Teaching in Inner City- Newcomer

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by amb9921, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. amb9921

    amb9921 New Member

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    Sep 18, 2008

    Hi, well I just started teaching 6th grade math at a middle school in an inner city urban community. I am orginally a PreK-3rd grade teacher- that's what I recieved my degree in. Basically, I have been having a really hard time dealing with the adolescent negative attitudes and the amount of disrespect. I have tried yelling, I have tried accentuating the positive, moving students from class to class. It never ends- I work 16 hours a day and they still don't see that I care. I don't know what else to do. What are some opinions? I hate that I am getting burnt out so quickly (1 month into the year) and regretting taking on 6th grade. I almost feel that I should still be teaching Kindergarten- where I don't have to deal with such laziness and disrspect....:confused::(
     
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  3. EZLN1

    EZLN1 Companion

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    Sep 18, 2008

    I'm going to be as honest as I can, and I'm assuming you are white

    I went thru the school system in the inner city, and I have also tutored students recently at one of the more less prestigious middle schools in my city . I have had them tell me straight up that they don't like white teachers, and have little or no respect for them. They get some enjoyment out of running teachers out. The thing I would suggest to you is building trust. They see you as the enemy (that extends to all teachers), but this level of distrust is magnified when you have someone teaching you who neither comes from your community, or looks like you. Most of these students have had enough experience with white teachers, and they see you as being another in the long line of teachers they will experience.

    Others might suggest kicking them out, or taking other disciplinary action. I would suggest getting to know your students, and where they come from. Open up and let them know where you come from. Demonstrate to them that you aren't like the other teachers.
    Sorry that my response isn't practical per se, but no disciplinary action, no lesson plan, etc, works in a situation like this. Don't give up!!!!!!!
     
  4. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Sep 19, 2008

    I agree that students need to learn to trust you, but that takes time. What do you do as you work on trust? Some advice I have: a)try not to be a yeller; your students are probably more used to yelling from teachers than we would like, so that has almost no effect. b) Do not issue a threat you are not 100% sure you can follow through on. Each time you don't follow through cancels out the 50 times you did. c) Try to get in touch with a responsible adult for a child. Parents do care and it will make a difference with students. d) Find a teacher there that manages and has the results you want. Spend some time talking to them to see what has worked for them. e) Develop a way for students to earn some kind of extrinsic reward like game time or movie time or free time. One I have used in the past is to tell students any class that takes the least amount of time over the next x days to transition between activities will get y. Track the time and then reward the class. I would also tell them any talking adds 10 seconds to their time for each person talking. f) Finally, do not allow anyone to disrupt the class. Warning. Timeout. Call.

    Don't forget that a lot of what students do in middle school is not personal. I know it can really feel that way. Remember to take care of yourself. The more tired you are the shorter your fuse will be. Staying calm and firm are key.
     
  5. amb9921

    amb9921 New Member

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    Sep 22, 2008

    What I am doing...

    Okay- I do not feel that I am a yeller. Several students find me to be the nice teacher. And I understand several of them talk back because in their home they are treated as an equal with their young parents. But that does not work in school. I try to be as understanding and calm with them as I can be. Generally I send them out of class for a minute- finish the lesson, then have a brief conversation with the student regarding the unacceptable behavior and what needs to change. I tell them "We need to go back into class, stay in our seat, stop talking to the people around us, and get our work completed. Let's wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start." This isn't working. It's like they aren't rational enough to actually talk to me and listen to what I am trying to do. Today I listened as the assistant principal talked to one of my students who could not stop disrupting the class and I feel like I never will be able to talk to a student in that manner. I can't even formulate sentences the way she does to get it through to them.

    My students are currently working to keep the word "Awesome" on the board with a reward of a pizza party on 10/31/08. They also recieve cougar paws (can be spent as "money") when the cougar cart comes around. I give these out as I notice positive behavior in my class.

    I need to find a better way to displine thse kids with out so many disruptions to the lesson. My 1st period class gets done with twice as much as my 5th period class. 1st period is able to have centers during our second hour of class-- whereas 5th period takes 2 hours to get through what 1st period completes in an hour.

    I just don't know what to do anymore. I have changed students out of that class to eliminate so many attitudes in one class and have moved seats about 5 times in only a month...
     
  6. amb9921

    amb9921 New Member

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    Sep 22, 2008

    And...

    I have called several parents- both positive and not so positive. It seems that the students with the worst behavior issues have parents that are completely apathetic to the whole thing. Yes some I have seen great changes in. But there are others where I have called over and over again and not seen much change at all. One student's aunt works at the school, she has spoken with him, I have spoken to his mother twice, he has been to the assistant principles office, and ICU- which is like ISS timeout for a period. He has also had 2 detentions with me- both of which I gave warning after warning, conferenced with, and given silent lunch before holding him after school...

    His aunt told me to send him to ICU 1st thing--however at our school this is discouraged. She says this will be the only way he will learn. However, it doesn't seem to work- apparently last year he was constantly had ISS or OSS.

    Any thoughts...
     
  7. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 22, 2008

    If you haven't already, check out Power Teaching.

    Don't compare yourself to the AP! She has been doing this for a long time and that kind of thing comes with experience of being in the profession for a long time. You will get there!!

    With some students, warnings do not work. Obviously this boy does not deal well with warnings so starting tomorrow do not give him any warnings! The first time he messes up he gets the consequence that goes with that.

    Good luck!
     
  8. cwp873

    cwp873 Comrade

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    Sep 22, 2008

    Try doing smaller rewards--maybe even daily. I know it's a no-no, but FOOD WORKS! My team uses a chart that travels with each class. It's a class list, with spaces next to each name for each day of the week. We put specific numbers next to names for specific offenses. Example- a 1 for disrespect, a 3 for too much talking, etc. 5 marks in a week= a half hour detention, 10= an hour. 3 o fewer marks by your name= Friday treat. NO marks by your name= bag of Hot Flamings in addition to Friday treat.

    Now, at the beginning of the year I also reward daily to train the behaviors I want. No marks during a class period- you might get a treat that day (a lollipop). I don't do it every day, but I do it pretty often. I also have them compete for "table points" because they sit in groups. Points are awarded for getting quiet, working quietly, paying attention, cleaning up, etc. I award pretty liberally because I am TRAINING the behavior I want to see. On friday I give treats to the tables in first, second and third place--even if that ends up being the whole class.

    I know it seems like bribery, but it works, and as their behavor improves I phase out the extra treats.

    For hard core cases like your one kid, I might make a private deal with him like buying him a bag of chips at lunch if he has a good day, then he has to have two good days, then aweek, etc. I'm doing that with a kid right now and he's improved 110%. He was calling me a bitch and walking out of the room the first few days of school. He's actually pretty enjoyable now.

    As for the race thing--yes and no. I'm white and have taught inner city for 20 years. If they feel you respect them, they'll respect you. Moreover, they need to feel you LIKE them...not buddy buddy friend, but like them as human beings. Try to use humor as much as possible. That defuses a lot of things better than pulling rank. Teenagers (which 6th graders pretty much are) are all about attitude. A lot of it's NOT personal, but power battles are a no-win. Making them laugh, then getting them back on track works better.

    Feel free to PM me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2008
  9. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Sep 22, 2008

    Warning: this post contains generalizations. There are, of course, exceptions, but I'm only going to talk about trends.

    Teaching in the inner city can be rough, and even more so if you're white and they're not. I know...I'm the token white person at my school. It takes time to earn their respect, but that is the single most important thing you can do. Earning their respect isn't something so simple as offering them rewards, or dispensing punishment when they misbehave.

    As a previous poster pointed out, they won't trust you immeditately. Inner city children learn very quickly that adults cannot be trusted. They make promises then break them and then they leave their lives. They've taken running teachers off into an art form. They know how to quickly find your buttons and will push them repeatedly until you either figure a way around them, or you leave. They're betting you'll leave. They don't respond in the same manner as middle class kids because, simply put, they're not middle class kids. They were raised in a completely different environment with completely different values. Unfortunately, most teacher training programs focus on middle class kids, and are woefully neglectful of the special needs of inner city kids.

    There are several things you can do that can begin to change the atmosphere in your classroom.

    1) Learn who they are. What kind of issues do they face in day to day life? How do they see the world? What do they value and what has no value? Who are the community leaders? Who are their parents, and where are they (the answer is frequently in jail in my school). Who do they live with? Do they shop at a grocery store, the local wal-mart super center, or neighborhood stores? How do they get around town? What sports are important to the neighborhood and to them as people? All these things may sound trivial, but to a kid, if you bother to find out the answers, they'll begin to let their gaurd down.

    2) Get to their level. Use what you learned in part one to create lesson plans that focus on things that are important to them. Learn common informal language in order to allow them to more fully appriciate an analogy. Speaking of analogies, be careful not to use any that wouldn't make sense to them, even if they would make sense to kids in the suburbs. That's why number 1 is so important.

    3) Value them for who they are, even when all you want to do is wring their necks. Many of these kids have never felt truely valued. Sure, they're treated as "equals" at home by parents not much older than them, but to be liked and valued just as they are...that's something not many have experienced.

    4) Do not yell....ever, for any reason. These kids get yelled at all day by parents and aunts and others. They quickly tune out a yelling adult.

    5) Follow through on everything you say. This goes for positive and negative. They'll hold you to every word, and if you break a promise, you'll just get lumped into that ever growing list of adults who have let them down.

    6) Spend time getting your behavior management system under control. Don't worry so much about content in the first few weeks. You'll make up that time and then some later on when you don't have to worry about behavior taking time from lessons.

    7) Make every lesson, no matter how boring, directly relate to their lives. Once again, number 1 becomes very important. You really need to know how they live in order to make things "real" to them.

    8) Believe in them. This is probably the most important peice of advise I can give. Let them know that you think they are "better than that", that you don't believe all the adults who have written them off (not in those exact words). Expect them to do well, and hold their butts to the proverbial fire if they don't.

    A couple of last second thoughts here....

    It's not so bad to bribe them with food on a very rare occasion. I've been known to bring a bag of hershey's kisses and toss them to students who I catch doing the right thing. I don't do it often...I did it three times in all of last year, but the random extra treat isn't a bad thing.

    While having small goals is important, having a HUGE goal is something that even the most hardened kid will work for...if it appeals to him. Last year, I promised all of my students that I would take any student who recieved an A on their midterm to the movies. 14 of them pulled it off (remember, I'm a math teacher...and my exams aren't easy). Also last year, I had a group of 7th graders bust their tails off to complete a full pre-algebra program in 12 weeks. Most of them succeeded. I have an 8th grade Algebra I class this year with 20 kids in it (a few of the ones who succeeded moved).

    It's okay to let them know they've dissapointed you...once you've earned their trust. Just make sure they know it's the action that's dissapointing, not the kids themselves.


    Boy, that got long. I hope, if you're still reading this, that you've gotten some advise you can use.
     
  10. forchange

    forchange Rookie

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    Sep 23, 2008

    Basically most of what I would say has been said. I would just add that you may want to take a long-term view. You probably won't completely earn the trust of all of your students and accomplish what you want this year. Focus on what you can succeed with and ramp up your expectations of yourself every year.

    Also, watch great teachers. If there aren't any at your school, charter schools can be great places to find them in poor/ inner city/ black areas.

    And, lastly, be direct about race. I agree with previous posters that black middle schoolers are very often skeptical of/ angry with white people. Of course, there are a lot of good reasons for this. You can't change racism in this country or their experience, but you can acknowledge it, when it comes up, and you can talk honestly about race. I would strongly recommend not getting defensive when and if race comes up. If you haven't, I would suggest reading about white privilege, so you can learn about the impact it has in your classroom.

    My experience teaching in Camden, NJ was a little like a war. It was easily the hardest thing I've ever done, but having learned how to be a good teacher for poor black middle school kids, I find it to be extremely rewarding and fun.
     
  11. sochiwateach

    sochiwateach Rookie

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    Sep 26, 2008

    getting to know them

    I am a student teacher in a middle school math/science class. My classrooms are predominately African American and Hispanic/Latino. I am white, yet I do live in the school community. I find though that I am having a difficult time finding opportunities to get to know what my students' lives are like outside of school. Our passing times between periods are 3 minutes so kids book it out of class. During class, my CT likes to keep things focused on the curriculum. I noticed that the LA/SS classes provide ample opportunities for kids to reveal insights but how do you get there in math and science? My CT does not seem too interested in their outside lives and doesn't ask the kids questions. So how do you get to know the things you've mentioned about their personal lives????
     
  12. EZLN1

    EZLN1 Companion

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    Sep 26, 2008

    One simple thing is that when you teach, maybe set outside 10 minutes at the beginning or end of class to just talk about their weekend. You can get a lot of insight setting aside such a small amount of time. But it's hard to do it when you are student teaching because you probably have classes in the afternoon, and cannot be at the school all day.

    As for math and science...the most practical thing is to to figure out how to connect both of these subjects to their lives. Think outside the box. Take risks and dont do the same thing your CT does.
     
  13. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Sep 27, 2008

    There are a lot of things you can do if you can't talk to the kids themselves, and some things you can only learn through other avenues (though talking to them is also important). For example:

    Read the paper
    go to a church service
    go to a local kids sporting event (pee wee football is HUGE around here)
    find out who the local representatives are and talk to them (or their staffs)
    talk to the parents or aunts (there are some who do care and are around the school from time to time)
    talk to a CPS worker who works in the area
    talk to people from other social service agencies who are familiar with the area.

    Get creative and there's all kinds of ways you can learn about the neighborhood these kids live in and the issues they face in their day to day lives.
     
  14. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Sep 27, 2008

    Give an interest survey and have the class analyze the data. Then ask when their sporting events are or whatever they do, and then just show up. At the end of the period have students dyad (share with a person for x amount of time about a given topic without the other person interrupting and then switch). Be part of the dyads and sometimes have the topics be about things other than content.
     
  15. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Sep 27, 2008

    I just wanted to say good luck to amb and sochiwateach! I think you've gotten some great suggestions here.

    I taught 7th grade in a school just outside of the city my first year, and it was tough. One thing that surprised was how the kids reacted when they accused me of being prejudiced. I stewed about it all Thanksgiving break, then gave an impassioned speech about how much I cared about them and wasn't prejudiced (their evidence was that only black kids had gotten in trouble, but the few white kids in the class really hadn't been talking), but that part of not being prejudiced is treating people fairly -- both with respect and with discipline -- no matter what their race is.

    The talk went really well. I received a few apologies and I got a couple of emails and notes at the end of the year (when I was transferring to a high school somewhere else in the district) about how they knew I was nice and hoped it hadn't been too tough for me there. If I'd stayed there, I'm sure I would have had a much better rapport with my students the next year, and an even better one the year after that.
     
  16. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2008

    I'm just chiming in to second the Power Teaching suggestion!
     
  17. forchange

    forchange Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2008

    Living in the area will be a huge help. It isn't a process that will happen quickly, but you'll start to see students every now and again and, just as importantly, they'll see you. In school you could invite students to have lunch with you in batches of 2-5. After school clubs or sports can also provide a way to get to know students. Did you CT do a student inventory as part of her beginning of the year activities? If not, that's something I would recommend doing when you have your own classroom. One of my good friends taught math to high school kids and had a lot of success using street names and neighborhoods from the city when talking about distance or geometry. I try to know at least one thing about every student outside of their academics and then I try to stay on top of general trends (like the lil' Wayne craze). It simply is not possible to know each student's favorite musician, color, home situation, etc, etc.
     
  18. Mathfan

    Mathfan Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2008

    I can offer my perspective both as a teacher and also as a former minority student who was able to believe in myself thanks to a white teacher. I know this sounds just like if it's coming out from a movie but it's true.

    When I was in high school I was having many problems at home. Unfortunately, many of these problems were common among hispanics. When I was placed in College Algebra during my senior year, which was the higher level of math offered at that school, I had this wonderful teacher who began noticing that I had some talent for numbers and encouraged me to participate in competitions and also to tutor students. I saw that he was truly concerned about me but I couldn't trust him because I felt embarrassed. To me, he was part of a different culture. I couldn't bear the thought of allowing him to see the big mess my family life was. I was horrified at the thought of his shocked reaction when I would tell him that my family didn't want me to go to college and I was being kicked out of the house as soon as I would graduate high school.

    In my mind, there was no way he was going to be able to understand a bit of what I was going through and therefore could not help me. In spite of the fact that I didn't fully trust him, I will never forget him and thanks to him I became a Math teacher because he really believed in me when I didn't think I could do it.

    You can't fake caring for students. Even when students see you as being different and reject you at first, they can sense if you like them or care about them. I think it's awesome that you are trying to reach out to them and that you care enough to try to learn about their lives. I truly believe that students can feel that you care.
     
  19. Luv2Learn

    Luv2Learn Companion

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    Oct 10, 2008

    Hi Mathfan,

    that was a powerful post, thank you for sharing.
     

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