Classroom Management Advice Wanted!- What To Do When The Class Seems Against You

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by ABelle16, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. ABelle16

    ABelle16 New Member

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    Feb 8, 2017

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a first year teacher who is having some serious classroom management challenges teaching 6th grade social studies! I student taught in this school last semester and had a pretty successful experience (despite some rookie management issues) but I guess I had the support and resources of my mentor plus my two classes had some highly motivated seventh graders. Then in December I took over for a teacher who abruptly and mysteriously left mid-year and had a sometimes catastrophic time managing the classroom.

    I got new students for the second semester 2.5 weeks ago, and I'm already having all kinds of issues with one of my classes. None of my classes are particularly well-disciplined and structured, but I barely have a hold on one class- and it is only 19 students in a good school! They constantly talk over me, roll their eyes at me and ignore my re-directions. Whenever I calmly and privately tell them to do things like put away snacks or return to the task at hand they ignore me, and some try to turn it into a debate about how unfair and boring I am.

    I moved one student's seat because he was very off-task and distracted near a friend and he essentially declared mutiny on me, saying that he was miserable and I was unfair and he wasn't going to do that. Two other students who have been highly disruptive joke that I am only calling them out because they are black. They are in a class that is predominately white, and I don't know how to respond to these comments except to ignore them. Often, when I privately re-direct one student, they begin very publicly naming other students in the class and asking why I don't get them in trouble instead. Even the students who were very focused are starting to roll their eyes and look annoyed during this class because they see how little pull I have with the other students and how much time is wasted.

    I know I should remain calm but a few times I have become very visibly frustrated and flustered by how defiant/disrespectful they act in my class, and they can tell. I've called home twice but it hasn't had much impact yet. I feel burnt out and miserable all the time. I am scared to make interactive engaging lessons because I don't want kids acting up. This is my third time starting over with new students this year so I feel that I should have a better handle on it. I'm not even at a challenging, inner-city school. It's incredibly embarrassing knowing that the other 6th grade teachers here don't have these problems. I feel terrible because this was a dream of mine and I'm losing it completely. Am I at all cut out for this?
     
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  3. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Feb 8, 2017

    what you are going through, I went through a few years ago. I had a hard time controlling these situations, but learned, and now, when a bad class climate, it doesn't last more than a week or so, somehow I figure out the problem.

    This is what I'd suggest:
    - do not allow them to whine or complain about anything. they want to play the race card and say you pick on them because they're Black? I've heard that a hundred times. Just say : No, that's not it. Let's get back to work.
    - be super strict. don't give them any opportunity to talk or get off task. If they don't finish the work, then it's homework.
    - you can assign independent silent work once in a while, this will get them in line to work quietly, not having the chance to talk. If they do talk, you give them warnings, detentions send out, phone calls, and whatever your system is
    - make sure you have a solid discipline system and you follow it consistently. Do not give a kid too many chances. 1, or 2 at the most warnings are enough.
    - pick the top 3 worst students you have and figure out what the issue is. Disrespect? Disruption? Acting like a clown and messing up your whole class? How can you fix it? Move the kid so he sits separately? (maybe even facing the wall). Phone call home? heart to heart conversation? Kick out of class and write him up? Do it every day if needed, trust me, he'll get the message.

    For every kid that misbehaves in your class, there are 2-3 that silently wish you would handle it so they can get back to work. Keep that in mind.
     
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  4. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Feb 9, 2017

    I've been there too. I've learned to keep in mind that it's the students who are misbehaving, not the teacher. Misbehavior is their fault, not yours. Also, there really are no magic formulas for managing classroom behavior, although I'd recommend viewing it as management rather than control of the classroom; there is a difference. Perhaps the most important key to management is consistency. I would especially avoid a system of rewards, not that rewards must always be shunned, but rewards can become the ultimate goal in the classroom replacing the ideal goal of behaving in a socially acceptable manner and learning to fulfill a need and desire to learn; (we're teaching students not training puppy dogs).

    The most effective deterrent of misbehavior is the student's own conscience, determination, and social inhibitions. The goal is to structure the class towards monitoring and appreciating their own proper behavior. That's easier said than done since much of what encourages misbehavior is out of your realm of management. But what is in your realm of management is your classroom. As the leader in the classroom, the goal is that you have consistent rules and penalties, and the students' goal is to work together with you as a miniature society to fulfill the academic achievements for the semester. The goal is not for you to be the policeman or the "security camera"; the goal is for you to be the leader who politely insists on proper behavior and follows through on anticipated consequences otherwise.
     
  5. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Feb 9, 2017

    I've been there too. I've learned to keep in mind that it's the students who are misbehaving, not the teacher. Misbehavior is their fault, not yours. Also, there really are no magic formulas for managing classroom behavior, although I'd recommend viewing it as management rather than control of the classroom; there is a difference. Perhaps the most important key to management is consistency. I would especially avoid a system of rewards, not that rewards must always be shunned, but rewards can become the ultimate goal in the classroom replacing the ideal goal of behaving in a socially acceptable manner and learning to fulfill a need and desire to learn; (we're teaching students not training puppy dogs).

    The most effective deterrent of misbehavior is the student's own conscience, determination, and social inhibitions. The goal is to structure the class towards monitoring and appreciating their own proper behavior. That's easier said than done since much of what encourages misbehavior is out of your realm of management. But what is in your realm of management is your classroom. As the leader in the classroom, the goal is that you have consistent rules and penalties, and the students' goal is to work together with you as a miniature society to fulfill the academic achievements for the semester. The goal is not for you to be the policeman or the "security camera"; the goal is for you to be the leader who politely insists on proper behavior and follows through on anticipated consequences otherwise.
     
  6. WordLover

    WordLover Rookie

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    Feb 9, 2017

    ABelle, I've just finished a three-month replacement position that I took shortly after getting my MAT. I totally relate to what you've said. My condolences...In retrospect, I now realize that I should've spent the first two weeks establishing procedures and rules with them. (I had erroneously figured that the previous teacher's groundwork would suffice.) I also regret not calling more parents and not giving more detentions. (I had to spend much energy and time, chasing down information admin. and the teacher had neglected to give me; for example, I had not been given a workable email for two weeks and I found myself periodically visiting the office to remind them. Same with getting a key for my classroom.) The stress I experienced showed me that I needed to do some reading in classroom management and, thankfully, my vp recommended Harry K & Rosemary Wong's book, The First Days of School. It's wonderful! They identify and explain the procedures that we need to lay down during those first days. I highly recommend it. They suggest putting the procedures and rules on a PP slides, then rehearsing them often with the class. (Procedures for entering, leaving, getting HW, etc.) Teacher ed programs neglect to teach us classroom management (for the thousands of dollars we pay them). In my opinion, all university programs should include the Wong's books. I hope it gets better for you. I'm not resting up and beefing up - before I take another position. Stay in the game and count your assets, as well. We've worked too hard to give up.
     
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  7. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Feb 9, 2017

    Wow! I like the idea of using power point slides!
     
  8. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I always have my rules and procedures on Powerpoint slides. I actually put everything on Powerpoint, because it provide a visual and I don't have to talk as much.
    I have several versions of rules and procedures saved then I use every year. If I had a really bad class, I could always pull it out again and they can spend a whole hour listening and taking notes again.
     
  9. ABelle16

    ABelle16 New Member

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    Feb 11, 2017

    Thanks everyone!

    I will say that Thursday and Friday were better than usual- the problem is they still were not actually good! Linguist, it *is* becoming very clear that many students are silently wishing we could get back to business.

    Consistency is very challenging for me which I know is a huge problem...at heart I have a loosey-goosy personality which I have tried to mask and change during teaching. Also often when I see something go wrong in the classroom I just freeze/panic and forget everything I told myself I would do. I did buy the First Days of School along with Tools For Teaching and I like the idea of using PPT slides!
     
  10. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Something that really helped me, I would play school and imagine something going wrong. Then I would literally respond to the situation. (I made sure no one was around to observe a grown man pretending to teach invisible students, of course). These drills really helped when actual situations occurred.
     
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  11. WordLover

    WordLover Rookie

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    Feb 12, 2017

    ABelle, besides The First Days of School, the Wongs have The Classroom Management Book that breaks every procedure down and tells how to teach them. I"m feasting on these books. When I write my cover letters for applications, I'll mention that I've been getting well-versed in the Wongs' approach. They give us substance when we're asked about classroom management at our interviews.
     
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  12. HSEnglishteach

    HSEnglishteach Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2017

    You can do this! The wonderful thing about being a classroom teacher is that there's always time to turn the culture of your classroom around as long as you still have school days left. It will take a little more effort because the students have gotten into a bad routine, but it's more than doable. Let's start with the personality piece.

    1. Please do not think you need to become a jerk. Actually, I would argue that is the worst thing you can do. If anything, you want to let these kids know more than ever that you're happy to see them. Thank students who meet your expectations -- give more of your attention to kids who are doing the right thing. You WILL, however, have to boost yourself in terms of confidence. Practice speaking more slowly and more resolutely. Make sure you're standing with good posture and making direct eye contact with your students as you speak. It sounds like you're nervous. That's normal, but you're going to have to take measures to counteract that so students see before them a leader who they can believe in.

    2. Name the elephant in the room. Let kids know you believe the class has been functioning at a level of efficiency that is below what it is capable of, but that you are going to take steps to fix it because you believe in their ability to succeed.

    3. Roll out a specific classroom management plan that includes expectations for all procedures (teacher talk time, student independent work time, student partner work time, etc.) and consequences for when students choose not to meet those expectations.

    4. This is the most important part -- THANK students who are meeting your expectations and CALMLY, DISPASSIONATELY sanction students who are not. Do this each and every single time, no matter the student, without exception.

    Good luck!
     
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  13. MathGuy82

    MathGuy82 Companion

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    Feb 22, 2017

    I agree with HSEngishteach! I still struggle though after 10 years. It's hard so classes are just a PAIN to manage. I try to tell that I am happy they are there too as hard as it can be some days:) Good luck and it will get better!!
     
  14. ABelle16

    ABelle16 New Member

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    Feb 24, 2017

    I wanted to say thank you again to everyone who responded to this and just thanks in general for all you do as teachers (as I am realizing day by day just how challenging everything teachers do is!).

    Unfortunately, things are starting to take a turn for the worst. I'm just not sure I'm cut out for this which is heartbreaking to me.

    This one class has no respect for me. One student ignored my warning in a very intentional way so I told him I would give his parents a call and he became extremely openly defiant towards me and said that everyone hated me. Eventually he went down to the office, but it took a long time and was very public. I was really panicked and confused and just lost control of everything happening in the classroom. Since then I've had multiple days where students ignored just about everything I've asked them to do. Some students are saying that they plan to tell guidance about me (tell them what?) and will ask to transfer to a different social studies class (regardless of what they say about me, they can not do this because I teach 3 out of 4 social studies classes and it will not work with their schedule. I'm not sure if they are aware of this or not). They want to argue with just about every single re-direction/instruction I give. One student texted her mom during class that I was mean because I never allowed her to use the restroom and her mom called the front office- she had left the class twice that day during a 90 minute block and had a break for lunch so I saw nothing wrong with not allowing her out again.

    I've been extremely anxious and on edge lately and it makes it hard for me to even focus and remember what I'm doing in that class. I'm having a lot of panic attacks and breakdowns at home. My lesson plans this week have really suffered because I come home so upset and can't think straight. My roommate told me that I need to just stay home today because I'm really out of sorts and need to get myself straight, but I don't think bailing is a good idea.

    I am thinking of trying to find a job in high school or higher levels in middle school because 6th grade behaviors and emotions are hard for me- they are very close to being elementary schoolers which is not something I really trained for in college. If anyone has experiences in teaching middle vs high school and management I'd be so happy to hear it! :)

    But I'm also just wondering if something is fundamentally off with me as a teacher. Teaching high school wouldn't necessarily cure me of anxiety and it's not like management problems don't exist in high school- they are just a little different. Another year of students walking all over me is going to be hard for me. Has anyone every re-bounded from a really terrible first year? (Terrible as in students openly disrespecting you frequently and constantly feeling like you were falling apart, not as in not getting everything done exactly the way you dreamed haha). I feel like I have a lot of potential as a teacher (my mentor in student teaching adored me as did my students) and it's sad to see those dreams going to waste because I can't cope with the reality.
     
  15. HSEnglishteach

    HSEnglishteach Rookie

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    Feb 24, 2017

    Unfortunately, your first year is difficult. It's hard on everyone. We all look back on our first years in the classroom with dread and horror, but also with gratitude because it's over and we learned not to make the same mistakes the second year. And the process repeats that second year, although it is much, much easier. And then it repeats the third, and the curve gets tighter and tighter for the rest of your career as a teacher.

    You cannot know if you're cut out to teach this first year. You have to hang in longer than one year.

    You need help. That much should be clear. You need to reach out to a veteran teacher at your school right away and explain what you're going through. Open yourself up completely to criticism and learning. Allow the teacher to come in during your most difficult class and help you straighten things out.

    You've lost the culture of your classroom and it's going to be difficult (but not impossible) to get it back. It sounds like you've given away your power and feel like you cannot get students to comply with even basic instructions. Know that it doesn't have to be that way. YOU have the power, not them.

    Get the help you need now to make it through the rest of this year.
     

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