having a hard time

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by matherine, Oct 5, 2011.

  1. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Oct 5, 2011

    This is my first year of teaching. I feel like I've committed the cardinal sin of being too "easy" at the beginning of the year and not being consistent enough with my rules and procedures. Letting students get away with small misbehaviors that I didn't think were an issue has caused them to get completely out of control. Now I can barely get their attention and we aren't getting as much done as we need to. Kids are being disrespectful to each other, stealing from each other, refusing to stay in the classroom. This week I implemented a clear ladder of consequences, but cracking down on them now after letting so many things go is causing my students to strongly resent me and loudly voice the fact that they hate my class and that I don't understand them. It's also causing lots of kids to get referrals since they blow through all the other consequences so quickly, which I know is a bad thing. I've been doing all I can to pack each period with activities to keep the kids engaged and not allow for down time, but I feel that I've trained my students not to listen to me or take me seriously. I'm fearful that I'll never be able to get them to work as productively as they need to to actually learn all this stuff!
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Oct 7, 2011

    Would it help you to know that I did the exact same thing in my household and got pretty much the exact same reaction from everyone, particularly my teenagers? After about 3 weeks it died down and things ran like clockwork like I've never seen before. Truly!

    (We had moved half way through last year and I let a lot go and I was still learning to set up structure in the new place along with the fact that we stayed in a motel for a lot of it. Plus we've had to adjust to the fact that I'm back to being a stay-at-home mom.)

    It's still relatively the beginning of the year.

    I will let others comment on the actual classroom management approach or offer advice if they choose. I just wanted you to know that you are in no way too late and the fact that they rebel is just a human reaction. Consistency is still the key here.
     
  4. Milsey

    Milsey Habitué

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    Oct 7, 2011

    It is not too late to save your classes. My classes were outta control too. I realized it was partly my fault. My classes were BORING.
    Starting the New Year, I I told my self every day you have to entertain them or they'll entertain themselves. So I tried to include a fun activity in each lesson. Sometimes it bombed, sometimes it worked. The students would ask what activity we were doing today, and you know what if they were talking over me I would say no fun activity tomorrow and most of them would quiet down.
     
  5. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Oct 7, 2011

    I think your response shows you've got a good on your shoulders, so this is going to be more of a timing issue than a "what should I do" issues (you're already doing it) :)

    Step 1
    Be consistent.

    You've already consistently shown them they can do what they want in the classroom, so they're doing it. (See! Consistency works! :))

    You just need to be consistent in another direction, which leads us to ...

    Step 2
    Break down what you want your students to do now.

    What's most important to you?
    --Walk into the classroom calmy?
    --Get to work when you walk in the door?
    --Raise hand to talk?
    --Stay in seats?
    --Etc.

    Step 3
    Pick one (two at most) of the expectations you listed out in Step 2 and start being consistent.

    Every time.

    Soon enough (after 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 corrections) your kids will know "Ahhh man, every time I walk in the classroom like a crazy clown Mr./Ms. Matherine is going to correct it. It's not worth it anymore!

    Step 4
    Once they "get it," move on to another group of expectations.

    Small steps :)

    Step 5
    Eat a snickers.
     
  6. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Oct 7, 2011

    Don't give up.
     
  7. AKPuffin

    AKPuffin Rookie

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    Oct 7, 2011

    I second the Snickers! They really help and I wouldn't make it through the day without a bit of chocolate!
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 7, 2011

    OK, for starters, remember that you're dealing with 7th graders. They go from adults to kids back to adults so fast it makes your head spin. "Consistency" is NOT a hallmark of their lives.

    I woudln't begin by being "tougher"-- I would change the focus of the class. Do more hands on stuff-- practical applications of the work you're teaching. You'll find that they love anything with a practical slant, as well as anything to which they can add a little of themselves.

    Some things I did when I taught Math 7:
    - my do now, EVERY DAY TILL CHRISTMAS, was times tables. Christmas till Easter, I threw in the perfect squares and cubes. yeah, they thought it was silly. But now, as Seniors, those kids are still good with factors. (I've taught some of them 4 times!!!) THey didn't have trouble factoring trinomials, and they didn't struggle with matrix row operations.

    Come up with some fun projects, but let them know that in order to have that fun, there has to be order.That's all the rules and procedures are anyway-- a way of maintaining order. So if you have to stop every single time you're interrupted (since you're far too polite to talk over someone) then they're not going to understand. If you lose lots of classtime to fooling around, then there's more homework.

    Spend some time this weekend being creative with your curriculum. Then spring the new projects-- and the corresponding responsibliites-- on them on Tuesday.

    - I used practical applications a LOT. Percent problems dealt with a sale on UGGS or at Hollister. Fraction problems involved Kelly making a BIG batch of brownies and splitting it among our whole class. We had fun with the information.

    (Some other things that worked well: we had British pen pals, thanks to AtoZ. We did a great currency exchange project.

    - I had them make up a scale drawing of their bedrooms, using furnishings they had "bought" without a budget from the Ikea catalog-- it includes dimensions. I let them color it and decorate it as they wanted. They loved the project!

    - I had them watch and critique an episode of Cyberchase on PBS. They got a real kick out if, particularly Cyberchase for real. I asked them to present an episode idea for some other math topic, and some got really creative.

    I wouldn't approach it as a crackdown. I would approach it as a new part of the year. Now that they know the basics, we're able to do a lot more, and to have a lot more fun with math-- but I'm really going to need your cooperation to make it happen.
     
  9. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Oct 7, 2011

    I would ditto all the suggestions here. Just start being consistent! They'll quickly learn what is appropriate and what is not. With the 8th graders I use a 3 strikes and you're out system. This is mostly for when they get too chatty. I also can't do as much group stuff with them as with say my seniors without it being extremely structured.
     
  10. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Oct 8, 2011

    Thanks for all these suggestions! They all fall right in line with what I think would help create a better learning environment in the class. The new quarter starts on Tuesday which seems like the perfect time to refocus the class.

    Twice this year several students have yelled out at me during class that I need to be meaner and get in kid's faces and yell like the teacher down the hall does and then they would behave better. I would rather treat my students more respectfully and save my voice by not yelling at them like this. I will speak very sternly to students in private, but am I right in thinking that I can control the classroom without losing my temper and yelling? My master teacher last year relied on yelling at the kids, and sometimes embarrassing them, to keep them in line and I hated the way it felt. I'm also a young, soft-spoken female for whom yelling like that wouldn't have the same effect.
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 8, 2011

    Yelling at a kid makes him want to yell back, even if he's smart enough not to.

    Embarassing a kid leaves him with no option but to keep fighting if he want to save face in front of his peers-- and trust me, in 7th grade, he wants that desperately.

    Here's something I've done once or twice: pull the class leaders aside, outside of class, and ask for help.

    Tell them that you have some great ideas you would love to do with the class, but that, given the current behavior issues, you simply can't. Give them some of your best ideas, and let them know you'll need their help if you're going to try it.

    For example, at http://www.moneyinstructor.com/checks.asp you can print up checks for classroom use. Let the kids know you would LOVE to show them how to balance a checkbook (it's great practice for decimal addition and subtraction) and to write out a check (it takes an extra 5 minutes, but it's a real life lesson and they feel SO grown up.) But that you can't "take the time away from the syallabus" (though you're not) if it's not going to go well.
     
  12. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    Oct 12, 2011

    Does anybody have any suggestions of how to do practical applications for high school history? I'm having all of the same issues in my classes but there really aren't ways to apply history knowledge to real life. I teach in VA so I have to go by the SOLs, which are heavily knowledge-based. I can describe more in a PM if anyone wants some more context.
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Oct 13, 2011

    History, as I have been known to point out, is the world's longest-running soap opera. Can you get your students thinking about history as story (the two words do in fact come from the same root)? What about the roles of stories in their lives? Can you get them thinking about how stories help us make sense of our families' histories? (If you can get hold of a copy of the luminous adult picture book Crow and Weasel, share some bits with them.)
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 13, 2011

    Today, for example, I'm doing Pythagorean Theorem with my Geometry classes.

    We're going to hit Youtube for the scene from the Wizard of Oz where the scarecrow mangles it-- it's hysterical once you know the actual theorem!
     
  15. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Oct 14, 2011

    At the end of a very long week I feel that my classroom management issue is insurmountable because my students simply don't listen to me. My instructional coach observed me this week and pointed out that my students don't take me as seriously as they should. When I correct student behaviors they often just continue walking around the room or talking. He said that my voice lacks the kind of strength that a strong leader has. He asked me a few weeks ago to work on speaking with more conviction and I thought my voice was getting stronger, but he told me that I still don't speak in a way that sets the tone for my students to take me seriously. I'm becoming afraid that my personality simply isn't suited to teaching since I'm not sure how to further change the way I talk. I'm also concerned because my students are becoming increasingly disruptive and the teachers in the rooms next door are becoming incredibly upset with me for letting my students disrupt their classes. This week students have started turning off all the lights in the room when my back is turned and then screaming at the top of their lungs. The lightswitches are on two opposite walls so it's impossible to watch them at all times. We've tried to do some fun activities this week and some "brain break" exercises, but students couldn't listen to instructions for us to even start the activities. I'm feeling like nothing that I'm do has an effect on student behavior and I'm dreading going back on Monday.
     
  16. worrywart

    worrywart Companion

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    Oct 14, 2011

    Well that is tough. Is it all of your classes or just one?

    Practice on your tone in front of the mirror. You don't have to be really loud, but have that no nonsense firmness in your voice. Do they resond to rewards? I would consider going in monday with a treat (hard candy or something) and just start passing one out to each student that has been paying attention..saying 'thank you, xxx, for working so hard last week'...

    Next I would definitely have the trouble makers calling their parents during class. Line them up and have them call. You should also chat briefly with each parent at this time to touch base. The rest of the class can be working on independent work.

    No one up out of their seat without permission.

    Don't give up yet.
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 15, 2011

    Stop turning your back on them. Get an ELMO or document camera-- an overhead if you must. But this needs to stop, and it's only going to build if they have the opportunity.
     
  18. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Oct 18, 2011

    Behavior is slowly improving! One problem I'm having now though is that a few disruptive students have been sent to a buddy teacher several times when they were being too loud. Now, however, these students want to go to the other teacher's classroom to work every day instead of staying in the classroom. I don't want them over there every day and the buddy teacher certainly doesn't either. The students tell me that they can't stay in my classroom because they'll get in trouble. I've told them that they can't choose to leave my room on their own and that they need to figure out how to work successfully in my classroom which makes them incredibly angry - today one student said that she'd purposefully misbehave if I kept her in my room. Any ideas?
     
  19. troytoburn

    troytoburn Rookie

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    Oct 24, 2011

    Ugh... matherine -- this sounds all too familiar. I had trouble with an all-boys classroom this year that was a nightmare (I hope my private message got to you). I have seriously begun to feel that my "personality" just isn't suited to teaching -- I haven't figured this out just yet, though.

    Your students will continue to react this way for some time. Try not to take it personally (this is very difficult, I know). Continue to implement the policies available to you. In addition, try this:

    1) The next time you have your class, call them up to stand in a circle. Let's call this the "community circle." Going around to each student, let them voice their opinion on a particular topic... something they'll WANT to talk about. For example: "Today, I want to thank... (it has to be someone in the classroom)." If any of them purposefully misbehaves during this game, get them to sit in the corner of your room and read (if they do anything else, automatic detention) -- instead of sending them to the buddy teacher.
    2) Use this game every day at the BEGINNING of the day (to set a precedent) until their behaviour improves. Start implementing questions that deal with the curriculum, but still maintain their interest (yes -- a challenge!). Pretty soon, they'll WANT to be a part of what you're doing.

    I think this is the key for you now. You have to turn your classroom from a negative place into a positive one -- which is so freaking hard to do, as I know from experience. :/
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 25, 2011

    Matherine, how's it going?
     
  21. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Oct 26, 2011

    Thanks so much for asking Alice! A lot of behavior problems have stopped simply by my not turning my back on the class anymore. I didn't realize how easily my attention would get distracted by one student for just a minute.

    I mentioned in another post that my principal arranged for myself and another teacher to switch classrooms in order to give me more space for my huge classes/boxes of math manipulatives as well as a chance for a fresh start. We're out on a week long fall break right now so when the students come back from break we'll be in our new room. I'm focusing a lot right now on writing out procedures for everything from sharpening pencils to being dismissed and my principal wants me to focus on teaching these for the next 2 weeks.

    I'm still wondering how to structure these first two weeks in the new room. Other teachers have told me that I just need to "be a bitch" and have the students work silently on their own every day for the first two weeks. I don't know if this approach would work for me as well as it would for older teachers who students are more fearful of. I'm thinking of focusing on praising students for following expectations much more than I did previously, but still holding students to our ladder of consequences if they aren't following expectations. It's certainly not the whole class who's been misbehaving so it doesn't seem fair to punish the entire class with two weeks of deskwork. But perhaps since my class was so out of control beforehand it would be wise to start out with individual work and then move into partner work. I'm also thinking of taking the first week to review material from the first quarter since classroom management prevented many of the students from learning it as well as they should have the first time around. I also wonder if I need to provide any explicit instruction or discussions around behavior and the importance of procedures or if they just need to be worked in naturally to my lessons.

    After break I'll be meeting with my instructional coach more regularly to ensure that my lessons are comprehensible to students and have a clear purpose. I still find myself overestimating how much my students know and unintentionally leaving them confused, which leads to their misbehavior. In our current unit, for example, I introduced circles without any instruction on the definition of a circle or how it's drawn, thinking that my students knew, and then got a lot of ellipses on my first quiz about circles.
     
  22. Geauxtee

    Geauxtee Comrade

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    Oct 26, 2011

    Honestly, I'm having the same problem.

    I got a classroom positive behavior support system in place though and it's really help. I bought a roll of tickets at Walmart for $3.50 and hand out tickets when the kids are doing the right thing and following directions. After 4 tickets, they get a mini candy bar/small bag of skittles.

    (Ok, don't lambaste me for giving candy. My school Title I, and with all the fighting/and general craziness that goes on -- it's the least of our problems for me to be giving out candy.)

    They love earning tickets, and it's helped.
    I would focus on rewarding positive behavior. You can also set a class goal for them to work towards (ie. popcorn and a movie).
     
  23. Ms.Science

    Ms.Science Rookie

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    Oct 26, 2011

    Tickets are great for simple tasks and reinforcing routines. It's also an excuse for a student to answer a question, when it might not be cool.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 31, 2011

    Student teacher here, and I'm facing the exact same thing. In particular I have this one class where 1 or 2 students won't hesitate to be completely disrespectful to me, even when I pull them over and have a talk with them.

    This emboldens some of the other students and now they completely don't respect me. They'll mutter things behind my back, or raise their hands to give answers that they KNOW are completely wrong but like to test my reactions.

    My other classes run rather smoothly, and I'm not sure if I failed to do something with this particular class, or if the dynamic of these kids is just bad feng shui. I find that I'm definitely able to implement clearer consequences and react better in my other classes because I don't feel bogged down by so many students acting out at once.

    I expect that what others are saying is true. They'll overreact to the changes in your disciplinary system, and then once they're clear that you're not going to budge on it and you won't tolerate disrespect, towards you or each other, then things will begin to calm down. I have to begin becoming more clear with my students as well.

    I guess since I'm not really in a position to help you yet, all I can do is offer you my moral support! Good luck, and I wish things work out for both of us.
     
  25. ABetterWorld

    ABetterWorld New Member

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    Nov 4, 2011

    Check This Book Out

    I recently read a book about how a new teacher used some interesting, unconventional strategies for getting through to his class. A lot of people in my district have read it. It's on Amazon, Searching For A Savior... I think it's by Donovan. Great read! Highly Recommended!
     
  26. jamoehope

    jamoehope Companion

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    Nov 4, 2011

    Good luck, matherine!!!


    I'm having similar misbehavior issues myself with my Individual Studies class of special ed. students in a middle school. I, too, have a soft voice and I don't like yelling, scolding, or making my voice sound mad to enforce my procedures or expectations for the students.


    * What are good attention getters that matherine (and I) can use to get the whole class's attention?

    * How do you define limits for acceptable behaviors?

    * What is a good warning system to make it really obvious to students that they are getting in trouble and where they are in the hierarchy?
    (For example, I'm considering putting names on the board with check marks for each level of my hierarchy. But the downside to that is I need to be near the board when a misbehavior occurs.)
     
  27. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Jan 12, 2012

    At the end of the first semester my principal put me on an improvement plan for classroom management. Kids get 1 verbal warning, lose 5 minutes of lunch, have time-out in a buddy teacher's classroom and then receive a referral. I am spending the first two weeks of the semester focusing on this plan for behavior.

    So far we have been doing a lot of review work so that students can work independently while I focus on behavior - there's basically been no whole class instruction. It's easy enough to administer consequences for students individually while they're working on their own and behavior improved dramatically. More students than ever before were getting their work done.

    Today I tried teaching students some new topics and could not get the class to stop talking. I started walking to individual students and redirecting them, but all of a sudden the other students had no reason to listen to me and it descended into chaos. Next I tried setting a timer for 2 minutes, telling the students that I simply needed their attention for those 2 minutes. Then the students started pounding on their desks in unison. I assigned extra homework to make up for the lost time teaching, but I hate this idea of using homework to punish and couldn't think of anything else to do in the moment. I ended up talking over the students so that at least some of them could get started on the work. I feel like the fact that I've come to rely on time-outs with other teachers and referrals to the office means that I'll never get control of the kids. I keep dreaming of a new school year when I can set limits early on, but in the meantime I have no idea how I'm going to make it through this year.
     
  28. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jan 12, 2012

    Matherine, I don't have any suggestions for this year because this is not an age I teach. One thing, however, that I might suggest to you to do, especially for next year is to sit and write a classroom management/climate philosophy statement. If you go beyond the generic, this is actually harder than it looks. It requires you to really think about your belief system, what you know about classroom management, and think through how you want your classroom to look. It needs to consider the developmental age you are working with as well. One year I created a philosophy statement along with a chart that demonstrated examples of application. Having a clearer vision helps you make clearer decisions that aren't so random. What is your approach exactly? What do you want your classroom to look like? Think of the emotional and social aspects as well as academic ones. It's not a bad thing to try new things and it isn't a bad thing to not have all the answers right away but what I'm seeing is that you are putting out fires without having any clear management approach. Make sure your ideas reflect differentiation as well. I will try to find my philosophy statement and post it in a new thread for ideas.
     
  29. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Jan 12, 2012

    Thank you cutNglue, I would appreciate it.
     
  30. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jan 13, 2012

    The students are completing work when you are just giving them worksheets to work on? But as soon as you try to teach, they stop working and become disruptive?

    Then I would try giving the students something that they don't yet know how to do without giving them instruction. Show them that they need a few minutes of instruction to be successful.
     

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