New teacher struggles...:( Please help!

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by ChelserG90, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. ChelserG90

    ChelserG90 Rookie

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    Nov 13, 2014

    I was hired as a 2nd grade teacher two days before the school year began. This was my first time being a real teacher, so naturally I was excited. My kids were wonderful for the first month or so. They even recieved compliments in the hallways from other teachers. They were great!

    Unfortunately, starting around mid-October, things have took a dramatic turn for the worst. The students act like completely different children, now. They fight and argue so much! They act like they hate each other. It just destroys the entire atmosphere of the classroom. I've been told by the principal and the other second grade teachers that I have a difficult group.

    As true as that may be, I still feel like they would be much better for another teacher. What am I doing wrong? Today, I hit kind of a breaking point. I raised my voice, and I'm naturally a very soft spoken person. They just would not be cooperative during an interactive math lesson. They were blantly disrespectful. My team teachers and the principal think I'm being too nice, therefore they are running all over me.

    I'll describe some of the behaviors I am encountering:
    1) We play sparkle before our spelling test, well the children get so hateful to one another when we play games. The children will start to argue with me about how the game isn't fair and so on. I've never had students argue that sparkle isn't fair. NEVER! I mean most children seem eager to do a fun activity. I WANT to do a fun activity, but everytime we do it just turns into a disaster. I don't want to be the teacher that spits out worksheets, but at this point I don't know how else to keep the peace. My classroom literally feels like a warzone at times, and I just don't know how to fix it.

    They do this during group time, too. They will fight about who's first and last. They'll get in each other's faces. It's just a sad sight, because I've never seen so much agression in children. I'm bringing this out in them, and I don't know how or why. I'm afraid my class will never get back to the way it was. I just want to be good at this, and now I'm wondering if I should even continue to teach. My principal told me I wasn't screwing this up, but I don't think she knows just how hostile my classroom is. I just want to fix it.

    2) The students tattle on each other constantly, and will even yell in each other's faces at times. They just get so hateful. I've created a tattle box, but it doesn't seem to effect them much. They will write in it, but students will still call out someone who is doing something wrong. The fighting is getting unbearable at this point. There have been many a times I've pulled aside students to talk it out, and it only works for a short while. They alway go back to being hateful to each other.

    3) I have one little girl who has severe add, and I try to accomodate to that. However, there are time she just won't cooperate. For example, we did an activity with the amount of pockets students had, she didn't have any. Therefore, she had to write a 0 on her post-it for 0 pockets. She got angry and said that "she didn't like the number zero." Then, she refused to do anything else in math. She's a very sensitive girl, and she has been through a lot. However, her actions are just downright defiant at times.

    4) Calling out: I think this is one of the biggest problems. Students are constantly calling out tattle, which I think creates a lot of friction in the classroom. They just blurt it out, and that makes other students angry.

    I don't know, I think the students hate me and my class ( I know they do, because they want to move out of it.). My dream job has turned into bit of a nightmare, and I'm not sure where to start to make it better again.

    I think my biggest issues are consistency and routines. I was unsure of how to implement effective routines. I KNEW that would create a problem further down the road, but sometimes (even with a four year degree) I feel like I know nothing. I love teaching, but not the kind i'm encountering right now. I honestly feel like crying my eyes out on a daily basis. Plus, I'm pretty sure the parents hate me, too. So, I really have nothing going for me. I have the support of my team members and the principal, for now. However, I don't know how long that will last. I'm afraid that I'll make a mistake that will forever dent my career. Actually, I feel like I'm making it now.

    I guess I just came on here looking for advice. I know there are several other forums about "the struggling new teacher with horrible classroom management skills," but I thought I would throw my experience out there specifically. (I've read all of those forums about struggling new teachers, btw.)

    I know the first year is the hardest, but I feel like mine is just a complete disaster.
     
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  3. daisycakes

    daisycakes Companion

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    Nov 13, 2014

    I don't allow arguing. I tell kids it is my job to correct others. Every minute they argue is a minute you take away recess. You could also try a lesson on how to use caring words and what to do in a disagreement. Also, community circles might help.
     
  4. daisycakes

    daisycakes Companion

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    Nov 13, 2014

    Also, if I see a kid tattling constantly or over stupid stuff, I just start straight up ignoring them. Pretend like they do not exist and keep teaching. You could also write a sign on the board that says you only respond to tattles in the box and point to it silently and continue teaching. When a student complains about someone being noisy or someone otherwise interrupting their learning or comfort I will ask that child to speak to the offender directly and moderate and model that conversation.
     
  5. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2014

    What is your classroom behavior management plan? Make sure you have one that is very structured and implement it with consistency. Even when you really want to let things go, don't. Eventually, after enough consequences your students will get it.

    I'm in year five, and I have a tough class this year. I've had to remind myself to take my own advice (above) over and over.
     
  6. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Nov 13, 2014

    Aw, I just want to give you a hug! :hugs:

    I am not an expert - I am only in my third year. But I do have some ideas. (FYI - my #s do not correspond with yours.)

    1) Bucket filling. When I taught first grade, I did bucket fillers based on this book. I got the idea here and here. We spent a LOT of time brainstorming, charting, and talking about what constitutes bucket filling and bucket dipping. The kids responded well to the language.

    2) Teach the procedures. Start Monday. Start over again. This book (Dream Class) has a lot of great ideas about teaching procedures. The author also has a blog, Smart Classroom Management. Both are great resources. Do not decide that it's too late to really teach procedures and routines.

    3) A class like yours is going to need EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL INTERACTION explicitly taught, modeled, and practiced. What does it look like to take turns? What does it look like to buddy read? What does it look like to share our supplies? Start. Very. Basic. I had to learn this one when I taught 1st. Start SOOOOO simple that it feels ridiculous. Praise like crazy for tiny tiny little things.

    4) I would recommend doing some kind of whole class reward system with a class like that. There are a lot of ideas on Pinterest - spell out a word, fill a marble jar, etc. I'm not so sure I would use team/table points with your class - maybe more division. Have the work together towards something, and make it small and not take too long to attain, at least the first couple times. Like an ice cream bar or something, I don't know. lol. Have them brainstorm a specific character trait - cooperation, kindness, etc - and then give them class points/marbles/jewels when the class is doing it. (And also some kind of individual incentive/acknowledgement when individuals are doing it!)

    5) Have you heard of Kagan Cooperative learning? There is a book with the basic ideas. Kagan is great because it gives specific frameworks and structures for cooperative learning - not just "ok, work in a group." Lots of team building and supports for taking turns, etc. I've been through the training, so I'd be happy to share more if you'd like.

    Anyway, those are off the top of my head. And another thing - I am my own worst critic. I'm willing to bet the same is true of you. Be gentle on yourself. You are new at this. Just from your willingness to seek help I can see that you really care and are willing to admit areas of weakness, learn, and grow - and that is what makes a great teacher.

    I hope some of that helps. :)
     
  7. heatherberm

    heatherberm Cohort

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    Nov 13, 2014

    If games and group activities are problems, I'd re-think doing them. I hate not doing fun things and I know you probably do too, but if they can't handle it, they can't handle it. At the very least, you should lay out very clear expectations for behaviors during these times and cover everything - taking turns, what tone of voice they should use when speaking to each other, keeping hands to themselves, all that good stuff. You might even need to model exactly what these things look and sound like and practice them. Also be clear that if there's problem, the group activity will stop and then follow through.

    Ignoring can be very effective for tattling and calling out in general although it is tough if the other kids are getting upset about it.

    Beyond that, I'm sending you lots of happy thoughts. You're in a tough spot with a tough group. It's obvious that you really care about doing a good job and that will serve you well. Hang in there!
     
  8. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Nov 14, 2014

    Okay, first of all, the first year sucks. Like bad. I openly admit I was a terrible teacher for my first two years. Hang in there, it gets better.

    Use a little self discipline and get those routines and procedures down. Practice, practice, practice. If the class doesn't do it, the class needs to re-practice those procedures. If one student doesn't do it, make that one student practice those procedures again. Make sure you have consequences for misbehavior and rewards for positive behavior.

    Before you do things like games, model a thousand times the expectations. If the students stop following the expectations, stop the game and practice the routine again. I time my students, I give ten minutes or so for a game. If they aren't following routines, we practice instead of playing, and I simply remind them that it's their game time they are wasting.

    I don't even listen to tattling, I completely ignore it. If kids get in arguments, I listen to both sides, but I have a policy that only one kid gets to talk at a time. If the other kid starts talking, I point to them and say, "You had your turn." Or "You will get your turn when so and so is done." It's really easy to tell who is to blame by who gets more defensive.

    Another thing to keep in mind, the kids are testing their boundaries. They want to know how seriously you are taking your management. Don't let them get away with it, bring the hammer down, or as my P says, "Offer up a few sacrificial lambs," so basically come down harder than you should have on certain misbehaviors, and the problems will start to get solved.
     
  9. ChelserG90

    ChelserG90 Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2014

    Thanks, guy! I really appreciate it! I think I do need to go back to day one and teach procedures and model. Today was probably my worst day, yet. I think the class has finally hit rock bottom, so anything that I try can't be worse than it already is.

    I think the thing that gets me the worse is the amount of disrespect the students exhibit. I guess I take it personally, and I know I shouldn't. It's like today, a student yelled out loudly, "this class sucks!"
    The sad thing is he's basically right. The class isn't what it could be, because I've let it get that way. The students will start to argue with me about what's fair, and what isn't. They just get downright hateful, and it's ridiculous.

    Then again, I think they act that way with me, because 1) I allow them to and 2) They don't know the expectations.
    I truly think I need to go back to the beginning and implement routines, procedures, and behavior management plan more effectively.

    My behavior management plan is a part of the school-wide behavior plan. It's called PBS. Basically the students start the day with 10 points. Every time they break a rule, a point is taken. The problem with this plan is that students don't tend to recognize when they have lost a point. I can tell them, but they forget by the end of the day. Then, they act upset when they lose points. My principal and grade team members came up with an idea to visually show them they've lost a point. I'm going to implement it on Monday.

    Basically, the students get three post notes on their desk, every time they lose a point for breaking a rule, they lose a post-it note. If they lose all three post-it notes, they get to visit the principal. My only problem is I'm not sure if I should only target a specific behavior with the post-it notes. Would it be fair to only give them three chances for all behaviors? I mean, some rules are less drastic than others. Then again, all rules should be upheld. Maybe, I shouldn't include it with my PBS program. I think i'm kinda wishy washy with things, and that is what has gotten me in the predicament I'm in now. I guess I just constantly ponder if I'm being too harsh or not. I don't want the students to hate coming to school, and see me as the "mean" teacher they hated.

    I think the problem with tattling is that I simply react to the tattling. I need to stop reacting and just direct them to the tattle box. They get angry when I don't listen to them, though. Then, I feel like a bad teacher. I think to myself should I just listen, it could be serious? Then again, I read all of the tattles from the tattle box. So, if it is serious I direct it to the principal at the end of the day.

    I do have a class reward. "Fun Friday" is our big thing. Then again, I don't think I've implemented that as effectively as I could have. I think the students in this class need a visual representation of their behavior. I don't have one for "Fun Friday." I'm just now realizing that probably is mistake. Basically, the students aren't working for "Fun Friday," They are just having a Fun Friday if I THINK they've been good. So, maybe if I did have a marble jar or something for them to work towards, it might help. I do have row points. ( I really wish they could be in cooperative learning groups, but they just couldn't handle it at the beginning of the year.) However, I've noticed that tends to bring out some nastiness. Certain students get jealous when they aren't rewarded. They'll say, "I was being good, so I should get it too! That's not fair!"

    I like the bucket filler idea, because with the tattle box the students can write kind things too. The kind paper is usually used more than the tattle sometimes, so I know as a class they want to be nice to each other. It's just a few students who create this chaotic and angry environment. The bucket filler idea, I think would give them incentive to be nicer to each other. It would definitely create a kinder environment.

    As I said, I have a basic idea of what I need to change, but it's just effectively changing it. I kinda feel like the parents are trying to get rid of me, and I understand. As a new teacher, I'm not nearly as effective as vet teacher. I have to work out all the kinks, and I hate that these kids have to kinda work through these kinks with me. Still, I'm trying. I know that's not enough sometimes, but it's all I can really say. I WANT to be good at this. I really love the job on the good days.
     
  10. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Nov 14, 2014

    For the post-it notes, right now I would take a post it note for any rule breaking, serious or not. I would redirect the child once and if it the behavior continues, take a post-it. The kids need the structure. They might fight it at first, and they may say some downright hurtful things, but ignore it. Stick to your guns.

    If my kids complain that something isn't fair, I remind them that I do not believe in fairness. I believe in everyone getting what they need to succeed (equity) and that that is different for each child.

    Don't let them argue with you. Just walk calmly over to their desk and take a post it note away. If they keep it up, take another one. Don't get mad or upset, just calmly take them away.

    Don't worry about being the 'mean' teacher. Children crave structure, they want it. They won't hate coming to school because you gave them structure, they'll remember you because you they learned a lot in a highly structured class. I wish I could claim the "mean teacher" title on my grade level, there's someone who's meaner than me, and I'm shooting to dethrone her ;).

    When it comes to knowing what is a serious issue and what isn't, teach your kids the difference between reporting and tattling (i.e. are you trying to keep someone safe or get someone in trouble; do you need an adult or is it a problem kids can solve; was someone at risk of being hurt or was it harmless; was it on purpose or accident).

    Out of curiosity, do you have access to school or district coaches and/or mentors who can come in and help you during class time to establish procedures and routines?
     
  11. ChelserG90

    ChelserG90 Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2014

    Okay, that definitely makes sense. I was just curious, because the issue I'm incapable of really handling right now is the screaming at each other in the middle of class over silly things. It completely ruins the lesson for the other children. It ruins the overall mood of the class. Then again, this is probably occuring, because my class lacks the structure the children need. So, it all comes back to establishing structure through the rules I have created for the classroom.

    I fully expect the children will fight it full force. I have tried explaining the difference between tattling and reporting. It was a very short lesson, though. I'll probably go back and retouch on it.

    I actually don't have access to a mentor or coach. I'm technically considered a long term sub. The principal has told me she is hiring me full-time, but who really knows. However, until I'm made "official" I won't have access to those types of things. I can't even participate in the beginning teachers academy my district has for new teachers. My 2nd grade team members, the other second grade teachers, have volunteered to be my "unofficial" mentors. However, they have their own issues to worry about, so I don't want to constantly burden them with my troubles. They help me lesson plan and they give me advice when they can. I'm so thankful to have them, but I think having an official mentor would be helpful when it comes to classroom management.
     
  12. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Nov 15, 2014

    I feel for you.

    Is it the same kids going at each other all the time? One of the best ideas I've ever seen was a peace table. If two kids are just relentless, the teacher sent them to the peace table to figure out their problems. There was a sign with directions like 1) take turns telling each other why you're upset 2) write suggestions about how to solve the problem (you could also have them draw pictures) 3) shake hands and be friends again. Something like that...I never really saw it in action, but it seemed like a great idea.

    I'd also repeat the other suggestions about starting all over and reintroducing procedures and rules. You may need to start dinging students for infractions that you'd otherwise let slide to indicate that you are serious, and you may need to give fewer chances before you take away points.


    You also get to a point when you know when a tattle is just bursting forth. Once I hear my name in the "tattle tone," I stop and say, "If a tattle is about to drop from your mouth, I need you to swallow it right now." Generally they do. There are a few students who can't help themselves and simply must say that someone is looking at them, or that a paper has inched from his desk to my desk or that kind of thing, but if they know you refuse to hear it, they'll hold it back.

    I once had a long term sub job that was really difficult too. It was near the end of the year and the kids were just over the idea of controlling themselves. One day it was particularly bad, and when I had them all on the floor for a read-aloud, I asked them why they were choosing to be so disrespectful. One girl (who was incredibly unpleasant to every student and teacher, even on a good day) piped up and said, "Because we hate you." Let's just say, I didn't handle it well. I didn't exactly lose my cool, but looking back, I would make other choices. My point is, I get it. There is a lot of trial and error in teaching, and nobody does it perfectly all the time.
     
  13. Jeky

    Jeky Comrade

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    Nov 15, 2014

  14. John Lee

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    Nov 16, 2014

    I think it is NATURAL to feel like "you don't know anything", or you feel like YOU are the problem (that's a positive sign, that you recognize and take responsibility)... sometimes you question yourself, etc.

    I think the thing about routines is BIG. I feel the same way as you.
     
  15. ChelserG90

    ChelserG90 Rookie

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    Nov 20, 2014

    It is the same children. Honestly, when those particular children aren't there, the classroom is free of arguments and it's so peaceful and quiet. I hate to say that, but it's true. I like the idea of a peace table, but my kids have been acting so disrespectful to me that I know they won't stay at the peace table. If they do, they'll just hit and kick each other. It's ridiculous.

    I have two girls that are always hot and cold with one another. One little girl has ADD, so I know it's normal for girls with ADD to struggle to build relationships. She acts impulsively, which isn't really her fault. I think I make too many excuses for her, though. The other little girl is very dramatic. I'm starting to think she likes the drama that is created, unfortunately. I swear sometimes they fight just to fight. I've noticed that they tend to be worse after recess. They constantly argue back and forth across the class, and it gets exhausting. They've both already been to the principal for pushing and shoving on the playground. They both are creating the issues between them. I have no idea what to do. I've asked the counselor, and she basically just told me "that's their personalities. You can't change who they are." I understand that, but there has to be some way to resolve this.

    One little boy is very loud, and I think his loudness makes other children react angrily. I mean his tone of voice is naturally very loud and angry. He always sounds angry, so when he talks to someone it sounds like he's yelling at them. The children react as anyone would. This little boy can be the sweetest kid, but he gets angry very quick. :/

    I love my class, but man are they an exhausting bunch of children. Honestly, a part of me wishes I could just start over again, and fix the mistakes i've already created.

    I know the issue is that I haven't been tough enough on them. They are the type of class that needs a very structured teacher. I guess it's just hard to be "that" type of person. I always wonder if I'm being too harsh, and maybe I shouldn't. I'm always tempted to give them another chance, and I shouldn't. So, I know what I need to fix, it's just fixing it that's the problem.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 20, 2014

    A kindergarten told me this story on herself: When Carol was a little girl, her voice was high-pitched, and when she got excited it got louder and more shrill. She got excited often. Her first-grade teacher finally took her aside and said, "Carol, I'm going to teach you a big word: it's 'modulate'. It's a secret symbol between you and me. When I tell you 'Modulate,' I'd like you to speak a little more softly and a little lower." The teacher demonstrated what she meant and they practiced a little. From then on, when Carol was getting loud and shrill, the teacher merely murmured "Carol, modulate" and Carol got it under control. Something like that might help with the loud boy.
     
  17. heatherberm

    heatherberm Cohort

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    Nov 20, 2014

    Great idea. This is definitely another thing that might need to be explicitly taught. I've had kids like you're describing and sometimes they just genuinely don't get how they sound to other people. Give him an example of what his tone of voice sounds like and give him an example of what the same sentiment in a different tone/volume sounds like and then practice it a lot.
     
  18. ChelserG90

    ChelserG90 Rookie

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    Nov 21, 2014

    That's actually a good idea! I do think I need to come up with some type of system with him. He's generally very cooperative. So, I think he'll be open to the idea.

    Has anyone tried a peace table or anything of that sort to get children to get along? These two girls are fighting so horribly that one parent is thinking about moving schools. I've done everything I can to get them to stop, but I don't know what else to do. :/ I guess I could take points when they argue with one another, but then I know parents will be angry with me. They'll just state the other child started it. Maybe, if I get my classroom management under control this will stop.
     
  19. TeacherBug08

    TeacherBug08 Companion

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    Nov 21, 2014

    The first year is TOUGH. Read the book Harry Wong he is the best for management. If students are not doing it right say please try again. Set high expectations for students and hold them accountable for their actions. If you have students off task or not doing their jobs/arguing etc. look up at the time say their name and the time- they owe you however much time it took for them to get it together. After so many consequences they will learn. It won't change over night though- if they have got off the hook with things sometimes it is going to take awhile because they will be testing you. The biggest thing is being consistent. Good luck. When I was a new teacher end of Oct. to Dec. was the hardest for me. You will get through. Get in the classroom and prove to everyone that you are meant to be in this profession.
     
  20. kk354

    kk354 Rookie

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    Nov 24, 2014

    I just started my first full time teaching position (did .5 half day K my first year) - also in second grade - and have felt many of the same frustrations. It is totally overwhelming and frustrating. Most of my colleagues have told me "the first year sucks" and it is really, really draining, but that it gets better in time. It's hard to believe that with everything raining down on teachers these days (evaluation system, new standards, etc.) but there are moments where I can see I am getting better. I don't have a mentor and do a lot on my own. Keep your head up, there are many in our shoes. :)
     
  21. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Nov 24, 2014

    I don't think I can give any advice that hasn't already been given, because it's all really good advice. I had to deal with some of this when I took over student teaching (I'm subbing currently, so I haven't taught my own class for a year yet). It was a mess. They'd tattle, there was TONS of drama, they shouted out answers and tattles, and several times we found mean notes around the room.
    You really do need to crack down. Don't worry about being the "mean" teacher -- when kids call a teacher mean, I'm realizing that most of the time they mean the teachers who don't ever show they care about their students, and finally coming down hard on bad behavior didn't make my class reclassify me as mean. Work on your "teacher voice." Firm, low, a bit loud, but not angry. Firm expression. And be CONSISTENT. Make a plan and stick to it. Even when it feels mean. Even when the kids get mad at you.

    I also have found that making kids write apology letters can make a difference. I did this with kids last year when they were rude to each other, and I actually just made a class I subbed do this last week (some of them thought it would be awesome to throw clay in the art room -- I made them ALL write apology notes to the art teacher).

    It really does come down to consistency. I'm sorry you're having such a rough first year, I hope it gets better! If it helps, my experience was that cracking down made a huge difference. I had to be a little "mean," at least in my own eyes, and I made a few kids cry, but at least they showed remorse and it got better.

    Your class will get better!
     

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