9.12.2010

What's The Special Chair?

Haha. Good question.

The Special Chair sits at the front of the classroom right next to my podium, facing out toward the class. When a student decides he needs to be Special for that day's class, he gets to sit in The Special Chair.

Being Special consists of mostly good-natured, but still disruptive, class clowning. It's not for students who are being downright disrespectful, but for those guys who just have a hard time relinquishing the spotlight. When I ask, "Are you going to be The Special Student today?", they mostly immediately say, "No Teacher! I not special!" and settle down for the rest of class. If they persist, I move them up to The Special Chair, where they are isolated from their band of merry brothers, within my physical reach and now the center of attention from the front of the room, which usually causes a bit of discomfort, or at least boredom, in an extreme case. They remain in The Special Chair until they can settle down and stop clowning, and then they're allowed to go back to their seat.

It's a much more effective method than just sending them to the back of the room, or out in the hall, where the lovely window function on most Korean classrooms allows them to keep up their shenanigans from outside, drawing the class's attention away from your direction. At least if they keep clowning at the front of the room, the entire class is still facing your direction and focused on you. Usually, if it's a particularly bold student, there's a bit of comical interaction for the class's benefit, before I say, "Are you finished now? Can I go back to the lesson? Okay, good. Thank you so much."

It keeps out a lot of the bad blood that can come up through discipline, when you sometimes have to control a popular (and this type almost always is popular, holding large sway over his classmates' opinions) student. You don't pit your will directly against theirs, causing a situation that can be damaging to your relationship with that student and all of his little followers. You can simply best them at their own game. Which usually ends with them being a lot more respectful in future classes together. My Special Students have usually ended up being the biggest help when it comes time for the students to participate in the lesson. And the best part is, after a student is Special once, his classmates don't soon forget it. If the same student acts up again, the others are quick to interrupt and shout, "Teacher! He is Special Student!" Which usually embarrasses them a little, enough to make them cut the shit. The students love it when someone ends up in The Special Chair, and end up policing themselves, after they've seen it happen once.

Ask me anything

7 comments:

Manic Pixie Dream Girl said...

This is awesome. May I steal this idea?

gwern said...

Manic: I'm afraid not. She already patented it (see filing #7472428, "A novel sociological method of primate control with apparatus").

If you're lucky, it'll be picked up by the IEEE and standardized, which would imply it being licensed out under RAND royalty terms. Might still be too expensive for you, though.

Chris in South Korea said...

gwern, I actually got a chance to look at that patent. Apparently, the patent is valid when working within a structured and proper lesson plan - if you're like the 98% that don't use one, it's still in the public domain.

Seriously, though, great idea. I'll be sure to try that the next time I work with kids.

Prev said...

I will have to steal this too! I love your great attitude with the students, and your style of discipline :)

Burndog said...

I use the "Bell Master" system...which I will have to explain some time...it's incredibly effective...to the point where it's 90% of what I hear about from the new teacher types after I give them their Orientation speech. I love variety though...and this looks peachy...I might try it this week...just to mix things up a little :-)

saharial said...

what a super idea! *eyes patent* I don't have any students, but when I do I will be sure to remember that!

I'm no Picasso said...

Haha I had a feeling this one would go over well. It's been the biggest success I think I've had in my entire teaching career. My peak.

Burndog -- You're definitely going to have to share the "Bell Master" system with me at some point. I'm currently having a struggle with how out of control excited the boys get when we're playing a game, and even though they're trying their best, honestly, it can take way to long to get them to settle down after a particularly shocking occurrence, like one team's points getting completely wiped out. They just lose the plot and can't hear me calling them to attention at all....