new user - terrible situation! any help?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by troubledteacher, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. troubledteacher

    troubledteacher Rookie

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    Nov 7, 2011

    I'm nervous to post to this teacher forum, even though it's anonymous. I teach 8th grade math on the east coast and things in one of my classes are going so badly! Three other classes are going pretty well. Students are routinely out of their seats, running around the classroom, etc. to the point where we CAN'T learn. All year I've had a system of 5 warnings with various consequences before students get a referral, but it now has little effect. My asst. principal has told me that I need to get the kids to know I mean business by giving a referral to the FIRST kid who messes up- not sitting in their seat or walking across the room to talk to their friend. Many students are frustrated that we're not learning content, but these same students also openly choose to disobey our classroom rules. Today many students started screaming at me because they think I'm such a bad teacher since I can't control the class. It's clear to me that the students want to learn, but they respond just as aggressively when I take strong action like writing a referral for a student. I just feel like I can't win because I've been manipulated by my students so badly. I hate that I've gotten to a point where the only recourse is to write referrals. As soon as a kid starts misbehaving all these terrible things start running through my mind, like the fact that they could get expelled if they get another referral. Is there any hope for me to change things? I really want to build strong relationships with these kids and value their opinions, but I've let them get away with so much that I feel I can't do that anymore. I'm also not sure how to start class tomorrow after the tense atmosphere we had today with students telling me they hope I get fired.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Nov 7, 2011

    If your administration has told you to write referrals, then that's what you do. After you write one, two, five, ten, fifty..., your students will start to understand that you mean business. It might take a while to get to that point, and it might be a painful process, but it's what needs to be done. Establishing a nice classroom climate of mutual respect is definitely a good idea and a good goal, but it's a little too inaccessible right now. Right now, focus on stopping the bleeding, and do that by writing referrals on the "first" offense. I put "first" in quotation marks because really I'd bet that your students have been committing these offenses all along. It'll just be their first offense of the day that gets them referred.

    For future reference, five warnings is too many. Students don't need five warnings before they know how to do the right thing.
     
  4. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Nov 7, 2011

    Are you teaching procedures so that everybody knows exactly what you expect? Sometimes the bad behaviors are the result of unclear expectations. When the students don't know what's permitted, they'll push and push and push until the find the thing that puts you over the edge. Then what tends to happen is that it's not the same thing that pushes you over the edge every time, so they're constantly guessing what the breaking point will be at any given time.

    Don't assume that they know what you want either. You have to tell them. Even if it seems obvious, teach it.
     
  5. troubledteacher

    troubledteacher Rookie

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    Thank you Caesar.
    You're right that 5 warnings is to many. I am (obviously) a first year teacher and wasn't ready at the beginning of the year for how much the students would push boundaries.
     
  6. troubledteacher

    troubledteacher Rookie

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    Yes, I also identified this as a source of student misbehavior awhile ago. Students would get in trouble for being out of their seat to borrow a pencil, for example, and I realized I never taught them my procedure for asking for a pencil, even though I assumed they knew. My room now has several posters, that I've gone over several times, reminding students of our procedures for different parts of class.
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 8, 2011

    I've never understood the "5 warnings before you're in trouble" philisophy. To me, it means you get 4 free passes.

    Here's what I suggest:

    Go in today and talk to them. Tell them that you need a fresh start. That you realize that the system you have in place is not working, and that they're not learning what they need to know. And that the year is slipping away, and it's time for a change.

    I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't concentrate on procedures. They're in 8th grade; they KNOW they need a pen or pencil, and a notebook, for class. Don't teach them how to ask for a pencil; expect them to bring one with them. (Honestly, that's NOT the way my class works; they can borrow. But in my class it's not an issue; it happens in no time with no disruption. Until that can happen in your class, tell them they need to be prepared on their own.) Keep in mind, they're in school all day long. How is it that they get to YOUR class and suddenly don't have a writing utensil?? Did they have one last period???

    Here's my procedure: be on time. Be in your seat so we can start when the bell rings. Have your notebook and a pen or pencil out. There will be a Do NOw on the board; get started on it as I take attendance and check homework. Then we go over the Do Now, then the homework. Then I teach until the bell rings.

    As of today, that's what will happen. Anyone who chooses not to participate in their education will receive a referral.

    For today, they get a bye on the homework, since they didn't see this coming.

    Have a bunch of referrals pre-written ("failure to comply with class rules") needing only a name. If you have a group of kids clamoring to learn, I suspect it won't take long until the troublemakers get the point.

    Also, consider pulling some of the good kids aside outside of class. Let them know you're actively trying to improve things, and ask for their help. Peer pressure is a powerful tool; get those good kids into the majority and the whole tone of your class changes.

    I don't have a whole lot of rules or procedures in my class, it's all pretty basic. Sit there, do your work, and let others do their work.

    As to them getting expelled for one more referral: If that's the case, then the issue is NOT this one referral. It's a pattern of behavior that's disrupting the learning of other kids all day long.

    USE the system.

    Good luck!
     
  8. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Nov 8, 2011

    I can answer that one for you, Alice.

    As you are packing up the student next to you picks up the pencil off of your desk and takes it. You look at the desk and assume you packed it up. Your pencil rolls off of the desk and you don't hear or see it happen with the packing up frenzie and noise. You assume you have it, but find out later you don't. You have it in your binder, but not secure and it drops out as you are walking to class. You go to your locker and set it in the locker and forget to pick it back up on your way to the next class.

    Some kids notoriously lose things - even important things of their own.

    Unless a student is anal about putting utensils in a pencil pouch, there are many ways to lose the pencil.

    I'm not saying they shouldn't be prepared for class, but there are many ways to start with a pencil and end up without one later.
     
  9. brians1024

    brians1024 Rookie

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    Nov 8, 2011

    It is not easy, but the best way to get it in your mind is, "This is my job, it's my room, I deserve the respect of my room and take it."

    Another way to think about it, "Don't expect the students to be your friend, they either obey the rules that you set forth or you get them out (refferals) so you can teach those that are there to learn." It's your job, you can be the best teacher in the world and know your subject inside and out, but if the class is disruptive, they will get someone else that can take care of it.

    Fight for your job and keep them in line, don't worry about their feelings, they apparently aren't worried about yours.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 8, 2011

    Oh,absolutely, and it's a non-issue in my class. If you don't have a pen or pencil I guess you borrow one. To tell you the truth, it happens without me even noticing it; I'm the only one I ever see misplacing a pen or pencil. (Of course, since I'm in a bazillion rooms, I have a pencil case full of pens, pencils and highlighters.)

    But it seems that the kids in this class are going out of their way to give the OP a hard time. I mean, it happens often enough that she needs a procedure for what to do if you have nothing to write with???

    So my suggestions for her are NOT what happens in my class. (At this point in my career, after 25 years, if I were still having these problems, then teaching would probably not be the best job for me.)
    Rather, my suggestions were what I thought would help her get control of this particular group of kids. And, in my opinon, practicing what to do when you're unprepared with a group of 13 year olds might just encourage them to continue to come to class unprepared.
     
  11. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

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    Nov 8, 2011

    I would like to respectfully ask if classroom management is easier in a private school than a public one? I imagine that trouble-makers can be expelled, parents are more involved, and that special needs students with severe behavior problems can be denied admission. Also, the higher income levels are known to lead to better school success.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 9, 2011

    Probably.

    And perhaps classroom management is also easier after 25 years?

    Feel free to ignore any or all of what I suggest if you feel it doesn't apply to public school kids.

    And alternate suggestions are always welcome.

    .
     
  13. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 9, 2011

    I've taught in both public and private. Bottom line, teachers MUST HAVE excellent classroom management skills. private schools don't easily expell kids...tuition $$$ keep the school going...and believe it or not, sometimes schools kowtow to those involved parents with the $$$...:eek: Behavior problems are not exclusive to private schools... I can tell you that some classrooms, regardless of setting, SEEM to have behavior issues while others not so much...much of that can be attributed to the management skills of the classroom teacher. Discounting another professional educator's experience and insight based on where he or she teaches is not productive...we have much to learn from each other and the things we have in common are greater than what makes us differerent.

    poor classroom management is the downfall of many a new teacher:(. Some management skills can be learned, others seem to be just 'natural' at it....time and experience can help, but there are seasoned teachers who still struggle with mgt issues. Good teaching, professionalism and excellent management skills are the hallmarks of great educators...regardless of where they teach. Your experience and insights, Alice, are applicable to both public and private schools.:hugs:
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Nov 12, 2011

    I think you care too much about what your students think. You're not there to be their friend - you have a job to do. And they have a job to do. None of you are doing your jobs, since learning is not going on.

    I'm not big on "we're going to start over" lectures. The kids know the rules - they aren't following them. Unless you are goign to change the rules (no more multiple warnings), I would just start laying down the law. If they do know they normally get five warnings, I'd comment on that. After the first kid does something I'd say "ok, Johnny, I'm lettign you slide today since you've have many warnings in the past. But CLASS, hear me clearly, warnings are gone as of this point. You know how to behave and I expect you to do so." Then, like soemone else said, have referrals already written for when they do act out.
     
  15. troubledteacher

    troubledteacher Rookie

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    Dec 8, 2011

    Back again...Things are so tough, I have trouble coming to work each day. I've written plenty of referrals, but these have not given me any more authority with the kids. In fact, the students who have been written up usually come back the next day even wilder and more defiant than they were before. Today one of them ripped our clock off the wall and broke it. A few of the kids who are the "ringleaders" openly insult me in front of the class - telling me I need a breath mint, telling me not to get so close to them when I talk because they don't want to catch any of my pimples, telling me "Hold ON Miss, this conversation is important." when I ask for their attention during instruction. I have tried ignoring these comments and simply repeating my instructions to the students and I've tried using "I messages" to tell students that I feel disrespected by their comments, but they just tell me they feel disrespected when I interrupt their conversations with their friends. I would like to tell them that they CANNOT speak to me in that way, but feel that I have no recourse to back this up since consequences don't have any effect on these students. Most students ignore my instructions - telling them to move seats, stay on-task, open their book, etc. A few other teachers have been in my room and told me the students don't seem to respect me like they should. Is there any way to get the students back? Do I need to throw in the towel? I hate the idea of letting these kids run me out because I really do enjoy them and want to be a successful teacher, but I feel that I simply don't have the right personality or something to make them respect me. I can't identify what it would take for me to earn the respect of these kids and get them to really follow my instructions.

    I know that you guys told me to write a referral at the FIRST sign of disrespect, or not following the rules, but these referrals just aren't changing anything for me. I've also lost the support that I used to have from admin. They have so many kids in the office these days and are so overwhelmed with discipline problems, they don't have time to deal with my students who are refusing to follow directions. The kids usually end up sitting in the office for half the day, during lunch I see them getting to hang out with their other friends who are also in the office. Of the many teachers I've talked to in my school they've all agreed that writing all these referrals is a bad idea. They have little other advice to give me though.
     
  16. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

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    Dec 8, 2011

     
  17. matherine

    matherine Rookie

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    Dec 8, 2011

    I think there are really subtle things like body language that tell the kids whether you're confident or not. I'm sure veteran teachers can speak more to this, but I've found that simply putting my shoulders back and making a point to stand up tall some days seems to make a difference with my kids. I think I tend to slouch by nature. :/ I also went through the painful experience of my mentor videotaping me yesterday so that she could help me look at my body language and voice inflection and understand the messages I'm sending my students. We haven't looked at the video yet, but are going to next week and I imagine it will be helpful.
     
  18. love2learn07

    love2learn07 Rookie

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    Dec 8, 2011

    Hi,

    I know it must be really frustrating. I teach high school and even though it's a lot better this year it was soooooooooo frustrating when I first started teaching a ninth grade class in the middle of the year a few years ago.

    Something I've been trying this year is an equal emphasis on rewards for positive behaviors and consequences for negative behaviors. I have a two column poster listed w/ rewards and consequences. Sometimes it can get overwhelming, but they need to know that their behavior is unacceptable. I've also been doing a "check in" every so often to get them to reflect on their behavior. For example, we play a points game where classes compete against each other for a special celebration each marking period. I asked them today to think about whether or not they had been helping their class lose or gain points. I had some pretty interesting responses, and one student in particular was honest enough to acknowledge that she talks too much and also point out the positive behavior of another student.

    I teach sophomores this year, but still find that the bigger kids thrive on incentives for good behavior. I'm not saying they should not intrinsically just want to behave, but sometimes even small rewards ( a piece of candy, stickers, bonus participation points) can help. Also, what type of responses have you received from parents? Unfortunately, we don't get a lot of parent participation at our school, but I've found that when I am able to get even one or two parents of students exhibiting disruptive behavior to talk with the student, give consequences at home. etc. it really helps their behavior in class and can set a tone for others in the class.

    Hang in there! If you really enjoy teaching don't let the kids run you out. I had kids who were absolutely certain that I would leave within a month because they had pushed their first teacher out. They can and will respect you. Everyone's teaching style and approach to discipline is different. It sounds like you really care about your students. Be patient with yourself and know that it will get better soon!
     
  19. troubledteacher

    troubledteacher Rookie

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    Dec 9, 2011

    Thanks! I realized today that my biggest problem is that I've given in to way too many of the kid's requests in order to calm them down temporarily while setting myself up for chaos later on. For example, two girls who are usually a huge distraction and are always walking around the room asked if they could start listening to music in the classroom and so I let them do this, but now they have their music out everyday which distracts them more than it focuses them and the rest of the class has gotten the message that it's ok to have their ipods and cell phones out. I guess when I allowed students to do this I assumed I'd be able to ask them to put it away if they became off-task and the students would see the logic of this and easily comply. Of course 8th graders will get away with as much as they can so every time I tell a student that they need to put their music away or change seats because they're off-task they get very defensive and tell me they ARE working. Even if they're copying answers off their partner they still think they "got their work done" for the day. I think the trap I get caught in the most with my students is when I tell them "you can do ____ if you are working". Since all students feel like they're "working" even if they're talking to their friends about partying this makes it too easy for students to argue with me about getting to go to the bathroom or leaving for lunch on time.

    I guess I'm realizing that the times I thought I was being "understanding" by letting students work in the hallway or with that other person who helps them focus or with headphones in I was really letting them take advantage of me. I understand more of what the previous poster said about caring too much what the kids think of me. I suppose this post was a little long and unfocused, just wanted to verbalize my thoughts after today! Any helpful thoughts are appreciated. I hope I haven't come across as a spineless loser, just wasn't ready to deal with manipulative 13 year olds!
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 9, 2011

    Absolutey not. You sound like a new teacher who has made the same mistakes as countless other new teachers. You're not a spineless loser (wow, that's quite an insult, by the way1!!!) you're a new teacher trying to find the right persona. And it can be very tough finding the balance between the teacher you want to be and the teacher you know they need.

    Thirteen year olds need structure. Take this from the mom of one. As much as they think they're incredibly adult, they're little kids in bodies where the hormones are 100% in control. They really do need an adult to set limits for them.

    So talk to people at school. Find out what rules the other 8th grade teachers have, and tell your class that, effective Monday, you'll be enforcing the same rules as all their other teachers.

    Then do it.
     

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