Pretty bad day yesterday

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Feb 28, 2012

    I have now been teaching at my internship position for about two weeks. I have 4 classes of 8th graders. One "bad" class, and the rest are pretty good.

    I give my students a lot of privileges because I feel that it gives me a little more leverage over them, but apparently, I am too patient with my students and let them walk over me even though I've been trying to start off this year as strict as I can be (which isn't very much). I don't tolerate disrespect for me or other students and I stop it every time, but I don't follow through with the school consequences. The kids love me, but I feel that that is a detriment right now, because though I know it's NOT a popularity contest, I can't help but want them to like me.

    Yesterday, some of my okay classes were being very rude and disrespectful to one another and I had to give my first referral in my "bad" class, but even though I gave one out, it didn't feel like I had any more control over the class than I previously did. If anything, it mostly just unsettled me, and made me feel uncomfortable.

    Are there any tips out there for a struggling new teacher?
     
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  3. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Kids like it (and you) best when they know where the limits are. Too much freedom can lead to chaos and insecurity, neither of which anyone likes.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    What does your cooperating teacher have to say?

    I'll say that I think you're making a tremendous mistake in not following through with school consequences. That's part of your job, and if you aren't doing it then you are being neglectful in your professional obligations. Your administrators, and frankly your students, count on you to ensure that learning is happening in your classroom. You can't do that if your focus is on skirting the rules in favor of some popularity among your students. I know you already know that, but it needs to be said.
     
  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    The most important thing to realize in this situation is that you are not there to be their friend. They have enough friends. You are there as educator, and part of your job is to ensure a safe and engaging learning environment. That means setting up expectations and enforcing the rules. If you don't follow through with consequences, you can't effectively enforce the rules, and the whole thing will fall apart.
    The classroom culture may be fun for a while, and you might feel that you have an awesome relationship with your students, but eventually without boundaries it will be a disaster.

    Don't feel bad. when you gave that referral, I'm sure you gave the student plenty of warning, so it was his choice to not listen.
     
  6. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    If you don't follow through with school consequences, you'll not only make your own job harder, you'll make the job of your coworkers harder too.

    If kids see you breaking school policy they'll think you do not have respect for rules in general. If you can break the rules you don't want to follow, then they will break the rules they don't want to follow.
     
  7. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Yes, I think it's really important to follow school policy.
    I made the mistake this year by saying that it's ok if students eat/drink in my class because some other teachers are ok with it. However, it's against school policy. Thankfully, very few of my students actually eat or drink during class anyway. I feel badly about it because I feel like I showed disrespect for my principal and the school rules. But next year that will not be allowed. I notice that the teachers who follow school policy have the best classroom management. We have this policy that if students are tardy 3 times in one marking period, they lose 3 points off their term grade. Some teachers don't mark this, and they are the ones who have students coming in late all the time! When I started writing down the names of tardy students, I no longer have any!
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I agree! It is very important to follow through with the school consequences. Kids will respect you for following through because it will keep them safe. If you don't follow through, eventually something bigger will happen that could have been prevented and you may lose the students respect as well as their "like" for you.
     
  9. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I will definitely do my best in following through with consequences. Today I gave my second referral, and I wasn't as jarred as last time. I think I was just a bit uncomfortable punishing students since I haven't had to in my first two week there, but I was very firm and followed through with it, even when they pleaded with me to overlook it this time.

    I think a large part of it may be due to the fact that I am VERY new here, and I am still uncomfortable in the school environment as a whole, since I don't really know all the policies and everything. A teacher came in to look at some papers, and let me know that they've been cracking down on wearing hats in class, and they announced it before I was hired, so I should remind them to take their hats off.

    I definitely don't want to win any popularity contests, but I do try to pose myself as reasonable and understanding of most of the kids' behavior. When they say things like: "Aw, I don't like you anymore, Mr. ______. You're now only my second favorite teacher." I usually respond with, "I don't care. I'd be proud to get on your most hated teacher list. (jokingly)" But I know that being understanding has a limit, and I need to find it quickly.
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    There is a difference with being understanding and holding the students to follow the rules. You can be understanding while still having a consequence.
     
  11. elateacher4life

    elateacher4life Cohort

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    Be firm, be fair, and if you can, be friendly.
     
  12. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Feb 28, 2012

    You said they pleaded with you...I've had that happen as well. But cut it off immediately. Interrupt them with something along the lines of, "This is non-negotiable. Have a seat, please." If you give them even a moment to begin explaining away their choices, it's like a floodgate.

    Firm, fair, consistent, non-negotiable. :)
     
  13. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Referrals seldom generate behavior. They record it. Nice kids don't need referrals while chronics collect them like baseball cards.

    In a well-managed classroom the teacher is the discipline program. As the school year progresses problems become less until just a "look" from across the room says the system is in session. Getting a room full of squirmy kids to stay on task with just a look reduces the teacher's need for programs which involve tangibles and record keeping.
     
  14. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    The problem for me is getting to that point. :mellow:

    I think I have some good management techniques in place, but I don't know how it will turn out until the year progresses. And I know in many cases, a few rough weeks near the beginning is generally unavoidable as the kids test their limits and find them unyielding.

    I really can't get that one period to become quiet for the life of me, and it takes them nearly the entire period to get through something that takes the other periods 10 minutes. They definitely get pleasure in disrupting the class, but if I gave every offender a referral, 80% of the class would be out of the classroom. I just don't know what to do. A teacher from another school said that you simply can't do anything about it, and you should just teach through the noise because some kids are going to talk and not listen no matter what, so you shouldn't waste time on attempting to get them to behave.

    :dizzy:
     
  15. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    I think I've been to this teacher's room. The kindest description I can come up with is "zoo". My guess is teachers in this category (burn-out) lack the training, education and experience to do much about discipline. Rather than acquire the necessary skills they blame the kids for their own deficiencies.

    Practice, practice, practice and practice some more. Structuring the classroom for learning is all about what you do not what you say. Kids are used to practicing rules and/or procedures once or twice. They give the teacher permission to do his/her thing for a couple rounds ... a sort of capitulation for showing up. Once the prelims are over it's back to business as usual which involves the teacher dancing to the students' tune.

    An attribute which separates the teachers who "mean business" and ones who are mean is they don't give up after two practices. In fact on most occasions, especially at the beginning of the year, the business teachers make the rule or procedure "the lesson" while academics go to the back burner if taught at all. This is completely opposite of what many teachers do -- rush into academics (so much to teach and so little time) then sprinkle in discipline as the problems occur.

    Chase

    Chase is a game involving the teacher in a hurry to get to the curriculum then chasing after the students on a daily basis until June. In chase the mind-set is rules and procedures are frivolous and like you friend states "a wast of time". After all, they are 8th graders. Surely they know how to behave by now? And they do know how to behave. Only real question is do they have to behave in your class?
     
  16. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    You cannot possibly teach through the noise. You can talk through it, but not a lot of learning will occur. It's not fair to the students who are there to learn and it's not fair to you. The good thing is that you can always revise your rules and set new consequences, it's never too late.

    Here's a little story about what students can do if they are really trying. We have a huge tagging issue (graffiti etched or written on the desk) at our school. In my classroom it was mostly done with pencils, and I started to get on their case on it, so they stopped. But the desks already had so many fine-line tagging on them that it was impossible to tell what was old and new. (all they had to do was take out the eraser from the pencil and use the metal part).

    So about 2-3 weeks ago I covered all the desks with purple construction paper (my room's theme), and taped it down. I announced in all the classes that from now on if I see any small marks, there will be consequences, even if it's not tagging. I told to make sure to inspect the desks as soon as they come in and report if there is something on them, so they will be cleared. I also acknowledged the fact that paper can be tempting, and some of them like to doodle. If they really want to write / draw / doodle, I'm happy to give them some paper, but only if they're done with their work.

    Guess what? since then there hasn't been one mark!! a couple of time I saw students messing with their pencils, and it accidentally left some very small marks. As soon as that happened they were erasing them like crazy, and these were tiny little marks.
    Even my worse taggers have been able to control themselves.
    Today I had a new kid in the class, and he started drawing shapes with the eraser end of the pencil - 2 kids got on his case and warned him that he'd get in trouble. And this was in my worst class.

    So if you tell them what you want, show them that you mean business, they will listen. And it's never too late.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I have definitely been trying to approach my classroom as "discipline" first and "course content" second, especially since this is my "first" (technically pre-first) year and I'm pretty sure I'm not being held to the highest of standards for student achievement on state tests (also because I came in midway through the year). I've been losing sight of this being surrounded by so many teachers engaged in the "Chase". I will redouble my efforts and begin focusing primarily on classroom management! Thanks! This is exactly what I needed to hear.
     
  18. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I agree with Mopar. My first year of teaching was terrible. What turned it around was when my principal walked in and took control of the class. I saw how he did it:

    - Never repeat directions, just ask questions (e.g. What are you supposed to be doing now?)

    - Point out models (Hey, I like the way Johnny is already at his seat.)

    - Expect problems if the work is too easy or too hard.

    I love teaching now. I can't wait to get to school each day. It can happen for you, too. See if you can get your principal or a top, experienced staff member to teach a demonstration lesson for you and watch what they do.

    Also, students live up to expectations. NEVER tell your "bad" class that they are bad. Point out to them what they are doing right and build them up.
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oh man, if I thought Monday was bad today was 10 times worse. >___________<;

    The kids today were OUT OF CONTROL. And I had my evaluator there as well. I was completely hard on them today, and I've taken away almost all of their privileges, but they were just EVERYWHERE.

    They were constantly out of their seat not working on the lab, interrupting me while talking, even though I gave like two referrals, messing around with each other no matter how many times I told them to take their seats. I was an inch away from losing it.

    These kids have changed teachers twice and for some reason they have it in their heads that their teachers left because they hate them, and they act accordingly, no matter how many times I tell them otherwise. I just don't know what to do with this class besides hit them with more punishments.

    Obviously they can no longer handle labs and being out of their seat to gather materials or sharpen pencils. I may just have them do book work and copying things. They give no heed to independent work and decide that its time to share.

    I sent a kid out with a referral, and the office SENT HIM BACK IN. I'm at my wits end. This is my 3rd week of teaching, and this class is driving me nuts!
     
  20. Furthuron

    Furthuron Companion

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    Mar 1, 2012

    And be gentle with yourself. Teaching is hard, and you're new at it. Don't let your difficulties now make you think you're not a good teacher (not saying you are, but I know I did). Instead, do your best to learn from them. After this semester, when you start off with brand new kids, it'll be a lot easier. And it gets easier and easier with time. :)

    Also, I highly recommend Fred Jones' book Tools for Teaching. It's gotten me through some tough situations, and it's a super easy and entertaining read.

    Good luck!
     
  21. Zabeth

    Zabeth Rookie

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    Take a look at Harry Wong's The First Days of School if you're able to, too.

    I'll throw out an idea, too, that more seasoned teachers can weigh in on. (I'm a day-to-day substitute teacher, but think the following might be my approach.) Can you spend the weekend doing some big thinking on how you'd like classroom management to look in your class, and on Monday start everything fresh?

    What I mean is, could you treat Monday as if it were the first day of school? Explain that you -- and you're sure, the kids -- have been unhappy with the classroom environment, and that you mean to change all that starting today. Lay out the specific things that you, as the teacher, will do to ensure that your classroom is a calm, affirming place to be and what your expectations are for the students in order to make sure that your (their?) expectations are carried out.

    It just seems to me that you need to publically acknowledge that the classroom as it functions now is not working. (This does not lay the blame on you; particularly since you've come into this situation after the school year started.) You and the students need to agree that, yup, things aren't working; and you as the teacher need to assure them that you will do everything in your power to make sure that that changes from today.

    Then you present your rules and procedures and take the time to practice each one until they're working to your satisfaction.

    Now, my expertise is in primary, so I can't guarantee that you'll get the immediate buy-in that you want from the kids.

    I wish you much luck -- it sounds so frustrating. You can do this, though, and it is WORTH it to do this!

    (Edited to fix grammar fail.)
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Thanks for all the help guys. I'm really glad I have this forum for support.

    I will definitely not let this get me down and my experiences this year will hopefully stick and allow me to build my technique upon them. I'm really worried about students thinking that I don't care about them, and I'm most afraid as coming off as a weak teacher. I started out so very confident, and the breaking down process has finally begun.

    I've skimmed through The First Days, but I will take a closer look at it. I will also see if I can find Tools for Teaching. I'm currently reading The First Year Teacher's Survival Guide by Julia Thompson. It's okay, but a bit vague.
     
  23. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    I'll second Furthuron's pointer to Tools For Teaching. When I attended my first Jones' seminar Fred began listing some attributes of ineffective management. As the list went on I sank lower and lower in my seat. I looked around and everyone else was sinking too. We then spent the next four hours discussing and designing the best set-ups for classroom furniture. I never knew or considered there was an art to desk arrangement. None of my methods courses mentioned effective furniture arrangement as a proactive method to preventing many discipline problems from starting in the first place.

    Moving my desk to the back (it was in the front), moving the first row closer to the board and creating wide aisles (so kids can't stick their feet out to block) allowed me to move and get close to students in fewer steps. This closeness or proximity -- Fred spends a great deal of time emphasizing doing discipline with one's body not one's mouth -- doesn't sound like much of a cutting edge discipline technique but it can make all the difference in who is on-task and who is goofing off.
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The school has a structure in place. It's there for several reasons. One is so the kids know exactly what to expect. The behavior that gets a detention in math should also get a detention in English and Social Studies.

    Another reason is that following the school's consequences provides a paper trail. That paper trail is important for guidance counselors and anyone else trying to look at the big picture.
     
  25. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Alright, so let me tabulate how my day went.

    The first thing I did this morning was read through the school planner and found the school rules. I realized that cell phones are not allowed to be out at all, and a couple of other things.

    I wrote on the board that from this point on, there are no cell phones to be out for the remainder of the year and they will be confiscated. When I announced this to students, at first they thought they were in trouble, but then were amused that I actually just didn't know about the existence of the rule in the first place. They took the news pretty well. There was no rule about music in the handbook, so I said that during individual activities they could still listen to music on headphones while they worked (because sometimes they, and I know I for sure, work better with music in the background). They were pleased! I've also used this privilege as leverage for misbehavior in my class.

    I finished up a lab activity from the previous day, and made sure to spend special attention on rule-breaking in my class. I had to confiscate an Angry Bird plush that was thrown in my class. Overall, the classes worked extremely well. I was also able to point to my removal of the privilege of working on interactive labs from my fourth period, to use as leverage on the other periods. They appreciated the privilege to be able to work in labs and worked VERY diligently! I was extremely proud of them.

    Alas, my hell period had to begin sooner or later. It started off as my periods usually start off with, a warm-up in which they are allowed to talk, until I informed them that their privilege of talking during the warm-up was revoked. I informed them that their privilege of participating in interactive hands-on labs have been revoked. Many complaints came up, and I immediately began giving probations for those who spoke without quietly raising their hands which were a LOT. Then some people pushed further until I gave around 3 referrals.

    For some reason they found this very amusing and started laughing at me, until I gave out enough referrals for them not to find me funny anymore. It also helped that many of my biggest problem students were pulled out of the class for an "at risk student meeting", I still had two or three staunch rebels left though.

    I told them their task was to work silently and individually to take notes on an entire chapter and answer the questions in the back, and that it would be collected and graded. I explained that this was due to their inability to handle hands-on activities. Certain events in which students felt the need to speak out or get out of their seat was swiftly dealt with by me. I wanted ABSOLUTELY NO TALKING, NO GETTING OUT OF THEIR SEATS, etc.

    My problem students did no work, and rebelled a little, for which I gave them extra referrals. Someone actually threw a pencil at me, but I didn't catch who it was and I feel no need to get angry and throw out punishments nilly-willy if I have no proof of who did it.

    The others could be silenced with a look, though some still found it amusing and smiled or laughed silently. I kept my face straight, shot them a look and moved on.

    I went around collecting homework for the entire period and monitoring the class, giving referrals and probations as necessary. I feel that about 80% of my class received probation, and 25% received referrals. I gave out about 12 referrals in all, in that single period. It honestly took all of my fortitude and calm to not break down. I was shaking from nervousness but tried to keep my face calm and assertive.

    I explained at the end of the period that we could do this everyday if they need to, and that I could spend the entire period handing out referrals while they do silent work. There was a bit of protestation out of turn near the end, so it didn't end as perfectly as I had hoped, but end it did, and a few left in a huff very angry. They left the room relatively clean though, so I am grateful for that.

    In summation

    I don't feel that I quite got across the fact that I mean business. I feel one or two more sessions of this should be sufficient, until they get used to it and can do a full period of this with no problems.

    I feel like I got across WHY they were being punished, and that I am willing to punish an entire class if I have to, but I don't feel that I fully got across my EXPECTATIONS. I was too unhinged to get everything perfect today though. I'm still feeling jelly in my gut.

    I think once we can master the individual silent work, I will work with them to create a social contract to create a classroom atmosphere and which behaviors they feel are necessary to maintain this atmosphere. I think if I can get them to understand that I mean business and will not tolerate rude and disrespectful behavior then they will be more willing to work with me to create that social contract (which will be put on big poster paper and hung in the classroom).

    I am still slightly uncomfortable in my school, for instance, my evaluator who watched me the other day mentioned that some of these students NEED interventions, and I'm not sure if they already have them or how to get them for them if they need them.

    I am not yet comfortable with calling home. Somebody said they'd teach me how to make a 90 second phone call but I didn't learn it yet (some calls I've made took me like 20 minutes).

    I'm still uncomfortable with giving referrals. It's hard for me to do IN CLASS when I should be dealing with the students, especially since I have to write them up myself and its a lot of writing. I usually wait until after class, but sometimes I just need a kid out of the class.

    Any tips on where to go from here is GREATLY GREATLY appreciated. You've all given me such great support already, I feel like I need to repay everyone back somehow. Thank you again for everything you've all given me already! Wish me luck. ;)
     
  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Mar 2, 2012

    It sounds to me like you're making some progress. As the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Your classroom situation isn't going to get fixed in a single period. I recommend that you follow through with what you're doing, keep up with the consequences, continue to share your expectations with them at whatever pace you need. It's not necessary to solve every problem or address every behavior right now today. A better move, in my opinion, is to pick a few things/behaviors and address those. Then when those things are better, address some more things, and so on until your class is where it should be.

    I've had some nightmare classes. I have a pretty awful one right now, in fact. It's just the wrong combination of personalities and behaviors, not to mention that there are over 40 students in the class. I started with addressing off-task talking and students talking when I'm instructing. I gave several detentions for that. At first, some kids laughed and didn't take me seriously. After a few days of detentions, sometimes three or four in a day, they seemed to get the message and the talking went down. After that, I addressed cell phones and iPods. Again, a few students didn't seem to think I was serious, but that changed after I confiscated 6 phones in the course of two days. Now cell phones aren't an issue. One step at a time, and it is paying off. This class and I are never going to be best friends, but we can find a way to work together and make sure that learning happens.

    Don't get discouraged. Even the best of us of have rough classes from time to time. They key is to not let those classes get us down and to remember that we are the ones in charge of our own classrooms.
     
  27. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I think you did much better! Just keep it up.
    What are your school's consequences besides referrals?
     
  28. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Mar 3, 2012

    I think that referrals are the main form of consequence. After getting a certain number they will be given a detention or a Saturday School, or not being allowed to participate in other school activities such as sports.

    I think the main form of consequence apart from referral to me would be a call home to the parent. I also have the ability to remove in class eating privileges and using music during independent work time.

    Thanks for the support guys!
     
  29. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Mar 3, 2012

    Give it a few more days and see what progresses from here. Just be ready for Monday when this class may decide to rebel a little. Sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better.

    Students are testing to see if they act worse, will you give in. So don't give in and bear with it for a bit. Hopefully today was the worse, but know that Monday might bring a little bit more stress and behaviors.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mar 3, 2012

    Why does anyone have in-class eating privileges?
     

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