First week teaching and overwhelmed

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by kimberd, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. kimberd

    kimberd Rookie

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    Aug 29, 2008

    Okay, just finished my first week teaching 8th grade math, and I have to say I have no idea what I'm doing. The kids hate me, I'm just beginning to grasp all the paperwork, planning, and grade posting I have to do, and I have several clowns that seem to have the need to make noises throughout the day to get laughs. To top it all off, I'm suposed to get these kids to pass their standardized testing in April so they can advance to high school, and half of them can't add and subtract, much less solve an equation. The other half is too lazy to do any work.

    Any advice? I'm feeling better than I was the first two days (I was crying to my husband and saying "I made a really huge mistake").

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    Kim
     
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  3. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Aug 29, 2008

    I'm sorry to hear how you feel and I understand. I taught in Texas for 6 months then quit. They hired me to teach 8th grade math Title One...which means the kids were struggling. I hated it!! It was scripted and it was Connected MAth which I'd never even HEARD of prior to teaching it. BTW...I am not Math certified and they recruited me fromIllinois...I was planning on moving to Texas and went to a job fair there. I EVER expected to get a call back for a job offer!! YIKES!! I was so flattered that I accepted it. They assured me they would train me to do the job although I had NO MAth background other than 4th and 5th grade teaching of all subjects. BOY oh BOY was I out of my element! I studied like crazy every night just to be able to get through each day's lesson. The grading was brutal as was the paper work. The math head was on us constanytly to push students along and not spend ANY time reteaching. His belief was if they didn't GET IT in class, you needed to arrange to meet with the student for morning tutoring on your own time...no pay ...before school. So...did I mention I quit that job as soon as I could!!! And I am soooo glad I did. I had another job in 2 weeks back teaching elementary! Whew! Wow...I just vented too huh?
     
  4. kimberd

    kimberd Rookie

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    Aug 29, 2008

    Well, luckily (or unluckily, depending on your perspective) they've pulled the kids that failed the TAKS math testing last year for a second math class, so not only do I have them for 8th grade math, but I also have them for a second period of "extension" math, where I can give them some extra time working on basics and working their way up. I also have to have tutoring sessions in the morning and afternoons. I'm not sure these kids care enough to ever come, though. I had a kid score 9% on a skills assessment I gave them earlier this week! It was at 3rd-5th grade level!

    I'm not a math teacher either. I am really a science person, and I'm having to study every night, too, just to refresh my memory on this stuff. I have a great department head who's really helping me, and I'm hoping in the next week or two I'll be on my own. It's really frustrating, though. I'm not used to feeling like I'm disorganized and behind. I think I need some medication. :)
     
  5. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Aug 30, 2008

    Hmmm..sounds like we work(ed) at the same place? PISD? When I say The math head I meant the head of the math curriculum for the district. He actually would check in on all the math teachers in the district to make sure we were on the same page at the same time. And don't let him ever catch you reteaching. He was totally against that. He believed reteaching was to be done during the morning and afternoon tutoring. :whistle:
    I also had a double period with kids who didn't pass the TAKS and I had to do both morning and afternoon tutoring....at no extra pay...Texas and no unions and all that stuff. :eek:
    During my extension portion, I had to deal with the extra frustration of having mentors from the area come in the "help" students as I taught. We all know that just really means more work for the teacher unless you are lucky enough to get someone who has been in a classroom before and knows how things run.:mad:
    Did I mention I'm soooooooo glad I left that miserable job? I certainly hope your job is bearable. Teaching is so much fun when you find the right place that matches you!:hugs:
     
  6. kimberd

    kimberd Rookie

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    Aug 30, 2008

    Well, not the same district, but not far away. :) I am lucky to have a great principal and assistant principal that are very supportive, so that's one good thing. My principal will back you up all the way. It's just that I haven't taught before, had no idea what to expect, and I'm having a hard time gaining the respect of the kids so that I can make any headway. Just not sure what to do with some of them. Of course, it's only been a week, but I'm worried I may have started off too tough and won't be able to win them over.

    Does sound like we worked at the same place, though. I did expect to put in a lot of extra time my first year, just thought I'd be more together and ready for it.
     
  7. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    Aug 30, 2008

    I'm elementary, and first year, so I don't know how worthy my help will be...

    But starting Tuesday, be HARD on them. It doesn't mean you're going to be mean, but it means you're not going to put up with any crap! Move desks really quickly before school Tuesday. Spread the noise makers out, keep the worst ones near you. I did this last Thursday, and I noticed a difference. I have 5 noise makers in my second block.

    I plan to have a discussion with my class Tuesday morning. While my classes aren't bad, they've been getting rowdy. No more. I will NOT let a few ruin it for the most. Maybe you can have this plan as well? Do you have ISS? I told my class that I'll be sending them there if they refuse to work or ruin their classmate's learning environment.

    Remember, don't be mean, just be firm. Mean what you say, and say what you mean :) I'm NOT an expert, and I can feel your pain! Keep your head up!
     
  8. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Aug 30, 2008

    I would guess that the kids don't hate you - they probably hate math. Why would they like a subject that they struggle in? Please don't take it personal, though I know it must be hard. I teach grade 8 math too - I don't know if any of these suggestions will be feasible for you to try, but here goes . . .

    First, I agree with Pisces - be firm. If you haven't yet, review your expectations. Give no warnings - one step out of line and send them out of the room. I know it is harsh but you can let up a bit as the year goes on and your students behave.

    Go back to the basics. I always start my year off with times tables, and they write the test until everyone in the class gets 90% or better.

    Try to have as many hands-on activities as possible. Engage with a math cartoon, a silly story problem, etc.

    Have them make cue cards for each topic (use index cards and a circle clip). They can refer back to previously taught material if they get stuck.

    Try to keep your sense of humour. They will test you - you will survive and they will have a great year because they obviously have a teacher that cares a great deal.
     
  9. kimberd

    kimberd Rookie

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    Aug 31, 2008

    Thanks for the ideas. I"m going to try to be tough, not mean. I've been pretty mean so far, but I've tried to be fair about it. Maybe a detention or two wouldn't be so bad. They kind of try to reserve ISS for really bad offenses, but I can do all the classroom detentions or D-hall detentions I want. I'm going to try to stay positive this next week, and hopefully things will slowly get better. I appreciate your encouragement.
     
  10. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Sep 1, 2008

    Your first sentence gave you away.

    If you don't know what you're doing then you aren't being yourself and that is why you are miserable.

    Ask yourself why should your kids behave for you?

    If the only thing you've offered them is "I'm a teacher, respect me" which is, in my view, what most of us do, then you're going to fight them all year long. 8th graders can see through fake exteriors with incredible insight.

    My 8th graders beat me up (figuratively) my whole first year and it wasn't until I asked myself why I should be respected that I realized I wasn't being me. I was being strict simply for the sake of being strict because "that's what teachers do." Once I realized that if I was just real with the kids 99% of my problems went away, I started to love my job.
     
  11. villageteacher

    villageteacher Rookie

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    Sep 1, 2008

    Hi Kim! I taught in Austin my first year of teaching. It was rough, but I found that I really enjoyed the working in the middle school. I think, however, that middle school is really tough and challenging. The students do act out a lot, especially where I taught. They are testing their boundaries, trying to get to you to get an emotional response. Once you show them that they have that power over you, it's over. They smell blood, so like it's been suggested here, stay in control even if you feel like you're not. It's an illusion. Be firm and fair. Be consistent. Don't be afraid, however, to throw out things that are not working. When I worked in Austin I came up with some really good incentives that the students liked. It was really trial and error for me, but I finally found happy mediums. I used FUN FRIDAYS. It was a thing the whole class had to commit to and be aware of, and they were. I think also, before anything, try to relate to them. If they know you are listening, and not just pretending to listen, and if they know that you actually see them, as individuals, the respect level goes way up. I wish you the best of luck and happiness in your job.
     
  12. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Sep 2, 2008

    I agree with apple25 that part of the battle is that the students aren't feeling competent in the subject, so they're acting up.

    Don't focus on the overwhelming idea of the test right now. Get control first. You won't be able to teach them a thing until you get control.

    My best piece of advice is this: circulate. Arrange your classroom desks so that you can walk among your students and talk from anywhere in the room. Have one kid move the pen or chalk for you on the board/overhead projector. This frees you up to talk from the trouble hotspots in your room. Don't stop your lesson; just teach from right beside the bothersome student. Your proximity will help reduce classroom disruptions a lot.

    Call parents. All the time. Call for the bad things, but also surprise them with a postitive phone call every once in a while. You're overwhelmed right now and I know the idea of calling all those parents all the time is laughable - where will you find the time? Just do it. It's so important to squash the rowdiness in the beginning so you can teach later. Get 'em on your side.

    Consider adding a talking element into your lesson plans that allows students to summarize the learning to one another in short bursts of a minute or so. Kids love to talk and talking about the learning is a great way to accomplish your objectives and theirs. Before attempting this, make sure you have a bit of control over your class first and select a student to model how to summarize the concept.

    I wish you success.

    Diane

    P.S. I started out my teaching career in S.E. Texas: P.A.I.S.D. My classes were much the same. It does get better!
     
  13. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Sep 15, 2008

    All of the advice given so far has been great. Especially the part about the students hating math and not you.
    A couple of things that helped in my class:
    -This year I made up a list of all of the procedures for my class. I gave all of them a copy so they would know what to do when. I told them if they forget when they can go to the bathroom or when they can sharpen their pencil they can refer to this list. If they break a procedure we immediately go over it to make sure it doesn't happen again and to let the students know that I am serious about them following procedures.
    -I read Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones this summer and the three things that I took away from it that I try to implement regularly are: Don't fix anything with your mouth that you can fix with your body (instead of yelling across the class for so and so to stop talking, get up and walk over there); Don't make a rule that you aren't willing to enforce 100% of the time; Discipline comes before instruction (Don't let the talkers in the back of the room think they can get away with it because you are helping a student. Excuse yourself, get them together, then go back to the student after you are sure the talkers are on task.)
     
  14. JMUteacher

    JMUteacher Rookie

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    Sep 16, 2008


    Great advice. I always feel like when I'm doing one on one I have to focus my attention but it'll only take a minute to get the other one's on task. Thanks for sharing, I know what I'm doing tomorrow!
     
  15. goodapple

    goodapple Rookie

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    Sep 16, 2008

    I teach outside of Austin... also 8th grade. I've seen our new Math teachers struggle because there is so much pressure on them to get the kids to pass that dang TAKS test.

    I agree with pp's: be firm! I do lunch detentions. It stinks at first to have to give up a lunch or two, but the kids HATE it and they want to avoid it. Lunch is really the only social time they have with their friends all day. They hate to lose it.

    They are going to test you! I agree with a pp--it's nothing personal. Last year we had some 8th graders tell the new Math teacher that "they had gotten rid of 3 teachers before and they would get rid of her, too." How awful! But they want to see what you're going to do. Be tough on them. They'll whine. And complain. And act like they hate you. But a lot of these kids need that structure.

    PM me anytime to vent or talk! We probably live close to each other. :)
     

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