I have not posted on these boards in forever, but am hoping to get some help now. I just returned from an extended maternity leave (14 weeks) and am REALLY struggling with my class. They were not perfect angels at the beginning of the year - and I have been told that my sub. did an excellent job (which I believe) - but the classes' overall behavior has been utterly and totally ridiculous since I returned after the Christmas break. One of my biggest issues is that I am very boy heavy - 15 out of my 23 friends are little guys. I was told that this is "just the way it is" this year but only myself and one other teacher are this unbalanced. She & I are both known for our strong classroom mgmt skills - go figure! My next issue, though, is the talking - which I have always considered "developmental" for first graders - but it is way beyond what I consider acceptable. Continuous (even while I'm trying to give direc.) & very, very loud. I have tried praise for the ones who are being quiet workers along with small rewards like candy, etc. I also started a class cotton ball jar. I now feel like I am rewarding the same kids over and over again (which is fine, but not really changing the behavior of the ones who need it) and the cotton ball jar excitement wore off after about 2 days . I am considering starting table points (tally marks everytime the entire table is listening, working quietly, etc.) next week to create some friendly competition for good behavior. I thought this might be more helpful for all the boys that I have...... The last issue is a complete & total inability to follow simple instructions with talking/becoming distracted by other children, things in their desks, etc. In my 10 years of teaching, I have honestly never seen anything like this. I have tried a lot of "If you can hear my voice, clap three times, etc.", pattern clapping, etc. & it has improved somewhat. I guess the bigger issue is just getting them to follow the directions without starting to talk every single time I ask them to do something . I am so frustrated by all of this that I'm honestly considering a career change. I have a new baby at home (along with the sweetest 3 yr old ever ) but he is sleeping through the night so rest is not an issue. I try & go in "fresh" every morning but by 2:00 I am ready to pull my hair out!! I am wondering if anyone may have any helpful suggestions for the talking and/or lack of following directions without starting to talk. Thanks so much for your help.