Inner City Behavior Problems

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by Limegirl, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. Limegirl

    Limegirl Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2009

    I am a first year teacher, teaching 8th grade math in a inner city school district. The whole 8th grade staff is young and new to the school. We are having a horrible time calming the kids down, paying attention, doing homework, and hitting each other.

    We have tried positive rewards, such as tickets, candy, lots of praise, ect. We also have negative consequences, such as, giving a warning, calling home (some kids don't have phones at home), writing a referal, and calling in climate mangers (behavior people). Nothing seems to be working in particularly one of the classes.

    Any suggestions??
     
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  3. ILoveMyCello

    ILoveMyCello Companion

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    Sep 27, 2009

    When I used to sub in middle school-I promised some classes 10 minutes of heads up 7UP if they finished their work quietly. I also had a game called Guess the Number-I told them I had a number between 1-500 and wrote down all guesses on the board untill the got it right ("nope Johnny, it's not 202, its higher).

    I also played a game with them where I would hide a tiny sticker in the room and they would have to find it. If they found it, they could sit down in their seat.

    I know it sounds queer but it worked for me then. This year, I have my own job in an elementary school and I'm in the same situation as you. Nothing I have learned, or observed, has worked. Good luck-PM me if you want to vent :)
     
  4. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2009

    This is totally a long shot ... but. I was chatting with a high school dean the other day and he said the only thing that was working was very unpleasant detention. As we all know, calls home are often ineffective because there are no consequences administered by the parents. At this particular school the teachers got together and each volunteered time after school so they could run an effective detention system. A note would have to be sent home and signed by the parent and a day that was convenient for the student could be chosen. There was also some kind of system worked out with the dean for students who skipped their detention time.
     
  5. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Kind of tongue in cheek, but kind of true: solve the problem of poverty. Justice for everyone. No more inner city behavior problems. I can dream!
     
  6. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2009

    I had the most minor consequence, or "inconvenience" as I called it, when I taught middle school. But it worked like nobody's business.

    I kept a list of kids who interrupted me, talked out of turn, weren't paying attention etc. Sometimes the list was long. After a while it was very short.

    No warnings. If you made the list, you had to stay either one minute after class or until the kid who sat in your desk next period came in, whichever came first.

    Losing one minute of the passing period didn't make anyone late. But it did mean they might have to walk a little faster getting to next period. It also meant they would miss out on a few minutes of looking cool with their buddies, flirting with their favorite boy/girl etc. A minute of passing period is precious to middle schoolers but it costs teachers nothing.

    But the key is that you must apply this little inconvenient reminder every time a student is off task, interrupts, or otherwise makes your job difficult.

    The other nice thing is that if you need to give this consequence to one of your model students because they made a slight mistake, no problem, it's not going to ruin their life. They'll still be a top student the next day and will still be on your side.
     
  7. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2009

    Sarge - did you ever have problems with kids not complying with your consequence - just getting up and leaving class even though you've told them to stay? You probably didn't because you're "Sarge", but I come across like a kind Auntie. What would you have done if they'd defied you by ignoring the consequence? This is where I'm challenged ...
     
  8. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2009

    At that point, the vice principal would be very interested to know about a act of willful defiance and would be more than willing to make sure the kid regretted leaving the room before I said he could.
     
  9. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2009

    Got it.
     
  10. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Sep 29, 2009

    Hi,

    This is my third year teaching in an urban middle school and I still struggle with problems like this with the 8th graders (my homeroom). What I wonder is, is this really unique to inner city kids? Or would kids in a "better" school behave differently? I ask because I have never taught anywhere else and I am wondering whether I am struggling due to being at an inner city middle school, or just middle school in general?
     
  11. Limegirl

    Limegirl Rookie

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    Sep 30, 2009

    Thanks so much for the ideas! Sarge, I like your idea of holding the students back a minute. Although, I am afraid of them sneeking out. We are having problems with no consequences if they don't follow our classroom rules with the administration. But I'm going to try it tomorrow!
     
  12. musicbx

    musicbx Rookie

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    Sep 30, 2009

    Do what's best for you

    It's best to create your own consequences rather than relying on the administration, the behavioral support staff, or a phone call home. I figured this out after enough of the kids I sent out returned from the principals office with a hand full of cookies... (and of course, none of home phone numbers in the office are connected.)

    Figure out what works in your particular situation. For instance, my students wouldn't care if they were held back during the passing period because of the way the transition periods are run in my school. But, most of them would HATE to miss 5 minutes of gym class - and this works because the gym teachers at our school are supportive. Another thing I do is order cold lunches from the cafeteria, and make the kids eat upstairs with me... but I can only do that because I don't have lunch duty.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 30, 2009

    I'm SO NOT in an urban public school.

    But let me share my favorite detention assignment in the event that it can help someone else:

    Multiply your phone number (with area code, of course!) by your zip code.

    The next time you have detention, check your answer by division.

    Wanna come back for more? (No one has) Square your phone number.

    You get my drift .....
     
  14. Genmai

    Genmai Companion

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    Oct 4, 2009

    Inner city schools - urban schools with high poverty, crime, unemployment, disease and other dysfunctional factors - are the toughest places to teach IMO.

    I'm also dealing with the same problems.... You have my empathy.

    T_T
     
  15. PaperbackWriter

    PaperbackWriter Rookie

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    Oct 9, 2009

    Ive worked in inner city schools for a few years. My first year sounded like what the thread opener experienced.

    It really is all about setting the tone early. Have clear expectations and follow up on consequences consistently and fairly. Treat students with respect and keep your class heavily structured....there is a procedure for everything in my class.

    I also find that well planned lessons reduce classroom management issues significantly
     
  16. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Oct 20, 2009

    Are you making your expectations clear? Are you teaching, teaching, and reteaching until they get it right? A proactive approach of instructional discipline makes a HUGE difference in how much "punishment" you have to do.

    If everybody is on the same page as far as expectations, and the consistency is there, you might be surprised what results you get.
     
  17. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Oct 20, 2009

    I have been working with inner city middle schoolers for several years now. This is the advice I give new teachers.
    First and foremost - say what your are going to do (calmly, privately), then do what you say. Do not issue a threat of a consequence you do not know that 100% will be followed through with.

    Try very hard not to discipline middle schoolers in front of their peers. At that point it is all about the student trying to save face by any means necessary.

    Redirect and walk away - try to never get in a power struggle with a student. If you need to redirect again, give the student two choices you are perfectly comfortable with (for example: work without talking or move to this seat) and walk away.

    Do not let their be idle time. Over plan and be specific. If students don't follow directions (all of the students), then stop class, review the expectations, let them try again.

    While homework is important, I suggest focusing on getting behavior in class into the way you would like it to be, then start working on homework completion.

    Calm consistency is the key. I know you can do this; it just takes a lot of effort on our part which can be frustrating. Remember you are teaching them explicitly skills they need to be successful which means sometimes we don't get all the content covered in the time frame we wanted.
     
  18. Genmai

    Genmai Companion

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    Oct 21, 2009

    How do you manage differentiation?
     
  19. mdawson

    mdawson Rookie

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    Oct 24, 2009

    It's also important to connect with the students before you correct them. I know it's hard, but when I have a connection with a student first it's easier to correct them later. I'm a special education teacher and work with students who have emotional and behavioral disorders, and it can be hard. I feel for you.

    The other day I had a student ask why I liked to threaten them, and I assured them that I never threaten them, if it comes out of my mouth I fully intend on following through. They know I mean business, and once I give them a clear direction and they know what their expectation is and I don't repeat myself. If they choose not to complete their work they know what the consequence will be and I don't argue with them. I refuse to get in a power struggle and get sucked into the drama. For me it usually takes only a few minutes of ignoring the tantrum and then they get right to work.

    With all of this said we also have a lot of fun in my room. I do random crazy things that through them off balance and make them laugh. I sing a lot during class, and sometimes sing the lessons. I started a marshmallow fight last year after the kids had worked really hard on a difficult concept, and they still talk about that. It's finding that balance.
     
  20. mariehoward

    mariehoward New Member

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    Oct 24, 2009

    Detention and silent lunch help. Whole class silent lunch is something they don't like and may help some if you can stand it.
     
  21. mariehoward

    mariehoward New Member

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    mdawson has a lot of good advice.
     
  22. mariehoward

    mariehoward New Member

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    Thanks fuzed fission. More good advice. I've only been in an inner city school for about 4 years. I had 7th for 3 years; now I am in 8th. It's challenging; I thought 7th was bad enough.
     
  23. Limegirl

    Limegirl Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2009

    Thanks for the suggestions! I do greet each student with a smile and a good morning or afternoon when they walk in my room and talk to them every free moment I have. I have found pulling them aside privately to discuss their behavior works more often than not.
     
  24. NaiCH

    NaiCH Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2009

    I had that dream also. Until I went in and the students doesn't accept what I have to offer. Not all of them but the majority of them don't.
     
  25. NaiCH

    NaiCH Rookie

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    I'm with you. This is my first year in the inner city and I started 8 weeks after school. I wonder the same thing!
     
  26. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Nov 14, 2009

    Not being flippant Alice, but most of my kids don't actually have a working phone number, and they wouldn't know what it is if they did. Many don't have a real zip code because they are homeless and live in the car or move from shelter to shelter. This is the problem in inner city schools. Parents are very worried about how to survive (the good ones) but everything else (including contact from teachers) comes way down on the list. The ones who aren't so great don't care, or want to turn it around and become confrontational and blame teachers and the school for everything. You never know which you will get if you can get them at all.

    I've had students all year with no phone number and no legal address. If they went to our school when they became homeless, legally we have to let them attend through the end of the year and we can't require a phone number or address if they have been through the homeless voucher system (which is how the ended up in our district in the first place.)

    Since most of the kids you would have couldn't multiply 4 X 8 much less something as large as a phone number, well... maybe you'd be the honor's teacher and then they could.

    Personally, I couldn't do middle school in the inner city. Between the fights and actual riots, I couldn't do it. The metal detectors, the police officers in school, the dogs to sniff out drugs... the door alarms, the lockdown drills and actual lockdowns...it isn't Leave it to Beaver.

    I know you know that... it is just what works in one group or place doesn't always work other places or with other groups. If you told one of our middle schoolers to multiply their phone number by their zip code, they'd probablly say "eff u." And for that, nothing would really happen either.
     
  27. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Nov 14, 2009

    Limegirl,
    Respect goes a long way with all kids this age.

    Sarge's idea is one that would work with this group -- not just inner city, but the age group.

    You are so right that if you single them out in front of their peers, everythign will snowball. THey have to keep their reputations.

    My best advice..keep them busy busy busy all the time (that goes for all kids as well....no real difference there.) Try to make it is interesting and relivent as you can (which it sounds like you are doing.) Only say you will do something if you really can and are willing to follow through. One day of inconsistency,and it call comes tumbling back down. If you say one minute after the bell, position yourself between that person and the door.

    One other thing that really can work if it is a "group" effort...to bring the learning down and the chaos up... find the "leader" -- there always is one. If you can get that one in line, the rest quiet down quite a bit.

    Good luck.

    I just teach the little ones in the inner city. Not enough money in the world to get me to teach the older kids. Couldn't do it. WOuldn't want to try. I admire you for doing it.
     
  28. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Nov 14, 2009

    I think there are problems, just very different types. All schools have their problems and challenges. Some of the "best" schools around have the most "entitled" students you will ever see.

    I think a lot of it is what the adminstration does. If they don't do what they are supposed to, they are really handicapping all of the teachers. It is unfortuante, but very common.

    You can try to take the place of the admin (I think many of us do that) but you can only be so successful unless you have a huge reputation already (which a new teacher does not have) or happen to be a larger-than-life type of person (which few of us actually are.)

    Good luck.
     
  29. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Dec 10, 2009

    When students can't work together due to serious behavior issues (spit on each other, threaten each other, punch each other) how exactly would you suggest that they do "cooperative group activities?"

    I'm not a fan of seatwork, but when you have an out-of-control class, the last thing you do give them opportunities for even worse behavior. You have to have strong classroom management skills in place that work with the specific group of kids you have before you can even consider giving students the amount of freedom and "moving around" abilities required for the activities you suggest.
     
  30. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Dec 11, 2009

    I feel like I've tried everything and it just keeps getting worse instead of better. I give detentions, call home, keep them in for the "one minute" detention a la Sarge, positive group rewards for good behavior...nothing works, and I just feel like a failure! My P says, basically, that the 8th grade has "always been like this" and therefore I shouldn't worry so much, but in the meantime, I cannot teach effectively and am incredibly frustrated by the constant rudeness. And if they are like this now, I am really dreading the time from March to May :( What do I do?
     
  31. DenaliBear

    DenaliBear Rookie

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    Dec 17, 2009

    Have you ever heard of something called NILIF? Nothing in life is free. It's what I use to train my dogs. (I have a point!)
    To me, puppies are a lot like children. We must mold them into both great dogs and adults.

    The entire basis of this program is to teach your dog that he must work for everything.
    Sometimes, I have to lower my expectations and start from ground zero.

    Through positive reinforcement and letting them know exactly how I expect them to behave, I get the behavior I want.
    Are there procedures and expectations put in place for the students?

    The main thing though is to never let your dog see you sweat. Never let them feel that you are getting frustrated. Always keep your cool.

    Sometimes, the best approach is to ignore behaviors I do not like and reward only what I do like. The more I like it, the better the reward. Everything I give them is a privilege and they must earn it.
    Corrections are also necessary. Consistency is an absolute must.

    Do your students have anything to work for?
    A pizza party? Dunkin Donut day? A field trip? Movie day?
    Is there a system in place where bad behavior causes them to lose said privileges? Do they have any fun at all in your classroom?
    My training would never be effective if all I did was drill my dogs. They like to play and have fun too.

    I know this is probably a weird post but sometimes we just have to loosen up instead of tightening up. :)
     
  32. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Dec 19, 2009

    I've found seatwork helps kids like this focus. They actually seem to like having something very specific to do. They can clearly understand the parameters of pencil to paper and no talking while doing the activity. This is why I really like combining a lecture and class discussion with fill-in the blanks note taking (when working with challenging kids). And, I always give points for the filled in notes. They also seem to respond to constant reminders of how their grade can go up if they do a particular activity a certain way. You can even carry a stamp around to give extra points if they are doing their work facing forward in their seats, etc.

    And, IMHO, the seats should all be faced forward - lecture style. No group seating. They need the structure. And it gives the teacher easy access to every kid.
     
  33. looneyteachr

    looneyteachr Companion

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    Dec 20, 2009

    when i give lunch detention - kids have to stand at attention for 10 minutes - not many get lunch detention again!
     

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