Let’s get right to it: core French classes can be dreaded by some due to students’ behaviour in these classes.
The question is why. I’m not here to point fingers as I don’t think it’s a situation where anyone is at “fault”. But I do strongly believe this: kids do well if they can.
If you have never read Dr. Ross Greene’s book “Lost at School”, I highly recommend it. Here’s a glimpse of what he has to say about “kids do well if they can”.
With this perspective in mind, students who misbehave in the context of Core French are not doing so because they are choosing to. It’s not because they hate French. It’s not because they are just wanting to push buttons.
As Dr Greene warns us, we can easily fall into the idea of “making kids wanna”. There are certainly systems out there and tools that make rewarding desired behaviours and punishing unwanted behaviours possible and easy. I’ve been there. I’ve tried tickets for draws. Point systems. Reward days. And you know what, they worked. To a degree. Behaviour certainly improved. But never all the time and often only temporarily. I never felt like any system I tried truly addressed the heart of the issue. It wasn’t until I heard Dr Greene speak that I began to understand why. These systems fall apart because, at heart, kids already “wanna” – there’s something else getting in their way.
When I reflected on my teaching practice and why students were acting out in French class, I had to take responsibility. I was often expecting too much. Becoming really familiar with the CEFR A1 helped refocus my expectations.
When I developed FrenchQuest, my driving force was enabling success for all students. If students feel success, they can build upon that success. If they feel frustration, they will shut down. I work to avoid that frustration at all costs. That doesn’t mean I lower my standards and don’t expect hard work – I absolutely do. It does mean that I often have to let go of idealistic ideas of what students should be able to do and make sure I stick to the realistic.
I continue to be aware of “frustration points” if and when they arise. I make sure I address them promptly – do I need to teach a mini-lesson to provide the background knowledge necessary for students to succeed at a task, do I need to spend some time with a small group or with a student 1:1 for additional support, do I need to re-word my instructions to make them more clear? Whatever it may be, I am responsible for proactively managing the behaviour in my classroom – kids will do well if they can. My job is to make sure they can.
The difference? Amazing.