Just hired to be as a first time English teacher in an urban neighborhood

Discussion in 'General Education' started by OCaptain!MyCaptain!, Aug 4, 2017.

  1. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! New Member

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    Aug 4, 2017

    Hello everyone, first post here!

    For the last year and half, I've been applying for teaching positions while subbing. After countless resumes sent and several handfuls of interviews, I finally got accepted into an urban public high school in NJ.

    When the reality dawned on me that I was finally getting a genuine teaching gig, I was filled with a mixture of bliss and anxiety about the upcoming task. I am alternate route teacher and don't have mountains of pedagogy to fall back on but I do have a lot of passion and a strong knowledge of literature. I have 6 years of group tutoring and a year and a half of subbing, all of which I've done incredibly well so far.

    However, this will be the first time I'll handle something of this magnitude and want everything to be excellent. Any words of advice or even just encouragement? Mistakes to avoid or will inevitably make? How to make a strong first impression on my students the first day? I was told that the biggest issue I may have is low motivation and will have to plan as such. The school year starts in about a month so I want to plan as far ahead as I can. I already contacted my soon to be supervisor for recommendations.
     
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  3. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Habitué

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    Aug 4, 2017

    Go buy the book "Tools for Teaching" by Fred Jones now! Get it overnighted and start reading.
     
  4. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! New Member

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    Will do! In the mean time, I'm also reading "The First Days of School" by Harry K Wong until "Tools for Teaching" comes in.

    I did have another teacher recommend that with permission from the school, I hang around during their summer extra-curricular hours (football practice etc.) or local community events just to make an impression on some of the kids and introduce myself. The benefit of this supposedly would be to have a few kids on my side already before the school year even started.
     
  5. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Rookie

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    Aug 4, 2017

    First, congrats! I am also an NJer. I can see that suggestion, but to some extent it would also feel a bit awkward to have just some random hanging out at football practice. Also, be prepared to throw everything you read out the window : ) You never know what's gonna work for you until you get in there.
     
  6. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Habitué

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    When you get the Fred Jones book, read it MANY times before school begins. You can be the greatest expert in literature and know all your content and standards, BUT, if your classroom is chaotic, your literature content knowledge won't help you manage the classroom. I should know. I had a disastrous year as a 1st year HS math teacher even though I had 3 years experience at the middle school level. And, better yet, what might work today might not work tomorrow. What works in one period might not for other periods on the same day!

    So, in a nutshell, get that book and read it until you're overwhelmed! Then read it again and again.
     
  7. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    It's funny that I'm going into my ninth year of teaching but only bought this book now. Of course, those of you who know me know I spent the first seven of those years teaching online. That means I've had one year of barely controlled chaos in my VERY urban school. Time to sit down with this book, read it thoroughly, and make some changes.
     
  8. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Rookie

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    I disagree that you should start hanging around extracurriculars like football practice. That seems . . . creepy. Especially if you are a youngish female. If your relationship with students is ever questioned, even unjustly, hanging around at football practice a month before you have started teaching is not going to look good for you.

    It definitely would be fine to go to actual games and community events that are open to the public, but stay away from practices and the like that aren't public events.
     
  9. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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  10. PrettyQueenBee

    PrettyQueenBee Rookie

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    Aug 5, 2017

    Congrats on the new job!

    I'm from an urban neighborhood and I also teach at one. If you can't relate to the students, I highly encourage you to take a ride around their neighborhood and see where they're from and get to know them. And whoever told you that "low motivation" will be an issue was correct. But it's not because they don't want to learn. You'd be surprise at the amount of things a lot of these kids are going through. For instance, if they're homeless, or live in an abusive home, how can they be motivated to do any classwork? Let alone show up to school? That's where you come in. Be THE encourager. Make them feel as if your classroom is an escape. I'm sure you'll have a curriculum, but I think it'll be cool if you throw in a few movies or books that aren't in the curriculum.... something they can relate to, but that's also age-appropriate. There will be times where you have to play teacher, counselor, uncle, etc. I highly encourage you to have a balance of compassion and the ability to stand your ground. I've seen a few teachers get ran over the entire year. And that's because they go in thinking they need to be the "cool" teacher or be their friend. Let them know you're here to ensure that they are successful in all aspects of life, but you will not tolerate any type of disrespect. I've never had any issues with student behavior. I have a zero tolerance. I don't know you, but I respect you for taking a position in an urban neighborhood. It takes guts and strength. It's tough, but they need us.

    Good luck and congrats again!
     
    mrsf70 likes this.
  11. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Habitué

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    I hope you ordered the book.... ;)
     
  12. Mr.Literature

    Mr.Literature Companion

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    Aug 6, 2017

    1. Classroom management will be vital for a successful year. Without it, you might not make it past your first year. Especially if you're teaching at a school with many at-risk youth. The school I worked at years ago loses about 30 teachers a year. Many leave before the first semester is even over.
    2. Be aware that lack of motivation stems from their lives at home. Many are parents to their siblings, many face abuse (physical and/or emotional), many go home and don't have food to eat, and many have other struggles you can't even begin to imagine. Kids won't really care about the assignments they are being given when their most basic needs are not being met.
    3. Having consequences and being consistent doesn't mean you are a jerk, it means you care about them. I'm friendly with my kids, but they know I'm not their friend. That is a line that I won't allow them to cross, so be mindful of that as well.
    4. Don't hang around random practices unless you're actually seeking a role in that sport as a coach. The kids don't know you and honestly it just looks weird.
    5. Teacherspayteachers.com is a life-saver, so make sure you sign-up for it! :)
    6. Remember that 1st year teaching always sucks. My first year was a disaster, and every day I would see what I did wrong, or rather what I could have done better. Accept every lesson/day as a learning experience. The second year is infinitely better, you just have to survive this first one.
    7. Make things RELEVANT to your kids. I teach English as well and I don't bore them with things they'd have no interest in reading. They already hate reading, so why make it worse? High-interest readings will make a world of difference.
     
  13. Mshope2012

    Mshope2012 Rookie

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    I have to agree that the "hanging around the field" advice is just weird! You don't want to get a reputation as a "creeper" before the year even begins. Now, if this person wanted to take you around and introduce you to some teachers and students, that may be helpful.

    You're already gotten some great advice. I teach ms and found Fred Jones' preferred activity time impossible to do at my school. However, some of the other advice is good and common sense. I also found Teaching with Love and Logic and Setting Limits in the Classroom helpful. As far as websites, I like Michael Linton's free Smart Classroom Management. However, all the advice in these books is really just common sense: be the adult, mean what you say, have reasonable expectations and consequences, and keep your class engaging.

    When I taught high school, I did feel like I gave into students' excuses too much. Students can sniff out the newness and take advantage easily. I would have firm policies for late work and grades. In my district not, we aren't really permitted to hold students accountable. We do all work in class because we have a no homework policy. We also have a pretty boring required curriculum which I try to get around as much as possible.

    I think with your tutoring and subbing experience and great attitude that you are already off to an amazing start. The first year is hard. I advise finding some coworkers who will be helpful and help you navigate the school culture.
     
  14. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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    Perhaps the gender is male, and there is a history of coaching football that we don't know about. That's giving the benefit of the doubt. If neither of those is true for OP, well, OP needs better people offering advice, or people offering better advice. Of course, only OP has the full story.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  15. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    There are a lot of... interesting assumptions here...
     
  16. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! New Member

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    Actually I am male! But point taken on hanging around the summer extracurriculars can be kind of weird. I assume the person giving me advice likely meant have another respected teacher who runs one of the programs briefly introduce me to some of their students rather than have me creepily hanging about. Perhaps during a public event.

    I like the idea of being the encourager. One of the things I hope to do once my students and I are on good terms is open up a miniature honor system library from my personal book collection and have certain times of the month to "dedicated reading time" for kids to explore topics they would like to read about. I don't expect all the books to come back across the years, even the first year, but a small price to pay if I can edge the kids slightly closer to enjoying reading. Maybe I can even add some by request every so often.

    I'm mostly afraid of finding that right balance of strict and fun. When I subbed, one of the most complained about teachers was a new teacher who many complained about being uncompromisingly strict. It got so bad that people were finding ways to go out of their way to defy her (vandalizing the classroom, audibly calling assignments garbage) with little care about the consequences. Conversely, I remember a particular teacher in high school who tried so hard to make class fun, he himself ended up being a distraction from the learning.

    I am also hearing a lot of advice on keeping things relevant. What strategies did you have in mind? Apart from creative project opportunities and high interesr readings, I suppose I won't really know what'll work until I get there.

    Books coming in the mail. Thank you all for the great advice so far!
     
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  17. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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    OP, welcome to the forums, and a personal welcome from a fellow AR teacher in NJ. :welcome:
     
  18. Mshope2012

    Mshope2012 Rookie

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    To OP: I do the same with my books. Let's just say that I have "a lot" of books. I do have a sign-out book, but there are a few that I don't always get back. For me, that can be a good thing because there is no point for books to collect dust at my house. I have the policy with everyone that if I lend it out, I don't really expect it back. Weirdly, sometimes I will get them back years later. I have a stamp with my name and room $ on it, so that helps if a kid leaves a book in the cafeteria or something.

    After 20 years, I struggle with the line between strict and fun also at times and with certain classes. Just from your posts, you really come across as a level and friendly person. I think hs students will respond to that. I do agree that kids can rebel against too strict and take advantage of "too nice." I really have found that I can't change my core personality, so I just go with it mostly. If the kid can't handle my jokes and lightness than I dial it back a notch. It took me a while to figure that out. The books and websites helped. Also, just seeing how other teachers handled things at my school was my guidepost for how to act.
     

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