2nd Year teacher in need of advice

Discussion in 'High School' started by kng5028, Aug 10, 2011.

  1. kng5028

    kng5028 New Member

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Hello,

    I apologize for this being long, but I am truly in search of outside advice and opinions, as I am struggling with the thought of entering my second year of teaching. I am a high school mathematics teacher, and I teach mostly general level classes. Last year was an extremely rough experience. I had 2-3 AWFUL classes with multiple behavioral and academic issues. One of those classes didn't even give me a chance to instruct my procedures and set up discipline guidelines on the first day; they were out of their seats, yelling at girls in the hallway, yelling across the room, and mocking things I was saying. Over the course of the year, and even within the first month, the excitement and thought of teaching quickly diminished and I was completely miserable. I could not get the students to behave like young men and women. I could not get the students motivated to learn or to complete classwork, homework, etc... I tried everything from switching seats, to sending in the hall, detentions, sending to principal, to group work, to individual work, etc... NOTHING and I mean NOTHING could get these kids to take responsibility of their learning and behavior. It got to the point where I gave them outlined notes each day, and all they had to do was fill them in. They couldn't even do that; I would find blank notes scattered across the floor after class. And it also got to the point where I literally had to grade EVERYTHING in order for them to do work. All of this led me to working at least 60 hours a week; all I could think about is school. It consumed my life. Every once in a while I would try different activities and everything always backfired. It seemed that having a set and monotonous schedule was really the only thing that worked, even though students complained that we weren't doing anything fun or different.

    The school I teach at is fairly diverse, not only in ethnicity but in economic levels. Most of these students come from broken homes where parents are not very supportive and a culture in which they are not academically focused. We have block scheduling, so I understand that learning math for 84 minutes is difficult for these students.

    Also, it may help for you to know a little about my personality and how I perceive things. I am a very organized and structured person. I am a perfectionist, and put 110% into everything I do. I am soft spoken, and worry about everything. Through the first year, I have learned to speak louder and be more authoritative.

    As I prepare myself for my 2nd year, I am beginning to think that I have entered the wrong occupation, or at least the wrong age group. I feel that I would enjoy teaching the younger students more than the older students. I am certified 7-12, but I even feel that maybe I should have entered elementary education. I even think that I would be happier at a completely different job. I do, however, have an amazing support system at the school. I truly believe that I could not find better co-workers anywhere I go. They keep telling me that it gets better each year, and that the 2nd year is like night-and-day to the 1st year. I really hope this is true, because right now I don't feel that way. The first year was really discouraging. I know that my classroom management and teaching methods will not change overnight, but I don't think I was a complete mess last year. I was prepared for each school day, in fact, I was almost too prepared. I always said hello to the students and tried to strike up any conversation I could with them. I felt that I really tried to reach out, but few responded.

    So I hope you made it through my ramble. I would appreciate any advice, opinions, related stories, etc. Are any of you experiencing the same issues? Or is it just me?

    Thanks, and good luck to each of you in the future school year.
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Hi and welcome from across the LI Sound!!!!

    First of all, don't let one rough first year turn you off to teaching. The fact that you're here looking for help is a sign that you care, and that's one of the big requirements for success.

    And the fact that you were rehired in a time when tens of thousands of teachers were laid off seems to imply that it wasn't as bad as you think.

    For starters, take a look at a very similar thread from another 2nd year teacher:
    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=141270&highlight=bell

    Now, which math courses are you teaching? Are you solid, really solid on the material? Do you have enough work planned that you can keep the kids busy from bell to bell?

    One of the coolest things about teaching is the ability to re-invent ourselves each year. And being a 2nd year teacher is easier for so many reasons: kids who haven't even had you recognize you as an authority. There are kids you can greet in the hall each day. You know what to expect from the schedule, you know the building, you know how crazy it gets when the fire alarm rings during a test or on the day of the 1st snow. That steep learning curve is behind you, and you're bound to find this year a whole lot easier.

    I've been teaching math since Noah counted the animals 2 by 2. Let me know how I can help.
     
  4. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Aug 10, 2011

    I had a group similar to what you describe for my first year as well...

    Like you've been told.. my second year was a million times better than the first year. I learned from the first year and made myself better the second year. I continue to grow each year... as Alice said.. that's the advantage we have is that we can reinvent ourselves. I try different things, and those that work get put in the rotation and those that don't.. don't. It's all apart of the learning process.
     
  5. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Last year was my first year teaching 11th graders. Before that I taught college students. As a result, I had to feel out the boundaries - I didn't know what I could say or do and I tended to err on the side of caution.

    One day a group in the hall was making me nuts. They just would not pipe down. I was chatting with our chem teacher (who is younger than me and very feminine compared to my more neutral look). I've got ten years on her in age but she's got 5 years on me in high school experience. She stomped out there and barked out: "I know Dr. P. has already asked you several times to be quiet. You're done! Go someplace else - the library, outside, anywhere. Not here. Go. Right now." And they did.

    I thought, "Huh." And after that I had no problems.

    I think the previous responders are reasonable in their optimism for you. You've got one year under your belt and you'll know a lot more next time. Plus, as you become more experienced students will also have a better sense of what to expect.
     
  6. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Aug 10, 2011

    You said something interesting. The monotonous schedule seemed to work better than variety. Some student populations really need structure. They need to feel like they know what to expect. Math is one of those subjects that causes fear and anxiety in many students. You may want to do whole class pre-assessments that start out with the basics and start forming flexible groups. As you form the basic groups, you keep assessing upward to branch out groups by skill level. By starting the whole class off with easy pre-assessments and review work, they all start out succeeding.
     
  7. dovian

    dovian Comrade

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    Aug 11, 2011

    That was my first year too. Consider that it might not be the age group, but that particular population that is difficult for you. I was able to transfer to a school with a different student population, where I was able to teach, not babysit, and I enjoy the job so much more. Some people are excellent with high-needs, at-risk kids. I'm not one of them. But at least I realized that and found a job that I was better suited for, instead of torturing myself and the kids. Not saying that that's what's going on with you, just something to consider. I thought I was a crappy teacher, but I just wasn't suited for that group.
     
  8. kng5028

    kng5028 New Member

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    Aug 11, 2011

    Thank you for your responses and encouragement. I got some great ideas from the recommended thread!

    Although I am young, right out of college with the "suggested new revolution of teaching," I consider my teaching style to be very traditional. I begin class with a warm-up, while I go around and check homework for completion, take attendance, etc... Other days I do a homework quiz where I check for correctness. I then go over the warm-up and any additional homework questions (15-20 minutes, takes way to long in my opinion). I then go into new notes for the day (usually takes around 25 minutes). I then give the students a worksheet with practice problems that they are to complete for a classwork grade (I began to grade each one because students would not do the work). I usually give the students the rest of class to finish the classwork (30 minutes), and allow them to work on it in a small group of their choice. Usually there is approximately 10 problems for them to complete. I very rarely get a chance to go over the answers and procedures to the classwork, because a good chunk of the students never finish it because they don't take it seriously. So I just have them turn it in when they're finished, and the ones that have extra time at the end of class get to begin, if not finish, their homework. I personally don't think I'm asking much of the students to complete 10 problems on solving equations, finding slope, distribution, etc... I hate being cynical or pessimistic, but these students are LAZY beyond belief.

    This was my monotonous schedule that I described previously. I liked it, because there was a consistent structure and expectation of daily class. But I feel incomplete about the way I teach, as if I am missing a major point. I'm not sure if it's the brainwashing of the new teaching revolution I learned in college, where I should try to incorporate discovery lessons and hands-on things as much as possible. Sure in college they preached this method to us, but we were hardly shown how to do it, when it's appropriate, and where to find ideas. Also, I never have a formal closure or structured closure to class. Usually 5-10 minutes before class ends, around half of the students pack up, even if I go around and tell them to get back to work. Every teacher at the school has a problem with this, so it seems impossible to have a closure. Occasionally I've tried a "cool down" problem or exit slip, but again, the students either pack up early, or don't take it seriously unless I grade it. So it got to the point where I graded everything....warm-up, classwork, cool down, quizzes, tests. And I did notebook checks once a quarter. I thought it would be an easy grade because all they had to do was put their papers in the specific sections of the binder and turn it in. Only half the students ever turned them in.

    In response to whether I have enough planned, I feel I do most of the time. 2 or 3 students a class would finish homework in class, so I began to have an extra credit assignment that was an extension of what we learned, or a critical thinking problem. I even allowed all students to take the extra credit home and bring in the next class, but they never did. I also offer a problem of the week that is worth 1 bonus point on a test/quiz if they get it right...few ever tried it.

    This year I will be teaching Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. I am confident with the material, but like anyone, sometimes I need to refresh myself. For Geometry, it's been a few years since I've seen some of the material, but I will be fine teaching it.

    On the other great piece of advice of flexible/basic grouping, I consistently have students who are absent for approximately 1/2 of the classes. When I've planned for grouping, either my grouping gets messed up because of absent students, or I've had students refuse to work with one another. The only thing I have found that works when grouping is when I randomly assign groups using a deck of cards (kings are a group, queens, jacks...) I would really like to incorporate basic groups...any ideas how I can successfully make this work?

    I apologize for the rambling, and sounding pessimistic. I'm just really frustrated and don't know what to do differently. I am open to any criticism, suggestions, advice....anything to make this year better!!
     
  9. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Aug 11, 2011

     
  10. Perpetual Love

    Perpetual Love Rookie

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    Aug 11, 2011

    To be effective, your pupils must perceive that you really do know exactly what is going on in all areas of the room. If any pupils are off task and fooling around, you need to stamp it out straight away and send a clear message that you have seen them and that they need to get back to work.

    I believe that you are doing a wonderful job. You must continue to let your pupils know thay you really do know exactly what is going on in your classroom. When your pupils get off task and start fooling around you must continue to stamp it out right of way. Continue to send a clear message that you see them fooling around and that they must get back to work. If they fail to respect your authority you must continue to discipline them by sending them to the hallways, giving them detention or sending them to the principal. Even a letter to the parents may help.

    This awareness improves with practice and every time you catch a pupil, or group of pupils off task, whispering etc. your reputation and credibility is improved. Pupils are always impressed by a teacher who is in total control and the more you display this ‘withitness’, the more control you will appear to have. Students are more likely to stay on-task if they know you are aware of what they are doing at all times – perhaps just because they think there’s a good chance they’ll get caught.

    By systematically scanning the room, and keeping your "back to the wall" as you move throughout the class you will be more aware of what is going on and able to pinpoint trouble.

    v) Make sure Transitions are tight to maintain control.

    Student behaviour is influenced by the smoothness and effectiveness of transitions between tasks in a lesson. Failure to gain the students attention, unclear and confusing directions, using lengthy explanations, dwelling too much on the details rather than focusing on key points, and allowing students to take too much time moving from one task to the next contribute to student misbehaviour.

    Smooth and effective transitions are one of the most important techniques in maintaining student involvement and class control and one of the best ways I’ve found to achieve this is to have a lesson plan up on the wall/board with a list of the activities the pupils will be doing.
     
  11. Drama Teach

    Drama Teach Rookie

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    Aug 11, 2011

    I think the thirty minutes to work on problems is to long. I teach at a school that sounds similar to yours and what I am doing for my classes is to break them up into fifteen minutes sections.

    Another tool that you might be able to use are student whiteboards. Maybe you could get a class set of white boards. Give each student have a white board and then put them in groups of four. Give the whole class a problem and then have each student solve it on their white board. Some days you could have the students see whose group could solve the problem the fastest. I think the students will really like then white boards because it is hands on, but you have to make sure you have procedures for using them.
     
  12. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Aug 11, 2011

    I agree with DramaTeach. I think 30 minutes to work independently or in small groups is way too long, especially if they aren't doing it! You said you don't have time to go over the answers and procedures, but that's the most important part of your teaching... feedback! It would probably be MUCH more effective to give them one problem, 2 minutes to work on it, then go over it. Get through as many of those practice problems as you can, and then assign the rest for homework if you feel it's necessary. If they seem to get it, then they don't need to do more practice at home.
     
  13. kng5028

    kng5028 New Member

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    Aug 18, 2011

    Thank you for your suggestions and insight. I am looking forward to trying some of these strategies. Some of them seem so simple, and I can't believe I didn't even think to try some of them.

    Do you guys have any suggestions on ways to get a class quieted down without yelling? I've read about standing in the front of the room, making eye contact, and I have tried it. This works, but sometimes it takes more than a minute. i want to treat these students as adults, because they are in high school. I don't want to have elementary routines, in which a lot of classroom routines I have read about seem targeted towards the younger grades.

    Also, do you have any suggestions for positive rewards? Do high school students still like getting stickers? I was thinking about giving a free homework pass or pencil to students who receive an A or B each marking period.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 18, 2011

    I have a Do Now question on the board before class starts. Most often it's an SAT prep question. (Note; Make SURE you prep these ahead of time. Unless you're VERY familiar with SAT questions, they can get very tricky.)

    When the bell rings, I say "Can we get started?" and we do. From Day 1.

    We sub internally, so once in a while I sub for a class where no one knows me. If that happens, at the bell I stand right in front of the first desk in the 3rd row- middle of the room, and say it. Inevitably, it quiets everyone down. Proxmimity is a big help.

    Keep them too busy to chat. There should never be a time when they're sitting there waiting for you to be ready. Rather, there should always be a problem up on the board, awaiting their attention.

    As to the rewards, I give stickers for kids who get a 90 or better on a test. I make up personalized ones from the return address lables at www.vistaprint.com . (For example, jack o'lanterns wtih "Mrs. A. thinks your geometry grade is a real TREAT!!") They get a huge kick out of the personalized stickers!
     
  15. matt24601

    matt24601 Rookie

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    Aug 19, 2011

    Make sure you ask some of the veteran teachers their strategies.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 20, 2011

  17. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Don't worry too much about discovery learning and hands-on lessons right now. They won't work well if the class is a control issue. Focus on your classroom management skills. Then, when you feel comfortable with the level of control you have, slowly start incorporating hands-on activities.

    I know the big ideas in education right now are about discovery and hands-on, but the kids won't be traumatized by a little direct instruction. With the kids you described, they probably need the structure anyway.

    Good luck!!!
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 20, 2011

    I agree completely. Direct instruction allows you to be the one in charge. It gives the kids a clear idea of exactly what they should be doing-- this is important, particularly as you establish yourself as a teacher.

    Plus, to be honest, all that discovery and hands on stuff takes a LOT of time. It can make it hard to finish your syllabus-- a HUGE no-no! It can be fun and rewarding, but it's also a whole lot harder to do well than direct instruction.

    So, for example, I can have my kids figure out how to find the product of two binomials on their own-- it's direct extension of what they already know. But long division of polynomials??? Oh, no. They simply get too confused without a clear set of instructions.
     
  19. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2011

    You have to be strict with your students from day one and show them that you mean business. They are basically testing you to see how much they can get away with. Another important component of classroom management is developing rapport with your students. You don't have to chat them up and ask them about personal things from the beginning because that might be perceived as fake. What you can do is show them that you care and provide positive feedback from time to time even if all you see is negative. Considering the population you are working with, they may not ever really hear anything positive. I'm sure you can find a way to twist the negatives into a positive, even if it's just a small thing. Moreover, don't do anything that would embarrass them in front of the class.

    I don't think that you are a bad teacher but the population of kids you are working with is challenging because they have gone through a lot in their life. Try to look and understand it from their perspective. If they don't have any good role models in their lives or do not see a way or purpose in bettering their lives, why should they care about school?

    During your lessons, do they know the purpose of what they are learning and why they have to learn it? Why should they care about math? I think having structure is really important so they know what to expect but if your class is really boring, they'll become disengaged and that can create a lot of behavioral problems. Keep the structure but find activities that are engaging.

    You also have to keep in mind their ability. If it is too difficult for them, then they might not even bother trying for fear of failure. If you went and taught at a school where the students were more motivated, this probably wouldn't be an issue but you really need to keep their skill level in mind and provide a lot of scaffolding so they can feel successful and then give them more challenging tasks to perform as they get better. One remedy for making your grading easier is to just go around and stamp or check their work if they made a reasonable effort or completed it in class. That way, they get to see that they got credit for their work and it might motivate them when they can see it right in front of their face and see that it counts towards their grade. I used to teach a group of very unmotivated kids and when I started doing this, they would do the work without me having to hound them every minute. They would even argue for their grade when they didn't get credit even though it wasn't even a huge part of their grade.
     
  20. kng5028

    kng5028 New Member

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    Aug 30, 2011

    Thanks for your advice. It's really helped me to rethink how I should keep class structured this year.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to improve class work/guided practice? I usually give them a worksheet of problems to work on. Is it better for them to do this individually or with a partner? I am constantly circulating the room to answer questions and observe their work. Probably over half of the students seem to consistently need my help. They will sit and wait until I can provide guidance. They won't even try the next problem or use their notes as a guide. Then I run out of time at the end of class because I'm trying to answer all of their questions. I try not to just give them the answer or steps, but some students would not get anywhere with the worksheet. Would it be better to give them one problem at a time, then go over it as a class, as opposed to having them complete a worksheet? I feel like this would make them more antsy to move around and misbehave, but I also feel like this may give them the most feedback.

    Also, what are your thoughts on how to arrange the desks. Last year I had them in traditional rows. This year I would like to try arranging them in pairs so I can circulate the room faster. However, my room is wider than it is long. And I also run into the problem for having tests and quizzes. I feel as if the students wouldn't be able to separate their desks far enough apart to take a test, and that it may be more chaotic to try and move them. I have also decided this year that I am giving daily quizzes (a couple problems similar to the previous day's homework), so if I leave them in pairs, should I allow them to complete the quiz with their partner, or move the desks?

    I apologize for rambling from one thing to another. I hope it makes sense, as all of these questions are running through my mind. Please keep the suggestions coming...they are helping to ease my mind for the school year!
     
  21. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Aug 30, 2011

    I don't have a problem with my kids asking a friend for help with classwork or homework. With graded assignments, tests and quizzes, I expect it to be their own work.

    I had tables last year, with two students to a table. I thought it worked well. This year I have desks and I plan to pair them up.
     
  22. SpanishTeacher4

    SpanishTeacher4 Rookie

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    Sep 7, 2011

    it's nearly impossible to hold the attention of kids for that long. you need to be constantly switching activities even if you are doing the same type of problems just in a different way. it's not your fault they are acting that way. make sure you have a routine everyday but throw a new activity in there each day. the element of surprise will keep them more engaged.
     

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