Monitoring the class while the students work in pairs or groups is one of the classroom management techniques every teacher is expected to do. In a language classroom, we usually monitor activities to listen for the learners’ accuracy and fluency and also to check if everything is going according to plan.
However, I’ve recently realized that when I am in the role of a student/trainee/attendant of a workshop, a close physical presence of the teacher (or the presenter) is not pleasant to me. From this perspective, I often find monitoring distractive and intrusive, especially if the presenter is somebody I don’t know well. I simply can’t help the feeling that sometimes it’s as if the presenter is only pretending to be interested. The questions addressed to us sound like a small talk you have with strangers in the street – nice but totally pointless. It’s as if they knew that they are expected to be monitoring and that’s the only reason why they are doing it. I understand that sometimes they just need to blow off steam and thus they pace the room, distracting the attendees.
I prefer it when during pair work, the teacher/presenter stays in their default position, getting ready for the next stage of the lesson/workshop, for example, rather than monitoring us by closely listening to what we are discussing, occasionally asking a
redundant question or giving unsolicited advice. I know I’m being harsh here but that’s how I see it now. 🙂
I mean, monitoring can and should be done only if it’s natural and absolutely necessary. I know that even adult learners like to have somebody nearby who they can ask a question if they come across a problem. However, I prefer it when we discuss the problem in the pair (that’s what we were asked to do after all) and we ask for clarification later – when we share the insights as a whole group and everybody can a have a say. This is what autonomy means to me. And if we believe in sharing and the benefits of peer work, i.e. we don’t do it just because it’s cool, we should simply leave the students alone. Thus, they can better concentrate on their tasks. I believe that the time during pair/group work should be the students’ private space, safe from the prying eyes (and ears) of the teacher.
I know there needs to be a certain amount of trust between the teacher and the students. If you believe your students will go on Facebook instead of doing the assigned work, you’ll probably need to monitor them every minute of every practice activity. And let’s be honest, we teachers are suspicious creatures. However, if you believe they can do well without the teacher being around all the time, you can relax and
eavesdrop monitor from a distance.