Threw my class out today/an impossible situation?

Discussion in 'New Teachers Archives' started by fifthmonkee, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Nov 1, 2006

    Okay, so here's the story.

    I am teaching English, ninth and 11th grade for the first time at an all-boy's Yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish high school). If you weren't part of the Orthodox community, you would think that would be a cinch--well behaved Jewish boys, right? Well, actually, I was warned by people in the community that it would be tough, and they weren't lying. Here's a few reasons why.

    1. Many, if not most, of the boys have been taught that English studies are a waste of time (a distraction from the real work of Torah or Bible study). Sometimes it's their parents; sometimes it's the rabbis who have taught them this, and they, the boys, take it seriously. Many of them believe the only reason English is taught at the school is so the school can receive federal funding (which may well be true).

    2. By the time the boys come to me, it's the end of the day. My FIRST class is at 4 pm. They've been studying and praying since 7:30 a.m. My last section starts at 6:30 and ends at 7:15 pm (that's the one I threw out tonight).

    3. Many/most of them see English as a joke, a time to let off steam at the end of the day, and they don't respect secular teachers but see them as people to play off.

    4. Most of them have not had good preperation in English.

    5. Many of them have pre-existing behavioral and emotional problems (this is not the most exclusive Yeshiva where I'm teaching).

    6. The administration does not offer much in the way of discipline for problems in secular classes.

    Now, add to that this fact. The textbooks are pre-chosen; one mediocre literature anthology; one vocabularly workbook; and one grammar/composition book. I can't bring in ANY material from the outside without prior approval (which is very hard to get) because they are very strict about what these boys are exposed to.

    Oh, did I mention I'm not allowed to assign homework on this school either? All English work must be done in class. Just to make things a little more complicated.

    So, my last period class is larger than any of the others, eighteen students crowded into a space that really only comfortably fits a dozen. They are some of my least prepared and most behaviorally/emotionally challenged students.

    Today, I tried to get them to do a set of exercises on nouns, but there was so much talking and horsing around that, in the end, I just told them to leave because I was starting to really lose my temper.

    I've tried asking them what they're interested in but that's a problem because a. they say they're not interested in English at all and b. even if they are interested in some things I'm limited to the textbooks we have. I can't bring in novels, essays, movies, poems, articles that haven't been pre-approved, and the rabbis generally don't have time or the inclination to pre-approve secular material.

    I've tried using graduated class discipline--warning, seat reassignment, one-minute detention, ejection, but I can barely keep track of all the warnings etc they end up flying so fast.

    They seem to respond better to structure than choice, but it's such a constant battle just to maintain order. If I didn't need the money, I'd quit. As it is, I'm tempted to just let them do whatever they want while I collect my paycheck, since no one else seems to care, but, of course, I don't really want to do that.

    I love teaching; I love my subject; I even like some of these boys, but I simply don't know what to do with them.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? What would a master teacher do in a case like this? How would Theodor Sizer or John Dewey or Sidney Poitier handle it? I've taught before, but at the college level, and discipline is not my strongest suit.

    Please advise!
     
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  3. trulyblssd

    trulyblssd Companion

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    Nov 2, 2006

    THey all speak English, right? How is it useless. I know you cannot bring in any material from the outside, but you can use it for your own reference. Give them stats on how many countries speak English, etc. to get their attention. Maybe that will help. Try using Greek or Hebrew as a comparison, becasue they study those two lang.

    I'm sorry your in such a tough situation.
     
  4. munchkin

    munchkin Cohort

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    Nov 7, 2006

    so these boys live in the USA, and plan on working in the USA???? Well, how much morerevelant can you get than that?? These children MUST learn how to communicate in the business world that they are to someday (heaven help us) run. If they can't communicate in proper English, how are they going to communicate with 99.9% of the rest of the commerce world that they are going to be working in with any success??? Take a look at some of the business communication textbooks in colleges. They have GOT to learn the very basics before they can jump into the more complicated business communications of the economic world. See if you can approach the administration from a monetary prespective. IE, if they don't train these boys so that they can be competent business men NOW, then how can they expect these "alumni" to be successful enough to make donations to their schools and synagogues to keep THEMSELVES in the "green" so to speak???? They are cutting their own throats!!
    As far as being disrespectful to you, go back to the Torah which is a basis for the Christian bible. DOn't forget even the old testament states, That THY must respect and honor thy elders. ... train them in the ways that are righteous and good and they shall not stray from this path.... (or something along those lines)
     
  5. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Nov 7, 2006

    Many of the boys hope to become Rabbis or to go on "learning" indefinitely (studying at post-high school yeshivas and kollels). The ideal in this world is to only learn Torah, though, admittedly most students will not be able to arrange such a life. Many will go into sales or family businesses. None, or few, of them, so far as I can tell, have great economic ambitions.

    As far as respecting elders, etc. Of course, the students know they are supposed to do this. There is even a saying they know that translates as "decent behavior precedes Torah learning." Nonetheless, because of their long day and young ages they feel entitled to act out (they have said as much to me).

    So my point is, lecturing them on ethics and even relavence doesn't do much good. I've got to find a way to get them onboard, despite their skepticism and inclination to disrupt. I just don't know how.
     
  6. munchkin

    munchkin Cohort

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    Nov 7, 2006

    Okay. That is a toughie. If they insist on being rude, then have them communicate only through writing. Allow anything but indecent language, but it must be written in full and complete sentences. Then trade papers and have each grade the other for gramatical content. Offer a 10 minute start up that they may verbally say anything that is on their minds, again without the indecent verbage. Take these " outburst" and put them on the board for sentences, have them correct them. Have them use their "fussings" as writing prompts. Alllow them to use these "prompts" for verbal debates.
    Compare and contrast the "texts" that you do have with their everyday lives and its revelance to them and our world today. If they complete a certian amount of assignments, allow them to earn a "free" time during which they can express themselves as they see fit in the classroom, or can leave early, say 4/5 class periods completed at atleast 85% cooperation with out disrespecting you or each other, and they have earned the right for a "free" class period. Skepticism at this age is typical and almost a right of passage. But it doesn't give them the right to run all over you. Talk to some of the other teachers there, and get their imput/help if you can.
    Good luck. Teaching in any kind of private schooling religious or secular is no picnic. The very fact that a kid is in a private school seems to make their families and themselves believe that they are "above" the normal rules of society and common decency at times, unfortunately. Sorry you have to go through this in what appears to be ... by yourself except for us at this forum. Keep on writing us and let us know how you're doing.
     
  7. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

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    Nov 7, 2006

    Thanks, those are helpful tips!
     
  8. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2006

    They want to be Rabbis or study--create this atmosphere in your classroom. Ask them to describe the environment, and the rules. See if you can set up the situations they describe. An example is better: I taught teen parents in a high school. They wanted to be out on their own, working for money to spend on luxuries. We set up a business (a summer camp on year, and a craft shop one year). The teens took classes relevant to their desired job at the business, interviewed, etc. In the end, they ran the whole thing while my staff stood back and supervised. And they made their own decisions, and made some money.
     
  9. Suburban Gal

    Suburban Gal (formerly Elizabeth) Banned

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    Nov 13, 2006

    The books of the old testament ARE the Torah!!!

    But aside from that, you're right. The books of the Old Testament do state than one should have respect and honor thy elders and that they should be trained in the ways that are righteousness and good.
     
  10. english9teach

    english9teach Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2006

    OK. I work in a public school, but I have faced situations where I felt incapable of handling the behavior. I tried the graduated discipline thing but, like you, I ended up confused and angry. Make it easier on yourself. Set out your problem areas, such as disruptive behavior, disrespect, refusal to do work, etc. Put a "no tolerance" policy into effect. The first time is a warning and the second time the student must leave the classroom and a discipline report (or however they do it there) is filed. The first day or so, you may ask many of the students to leave but after they see you mean business it will become less and less. Remind the students that the more class they miss, the more work they miss and it affects their grade.

    I know this sounds harsh but is very important to show the students and the administration that you mean business. You can't teach your subject until they settle down.
     
  11. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Nov 14, 2006

    See if you CAN find a Rabbi who is willing to admit that English is important to learn for whatever reasons and have him give good clear examples. If you can do this, they may appreciate it more than hearing it from you. In the end though, they are students and you are the teacher. THey must have respect. If the school didn't expect them to learn it, there wouldn't be a position for you.
     

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