Am I just not cut out for this?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Newb, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Newb

    Newb Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    After having my 1st block meltdown on me again (it's gotten to be something that happens twice a week), despite trying different approaches to try and stop it, I'm here to ask for advice. I'd appreciate any help you could give me.

    I'm a 1st year 9th grade English teacher. I have 4 classes: 2 of them are Inclusion English, 1 is General English (made up of the non-SPED kids who scored very low but were left out of the inclusion class), and a small "English Lab" that's just made up of the only 4 random kids in the school they didn't fit into the larger freshman Math labs.

    At first, it was a challenge just to figure out where my kids were at, academically, then find materials for it (I didn't get textbooks 8 weeks into the year). In the inclusion classes, they refuse to do anything but talk and goof off, and about 20% of those can barely read and write at all (2 can't).

    That led to a lot of false starts, and I've had a ton of discipline problems: 2 separate pairs of kids got restraining orders against each other in unrelated incidents because of family drama, 2 have already been sent to alternative school, and almost all of them have really horrible family situations involving abuse, drugs, etc. School is a very low priority in this community and the kids are used to not working, so that's been a struggle as well.

    My classroom management is godawful. My kids don't respect me. During first block, they get out of their seats and wander around the room, talk, and zone out when I'm trying to teach. I correct them and call for attention, only to have some of them get up and write on the board about how much I suck and how they hate my class.

    When I enforce any consequences (like even giving them a warning or moving them), the other students will rally to that one student's defense with "You can't do that! They're not the only one talking! It's not fair!" Then they ignore the command en masse and rebel as a group, refusing to do anything but argue, which causes the class to spiral further out of control. They'll threaten to have their parents come and scream at me. One student even told me today she'd have me fired and walked out of the room before dismissal.

    On the advice of some stuff I read on Michael Linsin's classroom management blog, I've tried just slowing stuff down and focusing on firm commitment to procedure, redoing things if they're not done correctly until the students do them properly, and on not on attacking anyone or arguing with students. This just drives them nuts and causes even more problems, as they say I'm being disrespectful of them and not being fair. It's a mess.

    At least 2-3 times a week, I'm dealing with kids screaming at me for not being fair if I tell them to stop an inappropriate or disruptive behavior kids storming out of the room to call their parents and complain about the horrible teacher they've got, the assistant principal (who never taught a single class) tells me how I suck and I need to get better but only gives vague advice, etc.

    One of our asst principals, who also never taught a single class (was hired in as a coach) tells me my problem is that I need to write kids up more, but not send every kid to the office. He says I'm too boring and that I "just don't have a personality that kids will to listen to and respect." I need to build relationships with them, but be strict and enforce rules on everybody equally--but when I enforce a rule, this is what happens! What am I supposed to do to fix this!?!?!

    What can I do!?!?!?!
     
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  3. luludc

    luludc Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Hi! I'm sorry you're having such a hard first year. I teach little kids, but I did spend six years teaching in a community similar to the one you're in (albeit in elementary school). I'll try to give the best advice I can think of, and hopefully others with high school experience will chime in.

    First of all, write up all behavior infractions that warrant an office referral. Keep copies of all your documentation. Call home often! Most parents are not going to get mad and scream at you. A few might, but most will listen. Keep the conversations objective and focused on the problem behavior. Not "Johnny is out of control" but "Johnny was told to do a, b, and c. Instead he did x, y, and z. He was referred to the office (or whatever)." Some parents will listen, some will get mad, and some will get tired of the phone calls and tell their kids to get their act together. Keep a phone log of all contacts home. If the phone numbers don't work, document that you tried calling. Ask your admin or registrar if a letter can be mailed home requesting current phone numbers.

    When kids argue with you, do not engage. As tempting as it may be, do not argue back. Refuse to engage in the power struggle. When they threaten to have their parents come up and scream at you,ignore that. Like I said, having worked in that type of community, most parents respect a teacher who is firm and consistent. While some may take the kid's side, if you are calm and objective in dealing with the parents, most of them will be reasonable.

    I wish I had better advice that was specific to high schoolers, but others will. Hang in there! Be consistent, confident, and firm!
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 4, 2012

    No advice other than what lulu offered...just :hugs:.
     
  5. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Here's another :hugs: and :yeahthat: to Lulu. Also, the first year (or in my case the first three years) is really rough. I remember I used to talk to other teachers and I'd get all kinds of advice, but the teacher who stuck out and advice's meant the most to me was the one who shared her frustration and struggles as a teacher and admitted there were times all throughout her 26 year career she thought about throwing in the towel.

    Maybe if I share my "teacher testimony" the way she did it will help encourage you.

    Even though I taught elementary school, I was "that" teacher. The one who couldn't control her class. The one whose kids couldn't walk quietly down the hall in a straight line to save their lives. The one whose kids took 20 - 25 minutes to use the bathroom because they were so busy running down the hall, jumping on stalls, throwing water, fighting each other, talking and playing around. The teacher who NEVER did reading groups or centers because whenever I was not literally staring at the children, they would go crazy

    By crazy I mean stuff like:

    1. I had 3 or 4 boys that used to sneak into the coat closest and steal other kids snacks.

    2. I had another boy and girl who had a signal...whenever I was distracted they would sneak into the coat closet and make out and hump on each other...and they were only 6! :eek:

    3. I also had a boy that liked to urinate in the coat closet. He'd spray everyone's coats, then sneak back to his seat. :confused:

    4. Another boy had SEVERE lactose intolerance, so he'd sneak into our snack bucket and get regular milk instead of the lactaid the cafeteria sent for him because he liked grossing everyone out by passing excess gas. A few times he crapped his pants and started crying because he was embarassed, then the next day, he'd sneak regular milk out the cafeteria again).

    I was also the bane of my hallways existance because the P was CONSTANTLY checking up on me since he knew my class was out of control, which meant the other teachers were always on guard because when he'd check up on me, he'd check up on them as well.

    Honestly, it got to the point where I would just give out worksheets and sit at my desk visualizing myself in a warm, sunny place away from children.

    I KNEW I just wasn't cut out for teaching. Then, somewhere around Year Four, it began to click. I think the combination of my experience, a week long non-credit course I took in reaching kids with ADHD, talking to other teachers and reading/researching on my own all began to come together.

    Am I the best teacher in the world now, nearly six years into my career? Heck no. But I've gotten my class management under control to the point that I'm not "that teacher" anymore. In fact, when subs come, I always get left nice notes about how great my class is and what strong routines I have in place.

    :hugs: It'll happen for you too. It just takes the one thing we never seem to have enough of...time
     
  6. creativemonster

    creativemonster Companion

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    Dec 4, 2012

    It's difficult to see the successes. They are there. Are they having moments...no matter how few or far between...and it might only be some of them at a time...but moments when they are inquisitive, or writing, or reading, or maybe just discovering that they have opinions and they are learning how to back up their opinions, or any other moments or glimpses of learning? These are the moments to celebrate. Those flashes of deeper thought and understanding is why you are there. So many adults have given up on those kids and there you are, day in and day out struggling along. They see it, they really do. And practice being kind to yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep and enough exercise and know that first year teachers are usually not so great. So what - there are moments of greatness.

    It's hard. Keep breathing. Be yourself. What works for one teacher might not work for another. Take the advice that sounds right for you. ignore the rest. Good luck. Keep us posted on how it's going.
     
  7. Newb

    Newb Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Thanks.

    One thing I should add... the principal who was hired in as a coach and has never taught a class is now threatening to fire me mid-year if I score below a 3 out of 5 on my 1st observation in 2 days. He reminded me today that I'm easily replaceable and if I can't "get this handled" he'll find someone who can. Then he forbid me from writing up anymore kids because he said I'm just using it as a way of dodging my responsibilities. So when I give them consequences that they already ignore--heck, a few of them have ran off without even going to the office when I sent them--I'm supposed to find something they won't ignore when I have no power to enforce it.

    They don't care about grades. They don't care about timeouts. They don't care about pushups, or jumping jacks, or writing sentences, or whatever else I've put in front of them. They won't stay after class when I tell them to stay. They won't even stay *in* class when I tell them to stay. They don't care if I contact their parents, because they know their parents won't get the call, email, or letter. They know they can take over the class simply by being drama queens or clowns and all I can do is write an office referral. It's gotten to the point where those who just sit there lazily sleeping are seeming more and more like "the good kids" while the bad ones are looking cooler and more popular to the majority of good, decent (but lazy) kids I have.
     
  8. Newb

    Newb Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    I should add that most teachers with decades of experience struggle to score a 3 on our state evaluation rubric. It goes to 5, but the state says that 5s should never happen and 4s should be extremely rare. Yet if I don't make it here, I'm fired. I don't know what to do!
     
  9. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Are any of the students even slightly interested? Do you have an interesting curriculum? In addition to what others have said, I would venture to say that, should any student show the slightest interest, calmly work with that student - not to his/her exclusion, but maybe, just maybe, some others will get drawn in. You say your are teaching 9th grade English to low students. I don't know your curriculum, but are you teaching grammar, literature, spelling, reading, or all of the above? What are the districts expectations of the skills these kids will have when they leave your class? I would concentrate on those skills and making them as engaging as possible. I know it's hard. My first year nearly killed me. Hang in there, come to AtoZ for advice, resources, and commiserations, and don't forget to take care of yourself.
     
  10. Newb

    Newb Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    I've tried to have an interesting curriculum. It's been a struggle, though.

    I had plans in place to be on weekly routines and do units built around different genres, like most English teachers, only to find that the district doesn't want us building units that way anymore and the activities I selected for the routines were just frustrating the kids and causing them to shut down. So I dropped that about 2 weeks in and went to The Odyssey, mainly because it was the only thing I had access to that I knew I really wanted to teach.

    We did the Odyssey early on and I thought that was interesting and the activities we were doing were fun, but most kids just complained it was boring and our class set was too advanced for their skill level, so I got a "simplified" version they could take home and read. Maybe 1/3 of them liked it. The rest complained vocally.

    Then I took them to the library to pick out books for SSR activities, but half of them refused to even check one out and of the ones who did, some of them were cookbooks or didn't fit with the activities I had planned. That was a disaster.

    Then the school literacy coach came in and said I shouldn't spend much time teaching them grammar or spelling, as my focus needs to be on the common core stuff they'll be doing next year (all focused on reading/writing). She also instructed me to go specifically by the curriculum in the new textbook, which I didn't get until 2 months into the course, and that I MUST cover the book's "Essential Core of Study" just as it was written to ensure I get all the Common Core stuff in. I've been doing that for the past 2 months. Our book has some good stuff in it, but trying to do things the textbook way has turned the class into a bore, and the supplementary stuff I've tied in has fallen flat, as well.

    On the advice of the SPED teacher in my inclusion classes, who teaches them 1 day a week in there, I've stopped giving them group work. He says they just waste too much time in groups. Plus I have some kids who flat out refuse to work in groups because of social issues. It's very hard to just put them into groups in the first place because some blow up if I don't let them work with friends, while others will just bully anyone who's not in their clique.

    For a test over the elements of story structure and irony, I had them watch "Spider-Man" and answer some questions with a short essay on the back. I thought that would be fun. A bunch of kids complained about that because they'd already seen it and the work they handed in was very sub-par, even by their standards. Very few even finished the 1 page handout.

    After all that, I don't know what I can successfully do to liven this up for them. When I try, the kids either say it's too hard and shut down or they spend most of their time goofing off. When I bring stuff in that's not in the book, admin doesn't like it because they feel it's inferior to what's in the text. When I offer rewards like pizza parties, free time, etc., admin doesn't like it because they think it's a waste of time. When I ask the kids themselves what they're interested in or would like to do, all they come back with is "don't give much work and let us play in groups."

    Next semester, I'm going to try to hit them with "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson, "Night" by Elie Wiesel, "Romeo and Juliet," Lit Circles, Poetry, a research paper, and a bunch of shorter grammar and writing activities along the way, then 2 weeks of Course Prep and 3 weeks of movies and stuff (in alignment with standards) after the tests. I hope I can liven this stuff up somehow and make it better, but I already envision the kids tuning out because it's too hard or depressing or whatever...

    I'm at my wit's end. My AP seems certain it's mostly a personality defect on my part that's "turning these kids off."
     
  11. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Some would argue if a principal initiates intervention with real training, on-going coaching, collegial sharing, chances to observe ... in short, tries to help staff improve versus sitting back and mandating improvement and a teacher still shows little sign of improving a case for dismissal could be made. It is all too common to teach kids one way then drop everything we know about learning and skill acquisition and teach adults completely different.
     
  12. ScubaSteve

    ScubaSteve Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    I don't envy your situation and I have no real advice to offer. However, I do think you should go watch two movies:

    Stand and Deliver and The Ron Clark Story

    Both are true stories about teachers in worse situations than yours, and are very captivating and inspirational movies.

    Also, are you friends with any other teachers at the school whom you might share students with? Any other teachers somewhat new?
     
  13. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Fanatic

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Call home often! Most parents are not going to get mad and scream at you. A few might, but most will listen. Keep the conversations objective and focused on the problem behavior. Not "Johnny is out of control" but "Johnny was told to do a, b, and c. Instead he did x, y, and z.

    lulu gave you some excellent advice here. :)

    Newb,

    Thank you for sharing so much about the situation. That is a big help. One thing that seems clear is that you don't feel that you have the support of the admin. With that being known, I think it is imperative that you sit down with the P or AP and work something out very soon. I would talk to them at what you feel is a good time to do so. For some it is before school, for some it is after school, and others during school hours. I would tell the P and AP, I am coming to you as I really want to become more successful in the classroom. I would then ask them for suggestions on what you can do. Write down everything they say and thank them for each one, even if they say something that seems like really bad advice. If they give vague suggestions, ask for something more specific.

    It sounds like the admin has given ideas of what not to do, but I hear you wanting to know ways to specifically help the students. Find out what this is. I would also really listen to the coach who is giving you advice and work with that individual.

    Lastly, I know you have a difficult situation to say the least. Somehow as difficult as it might be, the more you can focus on what you can control and not what others control the better. You can't control whether the P will fire you or not. That is his choice. You can control only your own decisions at school and how you react to the students at school. Good luck to you.
     
  14. Newb

    Newb Rookie

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    Dec 4, 2012

    Funny you should mention that. I watched "Stand and Deliver" a couple of weeks ago, thinking that watching the story of a teacher who is so successful in a tough situation might inspire me. All I came away thinking was "Wow, his kids are so motivated and well-behaved! I wish I had kids that good!"

    I know two other teachers who have a lot of these kids. They're also in their first year and they have trouble with them, too. But the AP isn't angry at them because they don't send kids to the office much. I asked what they were doing to control the situation, and they said the same kids who give me trouble are constantly disrupting their classes, too, but they just refuse to write those same kids up no matter how bad they get and instead spend their time yelling at the whole class to get quiet without mentioning anyone by name. It doesn't work to keep class going, but those kids don't go off and escalate, either.

    I talked with another teacher, who's in his first year here after retiring in another state with a bunch of Teacher of the Year awards, and has a few of the kids I do in the really disruptive class. He went on a big rant about how, in his entire career teaching at middle school and high school, he's never dealt with kids so disrespectful and poorly prepared academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. He said that classes usually learn how to behave after a few weeks of laying down the law and enforcing discipline, but these kids just don't care. He finished by saying that he better hope someone keeps the welfare system going, because all of them are going to be on it for their entire lives.

    So... that's the environment I'm dealing with.

    I'll have to check out Ron Clark. I've heard his books are good, but I didn't know there was a movie.
     
  15. msufan

    msufan Comrade

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    Dec 5, 2012

    I would consider seeking employment in another district instead of just thinking you aren't cut out for teaching. I know there are many districts in which I, personally, could not successfully teach.
     
  16. kellyr

    kellyr Rookie

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    Dec 5, 2012

    :hugs::hugs::hugs::hugs:

    I'm so sorry you're having such an awful time right now :-( . I don't understand why administrators would ever waste the time, money, and effort of hiring someone, to only sit back and watch them fail. They don't sound like they are very helpful...at all. :dizzy:

    I don't think that I have much valuable input for you, as I am in my first year of teaching too, so I have really no experience yet. I just know that if it were me, I would DEFINITELY be applying with other districts already, and I would start keeping track of exactly what my issues are, what I was doing to fix them, what the administrators had suggested I do, the results of implementing those suggestions, and so on... That way, if you are fired :(, and you need to explain to a new district what the reasons for that were, you will have detailed documentation to show that you did all that you could to be successful but you did not have the support of your principal/VPs.

    You could try sending a detailed email to your P about everything that is going on, what you have tried, and that you are contacting them to ask for EXACT instructions on what they want you to do. Tell them that you will do anything and everything possible to turn the situation around, and that you are looking to him/her to guide you. A good supervisor/principal should help their employees grow, not sit back and watch them drown.

    If nothing else this will make you so much stronger in the long run. :hugs:

    HANG IN THERE!!!
     
  17. greendream

    greendream Comrade

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    Dec 5, 2012

    This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy. I was in a situation very similar to yours about 4 years ago. I taught 9th grade English as well, in a very rough school.

    Much like you, my admin would tell us constantly to "handle our own discipline." They didn't forbid us from writing referrals, but they told us that every referral we write makes us look like we can't handle our class.

    I might agree with that sentiment, if they had let us discipline the kids in any way, shape or form, but every consequence I tried was shot down. Literally, every single one. Here's a list.

    Can't send them out of the room. They're missing valuable instruction.

    Can't talk to them one-on-one during class. That costs valuable instruction time.

    Can't move them to the corner or away from other students. That embarrasses them.

    Can't give writing as a punishment. Then they have a negative view of writing.

    Can't keep them after school. The parents might complain.

    Can't give rewards unless we give it to the whole class. It would be unfair for some kids not to receive one.

    Can't make them do push-ups or anything physical. That's considered corporal punishment.

    It very nearly drove me to a mental breakdown, and I'm not exaggerating. I will also be completely honest with you about this forum. A lot of the advice you're getting is from people who teach in much better schools than yours, even if they don't realize it. You might get a lot of techniques that would be helpful in your average classroom, but not in your own.

    Unfortunately, the only way I solved my particular problem was by moving to a better school. :sorry: I hope it does turn around for you.
     
  18. Lisabobisa

    Lisabobisa Companion

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    Dec 5, 2012

    The issue with them writing on the board.... I had that problem. Solved it pretty quickly by hiding all my whiteboard markers and only using one when I was teaching which usually stayed in my hand.
     

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