I'm a first year teacher in a rough school district. I teach middle school (6-8) with 95% of our kiddos on free lunch. I'm very frustrated right now and considering leaving education.
Teaching is seriously becoming a "Why am I putting myself through this?" Thing. Is it that I'm too stubborn to quit? I don't want to disappoint people close to me? That I'm too over-educated to do much else? That I'm the breadwinner and without my income, we don't live?
I'm unhappy. More-so than I've ever been in my entire life. I'm depressed. I thought I knew the dark side of depression in college. It's got nothing on this.
What's making me so miserable? I'm not really sure. I think it's the behavior issues I'm having, and the fact that my hands are really tied.
Kids talk all choir. So I follow the prescribed discipline chart and move them. That doesn't help. They just yell across the room. When they are asked to be quiet, they give me an attitude the size of the state. At which point you are removed from rehearsal and given an alternate assignment. (Theory, a paper on behavior , copying from the dictionary, music math). I've also had to do this with whole classes, when most of the class acts up. I drag them to the cafeteria, make them sit one to a table, and write an essay.
Then I give them detention, per the next step. They don't bother to show-up. I call home. It's hit or miss if I'll actually find anyone to talk to. Most tell me, "They are the same way at home and I don't know what to do."
Ok. At this point, I follow the next step. Office referral. I've written so many this semester I've lost count. Does it help? Not really. The office will assign detention, again. Well, the kid doesn't show up for that either and round we go again. And honestly, I'm not sure if the office even sees the kids when I write referrals. They never go to ISS. Out of all the referrals I've written, I've received three back with the administrative action taken. All for more detention.
We could do so much if they'd just listen. They have talent. That's never been the issue. They are lazy. "Our old director let us play all period." Well, this isn't play time anymore. It's work time. But the more I crack down and push them to work, the worse it gets.
So I tried going in the other direction for awhile. I was positive re-enforcement to the extreme. I've tried nice. I've tried middle-ground, I've tried mean. I get into their space, I've stayed back. Nothing seems to work. And I cannot remove the kids from my class who truly don't want to be there, which damages the moral of the others.
I'm very discouraged. I cry most nights, and weekends. I dread waking up in the morning, and don't sleep we'll at night. I'm medicated, which has helped a bit, but I still feel very down. Other teachers have expressed the same concerns as myself. That we are getting kicked and beaten on for eight hours a day by 1000 kids. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I understand where you are coming from. I think it's the age group you work with. I use to be a paraprofessional with middle school/ high school studnets and they are alot harder to work with than little kids in elementary . I would get very frustrated with them becuse they have attitudes/ and nothing scares them into acting better.
My cousin is student teaching highschool and she totally hates it because she has problems with the highschoolers and getting them to stop talking and pay attention. My other cousin teaches middle school and she is thinking about quitting.
And its your first year teaching. Don't be so hard on yourself. Every teachers first year of teaching is horrible. At the elementary school I work with, I work with first year teachers and they always have a bad first year, because you are getting adjusted to new settings, rules, students. And usually, they give you the worse students your first year too. so don't beat yourself up this is a common thing in school.
You could probably try transferring it could be the school setting, maybe you work in an urban area. Or you could go to school and work on another job. : ) Don't feel bad you aren't alone.
I don't think you should quit just yet. What you've described is, unfortunately, quite normal in urban settings, at least in my experience. I find that teachers either find a way to work with this challenging student population or they don't; it's not bad if you decide that you would prefer working with kids in a different setting. There's a place for every kind of teacher. With that having been said, you might consider a move to a different position next year, but until then you will need to find a way to get through this year.
It seems like you don't have a lot of admin support, or at least that it's pretty ineffective. You're going to need to find a way to handle things "in-house", so to speak, on your own. When you do contact parents, what do they say? Do you notice a change in the student's behavior when you've talked to his parents?
Can you place students into small groups and give them a very concrete, focused activity? In my experience, students who are busy don't act up as much as students who don't have anything to do.
Most parents say, "They are like this at home. I don't know what to do with them." Or my favorite, "From 8-4 they are your problem. You are the teacher. Why are you calling me?"
I have tried giving them very focused, group based activities. Maybe one group will complete it? The others shred the paper up, or make airplanes out of it. (which I promptly throw away.) My class is an elective, and they've figured out they don't have to pass it to pass their grade.
I agree with czacza: focus on the kids who want to learn. Put them into a small group and give them what they need to be successful. Move the other kids to the back, and when they act up, follow your discipline plan.
Im a first year teacher in a rough school district as well, special ed 8th grade. My Kids are terrible and the school is unsupportive...but i refuse to quit. I will do my best, and then look for a new job this spring. I leave my work at work, and at 3pm my day goes back to normal. My biggest advice is to show up to work on time, have tons of snacks, and keep the kids busy....
Sorry, but I can't agree with those who have said ignore kids with problem behavior and only focus on kids who are behaving well. There are many strategies available to help kids with behavior, which is part of the job of any teacher. The other reason for not simply ignoring the other kids is that it won't work. They will be too loud and otherwise disruptive, and will get to the point where you'll have to be intervening simply because it would inappropriate for you to let certain things go. You'll also have a growing group of kids that become "disinterested" because of the social pressure to become part of the more popular group of kids that will be in the "non-behaving" group. So, not only would it be ineffective, but it's unethical and immoral.
To the OP, it sounds like you to need to start over with a behavior management system, which would involve doing a bit of reading/researching about various systems out there, preparing it, then implementing it. At that point, you'll probably see some improvement, but some problems that still persist, and we could probably help you problem-solve the holes in your system then.
To start, I'd get "Building Classroom Discipline" by CM Charles, which is a book with separate chapters dedicated to different discipline systems. It will give you a lot of ideas/strategies, but more importantly serves as a "menu" for you to select a program, then get supplemental materials for that program (usually just another book in that area), or to select a few different ones and combine.
Others will likely come on and suggest Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones and other books - those likely work well, but I'd still suggest starting with an overview book like the CM Charles book so you know what's out there and can pick something that resonates with your personality/teaching style.
In the meantime, I'd drop up your momentary rewards - tangible rewards or tokens of some sort, given out throughout your period, immediately after positive behavior has occurred. This isn't a long-term solution, but can buy you some breathing room while you research/plan those other programs. If you invest some serious time in reading/planning (a few hours a night, plus a good chunk of time on the weekend), you should be able to get going within 2 weeks or so.
You are in choir? Have you tried doing songs that will interest the kids? Ask them what they want to sing. They are lots of youtube videos with arrangements like "Call Me Maybe"arranged for choirs. I'm not really sure what happens in choir besides singing. What are they making airplanes out of?
In my opinion, in a situation like this, you are not being paid enough to let this get to you. I know you want to do a good job, but take a breath and realize that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. If you can, I'd bounce those problem kids out to the office for a few days in a row and try to get the rest of the class on track. Then add them back in slowly. Have a conversation with these kids individually during the day. Try to get them onto your side while not in public.
Also, I do choir as an adult, and granted, it is different, but, the teacher is very laid back about talking. It's normal human behavior. She knows that we hear something and get excited and she is okay with that. She just waits a minute and then plays the piano to get us back on track, or requests our attention. I don't know how she has that patience, but I've been trying it with my classes and it is such relief. I don't know if you are having disrespect issues or just talking issues, but if it's just talking, can you learn to live with it? Let it roll off your back?