Familiar message, but I still need help!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education Archives' started by introuble, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. introuble

    introuble Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    I'd appreciate any advice that you all could give!

    I started a a new high school at the end of October. My classes have been through two teachers (who both quit) and several subs. Even though I have experience teaching in an inner-city school, it has still been very rough. My main problem is with motivation--over 90% of my students are failing after 4 weeks. A secondary problem is with behavior--many students are rude, talk back, make fun of me, and are generally argumentative.

    I think I'm doing the "right" things in class--creative assignments, cooperative learning groups, wait time, etc. I've never had so many problems with so many students before!

    About two weeks in, I had had enough and thought about quitting. My administrators came in and tried to fix the problem, but it has continued.

    I'm wary of asking for more help because I've already been labelled as a "problem" and I don't want to be put on probation. However, I also don't want to have a nervous breakdown, or be forced to quit without any backup.

    I have asked a couple veteran teachers in my building who I trust and they basically say, "Oh, that's the way that class is," or "Just fail them then." But that isn't helping my mental health!
     
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  3. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    Nov 28, 2005

    I've worked with a class similar to this before, and I had to throw out the creative *verbal* assignments and go to what I considered a boring routine.

    This was for a 7th grade language arts class with tough kids. I realised that even if they wanted to be creative, other kids would tease.

    We would usually start class with dictation. They all had dictation notebooks that were kept in the room. I would hand them out and say hello to each student. When I handed it to them, I expected eye contact and a firm, "Hello."

    After dictation, I would collect the notebooks myself.

    I did a lot with notecards. "Okay, red means you agree. Green means you disagree. Was the main character XXX?" I would walk around and see where they pointed. They didn't have to get up and do anything, but they had to at least try.

    I would sometimes make quick drawings for vocab and also put these on the desk. When I said a cloze sentence, they would have to point to the right vocab word.

    For any journaling or writing, I gave a wordbank. I realized that sometimes the kids can't get started without one, and some were perfectionists and wanted to spell the words right. We did this M-Th and then shared an entry on Friday. I let them chose if they wanted to read or if they wanted me to read it.

    Gradually, they wrote more and more personal things. They also became more comfortable using their own voice.

    The real truth is that there are some I never reached- some that fell through the cracks and who I would stay up at night worrying about or feeling angry over.

    Focus on baby steps. The cards on the desk allowed reluctants to participate. It also allowed them to "cheat" by looking at their neighbor's cards. As the kids became more comfortable, they relied more on themselves.

    I also allowed music during worktime IF everyone was quiet. My rule is that they had to find the lyrics for me so I could look at them before we played it. (And I had the final say). They would *usually* bring me music that was good.

    I don't know if any of this helps, but I just really encourage baby steps. Break down a task- some of the kids may have squeaked by and never really learned how.
     
  4. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Introuble,
    You could be me...100%. I've been in my position for two months and it's getting harder to stay positive with each day that passes and each new thing I try doesn't get the desired response. Sorry I don't have any advice for you, but there are others who know how you feel and are going through the same sort of thing....if that helps at all...

    teacherpippi,
    I like your response. It's realistic and upfront. I will print it out for future reference.
     
  5. introuble

    introuble Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Thank you

    Thank you both for your reassuring messages--it's just nice to talk to other teachers without worrying about confidentiality.

    I'm definitely going to try some of the suggestions, especially using the cards instead of verbal discussions. I use white boards for the same purpose. It allows them to answer without talking and I can tell right away who gets it and who doesn't. Of course, I only have six white boards, so that doesn't work well in my class of 33!

    On another note--I talked to my VP today about the grades my students have and he suggested giving them a make-up day to make up all the work they haven't done. I'm resisting this idea because I'm trying to instill accountability in them and giving them make-up work seems to send the signal that doing the work on time doesn't really count. I guess I could deduct a certain percentage, but I'm not sure what kind of message it's sending....any ideas?
     
  6. adria

    adria Comrade

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    Nov 28, 2005

    my five cents

    Well dear all I can say is put yourself in their shoes, as soon as a person comes in the person leaves. So I guess the students are puting up a barrier and that should be understood. My only sugestion is talk to the students let them know that you are there to stay, but most importantly get to know them not just as students but as an individual..give them a questionnaire asking them for their likes and dislikes also ask them what do they expect from you as a teacher....
     
  7. introuble

    introuble Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Adria,
    I really am trying to be understanding and I know that they've already missed three months of instruction and can't afford to miss any more. I also think that they've earned a reputation for scaring teachers to quit, which is why they've been testing me.
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Somebody on one of the elementary school subforums posted something about making cheap whiteboards from shower board. Another possibility is clear contact paper on rectangles of white cardboard (which will last longer if you round the corners, I bet).
     
  9. introuble

    introuble Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Yeah, I made mine by laminating cardstock. It works well, but it still cost about $20.00 for six because I got extra-heavy plastic. I'm going to try to have my dad cut some shower board for me over Christmas.
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 28, 2005

    What about turning the whiteboards into a project for one or more of your classes? Have them calculate the amount of material required for different sizes, the costs for different materials, and the most efficient layout?
     
  11. mmslynxteach

    mmslynxteach Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Good Evening! I hope things improve for you in the near future. I know things can get tough. The white boards are a great idea, and my kids love them as well.

    As for having a make-up work day, I would allow them to make-up work that was missed up to this point and talk to them about reasons why you are allowing them to do so, as teachers leaving and coming in, no stable atmosphere, etc. In addition, I agree with you in making students accountable and telling them this is a one time shot. Tell them you don't plan on going anywhere and from this point forward they need to be serious about the classwork and assignments given to them. I think this way you don't lose or give up your values in any way and you can show the kids that too.

    Also, check into a drop box in the front of your room. I taught at a very hard summer school program with kids like yours. They never wanted to do things. I had a box in the front where they could ask questions and drop them off throughout the day without anyone seeing who it is. Then I would answer them (as long as they were appropriate) at the beginning of class. It helped the kids not be picked on for trying to do work or do better. Also, a lot of kids turned in the same questions which can help you know where to expand your lessons.

    I hope if you need more help you will let us know so we can assist you!

    Good Luck! :)
     
  12. introuble

    introuble Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Not to be a total whiner, but I also travel to different classrooms/floors throughout the day so I don't have my own space to do a lot of the things I've done in the past, or some of the suggestions other teachers have given me.

    I do like the drop box idea and I'm going to try to come up with something small enough to fit on my little cart!

    You guys have such good ideas--thank you!
     
  13. Constantine

    Constantine Rookie

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    Nov 28, 2005

    Have them nod their head.

    If supplies are tight, I have my students do something else.....

    I ask them to nodd their head if they understand. Its the middle ground between kids pointing at green or red cards, and having kids raise their hands to be called on. It gives me instant and quick feedback of whether my students are understanding the material. Also, the social pressures in the class room tend not to affect this method nearly as much as raising the hand or calling on a student.
    The only downside is some students just nodd for anything.... sigh.

    Hope it helps.....
     
  14. Suki

    Suki Rookie

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    Nov 29, 2005

    Dear introuble... Reading your post brought back memories. My heart goes out to you. :love: You describe rude, foolish children who undermine everything you try to do and an administration that doesn't support the teacher, instead blames the teacher for poor classroom management. So the teacher tries this and that and everything else and the students pick up on the fact that they are driving the teacher bonkers and that the administration isn't backing her up, so they get worse and worse... until you are exhausted, demoralized, and totally isolated because these same kids "don't act that way with other teachers."

    Did you know that students in schools that lack clear, consistent discipline and an orderly atmosphere actually decide beforehand what teacher they are going to ruin? Yes, it's true. (When I was having a year like you're having, I overheard the troublemakers planning for next year!) The chronic disrupters pick the sweetest teacher and cut-up in her class only. Why? Because they have figured out that they can misbehave and the teacher will get the blame because all the trouble happens with that one teacher. Before long, the other teachers begin to believe that the problem is you which makes you more isolated, the kids get even worse because they see you deteriorating, and soon the parents join in by complaining about you because their son or daughter "doesn't have any problems in any of his/her other classes." You end up believing all this yourself, you get sick from being exhausted every week, and start thinking maybe you weren't meant to be a teacher.

    With me it got to the point where students were running to administration with all sorts of allegations and then I would be called up to the office where I would have to DEFEND myself. The students would high-five each other and plan the next attack. How did it all end? I developed double pneumonia, realized I was going to lose my mind and/or be sued for some conjectured assault. So I quit, took a tremendous hit financially, and searched and searched until I found a school where teachers are supported by the administration!

    Amazingly, I am no longer the teacher with poor classroom management skills! :wow: The students behave and treat me with respect. They know that all I have to do is give a nod to the administration and they'll find themselves in afterschool detention. I have the respect of the administration, parents, and my colleagues. Sure, I have to commute over an hour each day to get to this school, but I don't mind! I smile all the way to work!

    Sorry this is so long. I want you to remember my story and take this message from it: YOU are not the problem. Say it over and over out loud and in your head: I AM NOT THE PROBLEM, I AM NOT THE PROBLEM. Good luck! :)
     
  15. mshutchinson

    mshutchinson Comrade

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    Dec 2, 2005

    In trouble,
    I feel for you.
    Pippi's ideas are fantastic.. The card thing is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time.
    I'm pasting something I came up with in response to another post a few weeks ago...

    I don't want to be negative as well, but what kind of school takes a person with no experience and no certification and puts them in what is probably the toughest classroom in the building? The administration will either gush over you adn do anything to keep you there, OR lock the door, turn off the phone and lights and try to forget you're in there.


    The only quick advice I can give you is to set up classroom standards of behavior and progress. Make a chart about the size of a small notepad and tape one to each desk. Give the kids points for everything you expect them to do. They can get up to 10 points per day..(or 20-whatever).
    example
    1- staying in seat 0/1/2
    2- answering questions 0/1/2
    3- reading at least X pages 0/1/2
    4- having homework on desk first thing in the morning 0/1/2
    5- completing Math classwork 0/1/2
    6- completing Enlish classwork 0/1/2
    7- completing Science classwork 0/1/2
    8- completing Social studies classwork 0/1/2
    9- assisting one person 0/1/2
    10- not disrespectin anyone 0/1/2

    then at certain points in time you can circle one of the numbers.
    At the end of the day, or middle and end (if you need immediate gratification do it more often- every hour or 4x a day) add up all the points and reward those with the most points or just discuss how each kid can get more points.

    Set a 'goal' number of points individually or as a class. Then address how close the kid was to the goal.
    As a class, make sure each child is aware of all the contributions. Reward them as a class.. maybe with homework passes or 30 minutes of games, or a chance to begin hw in class while listening to music.
    The reward also may be weekly or daily..depending on the need for instand gratification.

    That will control the vast majority of behavior, and will put the responsibility on the student-where it belongs. It is time consuming initially.


    I wish you luck- I'm sure you'll need it. If you need more ideas- send a message- I have a ton of tricks in the bag.
     
  16. root

    root New Member

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    Dec 29, 2005

    been there

    I took over for a teacher(as a sub) last Jan who actually left a note under the principal's door saying he quit! When I came in the kids told me " we broke him, we'll break you!" My response was I'm not him and I won't put up with their attitude/rudeness. I also went in with a contract for the students and parents to sign stating the class rules and consequences. (I also roamed from room to room) I did clear it w/ the administration. I came in very strict but by the end I was able to ease up on all but one of the classes. Some days I wrote 40 discipline slips, but eventually they realized that I meant to follow through with the consequences and they did start to behave. I have now been hired by the school for another position since they say how I was able to gain control of these students. I know see these students in school and out who have told me that even though I was VERY strict they knew where they stood and that I was fair. I even had a student say daily that he was reporting me to the principals for being racist since I didn't like mixed minorities. ( which I am myself!) I said go ahead and did notify the admin who secretly came in to view with the student's knowledge. That was kinda of scary but they said this was a comment the student always used when he thought he was treated unfairly.

    Good luck..stay focused...you will see a reward even if you only get through to one student
     
  17. hescollin

    hescollin Fanatic

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    Dec 30, 2005

    ***White boards are great and expensive. Go to the lumber yard buy a sheet of smooth white paneling. ---called white tile board…. Our lumber yard cut it up in smaller sizes free. (about 11 by 12 inches) don't remember for sure. Or maybe your high school shop teacher will cut it for you. Next with sand paper sand around the edges just enough to take off the sharp edge. A boys top of a sock ---makes a good eraser. You need a white board, a white board marking pen and sock top for each student. Teacher gives a math problem, spelling word or whatever. When student has an answer they hold up the board. You say correct erase or try again. Our boards get lots of use. I have not used this idea. Expo on sheet protectors w/ a piece of tagboard inside just to stiffen it. Erase using t-shirt scraps. The sheet protectors will fit right into their binders in their desks. Good Luck and Best Wishes.....
     
  18. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Dec 30, 2005

    I bought a sheet of the shower board at Home Depot for about $12 and they cut it up for free. I have had them for 3 years now and they are still holding up great.
     
  19. Jaime99

    Jaime99 Rookie

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    Jan 3, 2006

    Here's something to consider:

    Drop a few hints about a sick grandmother you take care of, and whenever they inquire about your grandmother (which the better kids will do naturally), just spend the next two minutes discussing what she did last night/how she was/etc.

    This requires a good imagination (or good planning), and some good acting skills, but it creates instant empathy and might make kids think twice about treating you like a doormat.

    It's manipulative to the extreme, but it sounds like you've got quite an emergency there, so it might be worth a try.
     
  20. Jaime99

    Jaime99 Rookie

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    Jan 3, 2006

    And when they eventually find out you don't have a sick grandmother, just explain how desperate the times were and how you needed to make that up to keep going.

    Hopefully, by that time you'll have created a real connection with them and they'll understand.
     

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