It's Monday and this post is going to be about Mondays. At this moment I can't say whether I'll manage to finish the post today but it doesn't really matter; there will be more Mondays anyway. I originally planned to send a short message on Facebook or Twitter to get this off my chest but I've eventually changed my mind. This deserves to be more that 140 characters or so; I simply want this to be more permanent than a tweet. I want to come back to what I've written later on to see if things have changed.
I'll start with a little bit of contradiction. Although Mondays are my longest work days in the week, I love them. However, the most frustrating moments in the classroom happen on Mondays. Why is it so? Having had plenty of rest over the weekend I usually feel energized and enthusiastic to start over. I do need a few minutes to force myself out of bed on a Monday morning but once I'm on my feet, I'm fine. So far so good. 'Where's the story?', you may ask. The trouble is that most of my students don't feel the same way. Metaphorically speaking, every Monday is about me running into a stone wall; when I enter the classroom any Monday lesson I see a crowd of tired faces only craving more weekend days, some of them virtually catching up on sleep. Those who're awake and present can feel the potential danger; they rightly suspect I will want them to work hard. What is more, I expect those exhausted creatures to have worked hard over the weekend. Over and over again, I fail to accept the fact that they are not as fresh as daisies? Why on earth do they feel so jaded? They had the whole weekend to recharge batteries! Besides working hard to get ready for school, they must have had a lot of fun. But only the latter is true. All I can see at the beginning of any Monday lesson is every other person standing, ready to apologize for not having done their homework. Falling into the same hole, I always get slightly irritated at this point. I have so many objectives to accomplish after all. I have so many useful ideas to share with the students. But some people haven't done their homework, so I can't go on as fast as I imagined; we have to revise and repeat what they were supposed to go through over the weekend. But because they haven't done what they were supposed to do, they can't even recall the things we'd done before. They seem to have forgotten everything (I can't believe that a weekend is long enough for them to forget). So in an attempt to save their pride and glory, they try to convince me that they didn't understand the instructions, for example. By claiming this, they inadvertently and implicitly place a little bit of the blame on me as well. I imagine this may be their train of thought:
I haven't done my homework and I feel a little guilty, so the only way I can get out of this is by blaming someone else. And here's the teacher who hasn't explained the matter properly. She may well buy it and forgive me.
I know that if I don't stop the first person doing this, I can wrap the lesson up immediately. So what I usually do is that I let those who haven't done the work struggle and suffer a little. I ask them more questions and require answers. I don't accept 'I don't know' as a response. But this takes time and meanwhile my plans are falling through. So in effect, this doesn't really work either.
One more thing I've learned about Mondays is that giving tests on the first weekday is a risky business - for all the reasons described above. Students get bad marks and they feel unhappy and demotivated. As a result, I'm miserable too. What is more important, they haven't learned what I needed them to learn. Just another vicious circle.
So what's the easiest way out of this mess? This is some advice I'm giving to my future self:
Give your students the luxury of free weekends. Tell them on Fridays that they will write a test next Tuesday and remind them on Monday beforehand (this works provided the students have more lessons a week but this schedule can be adjusted). The other piece of advice would be: don't base your Monday lesson on the homework you assigned on Friday because you may well feel disappointed and frustrated. Exploit your Monday classes in a different way: set the mood, motivate, incite interest in what's about to come next, talk/write about the weekend, play games, revise vocabulary, and sing......
And because it's Monday, instead of feeling frustrated I'm going to listen to my favourite song by The Cure: Friday......