New Teacher needing advice

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by esu88, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. esu88

    esu88 New Member

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    Jun 14, 2011

    I just finished up my first year of teaching and realized there are MANY things I need to work on for next year. One of the main things though is classroom managment. I work at a middle school that has an extremely diverse student population and some very challenging students. I wanted to create a comfortable atomosphere, but I had a problem with students thinking I would let them get away with more since I am a young teacher. I often had problems with disrespect and I think majority was due to my young age and being a female. I would like any advice that has worked well getting middle school aged students to pay attention and be respectful. I like to joke around with my students, but I found myself having trouble getting them to focus when it was time to work. I found myself sometimes resorting to shouting which is something I do not want to do and was only a temporary fix. For a lot of students detentions did not matter. Any advice for ways to manage these kids, be treated with the respect veteran teachers have, and/or ways to get middle school students focused and get their attention during class? Thanks! :help:
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jun 14, 2011

    I don't teach middle school and this is out of my league a little bit, but as I read your post, I am wondering how much time you spent on paying attention to transitions, how to get students working as soon as they walk in the door, and so forth. When did you generally notice most of the goofing around occurred? I know students at this age, in spite of it all though can be a bit goofy.

    Could you maybe ask one of the veteran teachers if you could observe?
     
  4. Maryhf

    Maryhf Connoisseur

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    Jun 14, 2011

    Here's a small thing that I think makes a big difference. Stand at the door and greet your students during transitions. When students enter the room, they are supposed to copy the HW assignment and by that time, I'm ready to start class. Doing that shows your students that 1. you are in charge of your classroom and 2. you care about each one as they enter.
    Also, the biggest enemy of the teacher is down time. don't have any.
     
  5. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jun 14, 2011

    I started out teaching middle school, and my advice is to NOT joke around with them. Middle schoolers will take that as a signal that you're not serious--you know how fast things can spiral out of control. Be friendly, but firm. You might want to look into some of the Whole Brain Teaching techniques.
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Jun 18, 2011

    A few quick thoughts - first, I think it's fine to joke around if you can develop skills or communicating when it's time to NOT joke around anymore - humor goes a long way in connecting with kids and building relationships, especially in that age group, and I'd not only say it's "okay," but it's a good idea to keep doing it. Of course, that depends on what you mean by humor - laughing off serious incidents isn't an appropriate use of humor, for example.

    Second, my question would be what system/strategies did you use this year? As an analogy, if you asked for help baking bread, my first question would be, "what recipe did you use?" Some people approach discipline without any recipe, and expect their bread to rise and taste good :). So, my first suggestion would be to research recipes and put one in place. There will hopefully be some good advice on this forum and from other people you may talk to in person, but I've found that forum advice/in person advice is more helpful with specific situations - after someone has researched and put in place general strategies.

    Mrs. K has mentioned WBT, which seems to be a pretty decent program - "Building Classroom Discipline" by CM Charles is also a good intro book that talks about a lot of behavioral programs, and would give you some quick information you could use to explore programs you liked in more depth. You could also look at the table of contents of that book on amazon and just google the different programs, find 2-3 that look interesting, and order some resources or a book about that program. Summer would be a great time for that!

    One final thought - what you've said about your discipline style is very similar to what many other first year teachers describe, and part of the struggle of first year teachers is finding that balance between support (e.g., using humor) and structure (e.g., being firm). New teachers often err on one side or the other, but after they reflect they start to see how they can do things do differently, and make changes for the next year. Many teachers report feeling much more successful their second year, so hopefully good things are around the corner for you!
     
  7. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Jun 21, 2011

    When I started I let kids chew gum, sit on their desks and call me by first name. I thought I was a great teacher. So did the kids. I know because they told me -- "You are the best teacher we've ever had!" I basked in the glow of plaudits, clearing my wall for "Teacher of the Year" award I knew was coming. Fact kids were not learning much never occurred to me. I was mainly concerned with how I was doing not how the kids were doing. On the last day I had kids fill out a short teacher evaluation form I created. One question, "What is the best thing you remember about this class?", came back almost unanimous -- "You let us chew gum!"

    What a moron! After a year of teaching the kids will remember me for chewing gum? That summer I began to reflect. I actually concluded there must be more to this teaching stuff than gum. Anyway, I'm getting long-winded here but if I recall it wasn't until about my fourth year I sort of began to grasp some tidbits of what it means to be a "teacher".
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jun 21, 2011

    I love this post. It is conveyed with so much humor and reflection.
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 21, 2011

    I think it's wonderful that you're taking this first summer to reflect on what went right and wrong during that first year. And I'm sure lots went right. I'm sure that your enthusiasm and love for your material,as well as the fact that you really like teaching, shone throught.

    As to your management issues: I think it's too easy to pass the problem off as being young and female.

    You were hired as a young female. They knew who you were when they hired you. So they didn't mean for that to be carte blanche.

    I think "new" is the problem. As Loomistrout mentioned, I think you may have fallen into a fairly common trap for new teachers-- to confuse "comfortable" with "friends."

    My kids are comfortable in my class. They know they can ask a question and not get shot down, even if some of their classmates would consider it a "dumb" question. They know they're going to learn a LOT in my class, and that we're working bell to bell for 180 days. They know I'll laugh at my own mistakes, and that mistakes are OK in my class. They know that I realize this stuff is new to them, even if it's not to me. They know that I realize they have a life outside my class.

    But they also know that I am in charge (shades of Alexander Haig!) They know there is a very clear line between acceptable behavior and non-acceptable behavior, and that if they cross that line there will be consquences.

    My best advice is to put lots of focus on the material. From that very first minute in your room on that very first day, let them know that they'll learn a lot of math (or English or whatever) in your class. Let them know they'll be too busy working to fool around. Teach on that first day, and let them know when they can expect a quiz on that material-- make it within a day or two. There's time enough to build in that comfortable atmosphere we all want. You want their first impression to be "Holy Cow! We're going to WORK in that class!!!!"

    Practice making requests as you might expect Colin Powell to make a request. I never "tell" a kid what to do-- I always say "Please" and "Thank You." But no kid has ever interpreted "Get rid of that gum, please" as a request.

    Be proactive. Stand at that doorway every day, particularly early in the year. As you say "good moring Rory" you can take care of some early issues-- the gum, the bathroom requests, whatever. You can also remind them that there's a do-no problem on the board.

    Work to eliminate dead time. Kids should never be sitting there, waiting for you to be ready; there should always be something they should be doing. Likewise, any transistion should be done with the expectation that they'll get right to the next activity.
     
  10. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jun 22, 2011

    Aliceacc - wow! You covered that well! I agree with all you said. My problem my first year was that I was over disciplined and that has almost the same effect.

    Transition time is always a challenge. I do things like, "Put the HW in your binder and open your lit book to page 78. You have to the count of 10." Then I'll count up to or down from 10. I'll do it in 1/2 increments, fast and then slow, in different languages, etc. When I finish counting I continue whether or not there are still a couple of laggards. They learn very quickly that I mean they have to the count of 10, 5 1/4, etc. I picked this up at a seminar where the speaker actually did this with us. It was actually fun! We never knew what the count would be or how it would be done.

    Depending on what we are doing, I also use music as a transition such as when I have them switching seats to continue the lesson.
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jun 23, 2011

    I would hesitate to count to 10. Kids who are done at "6" have dead time and they know exactly how much.

    I would start with page 78 when I had given what I consider to be a reasonable amount of time, or when the majority of the kids are ready, whichever came first.

    Also, a great alternative to yelling is LOWERING your voice. It grabs their attention because they know something is going on and need to be quiet to figure out what.

    My kids know they're pretty much dead when I get very quiet.:lol:
     
  12. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Jun 23, 2011

    I downloaded an electronic timer which helps a lot with staying on task and transitions. The kids can see exactly how much time they have left (and I make sure it's not enough time for them to be able to waste any of it), and quickly figure out if they waste 3 of their 10 minutes, they end up with extra homework.
     
  13. MrBiology

    MrBiology Rookie

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    Aug 8, 2011

    Wow, great post. I have a feeling I'll be picking up a lot from you during this first year teaching of mine.

    I was originally very nervous/anxious about how to go about my first day - since I realize this is where first impressions happen. I've always wanted to start teaching the first day (my AP Stat teacher did it when I was in high school and it forever changed how I felt about math, let alone that teacher or school itself), but to drop the Q word on the first day is bound to show them I'm serious about them learning.
     
  14. HWilson

    HWilson Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2011

    First you need to know it is completly normal for you to be reflecting on this and deciding this was your weakness as a first year teacher. I think all first year teachers find themselves in this spot going into year two.

    Here are a couple of things that come to mind.
    1. You can be stern and then lighten up, but you can never go from being "easy" so to speak and then get stern. They won't take you as serious. During my internship I was told this and it is so true!! Start from the first day being stern and maybe not joking around. I joke with my classes too and during my evaluations it is always brought up my sense of humor with the kids but I don't let them see that side of me right away.

    2. Start before they enter your room. I have my kids line up in the hallway outside my door while I monitor the halls during transitions. Before we can enter the room they have to be in a straight line, quiet, facing forward and ready to enter my room in an orderly fashion. I do believe this sets the tone. Yes they chat with their friends in line but when they see me starting to walk to the door they quiet down and get straightened up etc. If they don't I just stand at the door looking at them with the "I am waiting on you" look.

    3. Have them come straight into the class and begin to work. There should be no downtime. It can be a warmup, copy HW, anything but just make them work.

    4. I, too, am adjusting my classroom management this year because mine is not perfect either. We have a roudy group of kids coming and I want this year to be less headaches. So I have downloaded the free ebooks and checked out lots of YouTube videos on Whole Brain Teaching, Power Teaching. I really like it and I'm thinking it is going to work well. There have been some other threads on here about it and everyone that has used it really like it. Maybe you could look into that too.

    Don't be hard on yourself. A good teacher is a self reflecting teacher that accepts and makes changes! So sounds to me that you are a good teacher!! ;)
     
  15. HWilson

    HWilson Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2011

    :thumb:
     
  16. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    Aug 8, 2011

    One additional suggestion that I have is to speak with students in the hallway if they are being disruptive in class. I don't like to make a scene in front of the class, because the disruptive student would usually love to have an audience to entertain during an argument with the teacher. I just calmly ask them to step outside, inform them that their behavior is unacceptable, and tell them what the next consequence will be if I speak to them again. I'm not mean when I pull them out, but I am very firm and matter-of-fact so they know I mean business. This strategy works almost every time for me.
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 9, 2011

    "I like this!! I have a word document open on my computer I put notes on as I collect ideas from here and as things cross my mind and I just made a note about that!! I'm going to do it. You said start working the first minute, I do feel it is important to introduce my class the first day so do you think it is still ok to maybe spend the first 30 minutes or so introducing the class or my expectations then do some teaching? I'm planning to do the Power Teaching this year so maybe the first day I will introduce the basics of PT like this is how you will repsond in my class etc. then move on to teaching math. Day 2 go over some more of my class routines etc. then teach. Day 3 (which will be a Friday) finish beginning of year activities/info, take quiz, then teach more. Would that work??"

    I think that sounds totally reasonable-- as long as your classes are well longer than 30 minutes. (On that first day, ours are 29 minutes to allow for an assembly and schedule/ locker distribution)

    I don't really spend any time at all on "routines"-- we work them out as we go. But that's what works for me-- try this and see whether it works for you.

    I think that what's important is that they leave your class that very first day realizing that you're a good teacher, that they can be prepared to learn a lot, and that you mean business.

    Here's how I do the first day:
    - I have a seating chart made up-- alphabetical order, at least in the beginning. It makes it easier for me to figure out who is where before I know the names. As they come in, I ask their names and let them know where they sit; others can read the seating chart over my shoulder and figure it out. Once the bell rings, I stop, we do a prayer (Catholic School) and I read out the seating chart. ("OK, here we go: row one: Tom, Cathy, Sue...."

    - I have the year's test dates on the board (I test every two weeks, regardless of what I've covered.) As I enter attendance into the computer, they're copying the year's test dates as well as tonight's homework. After the homework it says "Quiz Thursday on factoring" or something similar.

    - I do a 10? minute spiel on supplies and my rules and regulations.

    - Then I start to teach. I ask if everyone has something to write with and something to write on, and supply a pen/paper to the one or two who need one. Then I teach that lesson on factoring.

    I know the "start off stern" thing works for so many people. And I think it may have been the way I started my career. But to be honest, at this point, I can just be me from day one. I don't lighten up, but I also don't need to toughen up. So I do joke around a little from day one. But a good part of that is that I already have a reputation. Kids, even freshmen, recognize my name as someone their sibling or neighbor had for math, and have a decent impression of me before they ever attach a face to my name.

    And pulling a kid out to the hall is a great idea, though it's never occurred to me. (I would first, of course, make sure the rest of the class had something to do other than listen in and cause michief.)

    But you raise another big point: a kid who is backed into a corner in front of his peers has no choice but to come out swinging. One on one, he may back down and settle down. But if it becomes you vs. him in front of his peers, you have no shot at a quick resolution to the problem. Handling it in the hall is an excellent idea!
     
  18. HWilson

    HWilson Comrade

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    Aug 9, 2011

     
  19. Drama Teach

    Drama Teach Rookie

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    Aug 9, 2011

    I am going into my second year and also have to change my classroom management plan. Teaching Drama, I have to create an atmosphere of respect first, then comfort to perform. Last year my focus was the other way around.

    The first day I will go over the procedures and routines because they vary differently from the standard classroom, then we go into theatre games and warmups and will end the class presenting an exercise to the class.

    My worry is that I had students in Drama 1 last year and now they are in Drama 2. How do I make sure they understand the new focus in my class?
     
  20. MrBiology

    MrBiology Rookie

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    Aug 9, 2011

    Instead of trying to be sneaky or coy about implementing a new focus / expectations, simply be straight with them. Tell them things were great last year but they're in Drama 2 now and you want to raise the bar (little do they know the changes are being made across the board).


    ....in hindsight that is being sneaky and coy, but I feel it's a solid approach :D
     

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