Pretty Discouraged

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by lnm130, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Aug 31, 2010

    Today was my 7th day. I teach at a school where many students are struggling and are more worried about where they are going to get their next meal. Very low socioeconomic statuses, very poor home life for many.

    My students are not comprehending anything we are doing. I know that I have very low readers, and I have a couple high readers. For example, today in science, we filled out a simple worksheet as a review of vocabulary. Just a simple put the right word in the right blank worksheet, and hardly any of them got more than one right. It is like this all over the board.

    Reading is something we haven't started yet--because of shoddy work, our building must be re-wired before we can do assessment. Once assessed, the students will be split into groups and the low readers will go to 1st grade for reading and the higher readers will go to 3rd.

    I just feel so discouraged already. I am better than this. I can teach. I blame myself. I have heard this is a similar story for most classes within the building. How do I get these students to understand and apply? I even read the science worksheet out loud for them...they just didn't care or try.

    I can teach. I can teach. I can teach.

    I can reach students. I can reach students. I can reach students.
     
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  3. Sunflowers

    Sunflowers Rookie

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    Sep 1, 2010

    I just finished Day 8 at a Title 1 school on the Mexican border... I feel the same way. We can't do anything about what they know coming into our classes, but we CAN do something about what they know when they leave. Hopefully you have the support of your colleagues and administration. I know it sounds terrible (and certainly was not my feeling when I worked at a middle school in the suburbs of Ohio), but sometimes we just can't save them all. That's society and this country failing them, not you. Stay strong! :)
     
  4. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Sep 1, 2010

    Can you try some games with them? They may not "care" about the material, but if you can make it fun, they may be more willing to try.
     
  5. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 1, 2010

    It is just such simple material. The paper has a word bank, with four words. Today it was "environment, adapted, desert, night" They just had to find the right sentence for the word. I would try some games, but lack the resources. I am just so frustrated and am trying to stay positive. It is an inner city Title I school, and I have a small classroom with 23 students. I will say for the most part my class seems to be the best behaved out of all the classes on my floor. (There are only two classes on the first floor, 2 K's)

    After 8 days I just feel beat down already. I am willing to try anything. A few other teachers have accepted the behavior as average, but I refuse to allow my kids to settle.
     
  6. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 1, 2010

    Make sure that those students are feeling secure and safe in your classroom. Many times, like you said, their minds are not on school work, but on what they will find at home. Just keep at them. They'll finally realize that you care about them and won't let anything happen to them while they are in your room, and will start working for you.
     
  7. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 1, 2010

    Huge :hugs: lnm. It's tough to work in an environment like that. What I've found, even in 7th grade in a school that is not Title 1 and has a lot of upper socio families, is that many of them do not know the meanings of words that we think they should. Maybe when doing vocab, you can ask if they know what the word means, if not, then give them a short definition w/o giving them the answer directly.
     
  8. jenneke607

    jenneke607 Rookie

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    Sep 1, 2010

    You definitely have the right attitude! Your students are lucky to have someone so dedicated to their success.

    Have you tried other ways to assess or explore the vocabulary? For example, you could use a frayer model (longwood.edu/staff/jonescd/projects/educ530/aboxley/graphicorg/fraym.htm) and incorporate illustrations. It will take longer than the typical worksheet, but it will engage the children with the vocabulary more effectively. Also -- get them to talk. Scientific discourse is crucial not just to acquisition of new vocabulary but also to explore and connect to ideas.

    Best of luck!
     
  9. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 1, 2010

    STG, that's kind of what I was planning on doing. I was supposed to grade this science worksheet, but the class average is 2.5 out of 5. I do not want to put failing grades in my gradebook. I was also thinking about sending the worksheets home with the students with a note explaining the importance of taking pride in your work attached, and have it returned signed. I want to be sure parents see the work. Is this bad?

    This is my first year teaching and everyone keeps asking me how things are going. Outside of school, I tell everyone that it is going great, because I don't want to feel like a failure.

    And I'm sick, and hoping its allergies. I don't have insurance until October and really don't want the doctor bill.
     
  10. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 1, 2010

    lnm~you could certainly attach that letter; however, given what you have said about your population, don't be upset if these papers don't get returned.
     
  11. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 1, 2010

    jenneke607, thanks for the link. Maybe I'll retry the same worksheet with them tomorrow, and go over each word on the overhead using that model. I really don't care how long it takes, it needs to be learned.

    I explained to the class today that we could not move on until we have mastered certain skills, because much of what they learn builds on previous knowledge.

    These students also have not been accessed with their reading skills (thats why I read the sheet to them). I haven't been trained to teach the curriculum, so I have to wait until I am, which should be either next week or the 13th. But I mean, I can't read the test to them. I can't always be there to hold their hand...they will never be able to be successful while fully depending on others. What happens when they get to third grade and have standardized tests?

    STG- I actually have parental support, in most cases. And actually, almost half of my students have family within the building (not parents, but cousins and nephews and such) I probably will get most sheets back, which is a surprise.
     
  12. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    Sep 1, 2010

    If your students are not comprehending anything you are doing, then you need to step back and reevaluate your lessons. First understand that these children are intelligent and can learn. If they are not trying or not caring, you need to address this with motivating lessons. You can do games without having to put out a lot of money. There are tons of resources on the web that can help you with this. If you tell us the next topic you are studying, we can help you come up with something.

    Get these kids up and moving around as much as you can. Lots of hands on, lots of group work. You can take control of this situation and be successful. Come here for specific help when you need it. We'll be glad to help out.
     
  13. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 1, 2010

    lnm~glad about the family support!!
     
  14. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 1, 2010

    All I am trying to cover at the moment is plants (and plant parts) and environments. Marshes, prairie, deserts, and woodland.

    I understand that the lessons need to change, because obviously something is not working at all. I don't know how I will handle the tests, when they can't/won't read the words. I will repeat this chapter over the next two weeks, I suppose, since we have a 3 day week next week.
     
  15. dovian

    dovian Comrade

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    Sep 1, 2010

    Don't worry too much about what will happen when they have to take the standardized tests next year. That's way, way in the future for them and if you stress about it now you're not doing them any favors. 7 days down, 170+ to go, right? You have one great thing going for you, they're pretty well behaved. Start from there.

    I teach HS so take with a grain of salt, but . . . can you do something with pictures? Make big posters and have them draw something they'd find in that environment, then label the things? Play a matching game where they have to match the right thing to the right environment? Can you find a picture book to read to them to reinforce? Build model environments in plastic containers with real sand and stuff? If they can't take a written test yet, how else can you assess what they know? Do you have to give a test?

    Hang in there, it'll get better. I had a similar group of high school kids my first year and it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm still alive and (mostly) sane :) You can do it!
     
  16. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Sep 1, 2010

    Have the students ever seen these environments in real life? If not, they might be having trouble figuring out why they should care. They might even think some environments only exist in movies. I once had a student say, "Wait, you mean rain forests are REAL??" Could you maybe have the students plan a "trip" to each environment? You could give each student a map of the world or the US and have them color where the major deserts are, where the prairies are, etc. They could choose one example of each to "visit" and do some research in library books. Then you could designate Thursday, say, as "Trip to the Desert" day, and the students come to school wearing clothes appropriate for a desert. You could decorate the room the night before with cutouts of cacti and snakes, maybe some extra lamps to make it bright, and set the thermostat extra high for the first part of the morning. You could read desert stories, do desert math (with word problems involving desert creatures), and show a short desert video. Then repeat for the other environments. Be creative! You can do this!
     
  17. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Sep 1, 2010

    They probably just need a lot of language support and building background before you delve into topics. Once they develop more of the academic language, things will click. Just continue to support and encourage them because that's the best thing you can do for them. Good luck.
     
  18. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 2, 2010

    I will admit we didn't even get to science today...we got too wrapped up in math!
     
  19. miss_ali1984

    miss_ali1984 Companion

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    Sep 7, 2010

    Thanks so much for posting this. I feel the same way.
     
  20. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Sep 7, 2010

    I agree with all the other fantastic ideas. I've also learned that you need to model how to take a test, especially with younger kids. The activities ( fill in the blank, etc.) seem really simple but kids need to be taught process of elimination when taking a test. For the next test, you could do it as a guided practice together, or do the exact activity and test on the next day. Don't worry about reading them the test items. With kids this young, and after only a few weeks, you're meeting them where that are at.
     
  21. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Sep 7, 2010

    I teach high school, but I remember an elementary school teacher giving us clay or play-doh and having us make sort of habitat displays, or areas like what you were describing. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 8, 2010

    My daughter started second grade yesterday. She's in a public school in the 'burbs in an upper middle class neighborhood. Both her parents are teachers.

    When you say "find the right sentence"-- do mean find the sentence that contains the word or know something about what the definition means? Because if it's the latter, I'm fairly sure that my daughter would have struggled. "Environment" and "adapted" probably would have left her absolutely stumped; I can't imagine that she's familiar with either term. "Desert" is another totaly foreign concept, though I'm fairly sure she would have confused it with "dessert."

    Could you think of starting at more of an "end of first grade" place? Is it possible that the work is simply too hard?
     
  23. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    Sep 8, 2010

    I know that it can be discouraging when the students don't meet your expectations. Believe me when I say that 90% of all teachers (elementary at least) are somewhat disappointed at the beginning of the school year with "how little the students know" or "how unprepared they are." You, like any other professional, came into this situation with expectations about how your class do academically. Unfortunately, that needs to be thrown out the window typically from day 1. I find myself constantly reminding myself that my current students are not third graders yet. They are fresh out of 2nd grade. The students now in 4th grade are still third graders. I can't expect the same level of work.

    Modeling is key to worksheets, tests, and virtually all other activities. Do you have a SmartBoard or overhead? Perhaps you could make a copy (scanned or on a transparency) of the worksheet. Then, fill in the first few blanks with the students. Exaggerate everything! Model the correct way to answer but also the wrong ways. Let the students tell you why that is the wrong way to complete the activity.

    I find that most of the work we do in the first few weeks is "class work" in that we complete the work as a whole class. I rarely take grades on these assignments unless they have seen something in the same format earlier in our class. For instance, last week the students and I completed a vocabulary activity from a workbook. I "graded" for completion (it was a listening grade really). Everyone was happy and got the procedures down. Today, we completed a very similar sheet with new vocabulary. I read the questions to the students and the word bank items. Then, they filled in their answers. I graded this activity. In the near future, I won't read the questions to them at all. It's baby steps but ensures you're not leaving the whole class behind.

    Don't worry so much about "accurate" grades in the beginning. It's ok to have students turn in activities that you've completed as a whole class. This way, the students gain confidence (Hey! I got an A!) and you can see any problems with attention, listening, hearing, etc. Soon enough, your grades will balance out as you have the students do more independent activities.
     
  24. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    Sep 9, 2010

    I know you said that you lack resources for games, but do you have a printer?

    If so, here is a link to some task cards for reading and language arts skills:
    http://www.cape.k12.mo.us/blanchard/hicks/task_cards.htm

    And here are some math games:
    http://www.kidscount1234.com/
    http://www.jmeacham.com/math/math.tubs.htm

    Most of the math are games that use resources you probably already have (like dice, dominos, etc).

    I work at a T1 school with high poverty rate (and I teach 2nd grade too!), so I feel your pain. It's still really early in the year, and it takes a while for the kids to get situated into a routine. I rarely use worksheets anymore... most of my activities are very hands on.

    I had to skim through the posts because I am in a rush, but do you have a high ESOL population? If so, vocab is very hard for them. If you have an ESOL teacher, coordinate with her. She should be able to help adapt some activities. Are any of your students SPED? If so, coordinate with the SPED too. I am always getting great ideas from our support staff when I am stumped.

    Also, my team isn't giving our DRAs until the very end of Sept, but I want to start reading groups earlier. I have DRAs from the end of last year for most of my students. Those that I don't have levels for, I am doing running records on this week, so that I can begin reading groups next week. Maybe even though you aren't starting testing until later, you can still start reading groups. My group this year cannot do anything whole group! I have too many kids that are getting lost in our whole group activities, so I need to adapt to them :)

    Hang in there, it will get better. I LOVE teaching this population. It's not easy, but I feel like I really get to make a difference in their lives!
     
  25. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 9, 2010

    Things have gotten better, I have taken bits and pieces from all of your advice. I used lots of picture sorts and things like that.

    None of my students are ESOL, and I have one with an IEP and one with a consultation. He really needs to be evaluated, still waiting on the rest of his results. I also have two who tested out, but really need extra assistance. I've made arrangements for them to get extra reading help.

    I'm really perusing mailbox magazines and books, as a lot of their activities are hands on.

    We use the Reading Mastery program, and haven't started yet due to leveling. Almost all kids are leveled, but we don't know how we are going to divide them up yet. I may grab a 1st grade book and begin a few lessons from there next week. That way, it is something they will succeed at, and I will get practice. I feel like we have all been just giving busy work for three weeks now, so I plan on talking to the instructional coach and making sure my plan is ok.

    My group has a REALLY hard time with group work. Math is frequently group work, and it gets really chaotic. Maybe I should re-do my grouping method. My method is completely random, and I don't think it works with this group. Yet. (I have numbered magnets that correspond with their number in class. I put them randomly into groups on the board)

    I'm getting there, by God, I am. I plan on starting to supplement the math program with my own activities soon. I really wanted to get comfortable with planning, and I think I am doing alright.

    Thank you all so much for your advice and recommendations, I take them all to heart!
     
  26. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    Sep 9, 2010

    I know the SPED teacher that works on my grade level is willing to help with any student (even ones not on her caseload/don't have an IEP). If you have a really good SPED teacher, she can still help you problem solve if you have some behavior problems... they have seen/dealt with everything, and have a variety of intervention ideas that could help any child.

    It sounds like there isn't much support staff at your school... do you happen to have any parents that would be willing to come in and volunteer? I read up on Math workshop over the summer. The past few years I was doing math whole group, and it wasn't working very well. So I decided to give it a try this year, and I think it is going to work SOOOO much better. If you could get a parent in to help during this time, you could work with a small group, while a parent helps the rest of the students with a worksheet or math game.

    It's a lot of trial and error. Try things a little bit differently to see what works well for this group.... and what works well for them this year may not work for your class next year. Every group is a little different!
     
  27. MzMooreTeaches

    MzMooreTeaches Cohort

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    Sep 12, 2010

    You can do it! You already have a winning attitude! I read this somewhere. What if you do a KWL chart which you split into 3 colums and put k in the first w in the second and l in the last.

    K stands for Know. What do they already know. ask them questions and start your lessons off this way, that way you know where you need to start each lesson from.

    W stands for What. What would you like to learn or in this case what do you need for them to learn. Write them down and verbally tell them so that everyone is on the same page. You know what you need from them and they will know what direction the lesson is going in.

    L stands for Learn. This is a way for you to assess what they have learned. Ask questions have a discussion.

    Make up a fun bingo game on cardstock where you read the definition and on their card it has vocabulary words. Play a game like catch during outside time and give a topic. For example the topic is colors so when you throw the ball to someone they have to give you a color. Or if you are talking about the seasons for example Fall... ask what are some things that you see in the fall.

    IF they are truly hungry have a cheap snack at some point during class, crackers, raisins something like that.

    Keep speaking the positive into existance! YOU CAN AND YOU WILL DO IT!
     
  28. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    Sep 12, 2010

    lnm you could have been describing MY school! We are a Title I school close to the border and 100% of the students receive free breakfast AND lunch. However, it's amazing that these students get Nintendo Ds and/or talk about the new Wii game they got.....
     
  29. lnm130

    lnm130 Companion

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    Sep 13, 2010

    We have NO parent volunteers. TeacherApr, exact same senario with my kids. However, we dd just have a PD day and had a speaker in to discuss poverty, and it was abaolutely amazing. Brought to light a ton of insight!

    As a class, we are getting there. It's just a really rough school. We are also still getting things in and organized, a lot of our things were delayed.
     
  30. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    Sep 13, 2010

    At the beginning of the year, grouping is largely trial and error. It takes a few days/weeks to identify the "bossy taskmasters" that might pair well with those students who need some extra motivation. One thing that helps me is to note on a clipboard or notecard which pairings or groupings I like best as well as those that didn't. When I have more time, I look over to see who might make a particular group click and what I can do to make the grouping more productive.

    Sounds like you're taking advice and suggestions to heart and remaining proactive. GREAT, GREAT, GREAT!
     
  31. MichellesEdu

    MichellesEdu Rookie

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    Sep 29, 2010

    As an asiring elememtary school teacher, I probably am not the most ideal person to give advice, however, as an older sister who continuously tutored my younger cousin, who is autistic, I feel that I may have something to contribute. Although, I did experience feelings of disouragement and sometimes almost had the urge to give up at times when my cousin would not show any signs of understanding. What really got me through it, and might help with your own situation is to really show them you have confidence and faith in their abilities. I know this may sound cliche, however, I feel that if you actually display to them that you are proud of them when accomplishing a task, they will feel reassured. Especially with children who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. I agree with everyone who suggested the use of games an activities in which they can actually have a good time and learn at the same time.
     

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