New H.S. Math teacher teaching in poverty

Discussion in 'Secondary Education Archives' started by kruegs1982, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. kruegs1982

    kruegs1982 Rookie

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    Jun 4, 2006

    I am a new H.S. math teacher using my summer to build up my lesson plans, classroom management, etc. I am moving to Houston from Iowa and am a little nervous because of all the differences I am going to face. Does anyone have any advice for me?

    I have thought a lot about my classroom management plan and have found some interesting ways on the internet. I found the "Book of Consequences." When a student misbehaves there is a prewritten paragraph or two for . Students must answer questions about their behavior, what they did, why they did it, 3 ways they could correct the behavior. They then copy the paragraph which speaks of the ills of their behavior. I feel this is a non-threatening, non-confronting, positive approach to misbehavior. My question is does anyone see any pitfalls on this approach? I understand that students might say no or refuse to do this but my response to that is that every day it is overdue they lose a point of extra credit or off their total score and they may not receive any more points until they turn it in (I will keep track of the points they accumulate but they won't count until the discipline paper is turned in). Is this too harsh? Does anyone have any better ideas to deal with this? Has anyone tried this? What do you do to deal with discipline?

    I have also decided to use math bucks. They earn math bucks for good behavior, good grades, tutoring, or having their entire study group of 4 increase their grade by a step (B to B-, etc.). They can then use their "bucks" to buy a pencil, get out of a homework assignment (20 bucks), as a bathroom/drink pass, earn an extra point on a test (3 bucks), etc. Has anyone tried this and do you have any advice, or know of any cons with this?

    I am a blank book right now and am up for any advice anyone has to give me about classroom management, teaching in a poverished (is that a word?) district, etc.
     
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  3. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    Jun 4, 2006

    The word is "impoverished"...

    I don't have any advice for you. But I will be interested in your experience because I am about a year behind you.
     
  4. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    I don't teach HS, but I saw the interesting title heading and had to stop in. Welcome to the boards. Although, I don't teach HS, I did read your behavior plan, and to me it seems a little too much for HS. Is there something a little less "complicated" you could implement. I'm sure you will find great ideas.

    Good luck
     
  5. kruegs1982

    kruegs1982 Rookie

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    Thanks for the word Malcom.
    Miss Frizzle: I think I made it sound more complicated then it really is. The templates for the "behavior plan" would be in a 3 ring binder and given a number. I would tell the student which number they needed to complete and it would then be treated as an assignment. In order to keep track of this, I would give them a slip of paper informing them of what I expected them to do and I would keep one.
    Here is the website I got it from:
    http://teacherslounge.editme.com/BOC
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm hesitant to connect behavior with grades. In the schools I've taught in, there has always been a very well defined line between the two. (Then again, both had very supportive administrations, so I guess that might have something to do with it!)

    The poverty level shouldn't have a lot to do with the behavior, except that you'll probably be dealing with lots of parents working more than one job, or in poverty because they're single parents. Be aware of relying too much on the calculator-- don't assume that the kids all have one, and certainly don't assume they have a graphing calculator. LIkewise, don't assume internet access at home, or that they have a ride to the library to get it there.

    Also, language may be an issue, so you may want to simplify your plan-- what if what comes back is incomprehensible because the student doesn't have a good grasp of English? Maybe an alternative is a paragaraph on "What you did and why it was wrong." But then again, what if the response is "I wasn't wrong and you're an idiot!"... Hm, need to think more about this one and I'll get back to you.
     
  7. kruegs1982

    kruegs1982 Rookie

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    Jun 5, 2006

    Thank you very much, this was very helpful. I wasn't connecting behavior problems with poverty, I meant them to be different issues. I just wanted to know what issues arrise because where I grew up and have lived since the only differences between the people were religion so I am really naiive about things like different cultures and poverty. Where I am teaching, they have over 80% free and reduced lunches, 45% hispanic, 45% african american and 10% caucasian, which is what I am.

    As far as the paragraph writing goes, the author meant there to be some words the students may not know but should be able to figure out based on the context so they can build their vocabularly.

    How do you deal with discipline? I'm not a big fan of sending students to the office because I feel that that tells the student that I can't handle them and I need someone else to.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree. I think there's only so much authority in the world... give some away and there's less left for you.

    Minor offenses-- a word or a look. From there we build to "see me after school"-- again, that's dependant on the rules where you work.
     
  9. agsrule!

    agsrule! Companion

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    Jun 5, 2006

    Hello Kruegs,
    I am curious to know what district you will be teaching in. Are you talking about HISD? I am from Texas, and live about an hour from downtown Houston. In my district, we are 46% Hispanic, 44% caucasian, and 10% other. Our African American population is very small in our area, and three of those students were Katrina victims, and won't be back next year.
    I have included another teacher chatboard site that is specifically for Texas teachers. You could post specific questions about your new district.
    http://texas.teachers.net/

    I think that discipline management plan is a little to childish for high school. Now, I've never taught HS, and have only just completed my first year post graduation in MS, but I just don't see students doing that assignment. I don't like to force my students to write for punishment anyway, because I don't want to make them hate writing. I teach language arts, and 7th grade in Tx is all about writing (writing Taks test in the spring).
    I definately wouldn't connect misbehavior with grades, because the students that are going to cause the most problems don't necessarily care about their grades.

    Have you read the book by Fred Jones, Tools for Teaching? It is a wonderful source for classroom managment. Some of the things he has in the book seem really strange, but if you try them, they do work. I had a very hard time with one of my classes at the beginning of the year, and after trying some of the techniques in that book, things changed for the better. The best one was to not respond when they are trying to argue. Just keep a blank face, but listen to what they have to say, just don't say anything. When they are done, continue with your lesson for the whole class, if the student starts again, then focus your attention back to the student until they are finished. It is hilarious to see them get so frustrated because you won't argue. It takes all I have to not crack a smile or laugh when they give me the "whatever" and put their head down in frustration.

    Good Luck to you. Try the Tx teacher chatboard for more info.
     
  10. EnglishMiss

    EnglishMiss Rookie

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    Jun 6, 2006

    Hi Kruegs,
    I'm new here but I had to respond, just to ask what district you'll be in, if you're comfortable sharing? I student taught in Houston at a district, Alief ISD, that sounds exactly like what you described. I had very supportive teachers so it was a very positive experience but I'm sure that going into it with my own classroom from day 1 would be much more nerve-wracking!
    Not sure what to think on your behavior plan... it does sound very detailed and that's probably a good thing if you can keep up with all the paperwork, points, etc. Best of luck!
    -NS
     
  11. kruegs1982

    kruegs1982 Rookie

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    Jun 7, 2006

    My school district is Aldine
     
  12. paperheart

    paperheart Groupie

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    I teach in Texas too...in the Rio Grande Valley. I was going to also say its best not to connect student behaior with grades. It is not a consequence that some students will care too much about. I disagree that behavior and poverty issues are not connected. I have taught in an extremely poor area and do see behavior issues connected to the issues around poverty.

    --Fatalism (the idea that no amount of effort will improve life situations, that if God wants it to happen he'll hae it happen) is a dominant mindset in many of the students/families I have taught.
    --Students working long hours, dysfunctional lifestyles, etc can all play a part in student mood, motivation, and behavior.

    Don't get me wrong, this isn't the case with all poor students (of course!)

    In addition to the plan you're working on, don't underestimate the power of teacher-student conferrences. I have one very effective strategy is to find out WHY the behavior is occuring. Often, you can teach a life skill or provide simple advice that becomes the solution to the behavior issue.
     
  13. HilaryP

    HilaryP Rookie

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    Jun 10, 2006

    Hello,

    I just scanned the replies, so sorry if I repeat anything.

    I have some book recommendations. Not sure of the ethnic makeup of the area you will be taching, but I think these books will be helpful regardless:

    Teaching Math to Black Children by Shahid Muhammed
    This book is very practical and an easy read

    Black Students - Middle Class Teachers by Jawanza Kunjufu
    I read this book in one sitting, lots of resources. Focuses on class issues instead of the black/white thing.

    Reluctant Disciplinarian: Advice on Classroom Management From a
    Softy - can' remember the author
    This is written by a guy who took part in the Teach for America program. It is hilarius, short easy read, practical. He teaches math.

    Algebra Project or something along those lines.
    This is actually more about Civil rights and the teaching of algebra as a civil right. Its a program that teaches algebra to inner city kids living in the projects. I wish it was more about curriculum and how the actual project works, I just skimmed it actually. Maybe look for information about the Algebra Project online for more practical info. I know there is a website for it.

    You've probably already encountered "First Days of School" by Harry Wong.

    And finally...

    Fires in the Bathroom - can't remember the author. It is advice for teachers from highschool students, many of whom are from Oakland, which is an inner city area in California. It is EXCELLENT, another book I read in almost one sitting.

    I was going to teach math but have since switched to science, only because the test is so much easier! I have two kids and I'm broke, i don't have the time to study for the math subject competency test as much as it requires! But the above books got me excited about teaching math.
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The Web site for the Algebra Project is http://www.algebra.org/; if you follow the links through Programs and Curricula Research and Development to High School Algebra and Geometry, there's a link at the bottom of the list of big names to some sample materials.

    You might also want to check out John Mighton's http://www.jumptutoring.org, which is perhaps a little more fully fleshed out.
     
  15. dehabel

    dehabel Rookie

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    Jun 19, 2006

    What about the Ruby Payne (sp) information on children of poverty. I have found that to be very useful, however, I don't know where you find the info.
     
  16. cwp873

    cwp873 Comrade

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    Jun 23, 2006

    I've never been to Texas, but I've spent my whole career (starting 19 yrs) teaching inner city kids. The writing - they won't do it, and the ones that are misbehaving won't care about losing points. You could do a simplified version: what I did, why I did it, what I should have done instead...type thing. However, your ESL kids still will have trouble with it.
    My experience is stress the positives first. These kids need POSITIVE people who CARE about them in their lives. If it doesn't bother you to reward them for what they really should be doing in the first place, I'd go that route. Set up your rules, what you expect-start with the absolutely critical stuff first. Keep a clipboard so you can track who is doing it and reward at the end of the week (tell them you're going to reward). It doesn't have to be major - some candy, chips, whatever. As they get into the routine you can move rewards to bi-weekly, monthly, then intermittent (you never know when it's coming...it COULD be today!).
    For problem behaviors I typically do a three strikes type thing. First-verbal warning, second- name on board to remind me you're getting on my nerves, third-consequence. Your school/team probably has consequences set up???? Check and see. Most schools hve a discipline plan in place.
    If you do detentions - just sitting is more torture then getting to work on something! OR have them clean. The custodians are always overworked.
    If a kid is WAY off, give choices: you can stop...right now OR you can...(go to the office, have me call your mom, serve a DT)...YOUR CHOICE. Then its on the kid if he makes the wrong choice.
    Hope this helps.
     
  17. eastcoastkobe

    eastcoastkobe Rookie

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    Jun 24, 2006

    Well I can tell you being a minority and having grown up in this area that your disciplinary plan is a bit complicated. No student is going to be willing to write for a math class. They are high school and could care less about this type of assignment. Your biggest asset stepping into this area will be showing the students how interested you are in teaching them math. Good luck.
     
  18. DNordlander

    DNordlander Rookie

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    Jun 28, 2006

    I, too, am in the Houston area. What district will you be teaching in? (We refer to "lower income" schools as Title 1 here in Texas.) This will be your first year teaching, right? The idea of the consequences book is one that is used here often. We have it even in the elementary school that I work at. (Although we have it in DMC, or in-school suspension, not in the classroom.) I have some great ideas that might be useful in your math classroom as far as lesson planning goes. Email me if you'd like some of the ideas that we use in 4th grade that could TOTALLY be adapted to work with HS students. My email is dana.nordlander@cfisd.net

    Dana
     
  19. new principal

    new principal Rookie

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    I think the math bucks are a great idea. My best advice: build relationships. I do think poverty and behavior are related, to the degree that middle class families have more funds for solutions: they can divorce if there's abuse, move if the neighbors are druggies, buy a car to get kids to activities, and tend to see doctors (check out a really poor school--no glasses, no braces). They have books in their homes, and bedrooms for each kid. Compare all that to a poor kid who is doubled up on living space, maybe exposed to inappropriate adult activities--middle class single moms have overnight boyfriends, too, but their bedroom is down the hall or on another floor and the walls are thicker! (more privacy). Poor families can't afford counseling if their kids become victims of a crime; I can't tell you how many really hostile teens are really covering up or coping with rape, sexual abuse, or physical abuse. Just be aware that in a high poverty school, you may have many, many wounded children. Do not view them as victims. Read books and articles on "building resiliency." You can be a huge resource to them, if you keep an open mind. I wish you the very best year.
     

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