I Don't Want to be a Monster

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Myrisophilist, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 6, 2013

    I need advice.

    I think I'm going to alienate the students in one of my sophomore biology classes if I don't figure out a constructive way to deal with them.

    Here's the deal: There are 24 kids in the class. The students are mostly at the opposite ends of the spectrum, either top in their class or actively trying to make every teacher's life harder. Their teachers last year had no luck getting them to take school seriously, and more students failed science than the freshman science teacher has ever had.

    Now they're in my class. They are rude, disruptive, and look for every opportunity to do things they aren't supposed to be doing (talking, playing games on their computers, throwing things, bullying, etc.). I feel bad for the small population of top students in the class. Today several students wouldn't stop talking when I asked them to and I found myself roaring at them to be quiet. This is not how I want to be. I feel ill when I think about having that class all year because I know that many of the students will, at best, passively resist engaging in learning, and at worst will erode my sanity.

    Specifically, I am looking for advice on how I can approach this class so I do not make the kids feel like they wouldn't want to learn from me. If they hate me, they will not give me (or biology) a second thought. Please help!:help:
     
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  3. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 6, 2013

    Wow! That is really a tough, tough, tough situation. While there are probably lots of hopes and wishes you have for this class, it is likely with a class this tough, they may not all come true. I think you have a chance on one thing though.

    I call it winning ugly. You have little control over their attitude and work ethic. Therefore, your best bet is to focus on making really strong lessons where the content in it is so good, that just by being in the room, they will learn something. I'd come up with some good experiments, short videos, and interesting reading material that meets your state standards. Don't expect appreciation--you probably won't get it.

    This idea can fall apart. It must have 2 things in addition.

    1. Really holding them accountable. You might need to go to a short quiz daily or every other day. Will some act like they don't care about the grade?--Yup...just ignore it. What can you do?

    2. They need to do something to earn some of this. You might need to teach a standard with an experiment to those who follow directions and those who goof around must sit in the back and do the questions from the book. If some are going to act 16 while others act like they are 6, they are leaving you little choice.

    Sure, there is a lot more probably that needs to be done with this rough class. It won't be easy, but in the end they might learn something...and that counts for a lot.

    Good luck on this very difficult road.
     
  4. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 7, 2013

    Readingrules, thank you so much for your reply. You've given me something to grasp onto. A few thing really resonate:
    I will try to keep my head up and carry on, with or without the kids who don't want anything to do with the class. My content knowledge is strong. I have some fun labs planned. *deep breath* Thanks for the support. :)
     
  5. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Sep 7, 2013

    How did they make it to sophomore biology if they failed freshman science?

    Anyway, I teach grade 1, so take this for what it's worth, but last year I did not get to be the teacher I want to be. My teaching style simply did not work for my challenging group. I had to really structure up my day (and I thought I was organized and structured already!). There was a lot of seat work, minimal partner work, and more videos than I care to admit. We also did a lot of art. A LOT of art. It was the one thing I could get them all engaged in. Find your class' strengths and play off of those.
     
  6. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 7, 2013

    The ones who are now enrolled in biology did "credit recovery" in summer school. Basically, they did a few assignments during the summer and were allowed to pass.
     
  7. Cobalt_Waves

    Cobalt_Waves Rookie

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    Sep 7, 2013

    You are not alone! I am sure that most of us who have taught teenagers have had this experience. Last year, my grade 9 class hated me for this reason. But they really needed to learn responsibility and respect. I think I may have this same problem with a grade 9 class I have this year. All my other classes are fine, several in grades 7 and 8 have already told me they love my class and think I am going to be one of their favourite teachers. But the grade nines.... It must be a tricky age. Is sophomore grade 10?

    This year, I am using a card system for classroom management in all my classes. Green card, you're OK, yellow card is a warning, orange card is a detention, and red card is a call home. If you do not show up to detention, I automatically call home.

    I already had to call home on one student and school only started on Thursday.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 8, 2013

    Just off the top of my head at 7:20 am....

    It sounds as though you'll need a different approach for this class. So here's what I think I would do... a total paradigm shift:

    Go in tomorrow and talk about the flesh-eating virus we all heard about a few years ago. Or leprosy. Or the Elephant Man syndrome. Or the black plague. Or chemical weapons. Or something else equally horrible. Talk about them in terms of the biology... what each of these things do on a cellular or systemic level.

    Then explain how you want to incorporate other interesting topics like this this year-- how very interesting Bio can be. But in order to explain this stuff, you'll need to teach them the basics first.

    When you talk about plants, include a lot about the carnivorous plants: http://www.predatoryplants.com/?gclid=CL7u6Mncu7kCFbFQOgod22kAfg But talk about them in the context of what you would normally teach... how each of the parts of the plant work, and how they're the same but different from normal household plants. Show them pictures or videos of the California Sequoias.

    You could even make it a weekly thing--when you want to do respiration, talk about CF (after checking to make sure none of your kids or their siblings have it. If so, then ask whether they want you to include it. You may find that they bring a lot to the discussion, and also help build a community feeling as others realize what they're going through.) Talk about cancer and the biology of how radiation and chemo work to hopefully eradicate it.

    Make your bio class the most interesting one in the school. Sophomore boys are all into "gross" so capitalize on it in the beginning. And from there, move onto "interesting."

    You could even start with.. excuse me for this...farts. (My 15 year old son loves farts!) Explain how and why they happen (and how sophomore girls are NOT into them, and find them gross.) Sure, it might open the door to a very smelly classroom for a while, but I bet it grabs their attention.

    Find every single off beat and unusual thing about biology, and make it part of your class. Make your class the one where they don't want to fool around, because they'll miss something cool.

    Maybe even give them an assignment tomorrow, due in a week or so. Assign each of them a topic: respiration, excretion, reproduction, and so on. Have them complete a worksheet: do an internet search of some unusual conditions or diseases, maybe a basic idea of what makes them unusual. Tell them that you'll choose from these answers as you do your planning for the rest of the year. So they'll have input. (OK, bad teacher moment: you can make it a "consulatation"--with no promises. And you can always include those conditions that YOU vote for.)

    It would require a LOT of work for you, since you wouldn't be explaining the curriculum in the most logical order. You would have to work to fit all of the standards into the framework of the stuff the kids would find bizarre and/or interesting.

    But I bet they would learn a lot of biology.
     
  9. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    Sep 8, 2013

    Begin by realizing that you are reaponsible for teaching, but they are responsible for learning. At this point, the trouble-makers have been at it for years and probably won't change. So, don't put too much stress on yourself. Stress and a feeling of helplessess can cause a lack of control and lead to screaming and other teacher behavior you don't want to exhibit.

    I agree with previous posters about daily quizzes for accountability. Don't give those exciting experiments away like candy. They have to earn the privilege of doing them, because the same content can be learned from bookwork if that's what they choose. Give the hands-on stuff to the kids who earn them by effort and behavior.

    Have a strong discipline process that you follow rigorously. If they are talking and won't stop, they need to know what the consequences are.
     
  10. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Sep 8, 2013

    I agree 100% with Alice.
     
  11. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 8, 2013

    All great advice! Thank you! I guess I'm going to be doing some research on gross stuff that relates to cells (our first unit).

    Along the same lines, I love telling kids that fruits are ovaries. :D

    :lol:
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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  13. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Sep 8, 2013

    I totally feel for you OP. I had "that class" as freshman last year that had me wishing for summer in November. My worst fear was that I would have those students 2 years in a row. Never wish....you will get it...guess who is teaching biology this year to "that class"? Yup!
     
  14. DrBill

    DrBill Rookie

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    Sep 23, 2013

    Hi,

    Sorry to say, but this seems like a very complicated situation and you didn't leave enough detail for anyone to be able to offer real help other than recommended readings. Here are a few suggestions that may work:

    1. Call each and every one of their parents and tell them what is going on and that you need their help as you cannot teach the class with their child behaving this way.
    2. In a fair and consistent way, issue a warning and then a consequence. If there is a leader, focus on him or her.
    3. Be sure to be very organized with your lessons and never leave a minute of class without something to do.
    4. Never let them see you sweat. The function of most poor behavior is to ellicit a specific reaction from peers or the teacher. Stay calm, in control and organized.
    5. Don't try and make friends. You're there to teach and support, not to be their friend. You are an authority figure and someone to be looked up to - not someone to be taken advantage and used for their amusement. You owe this to the poor students who want and deserve to learn.

    I would definitely search through amazon for highly rated classroom behavior and management books and start reading.

    Good luck and let me know if I can help,

    Dr. Bill
    PD Corner
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 23, 2013

    How has it been going the past 2 weeks, Myrisophilist ? Any change in the behavior or attitudes?

    Also, as a response to the previous post:

    I'm going to respectfully disagree with suggestion #1. As I've stated so many times, I firmly believe that there's only so much authority in the world. Every time you give some away, you have less for yourself.

    If you have to call 30 parents to get their kids to behave, then 30 kid are going to know that you have no authority, that the only authority in your class comes from their parents.

    I think you need to find a way to get the respect and correct behavior from these kids. But I would avoid calling parents unless and until you've tried every other avenue.
     
  16. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 23, 2013

    Well, the last two weeks have improve in a few ways and been unchanged in others. As I mentioned in another thread, my most challenging class has gotten the message that when I stop talking in the middle of a sentence and stare at the offending chatters, it means that they need to be quiet or I will not continue.

    There haven't been any behavioral/attitude changes. I have tried changing some students' seats, but the issue is that there are so many kids with behavioral problems that it comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils (moving them will just place them next to another disruptive student). I have given out detentions and called a few parents. Last Friday I talked to the AP about the class and showed him the roster. He asked how many parents I had contacted (one at the time), and suggested going that route before trying anything else. For some of these kids, I know that calling home will have zero effect on their behavior.

    Probably the biggest issue I'm facing is the redesign of our school's instructional method. Teachers have given the kids in each class a list of assignments they need to do for each unit, and the kids are expected to work through the assignments at their own pace. That means that every student will be in a different place in the curriculum. Use your imagination to think about how that affects direct instruction, class discussions, and group work. So some kids (many in my most challenging class) act like they don't have to do any work because the daily class schedule not being coordinated by me -- but they are ignoring the point that they have to get through a certain number of standards this year or else they end up back in my class next year.

    The situation in my school and in this class, in particular, is like a perfect storm. I'm still focusing on controlling behavior when I should be teaching and helping kids. On the positive side, I have not lost my temper with the kids or been unreasonable in any way. I'm trying. :) Thanks for checking in, Alice.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 23, 2013

    That sounds like a horrible curriculum idea. xP Sorry that you have to deal with that.

    In my opinion, I don't think moving seats ever really solves anything, at least not permanently. I only move seats under extreme circumstances (i.e. a student is picking on another student). I hold them to the class expectations while they remain at the seat they're at, otherwise, everyone is asking me to move seats here or there, so they can just be with their friends, and it becomes a mess.

    I think not teaching while someone is talking over you is a great method. Make sure you keep doing it consistently, and don't let it slide some times but not others.

    How fun and exciting are the activities you do? Do you have any way you can really vamp up the curriculum to make it more exciting? (I like what was suggested with the diseases and things, but there should also be things that you can do to make the curriculum more exciting daily.) The two things kids love are labs and demos, but they need to be designed in a way that makes them simple and feel less like confusing work. I don't know how many labs and demos you do, but that's a great way to keep them interested and engaged. They can also be used as a management tool. If a student misbehaves they might lose lab privilege for one lab, and do book work instead.
     
  18. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Sep 23, 2013

    Agh, this is the problem. I am no longer a teacher, I am a "facilitator." My colleagues and I are trying to negotiate this new role and what it means for us in the classroom. Much of time I walk around the class, waiting for someone to ask for help...it is awful. This instructional model is so new to me that I'm still figuring out how to "do it right." The poor kids are guinea pigs. All the teachers that I deal with on a daily basis share my feelings.

    The point of my explanation is to say that I don't do class activities on a regular schedule anymore. Can you believe it? So far I have lectured twice (however, I'm doing some form of co-teaching invented by my P which involves switching kids between classrooms and regrouping, so right now I have kids who have not had that instruction), gone over the parts of the microscope, and shown them lab tools. Each day I am trying to grasp onto something -- anything -- positive in this situation...
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 23, 2013

    Yuck! I'm very sorry! Can you steal like half the period to do your stuff and then let them use the last half of the period for your facilitator stuff?
     
  20. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Sep 23, 2013

    Random side note- I love telling kids that pollen is plant sperm and therefore some people are allergic to plant sperm and get it all over their car. Also today I mentioned that lobsters are basically sea-cockroaches and when you eat shellfish you're eating a cockroach's cousin. Not the whole truth but it sure gets the kids going :eek::eek::cool::cool:
     
  21. GeetGeet

    GeetGeet Companion

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    Oct 9, 2013

    Is your school adopting the "Learner Active Classroom" model? Our school embraces it as well, and I think there are great aspects to it, but it isn't a good model for every class. Thankfully, our school recognizes this and has not forced teachers to adopt the entire method.
     
  22. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Oct 9, 2013

    That sure sounds funny until you really think about the ramifications of these "not the whole truth" teaching moments. You won't see the ramifications of it, but one of your students might. I'm sure he or she will be absolutely thrilled to be embarrassed and look the fool using one of these "not the whole truth" tid bits of information that will sure stick because they were designed in a manner to really make an impact. Yep, you won't be there when they find out that you didn't tell them the whole truth. Maybe they will go home and tell their parents their tid bit of information and you will come out looking like you really don't know what you are talking about.

    Be careful with these "not the whole truth" pieces of information.
     
  23. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 9, 2013

    Lighten up.:rolleyes:
     
  24. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Oct 9, 2013

    Nope. I take information provided to students seriously. I don't think it is appropriate to lead them to believe something that is "not the whole truth" just to catch their attention.

    Your opinion is noted though. :yawn:
     
  25. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 9, 2013

    *shrug*
     
  26. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Oct 9, 2013

    I haven't heard of the Learner Active Classroom, but a quick Google search indicates that it shares some of the core themes of my school's model. We are using the RISC model.
     
  27. tarajc123

    tarajc123 Rookie

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    Oct 25, 2013

    Lots of great advice in this thread.
    Can you break the students up into small lecture/discussion/activity groups centered around the material that each is working on? Every day you work with one group very closely, while facilitating the work of the rest. Just a thought..
    I think you'd be surprised about how effective calling parents can be. If there's one thing a parent doesn't love, it's frequent calls from their child's school. Even parents who don't care too much will not enjoy this, and it will push them to push their children. Keep the tone of the conversation collaborative and many of them will probably surprise you with their responses.
    Also, detentions for talking in class. Three strikes and you're out - something like that. Expectations have to be clear and consequences have to be consistent. If there's one thing a student doesn't love, it's frequent detentions. Will your administration support you by stepping up the discipline for students who choose to skip detention?
     
  28. GeetGeet

    GeetGeet Companion

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    Oct 27, 2013

    Those teachers in my school that do the "learner active" model do "min-lessons" most days--where they offer more lecture-type instruction to those kids who are not demonstrating that they understand some of the material. Students can come to the mini-lessons if they need it, it's optional--BUT, the teacher can require some kids to come if they see them falling behind. You might want to try this. Some teachers will make sign-up lists for mini-lessons on specific topics and will offer them at a specific time during the period.
     
  29. CanukTeach

    CanukTeach Companion

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    Oct 27, 2013

    We are not using this model but some teacher are using something similar. Here is my suggestion. Start keeping versed detailed info on where the kids are in their learning. Then you can group them to meet with you regularly to look at their progress. Do not wait for them to ask for help. They should come to expect that as the facilitator you are going to be in their learning space seeing what they are doing, asking questions, etc on a regular basis.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013

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