new English 9 teacher to start right after t-giving. Help!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by MDteacher87, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. MDteacher87

    MDteacher87 New Member

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    Nov 13, 2011

    This will be long, and I apologize for that....


    I just got my first job teaching freshman English in a Maryland high school not far from DC. It's not a terrible neighborhood, but I've been told that I'll have students with a variety of socio-economic and behavioral backgrounds who have had a teacher and two long-term subs since school started in August. I'm slowly getting my curriculum together, but I need help developing a strong classroom management and organizational system.

    You should know that I'm very worried about it because I had a bad, bad experience when trying to manage the behavior of one section of a 7th grade language arts class when I was student teaching. In that situation, I did a lot of ineffective yelling, threatened to refer them for suspension, and I basically had them walking all over me. The environment was about as hostile and uninspiring as it could have been, but the good news is that I learned a lot from that miserable experience.

    I know part of the problem was that I did not establish rules and expectations at the beginning of my time with that group, and that came back to bite me when I made some pretty dramatic changes with that group. They really started acting out when I moved their seats around and assigned the work groups because they worked REALLY REALLY slowly and talked A LOT when they picked their own groups. I also know that I messed up when I didn't have clear consequences for misbehavior that I followed through with when they acted out; I gave too many chances because at that school after a warning and a phone call home, the next step was referral for suspension. My hesitation came from the fact that I didn't want to be the one that gave some of the kids the last suspension they would get before they were sent to alternative programs within or outside of the school. I know I shouldn't have been so worried about that, but I was. I won't be making that mistake again. In fact, I won't be making any of these mistakes again. On my first day, I plan to teach them my new attention-getting signals, establish class rules, go over the syllabus, have them introduce themselves briefly, and have them write a short essay that tells me about themselves and their goals. I don't have the exact prompt for the essay yet, but it will allow them to introduce themselves while connecting back into To Kill a Mockingbird (which they started reading at the beginning of Nov). I also plan to review the rules and signals for several days after the first day so they see that we will use them every day. I also vow to follow through with the consequences that I set, such as conferencing with the student privately, contacting a parent, and then writing the student up. In short, I really plan to be firm yet fair, but I won't get walked on again.

    My questions for you are:

    What are some good classroom management techniques that I can take advantage of? What has worked for you?

    What are some organizational tips you can offer? Organization is not my strong suit and I need to develop an easy-to-use and effective system that will show students where to pick up handouts to do, where to put completed work, where to pick up graded work, and where to find work when they are absent.

    What are some little rewards (other than candy) that HS kids will like? Pens? sillybandz? I'm a little lost here...:blush:

    What other advice can you offer a newbie that really wants things to be different and is prepared to be tough? :thanks:
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 13, 2011

    Welcome to A to Z!!!

    I've gotten some flack for answering threads like this one from the perspective of my own experiences, so I'll let the others handle the discipline questions.

    But as to rewards: go to www.vistaprint.com Go to Return Address Labels, and make up some personalizes stickers. Some I like for this time of year are:
    - picture of Santa with "Mrs. Aliceacc says your geometry grade puts you on Santa's GOOD list!"
    - picture of a snowman with "Mrs. Aliceacc thinks your geometry grade is COOL!"

    Once you order you'll be on their mailing list. From that point on, order those stickers only when they're free--you'll only pay for shipping.

    Those are the ONLY reward I use, and I give it to anyone who scores a 90% on one of my tests.

    For organization, color code each of your classes. My 2nd period class is in the red folder, my 3rd is green, 5th is yellow and 7th is purple. (And, yes, I know that at 6:57 am on a Sunday morning!) Every paper for any student in that class goes into that folder. If you have ONE classroom (as opposed to the 8 or 9 I'm in) get a vertical folder holder and color code that as well. Include a folder for your homeroom-- any notices of upcoming events, any memos to kids who are absent that aren't specific to that particular day...
     
  4. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2011

    Similar to Alice, I make business cards on Vistaprint that excuse students from a journal entry, or that give students an extended deadline on a major project. They love these, and I will randomly give one to everyone in my class who is paying attention.

    Also, I made some business card magnets that say, "I did a good thing." and have a line to put a name on. My back wall in my classroom is made of metal, so they go on there.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 13, 2011

    I've made those magnets too. One year I collected enough free magnets to give to every one of my 180 7th graders. They had a picture of a star and said "Mrs. Aliceacc thinks I'm a STAR!" (I figured the star was a good tie in with Christmas.) Those kids are now Seniors, and a few of them still have those magnets in their lockers :)

    Another year I did something similar for my homeroom, but with "I'm Mrs. Aliceacc's FAVORITE (but don't tell the other kids!)"
     
  6. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2011

    For work when students are absent, I have a binder for each class I teach called "Class Log." I have created a table on Word with the headings "Date" and "Here's What You Missed" for each week. I make sure the binders I use have a front pocket and I put all handouts, assignments, notes, etc . . . in that front pocket. I record the daily assignments for each subject at the end of the day - takes about five minutes. My students know to go straight to the binder when they are absent to get their work. Saves soooo much time. Also, I created an "Absent" stamp on vistaprint and all the paperwork I put in the font binder is stamped "Absent" so I know when students turn in this work late it was because they were absent.
     
  7. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Nov 13, 2011

    What are some good classroom management techniques that I can take advantage of? What has worked for you?

    My first year teaching, I also was teaching 9th grade about 2 months into the school year. The kids had already had 2 teachers and been shifted around a lot before I got there. Expect to be tested. Expect to be told they HATE you and liked Mr/Mrs. substitute better. Expect to be told that they "didn't have to do that BEFOOOREE." Be very clear with your expectations and stick to your guns from day one. Don't worry about being liked.

    What are some organizational tips you can offer? Organization is not my strong suit and I need to develop an easy-to-use and effective system that will show students where to pick up handouts to do, where to put completed work, where to pick up graded work, and where to find work when they are absent.
    I do a folder system. Each kid has a folder in a box for that period. I (or usually my TAs) file graded work in the kids folder. I have folders stapled to my wall to make pockets where I put extra handouts of assignments and things. If kids are absent, they stop by the folders to get whatever they missed. People also use binders or individual folders for missing work.

    What are some little rewards (other than candy) that HS kids will like? Pens? sillybandz? I'm a little lost here...
    Homework passes, deadline extentions, STICKERS.

    What other advice can you offer a newbie that really wants things to be different and is prepared to be tough?
    Be consistent. Don't let them get under your skin (because they WILL try very hard...). Keep your voice low and firm, and refuse to let them rile you.
     
  8. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2011

    I started teaching in the middle of the year, in an Urban district, after a string of subs. You can do this! :)

    What are some good classroom management techniques that I can take advantage of? What has worked for you?

    Set up a sitting chart day 1, preferably before they even get in the room. If you have an overhead or something, put the seating chart on it and project it as the kids walk in. If possible, change the layout of the room, too. It will subtly establish that this is now YOUR room. Decorate it and style it in your fashion as soon as possible so that they get that you are here PERMANENTLY.

    I actually started two jobs mid year. My first year teaching, at the tender age of 22, I took over for a teacher who had been fired. My fourth year, I moved to the high school level to replace a beloved teacher who had died over Christmas break. You have to go in like you OWN the place. My attitude was, "Sorry it took me so long to get here, but relax! I'm here now, and I'm going to teach your socks off!" I went in confident, like I knew exactly what I was doing. Now, to the staff, I was asking questions and getting clarification CONSTANTLY, but the kids NEVER saw that.

    I think the most effective discipline strategy you can have is to keep your students busy from bell to bell. Never give them a moments rest. Establish a routine and a mood in the room that makes them always feel like there is something they should be working on. There will still be kids who won't work, but the majority will. The ones who don't can be corrected individually. I manage EVERY MOMENT my students are in the room (at least at first). I use an online timer, and I time everything. They learn very quickly that we MOVE and I TEACH every day. No exceptions.

    For the real nuts and bolts of discipline, I always suggest that you first start with three or so non-negotiables. I establish three rules that must be followed no matter what. Honestly, these can be different for each class depending on what maturity level the class is at or what problems I'm having. The point is that there are usually 3 (no more) things that I absolutely do NOT allow. For one class it might be staying in their seats, no profanity/hate language, don't touch anyone's belongings without permission. Another class might not need that level of basic training, so their rules might be: only sit in your assigned seat, raise your hand before speaking, etc. It just depends on what you want and the mood. The point is I don't bend on those two or three rules. You get a warning and then you are out. For all other infractions, unless it so severely disrupts the environment that I can't teach, I warn, then I conference with the student, then I call home. If you try to micromanage all behavior, you will probably not have the success you are wanting.

    I also see a lot of new teachers confusing rules with procedures. I wouldn't dream of sending a kid to the office for not having supplies. That's not a rule violation. That's a lack of following procedures. That should be addressed differently. I always have back up supplies in my room. I'm not, especially at first, going to have my teaching time lost because someone doesn't have a pen. Once I establish a clear routine and rigorous academic expectations, the supplies come. If one or two kids still forget, I deal with them privately. On a side note, I never give class punishments. That's horribly unfair and demoralizing to the kids who do what's expected of them.


    What are some organizational tips you can offer? Organization is not my strong suit and I need to develop an easy-to-use and effective system that will show students where to pick up handouts to do, where to put completed work, where to pick up graded work, and where to find work when they are absent.

    I'm in a paperless school now; all of our kids have district issued computers, so I can't help you much here. Before I taught in this school, I had big trays in the front of my room (one for each class) where work was turned in. I spent a lot of time sorting, and I don't think if I had to go back that I would use that again. I've heard of teachers collecting assignments and stapling/clipping them together.

    For English teachers, the big issue seems to be grading. We get easily overwhelmed. Don't feel like you have to grade everything. Kelly Gallagher, the ultimate secondary English guru, says that he only grades 1 of every 4 things his kids write! (And he teaches in a inner city school in L.A.) Also, don't think you have to grade the entire paragraph of every essay. Pick and choose depending on what you taught. If you really were focusing on finding supporting details, don't worry about the intro and conclusion. You don't have to mark every grammar error. It's not effective in teaching and the kids don't even pay attention. Choose one or two grammar rules and grade just for those. Little things like that can help a lot.



    What are some little rewards (other than candy) that HS kids will like? Pens? sillybandz? I'm a little lost here...

    My kids love stickers, even still. If you can give homework passes, those are a big bonus. I also make positive phone calls home or send positive notes home. They LOVE those!


    What other advice can you offer a newbie that really wants things to be different and is prepared to be tough?

    It's not about being "tough". It's about being consistent, fair, and prepared. Prepared, prepared, prepared! How do you feel about the curriculum? Also, you mentioned TKAM. Be cautious about that. There's a good chance they DIDN'T read it, and if you base all your beginning lessons on the fact they did, you'll struggle. Have a back up plan! The great thing about English is that there is ALWAYS something we can use to fill out time, like a quick creative writing assignment, word family vocabulary study or grammar lesson. Never let the kids have a free moment.
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Nov 13, 2011

    One of the most important rules I've learned from books, student teaching and my own experience is that you can never make a first impression twice.
    So what you do on the first day will set the tone. (even if it's not the first day of school, it's their first day with you).

    I just started a long term sub position 3 weeks ago. It's at a juvenile detention facility, so the classes are small for safety reasons (about 15) and I have even smaller classes (9 students, 3 classes total) because my classroom is very tiny. These students already knew me, because I have been subbing, but I felt that this was a fresh start, so this is what I did:
    - made a powerpoint presentation that included classroom rules, procedures, an overview of the class and everything there was to know. This class is called Literacy lab, so the students really didn't know what to expect, and some already passed their GED, or part of CAHSEE, so i had to clarify why they're taking the class. During this, the students took notes.
    - I had them write me a letter about how they felt about being in this class, and to tell me about the books, movies they like, their hobbies, etc. I wanted to get to know them, and I think they really liked that. The letters they wrote were wonderful. I still read them at home to cheer me up when I'm sad :)
    - at the end of the class I assigned jobs to each student, we have 9 jobs for 9 students, such as passing out folders, pencils, etc.

    And this was the 1st class, 50 minutes. It was an awesome first class, this is what I will always do, because it established all the rules, but also set the tone that they are expected to work hard in the class: even in this first class, although we didn't do anything content related, they listened, viewed a presentation, took notes, wrote letters, cooperated with others with the student jobs, etc - > so it was English related :)

    This was all it took, they have been behaving very well. I was prepared to go slow in the first few days to ensure that if there was a disruption, I could deal with it the right way.

    In my experience, after you introduce the limits the students will have, some of them will try to stretch those boundaries, to see if those are really the limits. If you don't enforce everything you just told them, it won't work. So often the first few days / week can be disruptive.

    I would say the other very important rules are:
    - be consistent with everything
    - never show that they're getting to you. Don't raise your voice, don't get frustrated, instead take several deep breaths. When I get annoyed / upset, I naturally calm down, and talk with a very low and slow voice, which can be scary. It's definitely better than yelling. I actually stare a lot, I got pretty good at looking at the student with a poker face, as long as it takes :)
    - don't nag, don't go on and on about problems. The less you talk the better it is.
    - don't threaten, and don't promise something you won't follow through.
    - don't get sucked into becoming defensive and argue with the student. This was the hardest for me, middle schoolers were really good it, and I always lost. In this situation, the less you speak, the better it is :)
    - and finally, I always analyze my day, every day, to remember what worked, and what didn't. If some strategy doesn't work, and I feel that I gave it my all, I change it.

    I do have another class (geography) with about 13-15 students, and they're challenging. They definitely keep me on my toes, and make me think of ways to get better.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Nov 13, 2011

    For management techniques, take a look at Whole Brain Teaching. Even if you only use one or two of the strategies, you'll be ahead of the game.

    I'm also big on Vistaprint stuff--I made some postcards that say "GREAT JOB!" on the front and "Keep up the good work!" on the back. I add a personal note and send one to any kid who gets 100% on a test or who otherwise distinguishes themselves. My seniors love getting them in the mail and never fail to come up to thank me after getting one. And yes, stickers, especially for 9th graders (but even the 17-year-olds like them).
     

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