I am feeling very vulnerable...

Discussion in 'General Education' started by YoungTeacherGuy, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Dec 29, 2011

    ...but I need to get this off my chest!

    As many of you know, this is my first year teaching middle school (after a six-year-long stint as a 2nd grade teacher).

    Anyway, my day is comprised of seven 50-minute periods. Most of my classes are great; however, one of my classes (5th period) is a complete nightmare. That class has a very interesting student makeup. Most students are either mainstreamed from Special Day Class (SDC) or from the Opportunity Class (students with extreme behavioral, emotional, and/or academic problems who are placed in a semi self-containted class for 75% of their day).

    I have no idea why or how all these students were placed together. Maybe it's because I'm new to the school so they gave me the toughest bunch of kids? Maybe it was a scheduling issue? Who knows!

    My dilema is that I've been having nightmares about this class. I don't want to return to work next week because this particular group of kids is so difficult to work with.

    My other six periods are perfectly fine: minimal issues with behavior, relatively respectful and well-mannered, and fun to teach.

    Each day, before my 5th period class walks in, I can feel my blood pressure rise. I hate to admit this, but it's true: I dread seeing this class walk through the door each day. It's the longest 50 minutes of my life. I've never witnessed such disrespect and lack of self-control in my entire teaching career.

    My principal has seen me teach many times and I've had pretty stellar observation reviews from him. When I told him about this class, he was shocked because he said it seems like I have everything under control in my other classes (he has never done an informal walk-through during this class).

    During the months of November and December, I took several half-days off (personal days) in order to avoid my 5th period class. One sub wrote (in her end-of-day note): "Your 6th and 7th period classes are amazing. I wish I could say the same thing about 5th period. Unfortunately, I had to call the principal for help because the kids were out of control."

    Again, please keep in mind that I'm not a new teacher. Although I'm new to middle school, I have no issues with classroom management in my other classes.

    What would you do if you were in my shoes? I can't continue to take off so many afternoons in order to avoid one class... :help:
     
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  3. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    I was going to say....IMAGINE THAT CLASS ALL DAY...WELCOME TO MY LIFE....but then I got to the half days part. I don't dread my kids that terribly! :( I'm sorry they are so awful. A few things:

    #1 I've never seen you teach, but from reading your posts and reading about your stellar evaluations, I imagine your job is not on the line in any way. You seem to really know what you're doing, and I'm sure your experience and dedication is appreciated.

    #2 Can you talk to the people who have these kids the rest of the day? Maybe someone from the other program who's known them longer? I sat down with our social worker and worked out an action plan for each of my troubled kids. Sometimes having ideas on paper is a relief.

    #3 Can you have someone non-evaluative come observe and give you pointers? I'm always begging my colleagues (new and veteran!) to come in and share their thinking. It takes a village....

    :hugs: This too shall pass!
     
  4. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I totally understand what you are saying. My eighth graders are the same way. I dread third period. I am seriously just trying to survive the year with them. I have no real advice, just hang in there.
     
  5. jwteacher

    jwteacher Cohort

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    Are there any aids or assistants that could do a CWC deal during your hour? Could admin provide you with a little help? It sounds like with the makeup of the class that the students would benefit from being be broken up into smaller groups.
     
  6. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Here's the thing. I understand administration wanting to give special needs students (and in that I most certainly include your Opportunity students) time in a traditional classroom. But if their behavior remains so horrible, they shouldn't be given that time in a regular setting. It's not the best environment for their needs (I assume they are not doing well academically with such behavior issues, correct?). So many people cite LRE, but in that they will be successful (relatively), and that doesn't seem to be the case.

    So I have a couple questions. Do you have any assistance during fifth period? Have you reviewed their IEPs to determine their required class settings? Also, besides being surprised, what did your principal offer in terms of a solution when you spoke with him?

    Hugs to you...I hate that you're having to take personal time because of this. :(
     
  7. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    You should not be expected to handle this class alone. At the very least a sped aide should be there with you. And I'm surprised the class isn't being co-taught with a sped teacher. I would think the intent the school had when grouping these kids was so an aide or a sped teacher could service them as a cohort.

    When I have my SDC students in the same class, I need to be there myself or have an aide with them. There's no way the gen ed teacher could teach a class effectively while giving them the support they need.
     
  8. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    1. Do they travel as a group? Get together with the other teachers who have to deal with the behavior and brainstorm.

    2. Don't try to present lessons the same way you do for the other classes. More independent, small group, less interaction, more interaction, project, small assignments, more visual presentations, more hands-on, computer lessons....You decide what may work. Just remember that many kids of that age who have difficulty in school thrive on peer reaction, so the acting out is most likely a defense and not a personal response to you.

    3. Is there a ringleader? Keeping him/her busy with successful things often works. Hard to do, but just thinking about that may head you in a direction to try. You've got to tame that one. Smiles, friendly repartee, small successes, quiet affirmation, (no class praise for this one; it will backfire as they try to prove to their classmates that they aren't "nerds".)

    4. The more you show "upset teacher", the more the problem escalates. We all know that; it's just a good idea to be reminded of it when our nerves are on edge.

    Why, oh why do administrators do this? Anytime we've had a "group" with a lot of learning disabilities in one class, it has become a challenge to turn off the activity that diverts attention away from learning. It's an all-around bad idea.
     
  9. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Every year I've had "that class" - the one class with kids who just. get. on. your. nerves. It changes from year to year - sometimes it's just a perfect storm of personalities in one class, sometimes it's the class that *should* be inclusion, etc... but it's almost always during the lunch hour.

    The class this year isn't "bad" kids - just very high energy, high maintenance kids. I'm completely drained after they leave.

    My question is this: What has to change in order for you to not dread the class? Can you pinpoint one kid, one specific behavior, etc - what is the one thing that will make this class tolerable for you?
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I would honestly plan two activities. Have your activity that you are doing with the other students throughout the day and an activity for the students who cannot handle or follow your expectations.

    You may want to look at setting a class goal for this group---something that they can meet and would enjoy.

    Talk to the students special education teacher or opportunity teacher to see if they have point sheets or something that would aid in the classroom.
     
  11. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Great advice already. I just wanted to post and say I'm sorry. You sound really frustrated. Keep your chin up.
     
  12. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I agree you should see how other teachers are handling them. They sound like a tough group, and either way you are going to be challenged by them. I would really figure out a plan before you guys go back. Are you including hands-on activities for them? The higher their engagement, the less behavioral issues you should see, in general. I would try to decrease your lecture time and increase their active learning time. Also, are you including technology into your lessons? I would really be aiming at any possible way to keep and maintain their interest level as a means to minimize the behavioral issues you are currently seeing.
     
  13. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Unfortunately, the Special Ed teachers AND their full-time aides take their lunch during 5th period; therefore, I have no assistance.

    I am going to talk to my principal again to voice my concerns. In a way, I'd like for him to see (first-hand) what I'm going through during 5th period. On the other hand, though, I think it's sooooo incredibly embarrassing for him to see me teaching (or attempting to teach) this group. He has seen me in action in every single period except for 5th and I feel as though his seemingly high-opinion of my teaching abilities will change dramatically!

    Anyway, something has to be done. I can't go on like this!
     
  14. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I have kids starting fist-fights and instigating shouting matches with each other due to rival gang members being in the same classroom.

    Yes--I fully agree that including technology and decreasing lecture time would work if I was experiencing behavioral issues as a 2nd grade teacher (keep in mind that I taught 2nd grade for six years). However, my problems go beyond low student engagement.

    I feel like a correctional officer during 5th period!

    Let's see what my principal says next week! :help:
     
  15. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    I went through a similar experience with my 4th block class, three years ago. Roughly half the class had severe behavior issues, and I had no aide/assistance in the room. I had no major behavior problems or management issues in other classes either. But... the shouting matches were a common event, along with constant disruptions from all sorts of issues. By the 2nd semester, it had gotten so bad, I was done. After I got hit in the back of the head with a wad of paper, I called the office, told them I needed a sub for an emergency (didn't explain why at the time, but told the principal that very afternoon), and walked out. Had I stayed in that room longer, I would have said things I would forever regret.

    After that point, I told the class point-blank: "I'm done with this. Any further lunacy, and you're spending the period in in-school suspension". I started kicking kids out of class. I HATE doing that, and have not kicked a kid out again in the years since then. But honestly... with this group, I should gave reigned things in sooner, and started doing this sooner.

    But, it got to the point that nobody was learning anything. I understand the arguments toward least-restrictive environments, and handling discipline in-house. But it simply couldn't be done for kids that literally came out of juvenile detention, or had a whole plethora of other issues. For example...

    I had a student randomly mutter "ball sack" in the back of the room for about 10 minutes (until I threw him out). He hadn't done this before, nor after... he just thought it would be funny.

    I had another student make a penis out of taped up paper, and then a group of them decided to throw it around the room.

    Several students would throw paper balls at me anytime I turned to write on the board.

    I could never lecture, give directions, or anything for more than 30 seconds without someone starting a conversation with someone else.

    I could go on. Just know that you're not alone, and those awful groupings happen from time to time. It speaks nothing to your abilities as a teacher. I know this sounds crude, but there are simply some kids who we, as regular education teachers, simply cannot reach. And some of these kids put in their best possible effort to stop us from reaching others.
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I'm glad that you are willing to show your principal your struggles. Many teachers would not be. But that is only the way to improve the situation and let him know how to better place these students in the future.

    I honestly don't think that one class will lower your principal's idea of you. He knows that you do exceptional work. The district knows that you are a great teacher.
     
  17. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    The principal may not be aware that there is no special ed coverage available at all during that period. I think the schedule needs to be changed. In our school, the special ed teachers and aides rarely have lunch at the same time as they are trying to cover various classes on their caseloads.

    The class behavior is not necessarily a reflection on your teaching abilities. What you are describing is a major issue in "inclusion" today - they group the kids with behavior issues, IEPs, and language issues, all together into what basically amounts to a large, self-contained class. This is not how inclusion was designed, and nobody can teach or learn in such a class without enormous support from special ed, TESOL, and administration.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I would ask the principal to stand outside my 5th period class a few times without letting me-- or the kids-- know he was there. Let him hear exactly what goes on in a normal class.

    The odds are ovewhelming that he doesn't know about the lack of special ed support, or of the particular mix of kids you have.

    But it sounds as though you're a good teacher and you have his support. Use that to your advantage to get this situation turned around. Go to him for help before it hits crisis stage.
     
  19. FourSquare

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    It may be also helpful to pick out the 3 or 4 most troubling and document their actions over a period. Like 10:05am John Doe threatens another student. Redirected. 10:07am John Doe screams at teacher. Etc. I did this AND videotaped a period with my iPad and my principal had no words. Sometimes they need to understand the severity. You can't really deny video! Maybe you can tape on your phone or something?
     
  20. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    The aides at my school would be able to change their lunch to accommodate a class that needs sped coverage. The sped department might not be aware that you need someone during that period. Do you have a sped coordinator at your school? You should let that person know that the students are not receiving the services they need to be successful. If these students end up failing your class because they are not getting support, proactive parents might be inclined to make some waves at your school!
     
  21. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    We don't start back at school until Wednesday; however, I emailed my principal this morning and he said he'd be on campus today working in his office. Anyway, I asked if we could meet this afternoon and he said yes!

    Here's what he said: He's going to make some scheduling changes and make sure that I will have TWO aides (during 5th period) starting on Wednesday. He also said that he's going to spend some time in the back of my room this week to see what's going on. He said that if he sees that a lot of my students aren't getting along (due to being in rival gangs), he'll make some adjustments to their schedules so that they won't be in the same class together. Unfortunately, my two assistant principals failed to make him aware of the fights that have taken place during class amongst the opposing gang members; thus, he had no idea about the violence that is occuring.

    Let's see how this goes. I'm glad he's willing to work with me.
     
  22. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Any chance the kids will behave simply because the p is in the room?
     
  23. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    We'll see, Czacza. I'm truly hoping for the best. I'm just glad my principal is willing to work with me on this!!!
     
  24. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    If you have kids in the same room from rivaling gangs, in my opinion the only solution is to separate them into different classes.

    Otherwise, you can have a fight at any given moment, based on one of them throwing a gang sign.
     
  25. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    It sounds as though you did exactly the right thing. He took it seriously enough to speak to you right away and to take steps to help you.
     
  26. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I'm glad that your P is so willing to work with you. This should show you how much he respects you as a teacher. Good luck with Wednesday!
     
  27. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I'm glad that your principal listened to your concerns and is working to help make the situation better.
     
  28. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    That's great that your principal is willing to work with you. Mine wasn't, when I taught a class very similar to yours. I no longer teach at that school. My principal's reason for grouping those students together was that it was the only thing that worked for their schedules with all of the remedial classes they had to take. The remedial class sizes were capped at 20, though, and I had 33 in my room for science. All I could do was lecture, notes, and worksheets - they loved labs, but they got out of control during labs. It was an awful class, and it ruined my day every day. I hate that administrators do this, and expect that we can handle it "if we are good teachers"!
     
  29. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I'm sorry that you are dealing with this, but so happy that your P is willing to help you and find a solution that works for you and that class.
     
  30. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I just wanted to say that I can also confess to taking days off because I dread my 8th period class.
     

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