noisy high school students

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by ambritlit, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Sep 18, 2009

    The kids in my classes NEVER seem to stop talking! We never have complete silence. It seems that the best I can hope for is to have only ONE conversation going while I'm trying to teach, but it's usually two or three... Every once in a while, it seems as if they are getting settled a bit and then someone will start tapping a desk, rapping under his breath, etc. My students are just loud. My department head is a big proponent of Ruby Payne's Understanding Poverty and says they are loud because they come from poverty. This may be true - I think 90% of our students are economically disadvantaged - but I still need to be able to teach. And his students are not loud like this, but he teaches upper grade classes and has been teaching FOREVER. He taught the parents of most of his students. He doesn't seem to think it's a big deal that my students are so chatty.

    Our administration says to document everything before calling a parent or doing an office referral. The problem is that no particular person does anything that is really bad enough to catch my attention, at least nothing that makes me think I should make a note of it for later, in case I need to call a parent or do a referral to the office. I'm usually too busy trying to stay on track with the lesson.

    I am coming from private school background, so I really am in somewhat of a culture shock. Am I expecting too much? Do you think it's true that poor children are simply unable to contain themselves in a classroom setting? I think this sounds simplistic and patronizing. Do any of you teach in similar environments? Is it ever really silent?
     
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  3. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Sep 18, 2009

    I teach in a school with about 65% of the students on free or reduced lunch, with about 40% minority students. This is a major change from the wealthy suburban area I grew up in.

    And I was told over and over that these kids are very big on respect, and will "test" newer teachers to their limits. I was told that if they didn't learn to respect me, they'd simply do their own thing, and I'd lose all control and credibility. This made for a very difficult first year, and one of my class periods was borderline chaos.

    This year is better. Many students were surprised that I stayed on for another year, and since I have mostly freshman, they knew *about* me, but not any more than that. And so I worked harder on a firm discipline policy this year, and have had no problems in comparison to last year. We've been at school about a month, and I haven't written a single referral or detention slip. My students are quite when I expect them to be, and when I lecture/talk, they don't. If a conversation starts, it's an immediate loss of participation points... and that's worked well.

    It's been a heck of a learning experience for me, but I'm glad I'm doing this. To be frank, I don't see myself staying here forever... but it's a good experience for the time being.
     
  4. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    Sep 19, 2009

    I have taught at a school with a 90% poverty rate. There was always a class once in a while that was much harder to control than others. But there were certain techniques that worked well for me. What subject do you teach? What worked well for me (for teaching Spanish) was participation points. It seems like a lot of work, but it does work. I had a list of all the students' names and I would put down a tally mark every time they answered a question correctly. They would have to raise their hands. Then at the end of the week I would add up their tallies and they needed to fall into a certain range for a certain grade. I would give them lots of opportunities to answer. I would even ask the same question several times in a row. They could also earn points by working well with a partner, quietly as an individual ect. But my best line was, " I am not going to call on anyone until everyone is quiet." I also explained that especially for the students who did not do well on written tests this was a way to improve their grade. I also explained that if anybody thought I wasn't calling on them enough they could express their concern at the end of class but if they complained about it during class, I wouldn't call on them at all that period. It would really well for many years. I even got to the point where I could have students record the points for me as I was teaching. Now, I just give a weekly participation grade because I have much smaller classes and everyone tends to participate well anyway. But I loved that system when I used it.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 19, 2009

    I don't deal with kids in poverty; everyone in my school has somehow managed to come up with $8,000 a year in tuition.

    But I think it's incredibly disrespectful and dismissive of anyone to assume that, because they don't come from money, they're incapable of behaving correctly. That it's out of their hands, and that it's something they will never be able to change. Instead of excusing the kids, that line of thought makes them incapable of being educated...how incredibly insulting to them!!!
     
  6. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Sep 19, 2009

    Poverty has nothing to do with it. My students all pay $6500 per year to attend school and my 8th and 9th grade class is just the chattiest group that I have had in a long time. The grades in that class show it. My other class (same subject and level)has a class average of low A to high B. The talkative class has an average of low B to high C.
     
  7. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Sep 19, 2009

    I don't think poverty means the kids can't behave, and if my post came off that way, then I apologize... that was not my intent. I simply meant that the cultural differences often require different methods for getting those kids to behave. My kids are quiet and work well together now...
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 19, 2009

    Oh, no I'm sorry, I wasn't clear.

    I got the impression that that was the opinion of the OP's department chair, not your's. If anything, your post showed that it's up to the teacher to get the respect, and that it can be done.
     
  9. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Sep 19, 2009

    Thanks for all of your replies. I have started doing something like a participation grade, although I can't call it that - maybe it will help.

    Alice - I agree with you. That's my problem with the whole Ruby Payne thing. It seems to offer an excuse for misbehavior, like poor kids are unable to behave properly. I find it condescending at best, possibly racist in some contexts. But, coming from a private school background, I really wondered if maybe I was just that naive. That's why I asked. My kids are pretty rough - all tattooed, etc. I do understand that some of their home lives may not be ideal, but I don't believe any of that prevents them from conforming to the classroom rules and procedures. I owe it to them to create the best classroom environment I can, not just throw up my hands and say oh, well, they're poor and don't know any better.

    I definitely think Ron is right as well - they are testing me and trying to decide if they are going to respect me or not. I've been kind but firm and have dealt with several kids who came in and just straight up challenged me. Yesterday I told a student to get started on his work, and he replied, "I'm not doing this. I'm a crip." (probably true). He actually thought this would intimidate me! I just smiled and said, "Telling me about your gang activities is not going to excuse you from extra homework if you don't get busy."

    Dealing with individual kids is one of my strengths, but I get frazzled with several distractions at once in a class.
     
  10. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Sep 19, 2009

    I think my original statement about the dept head was unclear. I don't think that he believes they are incapable of behaving - his students behave. He just makes the observation that what I did at private school isn't necessarily going to work here. My problem is that I have to figure out what will work for me. As I stated, he has been teaching at this school for so long that classroom management is second nature to him. I'm only in my third year of teaching, and I feel brand new because of the change from private to public school.
     
  11. ferrisbueller

    ferrisbueller Rookie

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    Sep 19, 2009

    Lets talk strategies....

    In the UK we have similar issues with general chattiness and off-task behaviour. At my school this happens with many students from a wide and diverse set of backgrounds. Whether they come from a deprived background has NOTHING to do with their behaviour - it is to do with peer pressure. What I'm saying is that children are pack animals - they will do what others are doing, particularly those that have authority and dominance.

    As a teacher you can gain respect through meaning what you say. Use all the school behaviour and discipline policies and follow them to the letter.

    Things like writing names of those not following your instruction on the board - give them 3 chances and then get them removed.

    The rest of the 'pack' will eventually get the picture that YOU are in charge - not them.

    Good luck :D
     
  12. spock

    spock Rookie

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    Sep 19, 2009

    I have been in the forever position. I taught for 31 years in the same school same subject same room. Now I am teaching in an alternative school. Same ol problems. Try this--
    Class starts; bell rings whatever, wait for silence-dosn't happen,
    Write: "test" on board. wait
    still no silence.
    write #1. What is---------? go back and wait
    still no silence?
    Write #2._________ wait-------
    Key: say nothing, just wait.
    Repeat as necessary:
    Eventually you will have silence and THEIR attention. Then you decide what to do------finish the test, use the silence to point out they could have had a surprise test, etc.
    This has worked well for me-
    good luck
     
  13. lnarl

    lnarl New Member

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    Sep 19, 2009

    same thing in college

    If it is any consolation, I teach in a university (in Australia) and we have the same problem (and other problems with rude behavior). You would think that by the age of 18 students would be acting like adults, but this is not the case for a lot of them.
     
  14. miss tree

    miss tree Rookie

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    Sep 20, 2009

    I have the same problem with my classes (in a disadvantaged school). I've tried a few things, but the only one that seems to work consistantly is taking their break time for time wasted in class.

    I usually stand at the front of the room waiting for silence - write 1 minute on the board, then a 2 etc, and it quickly gets their attention.

    Keeping it is of course another battle....
     
  15. JunichiSato

    JunichiSato New Member

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    Oct 14, 2009


    Poverty does not really play a great factor regarding the behavior of the high school noisy students. So far, as a secondary education student, observing several classes in the high school department made me realize that the noisiness of the students does not depend on their economic status. Students in every class is heterogeneously combined regarding their economic status having poor and rich students. Maybe you just lacked some teaching strategies. You should try to enhance your style in a way that your student will give the attention you wanted. You can consult veterans or professionals about that problem you encountered.

    Hope I have boosted your teaching passion Ambritlit.


    Junichi D. Sato
    Rizal, Philippines
     
  16. Anne wmcosuvamu

    Anne wmcosuvamu Companion

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    Oct 15, 2009

    Way to think fast on your feet. :) I think letting them know you aren't intimidated by their antics is important in gaining their respect.

    Is there any way you could sit in on one of your dept. head's classes and see him in action?
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 15, 2009

    I think that was pretty much the point behind the thread.

    Ambritlit, sometimes little things make a huge difference-- like greeting the kids by name as they enter (Hey John, Hi Kelly...)

    Have work ready before they get there-- something on the board or the screen, ready to go when the bell rings. And work on minimizing transitions-- the fewer times they have to put one thing away and take out something else, the better.

    Also, do NOT talk over them. Wait patiently, or not so patiently. Add to the homework without saying a word... just erase the old numbers and add new ones. Or tell them to take out a piece of paper for a quiz. But do NOT get into a battle for their attention; you're sure to lose.

    Has it gotten any better since you began this thread???
     
  18. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Oct 15, 2009

    I'm having a chatty class this term. Actually, two chatty classes. I don't talk over them, but man it takes them a while to quiet down. I normally don't give homework (I'm an elective and we don't have enough textbooks for the students to take home, and in general my department just doesn't do a whole lot of homework). But I am now considering getting some articles, and random things together than can serve as homework so I can give it if needed. Granted I have many students that don't care too much about their grade and won't do the work, but I have enough that do care that hopefully they would peer pressure the other ones into being quiet when asked. In thinking of my two classes I think it should really help in one, and possibly help in the other. Can't hurt to try it anyway.
     
  19. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Oct 17, 2009

    It's a cardinal rule never to talk over them. If you do, you're basically giving them permission to talk over you whenever they want.

    I say, "I am waiting for your attention." Then I stand there channeling confidence, kindness, and calmness. Make eye contact with the better behaved kids. They'll quiet the others soon enough. Ignore, wink at, or make witty remarks to the kids who try to break the silence once you get it. Then move on quickly before it becomes a "conversation" between you and them.

    Poverty or not, most people aren't jerks, and they won't shout over someone nicely asking them to do something reasonable. You just have to stop things from escalating.
     
  20. leisurej

    leisurej Rookie

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    Oct 18, 2009

    I totally agree. If there's anything I've learn it's to stick to my guns, there's no room to wiggle.

    I was like you, Taught 3 years in Catholic school and then moved to a public school of 40% on TOTAL FREE LUNCHES. I taught there for 10 years and now I'm in public school but with a huge difference in the kids and families.

    The kids will give their respect to those that stick to their statements. If you say one thing but do another, you are not going to be very high on their list. You will also be surprised when you are honored with their visits after graduation.

    I had to also look at myself, I tend to cause some of the chatter in my classes. I like to chit chat with the students, and so at times, I cause my own problems. I've learned to curb my own chit chat with the students until the last 5 minutes of class. Then we talk about what they are involved in: sports, jobs, families, etc.

    I also agree with what someone else above said, That the first year is always the hardest. The second is always easier. You want be so stressed with the workings of the school and with the new lesson material. SO you'll be able to give move to the students, and you will have won their respect.

    GOOD LUCK!
     
  21. djcalulod

    djcalulod New Member

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    Oct 19, 2009

    Hello! I'm an incoming practicum teacher and I was able to substitute last month in the "noisiest" class in the high school department.

    Before I started the day, the teacher informed me that that section is the "noisiest and notorious" class he has handled. I was literally shocked with the warning, but to my surprise, he was actually wrong, I mean, when I first entered the room all the students were in their best manner and were waiting for me to speak. I do not know if it is because I am just a substitute teacher, but they did act well in my class. Although there were times that they would be talking to each other, but I don't find them notorious at all. I just wished that the teacher was able to see that different side of his students.

    Dina Jedidah Alulod
    Manila, Philippines
     

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