7th Grade History Teacher Needs Advice :-)

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by TCHouston, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. TCHouston

    TCHouston Guest

    Jul 22, 2018

    Hi Everyone,

    Long story short, I finished my 10 month contract this past June and I taught 7th graders in a Title I, low-income school. To my chagrin, I did a google search and I found out that my former middle school was ranked in the bottom 5% of public schools in Texas (Now, I'm sure that the school admin doesn't mention THAT to prospective students and their parents!). To illustrate what type of school I taught at, consider that one of the APs bragged that he was going to retire in three years, the principal told the staff that she was "counting down the years until she could get a pension", and two of the other esteemed APs left after the school year ended without telling a soul (see ya later, suckers!). In addition, countless teachers have left and one of my co-teachers told me that he'd "rather take a long walk off a short plank than return to that school".

    Okay, so everyone gets the idea that the school was rough to teach at (but I believe that the kids themselves were good deep-down). I had a rough first year teaching, which I know is often par for the course in education. However, it wasn't rough for me due to a lack of trying and I think what broke the 7th grade history teacher's back (i.e. me) was the piss-poor support I got from the "master teacher" (makes air quotation marks) and other teachers and admin who had promised that they would be there to train and assist me throughout the year (canned laughter plays in the background); Which resulted in a gradual eroding of my morale.

    I struggled since I'm naturally NOT a "Don't smile until Christmas" type of teacher and I'm not a teacher who likes to verbally tear students from limb-to-limb if they act up (although countless students gave me 'pointers', saying that I should strive to be the alpha-male and treat the miscreant students like they are privates in boot camp, or to simply just scream and yell a lot more in class). Needless to say, between the lack of support from the parents, minimal admin support (they'd usually just yell at the students and give them after school detention, then send them back to class after threatening to send them to the alternative school for the 6,000th time), and the constant not giving a (bleep) about having a quiet classroom on a majority of the students' end, I got burned out and tried to instead focus on the students doing "group work", since my style of talking and lecturing to them wasn't working...

    However, the story gets better...As a result of my new and improved mellowed-out approach to teaching, I saw that my popularity among the students skyrocketed, and I felt like the high school quarterback, so to speak; I would get a lot of the jock students saying what's up to me and countless girls saying hi to me that I never met before (which would have been a lot better had I been a university professor and not a middle school teacher ;-) ). But, as a result of my "Uncle Teacher/Older Brother" persona, my classroom management suffered, since the students sensed that I wasn't a pitbull and they sensed that I was a "cool teacher" and therefore I wouldn't dole out punishment consistently (which I admit is my fault) and therefore I wasn't very intimidating to them.

    Truth be told, I felt the figurative contract renewal death knell was about to unfold when after school one day, I heard a couple of unknown students walk by my classroom and look at my nameplate on the door and say "Oh yeah, that's Mr. So-and-So...he's really cool and friendly!" I realize that being called that behind your back is usually always a compliment, but not when teaching 7th graders, I surmise. After that, it spread around school that I was mellow and friendly, and the rest, they say, is history (pun intended, since I taught history?).

    Thus, the point of this post is to ask other teachers if there is hope for those who feel as if they just don't have the 'strict classroom management' persona in them?
    Also, has anyone ever felt this way after their first year and been on the verge of saying (bleep) it all and wanted to tell the school district where they could shove their collective textbooks?

    I am an energetic and a fun teacher who can usually connect well with students, but I think that maybe I just chose the wrong school and the wrong grade and it has left a sour taste in my teaching mouth. I took a career test and it said that I might make a good high school history teacher, but I'm unsure if you need to have strict classroom management at the high school level to truly succeed...?
    In 7th grade, you definitely do, or at least you did at the school I was at.

    At this point, I feel demoralized and am somewhat fearing teaching again.

    My wife keeps trying to encourage me by saying that I taught in a sh*t school and "no one liked it there" and to "not give up so easily". I know she has a point, but after teaching 7th graders, I feel like I've been knocked to the mat. On one hand, I don't want to throw the teacher out with the bathwater, but I also don't want to set myself up for failure (assuming I get a gig soon).

    I suppose what I'm saying in all of this is are there grades in which you don't need to be a stone-faced bulldog and where you can actually....(hold collective breaths)...smile and be jovial with the kids?

    I realize you need rules and procedures in any classroom, but I truly despise feeling like I am a prison guard or a rabid dog when I'm in the classroom. Is there any hope of being able to keep the kids quiet and teach without always having to threaten disciplinary action?

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2018
  3. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

    Jun 21, 2008
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    Jul 23, 2018

  4. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

    Oct 25, 2005
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    Jul 23, 2018

    Teaching procedures and expectations is an amazing way to establish and maintain control of the classroom. It does not require you to be mean, but you must be consistent. Every day. Every kid. I’m not a witch in the classroom, but I’m also not their friend. I’m consistent. By being consistent, the kids know where they stand, and they know what will happen when they don’t do what they should. I have very few discipline issues.

    My school is a high poverty, rural school. We are Title I, and we are way down on the bottom of the list in the state. However, the difference between what you describe and out school is that the kids and the staff want to be there. We are working hard to make improvements, and we have made great strides in improvements with academics.

    We are a PBIS school. I use Randy Sprick’s CHAMPs system to teach my expectations and procedures. I’ve used it for a good 15 years, I’d say. We also use a lot of Kagan strategies, but you have to have your management on point or those will go sideways fast.

    I know some people like Whole Brain Teaching, but it was NOT my personality at all, so it didn’t appeal to me. Middle school kids pick up on fake a mile away, so you have to buy in to whatever you use.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2018
  5. Amrein

    Amrein Guest

    Jul 8, 2020

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    Hello, I teach French to 7th graders in a bilingual school. Practically all students come from wealthy families with high reputations and everything, but it doesn't mean that the kids are "angels". My problem is that I'm trying to be their friend rather than a teacher. Some of my students even mock me sometimes (like passing by and saying "oh là là" or "Bonjour Madame"), but I can't be too strict with them... I just can't...

  6. Amrein

    Amrein Guest

    Jul 8, 2020

    At the same time, I want to gain at least some respect (I was lucky to have it with a group of university students a couple of years ago, but that was completely different, the age and the circumstances, I don't think I had much influence on them).
  7. rpan

    rpan Cohort

    Mar 19, 2017
    Likes Received:

    Jul 9, 2020

    I’m a teacher of 100+ 12-15 year old teenagers. You can be friendly but firm. Be Consistent in your expectations and mean what you say. There has to be zero doubt who’s the boss of the classroom. Zero. I’m not the shouting type either and it’s possible to not have an alpha personality and still have good classroom management. But it’s for their safety and yours that you are in control.
  8. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

    Dec 24, 2007
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    Jul 12, 2020

    Strict or “too strict” has a negative connotation that can lead to thoughts of someone who is over controlling and void of caring. The teacher who yells and takes names comes to mind. Consider this excerpt from Michael Linsin’s Smart Classroom Management:

    Caring isn’t giving chance after chance. It isn’t looking the other way or excusing behavior you know is wrong. It isn’t pretending everything is okay while Rome burns.

    True caring is making the hard decisions and doing what is right for all students and their long-term social and emotional health and academic success.

    You do them no favors by justifying for their misbehavior.

    In fact, doing so is akin to giving up on them. It tells them that they’re not good enough, that the way they look, where they’re from, or who they are precludes them from fulfilling their secret dreams.”
  9. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

    Jan 3, 2011
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    Jul 13, 2020

    You need to have a few well thought out rules, and you need to enforce them fairly. Stop worrying about being a friend and work in being a caring teacher. You don’t have to yell a lot to have good classroom control. I can’t remember the last time I actually yelled and yet the students still mind. That being said, do remember that it can take time to develop classroom control.
  10. Aug 11, 2020

    Oh man - do I feel this one. I am just generally not an angry person; it takes a heckuva lot to grind my gears, which I think makes it so that co-workers (and maybe students) think that I am a push-over or lacking rules in the classroom.

    I don't know how strict certain thing are in your school, but something that has worked in my classroom is the development of a sort of code of honor within the classroom. The students help create the rules, or the "code". Having the kiddos participate in making the rules sometimes makes them feel more accountable to them. I think this may be because it is less of me telling them how they are going to behave vs how they have decided they should behave.

    I totally agree with one of the comments that says they still do have to know that you have the final say, but this definitely can take time. Its tough being the new teacher on the block - but don't give up! We have all been there at one time or another. Best of luck!

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