Out of my mind

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by pflis, Jan 8, 2007.

  1. pflis

    pflis New Member

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    Jan 8, 2007

    This is yet another forum post by an overwhelmed, disgruntled first-year teacher. This next long paragraph will be a lot of venting, so if you want to know my question, please feel free to skip to the second paragraph. These past few months have been unbelievably difficult. I teach 7th and 8th grade language arts and 8th grade social studies. The students are HORRIBLE. It's at the point where I literally cannot teach. The students don't listen, arrange the desks into whatever seating they like, are unbelievably disrespectful, walk out of class as they please, and the noise level is astounding. Fights break out frequently. Moreover, in each class there's at least one student who is completely unmanagable, so even when there is a reasonable amount of disorder, this one student might decide to, say, pull out the ethernet cable from the computer and start jumping rope in the middle of class, or slam textbooks on desks and screech, or throw marbles at my head, as happened today. I have been asking everyone on my team for advice on management to little avail. One teacher, also a first year, has a similar experience: the students won't listen and she can't teach. Her solution is to give them seatwork and give instruction to smaller groups that she can manage more easily. The other teacher has left on mental health leave after she was injured by a student, and the string of subs we've had have walked out after a short time (today, for example, the same student who threw marbles at my head put a metal broom handle through one of her windows). The administration has been taking the attitude of "What's wrong with you?" and has been coming down on the teachers like a ton of bricks, due in no small part by the fact that they need to find new jobs next year because our school is closing due to low test scores. They are less than consistent in suspending students or handling students sent to the office. One student, for example, vomits at will, and we are expected to keep him in class. They threatened to fire me when I mentioned that I had students who refused to take the tests I gave them, but I had at least gotten to the point where the students would write their name on it and "I refuse to take this test" rather then simply crumpling it up and telling me that they "ain't taking no f-- test." I was given a unsatisfactory observation because the vice-principal came in to observe a class that had been shortened two days in a row unexpectedly (they're not very good about telling us we have assemblies or faculty meetings) and was therefore only a quarter of my original planned lesson. Also, frankly, my lessons aren't very good because my students can't handle teacher-led or cooperative instruction. For example, I tried bingo and board races as a more interesting way to study, but the student who won the M&M's at bingo just threw them at other students, and during board races two students beat each other bloody. Other activities have had similar endings, and now most students simply won't participate in anything other than copying notes off the board and doing individual seatwork, and I honestly don't have the energy or hope of improvement to keep planning and making elaborate lessons that have time and time again blown up in my face. Our teaching coach has been very successful with the students, as has one of the long-term subs, but both of their strategies involve being far crueler than I can legitimately (or legally) see myself being ("You can play smart with me all you like, but I know who here is repeating this grade and who went to summer school." "Don't you show me that disrespect, Miss Asallah ma-fake-um") The principal literally throws students on the floor and verbally bullies them. The vice principal suspends students for the slightest infractions against her and frequently allows herself to do things we teachers are expressly forbidden from doing. These are my only models of order.

    So, in short, I have lost these students. I don't know how to do the impossible feat of changing my management so that I can accomplish something, especially since so few things have thus far been successful. Nor can I live like this anymore. It's too hard on my self-esteem to try desperately to teach such unmanagable kids and yet be disciplined for my lack of control. I want to leave the school, but I don't know how this is going to affect my career. It must be a dreadful mark on my record to not complete my first year. I know that teaching is not like this everywhere, and that sticking it out until my second year will open up more options for me, but I don't see how I can hobble on until February, let alone June. What are my prospects if I leave this job mid-year, especially since this is my first year and I have no other experience?
     
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  3. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Jan 9, 2007

    Pflis, my heart goes out to you. I opted not to teach at the Jr. High level because I knew I didn't have the personality to handle that age level of kids. There are some amazing middle school teachers on here that should have more advice. I know with any child consistency is the main thing. When you say something make sure you can follow through and do so. My master teacher always told me, and I truly believe, that kids are like dogs, they can smell fear. You have some catch-up to do with them, but I think it is possible.
    As for leaving in the middle of the year, are you in the middle of your new teacher assessment? Each state is different, but that could cause problems. If at all possible I would try and hold out to the end of the year.
    Remember, it's your room. Go in, be fair, but be firm. All of that said, I left my first teacher assignment after 1 week. I was hired to replace a teacher who was leaving mid-year, with no job. I never questioned it. I went into a school where the administration had no control. I was teaching 7th and 8th grade, but had some kids that were 17 and 18. I had items stolen off my desk, I had students who walked out of the room, and when I wrote them up, the principal walked into the room and threw the forms away in front of the kids telling me it was my job to handle those problems. That did away with any control that I had. The kids quickly realized where I was living and a large group would stand on the sidewalk outside the house. They never did anything so nothing could be done to them, but honestly, they won. I was throwing up blood and terrified. I went in and told the principal to do whatever she had to do to make that day (Friday) my last day because I would not be back. I loaded up my stuff at the end of the day and never looked back. (I found out later that the sub that was hired after me was chased out of the room with them throwing things at him.) It was in a different parish and didn't hurt my getting the job here. I subbed for the rest of that year, which was great experience, and then was hired at the school I'm at now. I tell you that story so that you can see that sometimes, there are reasons to leave. Before you do, though, I urge you to speak to someone in the field that you trust (a "seasoned" teacher at the school, a professor from the college you attended, etc) Even though I know that the situation was uncontrollable, I still feel like a quitter for leaving and had a lot of self doubt as a teacher. Good luck!!!
     
  4. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    Jan 9, 2007

    Geez! I can't even imagine going through your days like that. I don't have the experience to offer any good solid advice, other than what Christy told you. Can you find someone to help you? Are there any teachers who can give you the support you need? I'd probably be calling the police! This is a type of abuse, isn't it? Can you involve the law?
     
  5. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jan 9, 2007

    Both of those are horrendous stories. I wouldn't last a week in such situations. Those admins and students don't deserve good teachers.
     
  6. dolphinswim

    dolphinswim Companion

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    Jan 9, 2007

    It saddens me to know that there are schools out there where children are not learning. What you are going through is not safe nor is it an environment conducive to learning! I wish I had advice for you, I can only offer to keep you in my prayers!
     
  7. TeacherC

    TeacherC Connoisseur

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    Jan 9, 2007

    And I thought I had a bad day! I have no good advice, except I would talk to an experienced teacher and find out how much leaving could really hurt you. Usually, if you were not fired and you have a legitamate reason for leaving, it's not a big deal. Good luck, I will keep you in my prayers
     
  8. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Feb 19, 2007

    Leave and go sub in another district. It is not worth it. Terry G.
     
  9. 2ndTimeArnd

    2ndTimeArnd Companion

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    Feb 19, 2007

    Pflis, you first wrote this post in early Jan. and said you couldn't imagine staying until Feb., much less June. It's now 6 weeks later - have you made it so far? Your situation sounds just awful and we all sympathize - and it sounds to me as if the principal and vice-pr. have just written off the school and kids since it's going to close anyway. How sad for the students, who never deserve such a fate. I think as awful as it is, my view is that if you can stick it out, you're in better shape for finding a job next year - you can point to your commitment, dedication, ability to make the best of a bad situation, all that. Then again, if another 4 months in this black hole saps any enthusiasm you have for teaching, then teresaglass is right - it isn't worth it. I teach 2nd graders and they aren't nearly as naughty and defiant - but I have 5 or 6 who definitely don't see school as a place to learn and spend much of their day disrupting others. I have invested so much time and energy in trying to get them interested, but I am finally at the point in the year where I realize I have to focus my extra efforts on the kids who DO want to learn. Certainly, I will give all kids my attention and do what I can, but I think there comes a time when you have to sort your priorities. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm giving up on the disrupters - because I'm not. I'm just saying that it's time I devoted extra effort to the ones who ARE glad and feel privileged to be there - and I have about 15 of 'em. Good luck, pflis.
     
  10. creativemonster

    creativemonster Cohort

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    Feb 19, 2007

    Have you talked to the kids about what they think of the situation? And maybe what they see as possible solutions? If they offer nothing in discussion perhaps they'd be willing to write their ideas on index cards without their names.
    Please let us know how you are doing.
     
  11. KinderKatie

    KinderKatie Companion

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    Feb 19, 2007

    I would say that you should stick it out, the school year is almost over. It is terrible and you certainly do not deserve that stress but I worry about you finding another job next year. Especially since you are a first year and can't just retire. Know what I mean?

    If I were you, I would have a sit down talk with the kids. Tell them that you understand many of them have given up and while you don't agree with it, you want to make it fair to the other students who haven't given up. Tell them that if they can't or won't complete something- to please just write their name and "Refuse to try" on it. This covers your butt, at least.

    Then I would do what the other teacher does- seat work and small groups. Give the students seat work to complete while you meet with a different small group each day. Of course the groups should be teacher led since they can't handle anything other than that.

    Tell the others who are doing seat work that they can talk, but not loudly. If they need to talk loudly, then they should leave and you will mark them absent.

    Maybe you could play classical or some other kind of soothing music in the background. It could help, maybe.

    Now you know your students better than I can assess from what you wrote- so you know if what I just suggested will work for them or not. If you think it might be worth a try- then try it out and remember to give it a couple weeks for them to accept the new routine change.

    If you know that it will never work- then just quit. Nothing is worse the kind of stress that they are putting on you. I am sure you will find a teaching job, eventually. But you have to expect that you may not be a lot of districts first choice since you left your first job mid-year. Unless the school's/district's reputation preceeds them and they will understand why you would have left. I hope that is the case.

    Good luck. Sorry you have to deal with this.
     
  12. katerina03

    katerina03 Devotee

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    Feb 25, 2007

    pflis, please let us know how you are holding up.:(
     
  13. tcher

    tcher Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2007

    I taught in a middle school in Philadelphia for 6 years so I KNOW what you are going through. After 6 long years of stress, migraines and many illnesses I resigned and began to sub in a suburban area. Over that time I met many principals, teachers and Board members. I finally got a long term position and I am SO happy that I got out and subbed. I did take a MAJOR pay cut but it was worth my sanity and the position I am in now. I TOTALLY understand what you are feeling.

    There is not much you can do because as you said the administration is not supportive. That was my situation as well. I recommend doing what I did. Get out and just sub. I hated the pay cuts and the last minute phone calls, but it was totally worth it. I actually go to work and do not dread it. It is an amazing experience. One day you will appreciate your time teaching in Philly (I know I do) because when you get a job in a good district you will really appreciate it.
     
  14. KinderKatie

    KinderKatie Companion

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    Feb 27, 2007

    Oh my, I just realized you teach in Philly. I live in Delaware so I hear on the news all the time about the students in Philly. I just heard about the 2 kids who broke the teacher's neck for confiscating their iPod. Yikes.

    How are you holding up?
     
  15. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    Feb 28, 2007

    I just walked off a job in NYC from an environment that was not as bad as you describe, but bad enough. I received two death threats from 8th graders and was assaulted once. In my last few days there, a student threw a chair at another student. A teacher also got into a shoving match with a student. I found myself in verbal altercations with students. I got into a lot of trouble with the principal.

    The problem with teaching in a bad school is that after a while, you don't care anymore. That's when it gets dangerous for you. Leave before you make a mistake that could cost you your license. I left because I didn't like who I was turning into (and neither did my wife).

    Inner city schools as a rule are violent and dangerous - if you can't deal, then leave. Deal with the fallout later.

    I'm not sure if I'll ever teach again. I want to, but I may have permanently damaged my career (this was my 2nd year overall, 1st and last in NYC). If you're going to leave, you should have a good story to tell in your next interview. Try to stay positive.
     
  16. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Feb 28, 2007

    ISthisRob

    I think we worked at the same school. I had a similar horrible experience and left- very jaded. In fact, after almost being seriously hurt... I left.
     
  17. Rene'

    Rene' New Member

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    Feb 28, 2007

    WOW

    Just think you could be doing something sensible like bunji cord testing or lion taming!

    Do you have a union or association representative who could come observe and offer advice about your contractual obligations under such conditons?

    My advice? Quit. (you were looking for a job when you found this one). Don't list that school as a reference if you think it would be less than beneficial.

    I once left a school, after my contract was signed, because of unprofessional behavior toward me on the part of an administrator. I sent a letter to the school board stating why I wanted to leave. I included a copy of a letter given to me by the offending administrator. The board was more than supportive. They let me out of my contract with no penalties.

    Are you able to relocate? I moved to a new state, taught for a few years in private schools, moved back to Missouri and have been teaching here for, oh my gosh, 22 years.

    Excuse me.....I think I need to go sit down. Good luck to you!

    Contact your union or state association for legal advice. It should be free of charge. Good luck
     
  18. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Feb 28, 2007

    I don't think any teacher should put up with the dangerous situation you face.
     
  19. Anyalee

    Anyalee Companion

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    Mar 1, 2007

    I feel for you, I also teach 7th and 8th graders. I am a first year teacher and I lost them on the first day of school. I am just now starting to almost get them under control. I can't wait to start next year over with a smoother (meaner) start.
     
  20. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I think you should alert the media. Leak it to the newspapers. That school sounds out-of-control.
     
  21. Sammy

    Sammy Rookie

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    Mar 4, 2007

    Document the events; then use them to sell yourself later!

    Get out. If you can't -- and maybe you need to stay there for the money -- document many of the situations you've been put through. Then, prepare to sell yourself to another employer -- and there ARE better ones out there.

    Specifically, explain a) HOW you addressed each situation and b) WHY you took your actions AT THE TIME; and c) how you might have handled them differently. Enough potential employers should be impressed by your communications skills, composure and thought processes that they will JUMP at the chance to hire you.

    That said, I do have to tell you that I myself have only just completed my student teaching. I am a career changer (corporate America) offering advice from the standpoint of how I won allies in investment banking. Go get 'em!! God help us both!!!!!!

    And above all, give your present school system the laughing cow!! (aa-ha-ha-ha-ha. . . ")
     
  22. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Mar 4, 2007

    Good Advice Sammy!
     

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