This is not a "how to" post because I haven't exactly figured out how to balance work and play in the classroom. I've been at my school for two years and because I am the first American and Peace Corps Volunteer there, I still get giggly "hellos" and even "avtograph" requests. I know, I know, I'm awesome, right? Nope. If I was awesome, students would listen to me all the time during my lessons, but they don't. One reason might be because they have figured out that I have no real authority at school. I'm not allowed to escort student on trips or kick kids out of class, I usually have no idea what's going on at my school when it comes to events, concerts, and good old surprise holidays, and the marks I give aren't always taken seriously. For example, when I give a student a 10 (out of 12) and their actual teacher says, "how about an 8 instead" the students excitement turns into disappointment and then into them not caring as much about trying hard in my class. I'll never fully understand the grading system here and I'll never fully like it...
Another reason they get a little crazy is because they kind of expect me to do something fun all the time. When I first started teaching here in Melitopol, I wanted to make a good impression so I created fun dynamic lessons. This is hard work and sometimes I get a little lazy and I just want to slip into classic "to the books" teaching mode. Don't get me wrong, I love to have fun with my students, but we can't just play games all the time, no matter how much fun I have tricking them into learning. Sometimes the English classroom should be quiet. Sometimes students should write their ideas down in their notebooks, while they peacefully ponder and make grammatical errors for me to check.
The other day, as I walked into the classroom, on of my tenth form students said, "Давайте play!" Let's play! Only three students showed up that day due to illness, so I gave in and we played my favorite game, Celebrity (for rules on how to play, see this list of games). In that case, it was OK to play a game, but later on that day, my eighth form class did not deserve the same treatment. They were terrible. They were loud and scatterbrained and I couldn't hear the answers from the serious students in the front. Sometimes, I do the silent thing and wait until it's quiet. The students eventually get bored and confused about what to do and then they get it. This time, I did that and wrote the number 9 on the board and asked them to guess what it meant. It was the number of lessons we had left before I leave Ukraine. I said, in a calm voice because I don't like yelling, "Is this how you want to be? We have 9 classes left and you want to be noisy? You want to do nothing? 9 lessons. What do you want to do?" Some of the students were surprised, some of them were teary (including myself), and one student decided to answer my question. She stood up with excitement and shouted, "PLAY GAMES!" Some students agreed and cheered and ruined my attempt at being sarcastic, but I could tell some students saw my frustration and respected it.
I told them we could only play games if they had good behavior and I'm trying to stick to this plan, but sometimes, I give in and put some extra effort into making class more fun. I don't know if this is good or bad or if the teacher who has to teach the kids after me suffers from leftover game energy...but I'm working on finding the balance and for now, I'll do my best to stay strong.
I've compiled a list of my favorite games on my other blog, teachloveplayenglish.blogspot.com. Here's the link to my Repertoire of Games.