HELP! Terrible Middle School Experience!

Discussion in 'Substitute Teachers' started by Oregon Sub Girl, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. Oregon Sub Girl

    Oregon Sub Girl Rookie

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    Jan 19, 2011

    Let me give you some background before I share my story and ask for advice.

    So, I've subbed at this school before. I've actually be subbing for 4 years, pretty consistently. I work a lot, but would really like to get better at subbing. I consider myself an excellent elementary school sub, those days run smoothly and I enjoy them. I know how to get their attention and how to keep it. My degree is in elementary so there are no problems there. However, in order to work enough to pay the bills, I accept Middle and High School jobs when they come along. I normally don't have problems with the high school students because they mind their own business. This particular middle school is in a lower-income area, but it's not crazy low. The administration seems competent and the other teachers are friendly.

    Today, I taught 4 classes of math, 2 classes of 8th graders, and 2 classes of 7th graders. The 8th grade classes went okay, but both the 7th grade classes bombed. The plans were to do a warm-up (problems that were on the overhead), then go over their homework from the night before and then assign new homework. They were supposed to have about 20 minutes to work on this homework.

    There wasn't one or two specific students that were causing problems, just general disruption. It took me a long time to get them all settled down (tips for starting class would be helpful), then students would call things out while I was giving instructions. There was general talking while I'm giving the instructions. A lot of attention-seeking behaviors. I tried pausing and waiting for them to quiet down. I tried asking specific kids to be quiet, etc. I finished explaining the assignment and turned them loose to finish the work.

    They had the rest of the class to finish the work (about 20 minutes). There were several students who did nothing the whole time. I was roaming the room, helping students with the assignment, but I spent most of the time asking kids to return to their seats, asking them get their work done, asking them to stop talking, etc.

    There were several instances of inappropriate talk/gestures happening. I am a pretty innocent/naive person when it comes to sexual innuendos and such, but I'm pretty sure there were several instances of students implying very crude things. I asked specific students to stop.

    I'm pretty sure after a while the students just tuned me out and did what they wanted to anyway because I didn't have a firm enough demeanor. I felt like I was begging the students to sit down and do their work. I know that's not effective, but I was so frazzled that I couldn't think of what else to do. The room was so chaotic I felt like I couldn't think straight.

    The teachers next door told me I could send students to them. And I ended up doing that in both periods, but I just feel like a failure when that happens. Those teachers have enough to worry about with having my students to worry about too. Plus, I feel like it reflects poorly on me as a sub when I can't control the classroom.

    Now I feel like the students at this school know me as a push-over and when they see me in their classroom, they can just goof-off, be inappropriate, etc and get away with it. I don't want to never accept a job here again, because I need the work. Maybe that's what I need to do until these kids are gone (it's only a school for 7th and 8th graders). But, I just feel like that's cheap and I should be able to handle any classroom of kids. I have a very high patience threshold, and maybe I'm way too patient. Maybe I need to enforce discipline at the first sign of disruption.

    I guess the bottom line is I am looking for some specific advice:
    1. What are good ways to start a middle school classroom and get them to settle down and be in their seats and actually listening.
    2. How to deal with individual disruptions
    3. How to deal with general bad behavior/off-task students of the whole classroom.
    4. What to do with inappropriate (or what I think might have been inappropriate) words or actions?
    5. Any other advice would be great.

    If you read to the bottom of the post, you deserve a lot of credit. I know I'm very emotional and worked up right now, but I don't know what else to do. Please don't think that I'm a totally incompetent sub, I really do have great control of most classrooms. Thank you in advance for any advice or tips.
     
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  3. Vince

    Vince Rookie

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    Jan 19, 2011

    I've had MANY days like that at middle school. That is the worst age.

    Typically I am very stern at the start of class and often I have to yell at them to settle down, get in their seats, etc. I often have to send some students out and/or leave detention notices for the teacher.

    One thing I do for sure is either find or make a seating chart, so I can accurately report names of the offending students to the regular teacher.

    I don't know what they all do with the information, but if I was a regular teacher, I would come down hard on students who had their names left by a sub.

    Sometimes there really is nothing you can do, except just repeat yourself over and over. Be quiet, sit down, get to work. If some students really don't want to work, I usually don't push it. There is only so much a sub can do. Their regular teacher needs to be the main motivator. (and parents of course)
     
  4. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Jan 19, 2011

    The biggest key to controlling a class - in my experience as a sub - is to learn their names as quickly as possible. One reason kids act up so much with a sub is because they think they are anonymous and, thus, can't be held accountable for what they do.

    If the teacher leaves a seating chart, STUDY it while taking attendance or immediately after getting them started on their work. Then, when Jermaine decides to act up, you can say "Jermaine, sit down and work quietly" rather than say "Hey you, get to work and be quiet". When they aren't nameless anymore, they are a lot more cautious with their actions (usually, but not always).

    Getting them started: Sounds like this is a group you have to be firm with from the first bell. Not all middle school classes are like that, but when they are, you need to establish that YOU are the authority and in control of the class. Tell them to sit down with no talking until you finish attendance. If they keep talking, remind them one time to quiet down. If that doesn't work, try walking to the desk of the closest offender and saying in a loud and stern voice "I said to stop talking NOW!" Keep your eyes on the whole class, but bang your hand or fist down on the offender's desk for emphasis (make sure you don't hit him/her or their stuff). THAT is something they won't expect and you are indirectly making an example of the offender without challenging him directly. Sometimes you just have to go for SHOCK VALUE!

    Interrupting instructions: When my kids do this, I sometimes tell them something like "If you will close your mouths and open your ears - instead of the other way around - MOST of your questions will be answered before you ask them. LISTEN to the directions FIRST, THEN ask questions if you're still not sure what to do." Keep in mind that you are NOT in elementary school anymore and, sometimes, you have to be a little rougher with the kids. It also ok to be sarcastic every now and then too. They're big kids and they can take it. It's not a matter of being disrespectful towards them, but it IS a matter of letting them know you are not a timid little elementary teacher that they can run over.

    For continued disruptions, one of the BEST methods I ever used was to simply start writing the offender's names on the board. It took a couple of minutes for them to realize I was doing it, but as I wrote each name, the class became quieter and quieter until it was like a church. One of the boys with his name on the board finally asked "What does that mean, if we have our names on the board?" I said "You'll find out when the regular teacher gets back." That was on a Friday, so they had the whooooole weekend to think about it. I didn't tell the regular teacher anything and actually erased the names after the kids left, but the you could have heard a pin drop for the remainder of the class. :cool:
     
  5. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Jan 19, 2011

    Middle schoolers are just not nice people. They're not nice to subs and they're pretty vile to each other. It's not completely their fault, they have all those hormones raging and making them monsters one minute and wallow in despair the next.

    While I agree about the seating chart thing, if that's not an option, what I do is warn them that they probably don't have quite as many friends as they think they do in class. I give a big speech about how someone among them has a strong sense of right and wrong and will do the right thing when it comes to telling the teacher what happened in class while he/she was gone. It creates just enough doubt that they don't play the name game with me. Even if the sense of morality that I'm presenting doesn't sway them, they know that they have classmates who enjoy seeing others get in trouble.

    It's a bit of a mind game, but it beats letting them get the upper hand by working in solidarity against "the sub."
     
  6. azure

    azure Companion

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    Jan 20, 2011

    I know a lot of subs are afraid to write referrals, but I'm not. When you have a very rowdy class, that is often the best way to get them to settle down. They absolutely DO NOT believe that you will write a referral just because you say you will. You have to actually do it! So pick the one or two worst offenders and get them out. Usually everyone else falls into place quickly.
     
  7. artiste7

    artiste7 Rookie

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    Jan 30, 2011

    i work in Middle Schools and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS put up myexpectations on the board before the class comes in, preferably in RED, on the whiteboard:

    1. Follow Directions Quickly.
    2. Remain Seated at all times.
    3. Use Appropriate Language and Behavior.
    4. All Electronics OFF.
    5. Work Quietly. You May Whisper.

    "Good Morning, (Afternoon). Class Has Started." I stand in the middle of the room. If they are loud, I stand there in one position and look at them. It makes them very uncomfortable for someone to be standing there like that, and they will tell each other to "shut up". I introduce myself as their guest teacher and that Mr.or Ms. So&So has left an assignment for them to complete. I have talked with her/him and she/he expects it to be done and turned in." even if it isn't true, i tell them that. The teachers expect their class to work and be on task. so that works for me.
    I take attendance twice, so even if they switch seats I can still find out who needs to be noted in the report for bad behavior if there is any.
    I have no problem giving referrals or sending a student out, and I don't make threats. sometimes if they see me with the papers it changes behavior. those who don't care, just don't.
    I don't argue with them, I say what I have to say, and that's it.
    The teachers like me, and the students respect me.
    If I go to a school/class where the students are completely out of control, I can still get control sometimes but i will refuse those assignments in the future because that means that the teacher cannot control them either and you can't get more than they do out of them in one day/period.
    It's all about your demeanor and body language. The students know that I mean business, I like them, but I don't tolerate foolishness. I let them know that from the beginning. If you establish that, it is much easier to keep things in order, and your sanity.:2cents:
     
  8. artiste7

    artiste7 Rookie

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    Jan 30, 2011

    also, never allow a student to take attendance, sometimes one will say "I can do that for you" but "No Thank You" to that...
     
  9. Oregon Sub Girl

    Oregon Sub Girl Rookie

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    Feb 16, 2011

    I really appreciate all of your help. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I decided to not take jobs from that school for a while, and have been really blessed to find a job everyday even without that. So, maybe I'll be able to go back there in a few months, but right now, I'm happy subbing where the students are respectful (or at least more respectful).

    I am taking all of your advice as I sub at different middle school and have found it to really help. Middle schoolers really can be a tough age group, but also can be fun, when you are firm with them.

    Thanks for letting me rant and then giving me advice. Good luck to all you subs!
     
  10. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Feb 16, 2011

    I've been subbing for almost 10 yrs (& was an elem special ed teacher for a yr), but I'd never in a million years sub for middle school & certianly not HS. I'm an only child & not used to being around kids outside of school, plus I attended private schools where everyone behaved well & wouldn't dream of acting the way they act these days. I also don't have any kids of my own yet. The district I work for only goes up to 8th gr & the most I've ever done w/ middle schoolers is work w/ no more than 4 students for only 30 min...that's long enough for me before behavior & smart ass attitudes begin! I guess in a way, I'm intimidated by older grades, but I just don't want to deal w/ their often times smart ass attitudes & disrespect. If I need to work more to pay the bills, I'd actually rather work a retail job along with subbing rather than work w/ middle & HS general ed classes. I'm also very picky anyway. I ONLY work for language, speech, & hearing AND RSP & if I have to, then I'll do general ed gr K-3.

    Good luck! I can just picture what handfuls those kids can be!
     
  11. lilune

    lilune Rookie

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    Feb 20, 2011

    I have an elementary ed degree also and last year subbed one day for a middle school. Longest day of my life. It was a class who had subs for the first 6 weeks of school before getting a permanent sub as a teacher. It has been wonderful to hear all of the suggestions for subbing middle school.
     
  12. labar

    labar Rookie

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    Feb 28, 2011

    Displaying confidence and comfort from the start of class is a must; this applies for both high school and middle school. Sometimes your going to have classes where the kids are going to do whatever they please because the main teacher in the class do not have control of the class themselves. When you get in these situations your fighting a losing battle. Best thing you can do it just continue to redirect attention to what they are suppose to be working on, and if you can identify students who seem to be the nucleus of the problems then send them out of the room. A lot of the advice given here are great tips; writing names on the bored and having a seating chart with names.

    To highlight what someone else said; a lot of middle school students do not think you have any authority to give them detention or a referral. Obviously if it is really bad you need to send the student/'s out of the class, but a lot of times just having referrals out and writing peoples names on them is enough. Students will notice what you are doing and calm it down.
     
  13. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Feb 28, 2011

    I know exactly how you feel. You sound a lot like me and although I try my hardest to be strict I am very young looking and even when I try to yell I feel like I come across as more nagging than actually authoritative. In this situation you have to rely on what you have to work with. I will do a lot of non verbal cues like the evil eye. Also with middle schoolers they are at the height of their smart aleck phase. They like to say dumb things for the attention and the fact that they EXPECT you to get upset with them. Sometimes its better to give it right back to them. Now I'm not saying to insult them because you might want a permanent position someday, but sometimes a sarcastic witty response catches the student off guard and might give you a bit of cred to them. Not that you are looking to be their friend, but it's not the reaction that they probably expected from you.

    For instance when I was subbing once in a 6th grade class I had a student who was refusing to do his work. When I went over there and saw that his page was blank he made a comment like, "But Miss look! I did it. It's just in invisible ink!" Instead of getting upset I just played along and said, "Oh, silly me! Of course it's in invisible ink. How could I not have noticed? Here's a real pen. Get to work." It doesn't always work and some kids may feed off it even more, but as long as you know where to draw the line, it does sometimes work.
     
  14. Carliee

    Carliee Rookie

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    Mar 2, 2011

    My concern with erasing names and not telling the teacher is what happens when you return to that classroom and there have been no consequences...

    I'm still figuring out middle school and am at the point where I've decided to focus on the students who want to learn. As long as the other students aren't disrupting their learning, they can do as they please. I simply refuse to let the "bad" kids steal their learning from them. I did this today in a small group of 8th grade girls and it was so much better. Two of the girls did no work, but the others weren't distracted by them. I just let them talk quietly and will report their choice to their teacher, who will deal with their behavior. If behavior gets in the way of learning for those who want to learn, it's time to call behavior support. That's a benefit of being a sub...I wouldn't be ok with doing that as a classroom teacher.

    Don't be afraid of calling behavior support. It doesn't make you look bad. The adults who work with the kids regularly know it's the kids, not you. Calling for help shows you aren't letting them walk all over you.



     
  15. Carliee

    Carliee Rookie

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    There's no such thing as no seating chart. If the teacher doesn't leave one, make your own. I get there early and map out the room on paper. When I take attendance, I fill in the chart. That way, I know the names by where they're sitting.

    I've only done this once, to be honest, but I definitely think it works as well as a teacher created seating chart for knowing names. I've never had a classroom teacher leave a seating chart for me.
     
  16. pjlmom

    pjlmom Rookie

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    Mar 2, 2011

    I always make my own seating chart, because the teachers charts are usually out dated or the kids have played musical chairs. If the teacher does not have attendance sheets get them to print out a list in guidance. I greet them at the door so I know who is mouthing off or late. During class I am circling names and coding certain behaviors on my seating chart ( sleeping, tardy, disrespectful, disruptive).This goes on the back of my teacher report. I also make a note of the top three well behaved students. When all work is completed I tell them they can read, do homework or they can do sudoku puzzles. If they get the puzzle correct I have totsie rolls. If the whole class finishes early I give them riddles.

    If there are one or two students acting up they get written up and send out. They usually get three warnings. first warning is verbal and I may change their seat. second warning I fill out the referral and put it on their desk. third warning they are out. If they are disrespectful to me or are endangering the students they get thrown out without warning. I always follow up and make sure they made it to the deans office. Some just cut.
     
  17. MathematicsSub

    MathematicsSub New Member

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    Mar 15, 2011

    Learn from my mistakes. I had a class even worse than yours, and I have not found the middle ground yet to have a successful day, but I will tell you a few things I found that don't work. For one, do not hesitate to write referrals. If possible, when sending kids out, get someone (administrator or otherwise) to escort them out (I have had kids give fake names for the referral, then instead of going to office ditch for the period). Some students honestly don't care if they get in trouble... these will be the headaches for the day, so if they don't care about being sent out, then send them out. One warning, then anyone who tests your patience is probably doing it blatantly.

    For bad enough classrooms, keep your possessions close. Your pens, pencils, other small items may get stolen. Even your lesson plans. And don't be afraid to get angry. In fact that's encouraged. I happen to be the type that gets more of a cool anger, and students seem more used to visible anger. Use it when needed but don't come off as insane.
     
  18. Carliee

    Carliee Rookie

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    Mar 16, 2011

    Fake Names

    I get their names when I take attendance. Give me a wrong name, and you get counted as absent. I write who is sitting where on my seating chart.

    Once four kids tried to switch their names around and I asked the good kids in the class who was sitting at that table.

    I have had a good Middle School day and I don't know if I found the middle ground or if it was a good school/class.
     

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