Middle School Classroom--Students touching/ruining things....

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by perplexed, Jul 21, 2012.

  1. perplexed

    perplexed Comrade

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    Jul 21, 2012

    So on Pinterest and on here, I see all these cute ideas for making classrooms feel homey and just a nice environment to learn in. Last school year, I brought in some plants, some cool lamps, more bean bags for reading, and made a nice area for students to easily access supplies. This was for middle school--7th and 8th grade. Last year was my 6th year of teaching these grades, but it seemed like it was the first year where I noticed things were constantly being ruined. I noticed frequently that the plants were broken and garbage was thrown into the pots--some roots were pulled up. The supplies were just always broken...like someone purposely just broke them for the fun of it. The lamps...like lava lamps were shaken up and messed up. Books in my silent reading area would be ripped or written in. It just seemed like my groups last year just ruined things on purpose and pretty secretly too. It was a larger classroom, but I was able to see every area. I mostly had desk work and some workshop time each day, but it wasn't chaotic. Sometimes if I raised the issue in class, I think it added fuel to the fire and I'd find things to be worse. I am curious if this is normal for middle school OR was the group I had just pretty immature??? Am I going to find this with most middle schoolers? I don't think at my school 3 years ago I had this problem, but I didn't have many things that could be touched. I did have the rule to respect the environment, but maybe I need to explain it even more. I'm going to a new school this year for middle school still. I want to make my room nice and inviting, but wondering if they're going to purposely break and ruin things again. I guess I'll have to teach more about respecting the environment, and I'm not bringing in so much. I assumed that 7th grade knew what it meant:). Does anyone else have this problem? Is this normal?
     
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  3. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    I had this same problem occur last year with the 8th Graders, and it seemed telling them not to only fueled the fire. Nothing ever happened when I was in the room but when they were in there with other teachers stuff would turn up broken when I got back. Posters, student projects, bulletin boards, etc. It was very frustrating. I had no such issues with grades 6 and 7 so I think it's exclusive to certain classes rather than the middle school species as a whole.
     
  4. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    It definitely is something that is not going to happen every year. I've had classes that respected all the items in the classroom and those that didn't. It really does depend on the group of students. I think that many times they are testing the boundaries and what to see what they can get away with.

    I start the year with a nicely decorated room and if I notice the problem, things start to disappear quickly. The students don't like it when they have nothing to use in the classroom, but it makes the point pretty easily.
     
  5. tb71

    tb71 Cohort

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    I had the same issues with my 6th graders last year. Things came up missing and broken quite frequently. One student was even caught stealing and admin did very little as far as consequences, so I thing that was part of the problem. I quickly started putting things away and only provided the essentials. With that being said I had a very immature group of 6th graders, I didn't have these issues in the past.
     
  6. perplexed

    perplexed Comrade

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    Do you think it's easier to decorate in the younger grades? On Pinterest, I see all these beautiful classrooms. At first I think "that's so beautiful!", but then I notice all the things that would be ruined right away, and I didn't know if maybe the problem was just me/my students. The classrooms I see have like puffy, tissue paper balls hanging from the ceilings and banners, and supplies on the groups' desks. I know it would be destroyed in a day.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. perplexed

    perplexed Comrade

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    Is there any way you could do that in a middle school classroom? I can see the students trying to touch the balls or try to pull them down.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's about having good classroom and behavior mgt.
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I agree with Czacza, it's about you being in control, and always being 1 step ahead of them.

    At the detention center where I had worked, we had a variety of classrooms. Most teachers had nothing in their rooms, it had that 'institutionalized' look and even smell :( They had no decorations, knowing the students would tag them up and ruin them anyways. They had some mandatory posters, and some work related stuff, but not much. One teacher had a lot of decor on the wall, she made it look all nice, but because she couldn't control her classroom it was all ruined (bookshelves damaged, posters torn down, everything tagged up and ruined, once someone peed on her wall).

    I made my classroom pretty and inviting, I even made it girly, (silk flowers in vases, and in the window) even though the student were all boys. I brought in air fresheners, it smelled like someone was baking a pie. I made my expectations clear, they were not to touch anything on my desk, and not ruin anything in the room.
    I didn't have a lot of problems.
    But I had to be vigilent, and always be willing to change things. Some small things happened, but I never let them continue, most of the time I didn't know who it was, so I just had to change things so they couldn't continue.
     
  10. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Perplexed, I know how you feel. Middle school is not my specialty but it seems like you can't control what happens when the kids are with another teacher in your room, and there's not as much time to lay down your expectations then build relationships with the kids so they want to meet them.

    One year my students poked holes in all the pink erasers. Someone (never found out who) broke pencils in half. I asked the parents to send in pink erasers and started just replacing the holey ones. Kind of like the way NYC started removing graffiti within 24 hours back in the 70s and brought the crime down.

    I've never had a class like that again, thankfully.
     
  11. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    It isn't this simple. Things are destroyed in my class also. Pencils and markers are broken and thrown away, etc. the problem is the kids treat their OWN things this way too; they just have no respect for anything.

    I can't count how many smashed iPhones I saw. The kids would laugh, shrug, and come to school with a new one. One girl had a lovely bright blue Louis Vuitton bag (a real one) and she tossed it around on the floor and it was always filthy.

    I'm thinking of ways to approach this next year, but haven't come up with anything yet. I do not want to waste class time on signing out or collecting supplies, but I'm tried of buying colored pencils etc that are mistreated.

    The big problem is that there isn't any malice or deliberate thoughtfulness in these actions, so it isn't a matter of classroom management though perhaps it can be addressed as such. My kids are good about putting stuff away.

    It really grates on me. I've always taken care of anything I have, especially if it was something my parents bought me!
     
  12. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    I think these are two different situation. I agree with you that many students behave as you describe. But there are also other students who destroy stuff for the sake of destruction.
     
  13. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    This year was the worst ever as far as items missing/broken and it happened even when I was there - but distracted. Example: They were taking a test so I took the opportunity to do some filing. I had my $.50 paper clip thingee that I got at Goodwill with me on the counter. I was positioned so I could see each student.

    Then the end of class came, I collected the tests, dismissed them and the kids who took later buses were the only ones left in the class. I got talking with some of them and when they all finally left, my paper clip holder was gone and there were several paperclips on the floor! Broken pencils/crayons from the group supply boxes.

    I stopped putting anything out as well. I actually had one kid complain that I didn't share my supplies! Heck no! I paid for all those items, and even if the school paid for them, I would not put them out for further abuse.

    Also, as said by others, when I mentioned something, it seemed to get worse, so I just disappeared things - even from the top of my desk - and they did without. I am missing over 30 books from my class library!

    I'll try again this year, but after this, I will no longer put out anything and I will no longer keep a classroom library.

    I think it is partly a result of the entitlement society we have and that most kids don't have to work for what they get or have no appreciation for what they have. It is the lack of respect our society has in general.
     
  14. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jul 21, 2012

    A very seasoned, good teacher across the hall from me had this same problem two years ago. Her classroom has tons of fun stuff and props she uses for teaching (SENIOR English, btw!), but this one particular class just destroyed everything! She had never had a situation like that before or since. Sometimes it just takes one or two kids to be really destructive and before you know it, lots of kids are participating. :(
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Kids can do what they want with their own stuff...that's a parenting issue. Classroom materials and my things don't get trashed because of our classroom culture.
     
  16. courtney

    courtney Rookie

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    How sad...

    I feel so terrible for the OP and everyone else who's had their property disrespected like that! I'm getting into my room (my first - 7th grade English) this next week, and I was just looking around at some fun decorative things to bring in to make the environment more inviting..this post has definitely given me pause. I would certainly avoid hanging any puffballs from the ceiling - "Hey, guys! Lookit how high I can jump and rip this off and probably break a few bones while I'm at it woohooo!" - but I did want to bring in some chimes to use for transition signals (by MY desk and only I can ring them!) and hang up posters signifying the 4 seasons on each of the 4 walls to use for grouping the students up in a fun way that may foster more creative responses..I dunno, just a few thoughts. What do you all think? This is making me consider skipping the chimes completely, but I really don't want to be the teacher going "Hey class..hey..guys..HEY!" you know?
     
  17. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I manage my classroom excellently. My principal said after my first evaulation six years ago I could "teach everyone something about classroom managment". So it's a strength of mine, for sure. Students tell me they enjoy my classroom atmosphere. And most students make sure they respect the learning environment. A student accidently broke something personal of mine on the last day of school this year and they collectively felt awful and apologized. But trust me, some rotten thing have happened over the years. Stole my special crinkle scissors, wrote on the wall, take twenty erasers from the container instead of one...and so on.

    The manner in which a parent raises her child shows itself in the classroom. Big time.
     
  18. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Yes, and don't forget about peer pressure. Very well mannered children can do really dumb/mean things when showing off.
     
  19. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    That is very, very true. I have witnessed that before and it's always a big lesson to them...they hate they way they feel after doing something they know they shouldn't have.
     
  20. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    I'll be sure to post how it goes because I am planning to hang a few paper lanterns from the ceiling. I don't think it will be an issue because the teacher I am replacing hung stuff from the ceiling as well. If I notice any issues with it I will take them down immediately.
     
  21. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    I very rarely have issues with students messing with my stuff. They are generally respectful of my things. Now, that doesn't mean that some years are more of a challenge than others.

    Last year I had more of an issue, but I had HUGE classes as well. Typically I have 18-25 kids per class, and I was up to 35 per class. There was more "wear & tear" overall in my classroom last year. Lord knows middle school kids are a clumsy bunch, so there are plenty of accidents, too.

    I stress the importance of taking care of materials, and most kids comply. The problem is that it can take ONE kid to mess it up. Last year I had a student who broke ALL of my rulers. Why? Who knows. I had some issues with drawing on themselves with markers, and I had some crayon break & throw episodes. My group last year was immature, too. Most years the kids are 12 going on 13. Last year they were 11 going on 12. It did make a difference.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Have you cleared that with your school? In many places it's against the fire codes.
     
  23. MrsLilHen

    MrsLilHen Comrade

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    I think there can be a couple kids in a room that can really influence the culture - even with great classroom management and community.

    I wonder if getting the kids involved in the decorating might help. . . have each class vote on what kind of plant - have them hep take care of that plant. .. . etc. etc.

    One teacher I work with had a stool he wanted to get painted - he asked students to submit a plan for the stool if they were interested, lots were... and then one student "won" the design contest - and painted the stool. It was a really fun way to involve the class in part of the decorating.

    I think that when kids are invested in the room personally, they MAY be more likely to take care of it.
     
  24. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Fanatic

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    Stuff was routinely hung from the ceiling last year so I'm not really worried about it. It's a small school so I'd hear about it right away if it was an issue. I got the lanterns from the dollar store anyway so it's not like it be a big deal if I couldn't use them.
     
  25. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Take the time to teach your students HOW to use the supplies. I know it sounds strange, but I have never had a group destroy my materials. I take the time to explain that I bought things with my own money and then teach the students how I want them to use the supplies.
     
  26. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I think it is a combination of the entitlement and general lack of respect for anything that isn't "theirs".

    I saw this several years ago when I worked at McDonald's. We had a break room in the back and, for many years, we had nothing but a solid wood picnic table and two benches in there. Then the owners decided to make it larger and nicer. They added a small changing room also put in a brand new love seat with recliners in it. While the love seat did last a pretty long time, I went back to the room one day to find a 17 year old girl literally jumping up and down on the sofa like a 5 yr old. Needless to say, she completely destroyed the springs and padding in the love seat. After that, we went back to solid wood furniture.

    The store manager bought a stereo for the break room with her own money. It had dual cassette decks, so kids could bring cassettes and record them. It took less than 3 months before the kids had completely broken both decks and made them unusable.

    It isn't just middle school and it isn't just school settings. Teens and tweens seem to have an incredible LACK of respect for stuff that isn't theirs and, many times, don't even respect stuff that IS theirs because they didn't have to pay for it and the parents will just get them a new one of this one gets destroyed.

    This is one reason I stress, or try to stress, personal responsibility so strongly in my classroom.
     
  27. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    I'm going to chime in and say I too think it's the class most of the time, not the teacher. Last year I had a tough bunch. I had broken rulers, stolen calculators, ribbon white out pens destroyed, stolen erasers, you name it. It was very scary actually, knowing I couldn't trust my 3rd graders. I never had an issue like that before.
     
  28. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    My third graders destroyed everything last year. Well, it was really just a handful of them, but a few bad apples can truly ruin the whole bunch. All of my markers and crayons were gone, erasers gone, several plastic containers cracked, fabric and borders torn, somebody colored a chair with whiteout (also stolen) when I wasn't there, class pictures scribbled on, and about a billion push pins were stolen to poke others with. The treatment of books was the worst. I finally just took most of my personal library home. It was super sad.

    I am being more cautious with my 6th room this year, but I think it's going to be totally different. I will have way fewer students and a full time aide. We also just don't have as much stuff.
     
  29. Avalon

    Avalon Rookie

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    I train my students to respect property and expect consequences if they don't. I also trained myself not to leave "attractive nuisances" easily accessible. I keep Sharpies, rulers, crayons, scissors out of sight until we use them, then actively circulate at all times. I do not loan pencils. I have 2 loaner pens, and do not dismiss the class until both are returned. Students who are isolated for reflection are not seated near anything they can damage, like writing on walls, etc.

    For planned absences (teacher training, etc.), I choose my subs carefully. I note how the room looks and whether the assignments were completed, and ask trusted students for a report on what happened in my absence. I call the good subs first when reporting a planned absence. I leave a note that students are not to be near cabinets or my desk when I'm away.

    I also have consequences for students who act out in my absence. Usually it's something fairly small, like eating in class or having their cell phone out. But if I don't allow it, they will hear from me on my return. I never tell them who told me, but multiple similar reports combined with my knowledge of the student makes it easy. Kids don't like misbehavior and don't hesitate to rat out the wrongdoers, as long as I keep the informer's identity confidential.

    I do lose books each year. I believe it is because they are forgetful, not dishonest. Since I usually get them at library or garage sales for 10-25 cents each, I don't worry about it. I hope someone is reading them.
     
  30. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    I had problems with sticky fingers this year as well. Generally, kids didn't steal them. They would just help themselves to stuff they shouldn't have been touching and leave me in a bind when I needed it. I would find objects like my kitchen timer somewhere else in the room a period or two after I had needed it. Very annoying, and it adds a lot of extra stress to the day. On several instances, I'd reload my stapler and find it completely empty a couple hours later. The same thing for the tape. It seems my kids thought if they could see it, it was for them (despite discussions about respecting others' propterty, asking permission, blah blah). I started taking things that I realized were tempting off my desk and shoving them in desk drawers, which is why my drawers were disaster areas at the end of the year.

    The one, non-office supply, thing that did go completely missing was library books. I ended the year missing several books that had never been checked out of my library. This frustrates me to no end because students are allowed to take my books if they've checked them out! Why not take it the proper way?
     
  31. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    My rule is: "don't bring in anything you care about". I made a little international news board in the back of my room my first year. I stapled up post cards, foreign currency and every week a new story. But everything I put up I made sure that I didn't care if it got destroyed. Because the bottom line is, kids are irresponsible. They break things, tear things, leave markers un-capped, spill stuff... it's what they do. So just prepare for it:)

    Oh- and all my office supply stuff is kept in my drawer. Anytime a kid asks for tape, staples, etc I always say "what do you need it for?" If it's something silly (which it usually is) I tell them no. If it's okay, they have to tape/staple/cut/whatever at my desk while I watch and then get handed my stuff back!
     
  32. dmbfan36

    dmbfan36 Rookie

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    If it was only that easy. I have not had a problem with having supplies out until this year. Most of the time it was fine when I had my clases but if I was out all hell broke out. So when I was on jury duty and when I was out grading state exams I walked into a disaster - supplies broken, desks written on with markers, library books on the floor, male body parts drawn on my BB, border ripped. Always when I was out. So they knew the classroom culture when I was there and would never do it to ME but I stepped one foot out of that room and BOOM - everything destroyed. My 8th graders were a tough bunch last year.
     
  33. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Gee! Sounds like my 8th graders last year!:(
     
  34. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Maybe there was a cosmic happening the year they were conceived! It seems like many people I've read here or talked to in person had a tough 8th grade last year.
     
  35. anthrogirl

    anthrogirl Rookie

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    Aug 10, 2012

    I'm chiming in here to say it's not always classroom management. At my school, my whole team started to notice a trend in our school how items are being treated.

    There's no simple fix. We have a combination of parenting, management, entitlement, and the overall culture of our current society. Many of these kids not only trash things - why take care of something when you can get a new one anyway? Instant gratification! - but also they don't know HOW to treat them.

    My classroom got trashed last year. So did many of my colleagues. I'm known to have excellent classroom management. But I learned that my students don't know how to handle supplies. So this year, I need to model for them how to use EVERYTHING. If we don't teach them, who will?

    It's a pain, but hopefully it'll make a difference this year. I'll let you all know.
     

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