Hello. I might be back - with a VERY LONG VENT (and this is only Part 1)

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Sarge, May 29, 2016.

  1. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    May 29, 2016

    I'm pretty full of myself sometimes, but not so much that I'd expect you were all wondering "where's Sarge" after not posting for almost a year.

    But in case anyone actually was wondering, I've had the most crazy year ever in my 22 years of teaching. Were it not for faith the mantra "That which does not kill me makes me stronger" I literally would have quit. Mid year. Just walked away. But I didn't.

    First, I've been working on my admin credential and master's degree. That would have been easy in a normal year. But I've also had the most difficult class I have ever seen.

    No, not the most difficult class I've ever had. Well, it's that too. But honestly, I've never seen a class like this at any school I've worked at. Not in my room, not in anyone else's room. Not even at the Court/Community school I worked at where most of the kids had been expelled, but needed a school to go to in order to meet the terms of their probation.

    Seven out of my 20 second graders regularly engage in angry, in your face defiance. Five of those will have stops-all-teaching meltdowns and refuse to leave the room until escorted by a campus supervisor. Three of those have rampaged and started destroying the classroom on at least one occasion. One does it regularly. In addition to this, I have several more who will go out of their way to agitate the kids having meltdowns.

    I have students who regularly get in fights on the playground, and are still fighting when I pick them up at line. I'm expected to take them in the classroom and make it all better. If I do send them to the office, they come back before the period is over with no consequence. A while back, a student punched another kid bad enough that he went home. The student who threw the punch was back in class within half an hour.

    I have no aide and my classroom one of the furthest primary classrooms from the office. Round trip is a quarter mile. When I call for help, it often goes to voice mail. I can try texting our campus supervisor, but she is supposed to work primarily with middle school students.

    At this point, you are probably wondering, "Where is the administration in all of this?" You might even be wondering "Isn't Sarge sort of like admin, since he is getting his admin credential?"

    Well, we have had three different principals and four different assistant principals this year if you count interims. Long story short, our principal retired last year. New school year begins, and they had not hired a replacement so we started with an interim. New principal hired in November. On the same day, our AP was transferred. We got a new AP in January. Then in March, our principal announced she was submitting her resignation effective June 30. Then in May, she went out on leave until the end of the year and we got another interim.

    So the AP that we got in January has basically been running the school. We are a K-8 and he was focused on bigger, more serious middle school issues (drugs, weapons, truancy, etc), so until recently the nightmare in my class has gone unnoticed. It was only when one of my student's meltdowns started turning violent towards other students that my class started getting some admin attention.

    But even then, the attention was directed at me, and not at my students. One of the issues with our principal who left mid year was that she was under a lot of pressure from some very angry parents. So she was very likely to bend at the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. For that reason, I had two of my best students moved (per parent request) out of my room into other classes, after two major behavior problems were moved into my room.

    Worse, the two behavior problems kids had bullying issues and should have been separated because one bullied the other. But one was moved to my class, then went to a private school. then the other was moved into my class. Then the one who went to the private school was kicked out of the private school and HIS PARENTS REQUESTED ME! And the two kids moved out of my room, were my only two really engaged students. I literally saw the dynamic shift before my eyes on the day they left. Some of my borderline students (basically good, but prone to get in trouble if they find it) started following the kids with serious behavior problems where previously they had looked up to the two kids who were moved out.

    The problem was that, with so many kids prone to serious, show-stopping, meltdowns at the slightest provocation, I had to focus so much of my attention to their behavior in order to keep my students safe, that I started to neglect a lot of my day to day minor behavior problems. Moreover, to say the turmoil in this class has been detrimental to instruction would be the mother of all understatements. I had the worst open house of my career, literally because we had accomplished so little academically. This drew more negative attention from the office.

    And here is what I think might have happened. When I did address some of the more minor behavior issues, I did so by contacting parents. Those kids probably defended their behavior by saying "But so-and-so in my class does this and this, and doesn't get in trouble" (Remember, I said that often times, the kids would get in serious fights and come back from the office with no consequence.) Well, some of those parents might have expressed some well meaning sympathy to their kids under those circumstances. But in the minds of some second graders, that sympathy could actually be viewed as permission to not have to do what the teacher says.

    Consequently, I think I have completely lost the respect of my class. They are literally acting as if somebody said it is OK to ignore my most basic instructions. What does this look like? Well, often at recess, I go to pick up my class and all the other classes are lined up, and my kids are still running around playing. I give my quiet signal, not only do they just keep talking, they don't even respond.

    Did I mention they are not just disrespectful to me, they are also disrespectful to other staff as well? Especially on the playground. This has been a school-wide issue that I offered to help solve as part of the final project for my administrative credential. Our school is supposed to be using Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports along with the the Building Effective Schools Together curriculum, but our changes in administration has cause those programs to fall by the wayside. My project is to develop and implement a plan to revive those programs. In doing so, however, I have literally felt like that kid in your class who always wants to help, and you keep having to tell to go back to his seat.

    I'm not sure if they think I need to focus on my own class before worrying about the rest of the school, or if they think I might have an agenda as part of the negative climate that allegedly drove our principal to retirement last year (forgot to mention that). At any rate, whenever I had a suggestion for making the playground safer, or reintroducing a strategy that had worked a few years ago as part of our BEST program, the reactions ranged from "Don't worry, we're handling it" to "We can't really do anything right now until we get a new principal or VP and see what their views on that are."

    End of Part 1.

    (Stay tuned for Part 2, where Sarge actually figures out what to do with five days left in the school year.)
     
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  3. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 29, 2016

    Oh gosh. I'm sorry. This sounds like a year from h*ll and also a story that is getting repeated all too frequently.
     
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  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    So nice to see you back, and so sorry to hear about your year. Many of us have experienced how one student, like the ones you describe, can seemingly suck all of the life out of a classroom; having so many sets you up for disaster. The lack of support you have had astounds and infuriates me. The job of administration, interim or not, is to support the staff and students. Thank goodness the year is almost over. What does next year look like for you?
     
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  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    May 29, 2016

    Sarge, this is heartbreaking.
     
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  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I'm sorry to hear that you've had such a hard year Sarge. Outright disrespectful behavior has been increasing all across the board lately. I hope the last five days gives you some closure in some way.
     
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  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    May 29, 2016

    Glad you're back. I'd probably consider taking the five days off. This is a ridiculous situation that no professional deserves.
     
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  8. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    May 29, 2016

    My honest fear is that this is going to become more and more commonplace. We are facing a dramatic cultural shift toward narcissism (and I don't mean that in a negative way, I mean it in a clinically-diagnosable kind of way) and our society, and certainly our schools, are not prepared to handle it. Ridiculous "discipline" programs like PBIS are teaching kids from a very young age that consequences don't exist. The more of our kids that grow up in this "no punishment" style of system the more we are going to see this type of nonsense at the middle levels.

    I have seriously reflected on why my year has felt so awful lately and I still can't pinpoint it. My kids weren't bad, most were flat out awesome, but the inability to deal effectively with those who were constant annoyances just drove me to the point of absolute frustration.

    We haven't always (or rarely ever) agreed in the past but I feel your pain Sarge and wish you the best.
     
  9. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    May 29, 2016

    I had a similar year to this last year (albeit not as severe). The best thing you can do is try to keep everybody safe until the last day and then spend the summer thinking about absolutely anything other than school. Start the new school year with as few memories of this year as possible.
     
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  10. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Actually, PBIS does have consequences. That is one of the key components of my project is a staff development piece where it is stressed that even with PBIS, after school detention, suspension, and even expulsion are not completely off the table. One of the things that sent my class south had nothing to do with PBIS, but rather the fact that the office was so overwhelmed with middle school behavior, that any primary grade student would just get a quick "talking to" and be sent back. The biggest proponents of "Restorative Practices" who see an elimination of suspension as a consequence often advocate the old fashioned Saturday School as an alternative to suspension.

    One thing that I see is that nobody really has an answer as to what to do with an uber-defiant seven year old in a regular education setting. Most research is either geared toward parenting situations, or it's assumed that any first, second, or third grader who would run away from staff, or start throwing books around the room must be on an IEP. Not a single one of the students I mentioned are on an IEP or any kind of behavior plan.
     
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  11. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    May 29, 2016

    Actually, I'm getting a sub but I'm going to be there. With that, I have backup and things go far more smoothly. All I needed this year would have been another adult body in the room.
     
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Actually, I have to think about school all summer. I've decided to go back to middle school if I don't get an administrative job this year. Most elementary admin jobs are as principals. To be a principal, it helps to have been a VP. Most VP jobs are in middle schools or high schools. My guess is that to be a middle school VP, you probably need recent middle school experience. I taught middle school for many years, but it was many years ago. And besides, I actually like 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
     
  13. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    That makes a difference, but at least try to avoid dwelling on this past year. No good will come from that. I didn't actually follow my own advice last year either... I taught a summer school program... but it was a very different population, different ages, different concerns, and there were no behavior issues of any sort. Teaching that program probably made it easier not to dwell on how cruddy the school year itself went.
     
  14. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Actually, one of the contributing factors may have been that I was not really prepared to teach second grade in the global sense.

    I started out in secondary with a single subject credential. I taught 7th and 8th grade English/History core and then high school social studies. Along the way, I took the MSAT, and was granted a multiple subject credential by the state of California. You could do that then.

    I moved to 6th grade, then to 5th. Self contained. But in all honesty, I mostly taught English and history with some math. This was pre-NCLB, we had no curriculum, and nobody cared.

    After two years in upper grades, I was invited to teach first grade by the principal who had initially hired me to teach middle school. I was shocked, but flattered. I took the job anyway.

    I stayed in first grade for 13 years. This was exactly when the whole Reading First/scripted Open Court/ thing hit. After some intensive Open Court training, I actually got quite good using Open Court to teach 6 year olds how to read. And in first grade, if you can do that one job well, everyone loves you. It's almost like teaching single subject.

    Then, two years ago, I move to second grade. And we also transition to Common Core. Now, all of a sudden, Open Court is out, and I suddenly have to come up with engaging math and science lessons for 7 year olds who know how to read, but not very well.

    My first year wasn't so bad. I had many of my former first graders who, along with their parents, thought very highly of me and had strong foundational skills. My class was a bit crazy at times, in a "second grade frat house" sort of way, but we had fun.

    But this year, I just could not, for the life of me, come up with lessons or activities that would engage these kinds of kids. I know that when a lot of kids in a class are complaining "this is boring, I don't wan't do it," it should serve as an indicator that perhaps the teacher needs to take a new direction with their instruction. But I just could not find a direction to take. And when I did go in new direction, most of the time, the new activity was derailed by having to evacuate the room because someone was throwing books, and about to transition to chairs.

    So I realized that, while I might be very good at teaching first graders to read using a scripted phonics program, I'm otherwise not cut out to be an elementary teacher. Thus, my decision to move to either middle school, high school, or administration next year.
     
  15. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    May 29, 2016

    This is what I see too.
     
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  16. mckbearcat48

    mckbearcat48 Cohort

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    Sarge, I haven't been on here very long but I feel for you. Your passion shines through your words.
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This is a very rough story and I'm sorry that you're going through it. I can tell you that I know several teachers who have experienced and are experiencing the same thing; I myself faced it a few years ago with one truly awful, awful class. For those who have never taught a class with these types of dynamics at play, it's very easy to blame the teacher by suggesting that the teacher just use better intervention and de-escalation techniques. For those of us who have been there, there's so much more to it than that. I certainly wasn't able to find the answers while I was in the thick of it, but I hope that you can.
     
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  18. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I'm so sorry you've been through so much. I'm glad you've come here to help you.
     
  19. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    To be perfectly honest, this entire paragraph scares the cr*p outta me (mainly because it's oh-so-true)!!!
     
  20. blazer

    blazer Connoisseur

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    May 30, 2016

    Blimey Sarge, I had noticed your absence. The class from hell in a school not much better by the sound of it. No-one would blame you for walking away from it.
     
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  21. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Hey Sarge. I am so sorry to hear this. I cannot believe those kids don't have an IEP or aren't on a behavior plan. Out of curiosity, are you allowed to do your own behavior plans with parent approval? Next year we have "the worst grade level ever", according to all previous teachers, coming to our grade. We are tuning it all out, but I know they aren't quite as bad as what you had in one class. I can't even imagine dealing with all that. It's such a shame when all you want to do is teach and you can't.
     
  22. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Do these really matter? Where I work they are basically a waste of time. What do some of your behavior plans include that are beneficial that as the classroom teacher you could not have implemented? The only IEP or BIP plan that I have seen of any value was for a student to have a shortened day...is there anything else?
     
  23. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Oh my goodness yes! I have several students in the SAIL program that are in my GenEd 5th grade Math and Science classroom. Sometimes there is a helper with them but usually not. The SAIL team and our sped team are phenomenal at putting together the official BIP's. I have learned so much when it comes to teaching a student how to avoid triggers, figure out what they are really feeling, and then talking to them about their actions and why they are inappropriate for the situation.

    I have one SAIL student that never lasted more than 5 or 10 minutes in a Gen Ed classroom last year, but his new plan is so great he is in my Science for an hour and does Writing and Social Studies with my partner nearly every day. He still has his meltdowns, like when he told me he would hate me for ever because I wouldn't blow up a balloon he had been trying to blow up!

    That said, these BIP's are for identified students. As far as the gen ed. students that Sarge was talking about, we wouldn't have them on a BIP either, more than likely. However, we are allowed to put kids on behavior plans on our own and have several that we use. For kids like Sarge's and repeat offenders, they would probably have all privileges removed and be put on a point system where they can level up.
     
  24. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    I think what I really meant here was that I couldn't believe they were not identified as having behavior issues or social issues already, therefore having something in place and some further support, possibly, for Sarge.
     
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  25. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    That is really sad...
     
  26. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Can you give me some examples of what these strategies were?
     
  27. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I agree, that is why I ask. Can you give me some examples of what would come out of a BIP that is so beneficial? I am asking honestly, the only things I have seen are shortened school day, 1 to 1 aide, maybe a few others, but can't think of them off hand.

    Someone help me out here?
     
  28. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    What is SAIL program? Is this a program for students with severe behavior issues? If so, we do BIPs which may lead to them qualifying for our version of that program, but it is not at our school. So a BIP or IEP does help move them into that program.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
  29. Missy

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    May 31, 2016

    I am recuperating from my worst year of teaching, so I can feel a bit of your pain (but I got way more admin support!)

    I wish you the best of luck in the changes you are hoping for next year.
     
  30. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    I'm sorry you had to go through this Sarge.
     
  31. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Oh man. I am sorry to hear this. It sounds like what you need is strong admin support, but admin seems to be pretty much nonexistent at this point. I honestly can't imagine trying to manage a class like that. I don't think many would have stayed if in that situation. All I can say is hang in there, and may next year be a MUCH better year for you.
     
  32. SwOcean Gal

    SwOcean Gal Devotee

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    Sarge, glad you are back! I left here for a long time because I was dealing with a similar class- year two and three of teaching were my toughest! I am glad I have been lucky for the past 3 years though! I admire your resilience and your dedication to following through on a new path. Admin is something that I have been told to consider, but I am not sure that would be the best path for me. I wish you the best of luck! I'm sure you will be amazing, but you will be missed if not in the classroom.
     
  33. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    I know this is very unpopular here and even viewed as child abuse but when I was in school and well into the 80s it was common practice that a 7 year old might get a swat on the behind if he thought he was important enough to make life hell for the rest of the class. And more than that HE KNEW it was a possibility and that tempered a lot of that disruption. This year, I too saw worse behavior than in the past. I have two schools, The smaller school has had LOTS of turnover in teachers, We have lots of brand new ones. The principal struggles with parents and behaviors. My other principal (old school) does not hesitate to hold parents accountable for children that cause problems. SHe is on the phone right away and used the conduct code to send them home. No favorites.
    I think another problem for our system in Fla is the demands on teachers and many of the standards (especially in K-1) that are more suited for older kids. WHat they expect from a kindergarten child now blows my mind,
     
  34. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Sarge, I am so glad to see you back and equally sorry you had to go through such a horrific year. I never had more than a couple kids with the sort of social/behavioral issues you describe. That was bad enough. I'm a specialist now and don't generally have classes with more than 5 kids at a time, but I know one class group we had to work through the building was full of behavioral issues, and the teachers basically just focused on survival. I helped out where I could, but it's not the same. If there is a silver lining to the past year, perhaps the experience will serve you as an administrator. I have no doubt you will be amazingly supportive of the staff and hold kids accountable.
     

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