to answer first. Then Patrick, who raised his hand second, can speak. So I tell Patrick to wait his turn. But remember none of my students are very intelligent, so Therese will probably get the wrong answer and so will Patrick!

Then I say to two more students, “Michael and Stephen, no talking in the back of the classroom.” Michael and Stephen are talking when they should not be, because they’re bad students, and I tell them they should stop talking. “No talking in the back of the classroom.” They’re sitting very far from the teacher, way in the back of the room. Then I say, “Tim, sit still and eyes forward.” Tim, another student, is probably moving around in his chair. I tell him to sit still, meaning don’t move. “Eyes forward” means you should be looking straight ahead at me, the teacher, or at the blackboard, not around at all the other students. I tell him to pay attention. “Pay attention” means listen to what I am saying; watch me, not someone else. Then I say to Mark, “Mark, are you paying attention? I just called on you.” “To call on (someone)” in a classroom means to say someone’s name so they can give an answer to a question; they’re expected to talk. When I call on you, I’m going to ask you the capitals of the United States and you have to tell me what they are, all 50 of them. That’s to call on someone.

Then I say, “Duane and Frank, I don’t see you two jotting down the assignment for tomorrow.” “To jot (jot) down” means to write down, usually write down something on a piece of paper quickly. I tell Duane and Frank, two more of my bad students, that they’re not jotting down the assignment for tomorrow. An “assignment” in this case is homework, but it could be anything that your boss or your teacher tells you have to do. In this case, it’s “homework,” things you’re supposed to do for tomorrow’s class.

Then I say, “Okay, everybody, read silently at your desks for the next 10 minutes.” “To read silently” means to read something and not talk – not talk to anyone else.

I end my story by saying, “I always forget how exhausting it is to manage a classroom full of students.” “To be exhausting” means to be very tiring, something that makes you tired because it’s so difficult, it takes so much energy. And, managing a classroom, especially a classroom of not very intelligent or well-behaved students, students who are always talking or doing things they should not be doing like the students in my story, can be very exhausting.

Now let’s listen to the story, this time at a normal speed.

[start of story]

After three months of summer vacation, I was looking forward to the start of a new school year.



Okay, everybody, settle down. Take your seats and get out your textbook.

Charlie, eyes on your own book. And Kathy, do you have something to share with the rest of the class? No? Then put that away until recess.

Now, does anyone know the answer to this question I’ve written on the board? Don’t everybody speak at once. Raise your hand if you have an answer. Patrick, wait your turn. Therese raised her hand first.

Michael and Stephen, no talking in the back of the classroom. Tim, sit still and eyes forward. Pay attention. Mark, are you paying attention? I just called on you.

Duane and Frank, I don’t see you two jotting down the assignment for tomorrow.

Okay, everybody, read silently at your desks for the next 10 minutes.



I always forget how exhausting it is to manage a classroom full of students. How many months is it before our next summer vacation?

[end of story]

Our scriptwriter is always paying attention. That’s because we have the excellent student, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

The names in today’s story were completely fictional – made up, they don’t represent anyone real. Did I mention that my brothers’ and sisters’ names were Tim, Pat, Mark, Mike, Therese, Duane, Frank, Charlie, Kathy, and Stephen? No?

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to settle down – to become calm; to stop talking and/or moving around

* Settle down and do your homework. Then you can play outside.

to take (one’s) seat – to sit down

* Please take your seat and then we’ll begin the meeting.

textbook – a book used to study a particular subject, especially in a classroom, usually with detailed explanations, carefully defined words, and exercises to test one’s understanding

* This marketing textbook includes a lot of examples from international businesses.

eyes on – a phrase used to refer to what someone should be looking at and paying attention to, especially when contrasting that with what someone is actually looking at or paying attention to

* No cheating! Keep your eyes on your own test.

to share – to say something for other people to hear; to present information or an opinion to other people

* What’s so funny? Can you share the joke with us?

recess – break; a period of time during the school day when young students can go outside and play between classes

* Yesterday, it was too cold to go outside during recess, so the students played in the gym instead.

board – a chalkboard or a dry-erase board; a large, flat surface on the wall in the front of a classroom where teachers and students can write and erase (remove) information with chalk or special markers for everyone to see

* The teacher wrote math problems on the board and asked students to write down their answers on a piece of paper.

at once – at the same time; simultaneously

* If everyone speaks at once, I can’t understand what anyone is saying.

to raise (one’s) hand – to put one’s hand in the air, waiting for the teacher or other person of authority to invite one to speak, usually when one has a question or knows the answer to a question

* Harvey often raises his hand and asks questions during the chemistry lectures.

to wait (one’s) turn – to wait for one or more other people to do something before one does it, so that everyone has an opportunity

* Please wait your turn and stand in line. There’s enough food for everyone, but we can’t serve it all at the same time.

to sit still – to sit in one’s chair without moving

* It’s really hard for four-year-olds to sit still!

eyes forward – a phrase used to tell people to look ahead, toward the front of the room or toward another person, and pay attention

* Eyes forward! Please watch the dance instructor and then try to do what she is doing.

pay attention – a phrase used to tell people to watch and listen carefully to whatever is being said or shown

* If you don’t pay attention to the flight attendants’ safety instructions, you won’t know what do it the plane has to make an emergency landing.

to call on (someone) – to say someone’s name because he or she is expected to do something or answer a question

* Some math teachers have to be careful to make sure they call on girls as often as they call on boys.

to jot down – to write something down on paper very quickly

* Please jot down your name and email address, and then pass the paper to the person sitting next to you so he or she can do the same.

assignment – homework; some task that must be completed or a problem that must be solved before the next class or meeting

* How much time did you spend on the English assignment last night?

to read silently – to read something without speaking the words or making any other noise

* The teacher told her students to read silently while she prepared her next demonstration.

exhausting – very tiring; making one feel very tired

* Working two full-time jobs must be exhausting! How do you do it?

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does he tell the students to take their seats?
a) Because he wants them to rearrange the furniture.
b) Because he wants them to sit down.
c) Because he wants them to make room for the other students.

2. What was Kathy doing?
a) She was running around the classroom.
b) She was talking to another student.
c) She was answering the teacher’s question.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
settle down

The phrase “to settle down,” in this podcast, means to become calm and to stop talking and/or moving around: “After all that excitement, it took the kids about 20 minutes to settle down and get ready for bed.” The phrase “to settle back” means to sit down and relax in a comfortable position: “After a long day at the office, it feels great to settle back in front of the TV with a cup of tea.” The phrase “to settle for” means to compromise and accept what is offered, even thought it isn’t what one really wants: “I’d love a gourmet meal, but I’m so hungry I’d settle for a peanut butter sandwich.” Finally, the phrase “to settle up” means to pay a bill: “I’ll finish packing while you settle up with the hotel.”

at once

In this podcast, the phrase “at once” means at the same time or simultaneously: “If everyone stands up at once, the boat might tip over!” Or, “How can you do your homework and watch TV at once?” The phrase “at once” can also mean immediately, right away, or without any delay: “Report to my office at once!” The phrase “all at once” describes something that happens very quickly and unexpectedly: “I was walking down the street when all at once a kangaroo hopped across the sidewalk.” The phrase “once or twice” means rarely or only a few times: “Edgar may have eaten there once or twice, but it definitely isn’t his favorite restaurant.” Finally, the phrase “once upon a time” is used to begin fairy tales: “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who dreamed of meeting a handsome prince.”

Culture Note
Changes in Classroom Discipline

Classroom “discipline” (ways of controlling behavior by rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior) has changed a lot over time. In the past, teachers used “humiliation” (making people feel embarrassed) and “pain” (physical suffering) to discipline students who were “misbehaving” (behaving poorly; not doing what one is supposed to do). For example, in the past, a teacher would make a student sit or stand at the front of the classroom while wearing a “dunce cap,” or a pointed hat made from a piece of paper. In the past, teachers could also tell a student to hold out his or her hand with the “palm” (the soft, inside part of a hand) facing upwards and then “slap” (hit hard) it with a ruler several times.

“Nowadays” (in modern times), teachers are much less likely to use humiliation as a discipline technique and they almost never “inflict” (cause) physical suffering on students. Instead, students who misbehave might be sent to the “principal’s” (the leader or manager of a school) office or to “detention” (a period when the student must sit quietly in a special classroom and/or do homework while other students are enjoying their lunch, recess, or free time after school). Teachers might call the student’s parents for a “parent-teacher conference” (a meeting where teachers discuss a student’s academic progress and behavior with the parents).

If a student continues to misbehave, he or she might be “suspended” (not allowed to go to school for a period of time) or “expelled” (never allowed to go to that school again). These punishments are “reserved” (used only for) “serious” (major; important) “infractions” (violations) of the rules, such as bringing a weapon to school or “otherwise” (in some other way) creating an “unsafe” (dangerous) situation for other students and teachers.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b