Emailing Parents?

Discussion in 'Kindergarten' started by willow129, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. willow129

    willow129 Comrade

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    Nov 18, 2013

    Ok so I'm a second year music teacher and I find kindergarten fairly challenging. It's frustrating because I feel like it should be this magical thing where the kids are in their first music class and discovering and exploring together but...well last year we had a REALLY tough kindergarten (now a REALLY tough first grade) and it was so anything but magical.

    I did a lot of reading about preschool/kindergarten music over the summer and got some new ideas and things to try out and helpful, so...I'm definitely trying to improve my own teaching and understanding of that age range. So I guess my first question is are there any good resources, books, stuff to read on classroom management in kindergarten and understanding how they learn?

    The next thing is, this year the K's seemed much more promising. We have two classes of them and one of the classes is simply angelic so far. I only see them on Fridays though so I've only had like 9 classes with them so we'll see. The other group though, this past quarter I had them twice a week and oh my god are things going downhill. Add to that, I just found out today their teacher is going to have surgery on her arm and will be needing a long-term sub for a while. Groooan.

    There are some kids I consistently have to put in time out in that class and I'm sitting at my computer today staring at parent phone numbers and emails and wondering if I should let them know that I'm struggling with their child? I get so nervous about this kind of thing...(one of the students is the daughter of the head of our PTA. oi.) But it's just...consistent. I constantly have to sit out a select few kids and it's DRIVING ME NUTS. But the other half of it is, they're kindergarteners, I mean I don't trust them to even remember that they *went* into time out today during my class let alone what they did to get there, and then have a conversation with mom about it? Hahaha anyways, tips? advice? How do you approach this?

    Thanks! :)
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Nov 18, 2013

    THis kind of advice is hard to give with the information provided. What are they doing? What are you doing? What is your demeanor like? What is your language like? What kind of structure do you have? What expectations are you expecting from them at their age? What have you taught them in terms of how you want your class to look? How have you taught them? Again, what is your language like?

    Susie is raising her hand. (sing song voice). I like how Susie knows how to get my attention in a polite way. Thank you Susie. Oh you too Robbie, what do you want Robbie? I will answer your question because you were such a good friend and raised your hand.

    Okay friends, how can we be a good friend to Ann? Oh, yes, that's right, we make sure we don't interrupt Ann when she has something to say. Let's listen to what Ann has to say. Go ahead Ann. (Listen intently and with the upmost respect, answer Ann then thank the class for being good friends to Ann).

    You also may need to stay moving a bit or keep your lessons to short moments. Their attention span at this age is relatively short. Use your body, proximity, tone of voice, facial expressions and words to convey positive interactions. They WANT to please the teacher.
     
  4. willow129

    willow129 Comrade

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    Nov 18, 2013

    Thank you for replying!! Sorry I wasn't specific enough:

    OK so at the beginning I meet them in the hallway. I have a small percussion instrument with me and I look for students who are standing nicely in line without talking/touching each other and pick someone who gets a turn to to play the percussion instrument as we come in. The line for this class is usually fairly messy and talking and arguing when it gets to me. What do I do about that? I feel like the longer I wait in the hallway for them to calm down the more antsy they are, although the instrument is a good treat for them, but usually when I pick someone to give it to then we erupt into "YOU NEVER PICK MEEE!" - I try to pick a different student every time though. Sigh. What is a good response to this?

    So that's where things start I feel like...When I see students pushing or just not being nice to each other or on purpose not following a direction I've given after I've already reminded them how to do it, then I tend to sit them out. The thing is...haha, with some of these kids who end up in time out a lot, they don't really care about it. They'll start to lie down on the chairs (which are in a semicircle around the rug the kindergarteners sit on) or they'll start sliding over to some other chair in the semicircle and see if I notice. My room is small so they're still there in all the action even if they're on a chair and "not part of class right now". I try to say to them if I see you sitting nicely and looking ready I'll ask you to come back and join us. Should I just give them a timer and say, ok, if you can sit here for 1 minute nicely then you can come back? Is that more of a motivation?

    The problem that happened today was that one of the girls took out this button and was distracting a boy next to her with it and then yelled at him when he took it from her. So I took the button and told her not to bring toys to class please. She pretended the boy pushed her (she does this a lot) and then yelled at him again so I sat her out. I probably ignored her in time out for too long but I was just tired and I wanted to continue with class. She was near the piano and she got out of her seat and behind the piano and started pressing the keys. GRRR! Then I was really annoyed and mad for stopping class again. I told her very sternly to go back to her seat, she did. I asked her what it was that she did wrong that she wasn't supposed to (get out of her seat and touch the piano) "I dunnooo" so I talked to her after class about it, but, I mean, she doesn't even remember why she sat out in the first place.

    Sometimes I feel like when I try to correct students behaviors by talking to them, pointing out what they're doing and what they should be doing, the having to stop class part gets more students off task and bored.

    My demeanor: with the class that's really nice I feel like I am very calm, I can point out the students who are behaving well to redirect those who aren't. With this class I feel I show them I'm annoyed far too much, they have seen me mad before for sure. I hate that. They are learning how to push my buttons. At the beginning of the year I definitely felt that they wanted to please more than they do now. And the thing is when I try to point out the students who are following directions, and wow what a good job you're doing! The others don't seem to care........yeah in general I'm not happy with my demeanor with this group.

    Ok, advise away
     
  5. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Nov 18, 2013

    Your first post started with a completely unrealistic idea of what teaching is. The idea of the magical time with kids learning with wonder is the utopia that we strive for, but the reality is much different. My opinion is that you have the utopia as your expectation and take it personally when the students don't create this beautiful adventure you had so hoped for.

    I know you know realistically that it is really a dream, but that part of you that gets annoyed is annoyed because they are crushing your dream and you don't know how to fix it.

    The first thing you need to do is learn to not take this personally. Your growing annoyance makes things much worse. If you can learn to talk yourself into a calm mindset all of the time and detach the behavior from yourself, you will make much better strides trying to reach those students that are crushing your dream.
     
  6. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    Nov 18, 2013

    My best piece of advice is "If you want it, teach it." I learned this in my APL teaching during my 5th year of teaching. Don't leave anything open for assumption...especially with kindergarten. Teach them EXACTLY what you want them to do. Model the expectations and be consistent. This may mean taking some steps back, but trust me it helps.

    Start with basics...this is how I want the line to look, this is how I want us to look on the carpet, this is how we play an instrument, etc.

    Practice, practice, practice...reteach, reteach, reteach.

    So for the student that says, "you never pick me", my response would be. "I need to see you following the expectations for standing in line." For my kids I only have to say, "bubbles, eyes, and hands" and they know exactly what to do.
     
  7. Preschool0929

    Preschool0929 Cohort

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    Nov 18, 2013

    Oh my...where to start....Okay, here's what I would do/try:

    For starters, Kindergarteners should know how to walk in the hallway and line up. I teach preschool and my students can stand with mouths quiets and hands behind their backs through the whole school, so I know K kids can do it. When I meet my students outside, they form a line and start to get quiet. If some are talking, touching something, etc.. I just stop and say in a calm but stern voice "Oh I'm sorry, we do not go into my classroom until we are all ready." If they can't get ready, then I usually have the few that are being quiet go ahead and start walking and I make the others wait. If fighting over the percussion instrument is something that is happening everyday, stop using it until they are ready. You said that you felt like the longer you wait in the hallway, the more antsy they become, but I think it sets your class up for stress if they come in already not listening.


    When you're in your classroom, I would start every single day, the first thing out of your mouth, with classroom rules/expectations. If you don't already have some, make some, maybe 3. If you have some, make sure they are understandable for K students. In my classroom we use "We are nice to our friends" "We keep our classroom clean" and "We listen to the teacher". Whenever a student starts doing something like pushing, talking, etc...I usually say "Oh i'm sorry, one of my rules is that we are nice to our friends". It's just my opinion....but I would not use time out UNLESS a student is hurting another student. Taking a student who is not listening or misbehaving...and putting them somewhere else....is just reaffirming to them that "if I don't listen, then I don't have to sit here". If a student is hitting, then I would very sternly say "We do not hit" and take them to sit by themselves. I would not give them a chair to sit in. I use a timer and set it to 3 minutes (maybe 1 would be sufficient in your class) and then they can come back.

    I think the biggest thing I've learned about behavior in early childhood is that a) most behaviors are attention seeking, and the more attention you give it, the more negative behavior you will get. and b) keep your redirection short and sweet. Most teachers tend to want to go on a long tangent about not hitting and why we don't hit and how that makes others feel, etc. etc...but at 5-6 years old, they know hitting, talking, pushing, etc.. is wrong, so you don't have to explain why. They just need to know that it's not acceptable in your class and that they won't get to do the very fun things you have planned if they do it.

    I have a really hard afternoon class this year. So much so that sometimes I have to stop for a brief second during large group to take a deep breath :dizzy: But...I think if you are calm and you can realize that their behavior is not a personal attack on you, then you can start to manage and stop the behaviors, rather than just getting through them. Talk with their classroom teacher about how they deal with behaviors. For students that are having a really difficult time, talk with the teacher about an incentive chart just for those students (i.e...if johnny sits and listens during music, then he can be the line leader on the way to lunch) or something like that. Use visual cues to help during large group times. You can make your own signs or buy some offline that say "Quiet" or "Eyes on me". Some students just need to see it, as well as hear it.

    Good luck!
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Nov 18, 2013

    I understand how you feel completely.

    I have a PreK/K class that is just like the one you described. I love teaching, I love the age group, but having a large group of challenging kids this age just seems like an all around awful idea. We have those "You never pick MEEE" meltdown often too, even though I work very hard to make sure I am fair with how often people get chosen.

    Like someone else said, that idea of a "magical" experience isn't realistic, but I think we both know that. This concept, though, seems to be perpetuated by nearly everything I read on the age group. With a very small group of reasonably well-behaved kids, it can definitely happen, but some groups are harder than others. Right now, I feel like I am managing them just to get through the day, rather than teaching them anything at all. And I HATE that feeling.

    Hang in there. I am sorry I can't offer you more than commiseration. Hopefully someone with more experience can share more insight. In my opinion, what it all comes down to is needing more staff and smaller class sizes to give the kids the attention they actually need.
     
  9. willow129

    willow129 Comrade

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    Nov 19, 2013

    Oooh thank you for your replies. It's giving me a lot to think about.

    I agree with those who said I take it personally, it's true, I am very sensitive. Especially when I'm tired, which I was yesterday. But it really helps to read what you guys are saying.

    With the rules/beginning routine - you can tell me what you think of this - after the kids come in and we sing while we're walking in and get situated on the tape in a circle on the floor, I sing hello to every student and they sing hello back. I like to do this because I get to hear them sing by themselves and monitor how they're progressing vocally and also it makes me connect with each of them for a little moment which I really like as I know they want the attention. Doing this can sometimes get kids antsy but...I really value it and I want it to be the routine. What do you think?
    Right after that we do rules. I have three pictures that I use and I hold them up and the kids show me what each of them looks like. Raising hands, listening, and hands to ourselves. I use the pictures at different times in the class if I feel like we're having a hard time transitioning from one activity to another, I hold up a picture and the kids show me what that picture is. THAT works really well!!! phew. It's my one trick.

    Another thing I *think* I've been doing a lot better with this year than last year is getting that they don't automatically know how to do anything and it's easier to be really specific at the beginning than to pick up the pieces later ha. But there are still times where I'm like, oh, ok, definitely needed to give more specific instructions on that activity. Luckily I can always try again with another class or the following week.

    Preschool0929 - thank you for the time out advice. I really appreciate it.

    With the magical experience - I guess that's why I phrased it as "magical". Hah. But, so...I travel between two schools and last year there was some weird scheduling going on at the other school with standardized testing, so I ended up being there for two kindergarten classes I had never seen before. So their regular teacher taught them and I helped out. And, it was really great! It was so polar opposite from what I was experiencing with my groups last year. I mean, he really didn't have issues. And I stole some stuff from him. But I guess when I typed that paragraph I was thinking about his classes that I saw last year. They were so lovely.

    OK, keep the advice coming. I really want to get better at this.
     
  10. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    Nov 20, 2013

    What do the kids sing as they walk in? Could you put your rules into a quick song that they could sing while walking in? You could still show the pictures while they sing about each one. It may save you a little time. We have a song for the our school wide expectations and the kids LOVE it.
    Definitely keep that hello routine especially if you value it. Make sure the kids know WHY you do this every class. I was just looking over our explicit lessons with my principal and part of our template is to explain WHY it's being done. It's a great way to begin class!
     
  11. willow129

    willow129 Comrade

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    Dec 5, 2013

    thanks myKroom! I have actually thought once or twice about putting my rules into song, at the very least to get the most singing happening in class as possible!
    Having someone else suggest it to me makes me think I should really try it.

    So, I've been thinking about this discussion and the things that people have said about the way I'm approaching things and I've noticed some improvements with this class. I also had parent-teacher night last week and the night before that I called a couple of parents (and they were really glad I did, that made me feel good) to touch base and see if they were going to be there. I find getting to know the parents, especially seeing my students WITH their parents, really makes me understand them SO much better. Do you guys think so? It's like I suddenly get where they're coming from. I've found it's always for the better and I feel I have a much stronger connection with those students in class and they can feel that too.

    Anyways, so one of these girls who I was complaining about in an earlier post, I got in touch with her parents and had a really good conversation with mom and dad. They are really sweet people and they said that she has a stubborn streak with them too. Mom said she was reading some books about strong-willed kids and how to deal with that and I asked what books those were so I'm going to check them out as soon as I can. I am doing a sticker chart with her based on whether she is following directions and keeping her body to herself. Last class was the first time we did this and actually things didn't go that much better with her but weirdly the rest of the class was much better behaved. Not perfect but better. I've been using timed time outs when necessary. Otherwise I'm trying to have eagle-eyes while also being encouraging and calm. So...anyways, even though the last class with her was kind of the same as it has been at least now I'm communicating with the parents! I'm going to keep working on different ways to approach this student and see what happens...experiment experiment
     

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