5 Types of Classes You’ll Have as an EPIK Teacher
Every class I teach has a distinct personality which is the puzzling combination of all 30 something personalities in the room. And despite the fact that often those personalities are each perfectly pleasant on their own they can sometimes combine into something truly bizarre.
So this is not to diminish the fact that yes every class is different, because every student is different.
But there are certainly “genres” that most classes tend to fall into. And knowing which kind of class I’m about to walk into can often do wonders for how I present the material. Figuring out what they need in combination with what they’ll be able to handle is the key.
(Also, I teach middle school and my classes usually have anywhere from 25-35 students. So I’m not 100% sure these will apply for younger kids or smaller classes, but I’d imagine they’re probably not that different.)
1. The “Barely Has a Pulse” Class.
I start every class by greeting the students and then asking, “How are you today?” And in the, “barely has a pulse” class, also known as the, “are you guys alive? are you breathing?” class, their response is usually just a lot of vacant stares and grunts.
This kind of class is frustrating because you feel like you’re talking to a wall. And given the fact that I teach an English CONVERSATION class, it makes it really hard to get the lessons to flow like I want them to.
Sometimes this kind of class can make you feel like a fool, standing in front of the room going on in a foreign language with no response. But honestly this isn’t the worst kind.
They’re quiet but relatively easy to control, and gosh darn it if they want class to be boring, by all means we can do boring.
Last year one of my awful grade three boys classes was like this but towards the end of the year I ended up loving it because it meant we could get through what we needed to get through and then (in my defense all the other teachers were doing it to) let them self-study or practice for the school festival. Both of which they would do very quietly.
The thing to be careful of with this class is that you might go through the material way faster than your other classes doing the same lesson. Because they won’t really answer any questions, and you don’t have to waste a lot of time quieting them down, you can sometimes find yourself with an extra ten minutes or so at the end of class. So it’s good to have a back up just in case.
2. The “Wild but Funny” Class
This class is silly, and strange, and they absolutely never, not for a moment, stop speaking.
It’s usually hard to get through the lesson explanation in the beginning, and the textbook listening, because they’re so rowdy. But once we start the activity or game portion of the class they lose their minds.
In my experience at least this class is full of students with big, fun, generally positive personalities who don’t care even a tiny bit about school.
(Being able to make that distinction between a “bad kid” and a kid who “just doesn’t really care about school” was huge. Don’t always assume the kids who aren’t good at studying are bad. Sometimes they’re the most fun.)
All my grade three boys were really difficult last year but I had one class that I always looked forward to, even though it was a battle to finish the textbook stuff, because I knew that they would get super into what ever activity we were doing.
I remember after my favorite lesson that year, in the midst of the absolute chaos that ensued as the bell rang, one of my favorite super low-level kids caught my eye, gave me a big thumbs up and said, “really funny teacher!”
Your voice might be hoarse after this class, and sometimes you’ll want to pull out your hair and scream at them to just but quiet for, “LITERALLY TWO SECONDS PUT TOGETHER!” But I can bet that you’ll probably have a lot of fun with them.
3. The “Bad Wild” Class
This is my worst kind of class. Their rowdiness comes from a place of disrespect rather than silliness. They never settle down and even trying to play a game with them is a losing battle. There’s always one kid who finds a way to play the game just enough while at the same time mocking it as the rest of the class eats it up.
As with all classes there’s usually at least one good, high level kid that you can count on to, if nothing else, make eye contact with you during the lesson.
This year it seems like some of my three grade two boys classes fall into this category. All of my really fun games are towards the end of the semester because I spend the beginning trying to stuff in as much actual class as I can before we lose them completely. So it remains to be seen whether they’ll enjoy the games.
But in my classes structured to actually make them learn and practice, it’s a battle every time.
These classes are hard because even if you succeed in controlling the class by brute strength, or caving and trying to appease them with a game, you end up failing the high level students who really could pay attention and do the activities well. And that’s often the most disappointing part.
(But to encourage anyone who’s dealing with a class like this, and how to still do right by your high level kids, don’t stress too much. Last year I had a class that did not fully participate in a single lesson we ever did. They were like this with all of the teachers. My co-teacher once told me she had them one morning and she, “taught the entire lesson to the three students who were paying attention in the front row.” I assumed that every student in that class more or less thought I was a joke.
But then I had one of them in my after school class and got to know him a little better. He ended up quickly becoming one of my little buddies. He loves history and government and, as that’s what my degree is, he liked to ask me my opinions on different things happening in the news.
ANYWAY, I say all of that to say this. Even if you have a horrific class don’t give up on the good kids. Don’t worry about making the lessons perfect because they won’t be, but don’t give up trying to make connections with them. This student graduated and went to high school but he still emails me to ask how school is or what I think about the latest new’s in Korea. You can do it, just don’t sweat the small stuff.)
4. The Angel class
These are the classes that make it all worth it. The ones that remind you, “oh right, this lesson is actually really good. Effective even.” These are the ones where you step back and realize they’re getting it. Not just the how but the why.
They’re excited for class just because it’s you. And their excitement isn’t conditioned on whether or not you play a game that day. They have the ability to make everything fun. They’re sweet, and funny, and they try their best which is all I could ever ask from a group of teenagers.
I have some grade three boys, grade three girls, and grade two girls classes that fall into that category. Particularly one grade two girls class that is almost an exact copy of my favorite class from last year when they were grade one students. That class I do pretty much without a co-teacher now and still it goes incredibly well.
I have little hearts next to these classes in my planner and thankfully I’ve got at least one or two per day. Except Mondays. But I don’t expect much from Mondays anyway.
5. The “It Depends on the Day” Class
With this class also known as the, “depends on which way the wind is blowing,” or “if it’s a full moon,” or “if they ate breakfast that day,” or “if it’s raining” class, you can never know what you’re walking into.
On any given day they could be any of the four previously mentioned classes or a confusing combination of all of them.
After every class I teach I write down what we did and how it went. And for these classes, looking back at the past weeks and my thoughts about them, gives me almost no clue as to what to expect from them in our new lesson.
One week it’s, “They were great! Listened well and they liked the activity!” and the next it’s “who are these children and why did I delude myself into thinking that lesson would work?”
It’s thanks to classes like these that even after doing this for a year, and having my entire year’s lessons planned, I find myself constantly on tweaking things and on my toes ready for anything they might decide to throw at me that day.
I’m sure there are other types of classes as well, but those are the categories that most of mine seem to fall into. If you have any others, please let me know in the comments! I’d be really curious to know how other people’s classes and students are!
Thanks as always for reading and I hope this was interesting or helpful to someone out there!