The previous chapter showed how each language class is composed of a unique meld of students, in terms of their countries of origin, linguistic backgrounds, personalities and so on. It showed how each student's state of mind, which is often related to personal circumstances and immediate concerns, can affect their classroom behaviour. It also showed how groups of students can differentiate themselves from other students, thereby posing potential problems for their teachers.
The present chapter focuses on how language teachers manage individuals and groups of students in their classrooms. Section 6.1 shows how experienced teachers, recognising the leadership roles that students with strong personalities can play in their classes, attempt to harness for the good of the class the energies of potentially disruptive students. It also demonstrates how the behaviour of individuals or cliques is related to the overall wellbeing of language classes. Section 6.2 outlines the different ways in which experienced language teachers are alert to classroom ‘vibes’: behavioural clues that are indicative of students' states of mind. It suggests that language teachers are particularly alert to potential threats to the self-esteem of vulnerable individuals. Section 6.3 describes some of the pro-active and reactive ways in which experienced teachers seek to maintain or restore a sense of social equilibrium within their classes when they sense that the emotions of individuals or groups of students are running high.