Tips for a discouraged teacher

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by PluggedP93, Sep 30, 2019.

  1. PluggedP93

    PluggedP93 New Member

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Hi everyone,

    First things first, I'm going to be completely honest, I am not a teacher. My wife has just started her first teaching position in Grade 2. I am posting here because it is killing me to see her so discouraged, stressed, feeling so inadequate and like she is doing a terrible job.

    My wife loves kids and has wanted to be a teacher for a long time. This year she got the chance to start her very first job in a private school. She was very excited. She decorated her classroom thinking of how the kids would love it, she planned activities and bought a whole bunch of neat books and tools with her own money to make it a nicer environment for them.

    Now, almost one month in, she is dreading going back every day. She is losing sleep, losing self-confidence and losing hope. Her class, although being good kids, just can not pay attention for more than a few seconds at a time. She can't teach or give instructions because they are unable to keep quiet or even stay at their seats. When they do stay seated, they talk to their peers or just completely space out. She has tried so many different techniques. She has used visual aids to make the subject more interesting, she has disciplined with "wall time" and making them copy out the classroom rules. Nothing seems to be working. Now she is falling behind on the subject matter and at a complete loss for solutions.

    Any advice would be gratefully accepted.

    Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Is your wife an alternate route teacher or was she certified by earning a teaching career? Either way, the first year is tough. So much to learn, so many new routines, so much to remember. This is kind of when the rubber meets the road. People either dig deep and get help, learning techniques, adding education that makes the job bearable and productive, or they drop out of the profession. She needs help with classroom management so that she has a better chance of engaging the students and keeping them learning. There is a steep learning curve - the strong adapt and survive. Support at home in the form of acceptance of long hours. distraction, and sometimes short attention span will go far towards alleviating worry that she is neglecting her family in favor her job. Support, should she desire to take classes, etc. to improve her performance to school, would also be appreciated, I'm sure. Best of luck to you both.
     
  4. PluggedP93

    PluggedP93 New Member

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Thank you so much for the insight. My wife actually went through her 4 years of University to obtain her Bachelor degree. We're both very much aware that the beginning of the school year can be quite difficult, especially for a new teacher. I'm being as supportive as I can at home, but I can't offer much help in terms of advice or suggestions as I don't have much knowledge of the teaching profession. Would you happen to have any tips or techniques she could try for classroom management? Or any resources she could consult that could help her with this?

    Once again, thank you!
     
  5. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Franklin Habit describes teaching this way: “On teaching:...the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.”

    If the kids would just sit still and pay attention teaching would be a piece of cake. But they don’t. Rather some do but many do not. If she hasn’t done so, consider Fred Jones’ Tools For Teaching. Jones methods are based on years of observing teachers in all grade levels in order to find out why some teachers make it look easy while others struggle.

    Classroom discipline is not easy nor automatic. As part of discovering themselves and the world kids test. They have to find out like stage props which stand up when pushed and which fall over. Idea is to have few that fall over. Generally, when kids are goofing off - talking, out of seat, playing with objects etc. - it can almost always be traced back to a lack of structure. That is, classroom discipline starts at the door jam on the first day of school. Students will know how good you are at classroom management within 10 seconds. How do they know? By the way they enter the room. If the entering procedure is not structured to the teacher’s standards it will be, by default, structured to the students’ standards. This is known as “scoping out the teacher” time.

    Some teachers, especially new teachers, dive in with the notion building relationship is about capitulating or giving students free reign to do their thing. This has more to do with the teacher’s needs, being liked, than what’s best for students. In reality, most students like a teacher who runs a tight ship. The quiet majority appreciate an environment where they can get their work done without unnecessary disruptions. It is usually the vocal few who attempt to make the teacher feel like a fool for having any standards whatsoever.

    Consider: 1) Never use instruction for discipline. This includes “writing” as a punishment. Keep discipline and instruction separate. 2) Avoid public discipline. This means public warnings, threats, punishment or public displays of who is good and bad. Discipline done correctly should be private, between teacher and student. 3) There is a direct relationship between students’ physical distance to the teacher and how they behave. If you want students to be accountable move your body not your mouth. Avoid remaining stationary. Work the crowd.
     
  6. PluggedP93

    PluggedP93 New Member

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Thank you for the very detailed and interesting advice! I believe my wife imposed a certain structure from day 1 but, obviously, I was not there, so I could be mistaken. Nonetheless, I will share what you've written with her (especially the quote ;) ). However, would you care to elaborate on discipline techniques? If it is not to be written or public, what other forms of discipline could she use that would be effective?

    Thank you once more!
     
  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Sep 30, 2019

    Private one-on-one conferences are preferable over public shaming. Building relationships and showing respect towards students is necessary in order to succeed at classroom management. Your wife needs to have side conversations with the students who are being disruptive rather than making them write or shaming them in front of the class. Of course she might have to say their names to get their attention if the "teacher look" or a whole-class redirect isn't working, but she should always have a conversation about what the kids were doing to disrupt the class, why it can't be tolerated, and what can be done to meet the students' needs instead after she has finished teaching her lesson. She should be willing to make accommodations for who students who really need it (for example, allowing students to stand at their desk instead of making them sit... or allowing students to sit in a chair during carpet time, even when the rest of the class has to sit on the floor).

    Side note... Did your wife ask you for advice? I complain to my husband (a non-teacher) about work often, but I don't ever want his advice. I just want him to listen, allow me to vent, give me a hug, and tell me that everything will be okay. Sometimes I want him to buy me ice cream or pizza or take me out for drinks. I don't think him giving me advice about teaching would be very well-received. You know your wife best, but think about whether or not she is truly looking to you for advice or simply for emotional support If it's the latter, then take in all that we're suggesting but realize that your wife probably doesn't want to hear it right now. You might even simply suggest that she join this message board or another community of teachers before you share our advice with her. Sometimes just being a part of a community who "gets it" can be therapeutic and can relieve some of the stress and anxiety.
     
  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 30, 2019

    That is great that you are being so supportive. She'll need that. I had one class that I remember had nearly no attention span. The shortest I have seen in over 20 years of teaching. I got some great tips that I have used for years that have helped.

    1. Have props. Since I couldn't get the students attention through most normal methods, I found props worked wonders. There are some things kids can't resist==they are:
    a) A package being unwrapped.
    b) A gift bag and say "I wonder what is inside"
    c) A stuffed animal that is funny where the teacher pretends that the animal drives them crazy. (You see this concept all the time in cartoons.)
    d) A brief but well told story.
    e) About any video--amazing my students wouldn't listen to me, but I recorded myself teaching and they couldn't take their eyes off the screen.

    If she gets their attention right away she has a chance.
     
  9. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Sep 30, 2019

    We're obviously reading between the lines since we're not actually there in the classroom, but what you've described sounds like what we've all experienced. Here are some suggestions and comments I've thought of.

    1. It sounds as if your wife is a great teacher! Her motivation is the key to success.

    2. I might recommend journaling the major incidents of the day, both positive and negative. Include what was occurring at the time. Patterns often pop out in the journal that indicate corrective measures the teacher can take. More than likely, even though it seems like the class is inattentive, it's only a few, but I've also experienced exceptions in my career. A larger portion of misbehaved students can tend to feed the misbehavior. A common mistake is for the teacher to attend to one problem and when her/his back is turned, another student causes a disruption, to where the teacher begins bouncing around the room from one situation to another. Sometimes it's better to stop and get the attention, then continue, while the teacher attends to the entire class. Sometimes it's better to wait until the class is busy on a project and call a student to your desk. Sometimes it's best to request a student to move away from the group, then discuss the situation at a more appropriate time. Another common error is for the teacher to scold an entire class for the behavior of a few students. Then when a behaving student complains, "That's not fair!" the teacher will solemnly reply, "Life's not fair." I'm not certain that is good advice or a good procedure. If consequences are needed, they should always be justly applied. (And when I mention "teacher errors", please realize all of us veteran teachers are thinking, 'Been there. Done that.')

    3. A major key to classroom behavior is structure and routine, especially in elementary school. From what you've described, the students have incorporated their own routine of whispering. Although structure is best begun on day one, kids are adaptable. They understand when structure needs to adapt to more profitable behaviors. A key to discussing these behaviors is to use the most constructive teaching tool in a teacher's arsenal, her/his two ears. When using a "whenever" message, (e.g., "Talking during a lesson makes it difficult for everyone to learn this"), I also listen to the students' ideas for improving the situation. Sometimes, especially after my first one or two cooperative learning lessons, I'll ask the class for their ideas on how well the lesson went--a caution, though, to be sure the students don't start blaming other students for non-productive behavior. It is better for students to suggest a list of positive behaviors, positive comments they might say to each other during a cooperative learning activity, goals to achieve from a lesson, etc. This can also be done individually or in small groups. For individual conferences, the best time to talk, I've found, is in the classroom, either at my desk or just outside the door. Another possibility is in the hall after transporting students to another activity just before it starts.

    4. I might agree and disagree with not correcting a student in front of the class. If a student is misbehaving in front of the class, the students are very much aware of the misbehavior. On the other hand, shaming a student in front of the class is rarely advisable. But in most situations, the teacher is only redirecting the student to more appropriate actions. Much class time can be lost, including the flow of the activity, if the teacher seeks to quietly speak to a misbehaving student every time one misbehaves. In fact, often all that is needed is to just walk near the student(s).

    5. I'd be careful of too much teacher talk in a lesson, especially if it runs overtime into guided practice, which I feel is the most important part of any lesson. Also, sometimes new teachers speak very quickly. (Again, we've all been there--done that). I'd include comments from the students when feasible during a lesson.

    6. Students are talking and listening to each other. Actually, this is a good problem to have. I fear kids today are lacking in language experiences. Their communicative skills are a wonderful plus for their brain growth. We just need to channel this delightful trait into the correct times and places. Again, this is where class discussion and planning comes in. During cooperative activities that become too loud, two suggestions might be a Yacker Tracker (any type of sign with a movable arrow or bar to silently indicate the noise level's too loud) or my favorite, turning off the lights momentarily. Teacher advice--never yell at the students. I speak to them the way I expect them to speak to me. A trick that I've never seen work when other teachers have tried it, (but again, I've heard it does work for some), is for the teacher to raise her/his hand and wait until the entire class is quietly raising their hands. What I've seen happen is the class wearily holds their hands up waiting for the remaining kids to get with it until finally the teacher says, "My hand is raised," then louder, "My hand is raised," then finally, with Skinnerian success, the teacher reaches the voice level that finally quiets the entire class. However, I've used some cues that have worked well.

    To regain a class's attention during a noisy activity, my favorite is a quiet audible signal. At a workshop, I learned to clap out the "Shave and a Hair Cut" rhythm, and the class would answer with 2 more claps and sit or stand quietly or put their activities away and return to their seats within a certain reasonable amount of set time. I've also used other quiet noise makers. I practice this with the class when I introduce the procedure. I also like to have an emergency signal that we practice and I promise (and keep my word) never to use it unless it's an actual emergency, a signal such as counting backwards to zero, snapping my fingers, something quick, in case I need the class to immediately be still and quiet.

    7. Encourage the students. Check in with students from time to time to encourage them on their progress. I see this as the most important procedure in class management.

    8. Be cautious with how much time the students are seated. Depending upon their age, too much sitting is difficult for their muscles. It's also unhealthy, and their young bodies and brains are aware of that. Some ways to integrate movement:
    A. Ask the class to find a partner and tell each other something they want to remember about the lesson, or tell their partner an idea about the lesson, or ask their partner a question about the lesson. Almost always when I do this, one student will choose me for a partner.
    B. Integrate standing or motions into a lesson. (A quick interjection, I always have a signal to indicate the activity/game is over, such as "The game is over when I give 2 thumbs up").
    C. Move to the floor or the carpet area of the room.
    D. Include brain breaks between lessons, 2-5 minutes while you get the next lesson ready and the students can get their desk ready, whisper (and I might enjoy whispering with a student too), walk around the room, etc. This helps the students brains organize the learned information and reset for the next lesson. (It helps my brain reset, too).

    9. A word about spaced out kids--that was me. I was ADD central when I was in elementary school. The teachers shaming me in front of the class did not help, either. This was before such a diagnosis existed, so the teachers assumed I was just a bad kid. A friend of mine the same age, who is ADHD, he was actually labeled incapable of learning in elementary school; well, today he is a respected and sought after psychologist! Not all professionals agree with me, but I'm in the camp that sees ADD and other spacy traits as being a positive rather than a disease, not that Ritalin isn't helpful, but why do all kids have to have the exact same brain mechanism? Aside from the misery I felt in school (from teachers discouraging me rather than assisting me to adjust to my style of learning), I'm am so thankful for my ADD. Because of it, I'm more creative in my teaching, in my music writing, in playing the piano, and in my writing stories. Every brain is special, not just the ADD brain, but all brains.

    10. This final tip will seem impossible, but it's necessary. Unwind. Relax. Give yourself time. Limit after school work. The more you can check during your breaks or during class, the better. For the students, the sooner you can give feedback and assist, the better, too. Try to avoid taking work home. Give yourself, somehow, 30 minutes 5 days a week to walk or do some other aerobic activity. Eat healthful foods; avoid fast foods--they slow you down. Never procrastinate till the weekend or (in my opinion, worse yet) Sunday evening. Weekends are your time to unwind. This is your time for a brain break. When your brain resets, you'll be surprised how much more attentive your class will become and how much more you can get done in a day. The better your brain is operating physically (from proper nutrition and exercise) the more you'll get done, too.

    Again, as Mr. Rogers would advise, there is no one else like you. That is why it is so important for you to be that teacher for these students. Someone with your motivation is so needed. Don't be down on yourself for current difficulties or any mistakes you will make. (You'll always be improving, by the way. There are no perfect teachers). The best way to learn, as Ms. Frizzle would say, is to "Get messy, take chances, and (most importantly) make mistakes!"
     
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  10. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Sep 30, 2019

    It’s nearly impossible to never go public with discipline. It’s a place you may have to visit on rare occasions but one doesn’t want to live there. Eliminating public discipline is mostly about a battle with yourself. When a kid pulls some stunt you never want to see again you will always have a fight-flight reflex. You have no control over your biology. It will happen. Yet we know some teachers have the same biology as everyone else but are able to remain cool, calm and collected in the face of provocation. How do they do it?

    There are basically two kinds classroom managers: 1) reactive 2) proactive. It is far easier to be #2. Proactive teachers anticipate problems and prevent them from starting. Reactive types tend to deal with behavior as it unfolds in front of them. Example: Let’s say you want students to stay in their seats during instruction. A reactive teacher might make an announcement about the rule and figure the rule has been “taught”. They are in a hurry to get to instruction. A proactive teacher would teach the procedure just like any important lesson - from input to checking for understanding to modeling to teach your partner. This satisfies an important rule about classroom management: don’t expect students to attach any more importance to a rule or procedure than you do. Then after teaching the procedure the first thing that happens is some student will have to test it. They get out of their seat. This is part of the teacher’s report card student’s file away. What do you do? The procedure was not followed. It does not matter to what degree or who did it. You start over. From the beginning. You practice and practice until students get it right. It may take all period. Students are sizing you up. Are you a real teacher or a wannabe?

    Some teachers don’t want to be bothered with so much attention to discipline. After all, there’s a lot of curriculum to teach. They cave. Students learn the teacher’s rules are nothing but “hot air”. And since getting out of seat doesn’t apply they begin to test other rules. Soon the teacher is stopping instruction over and over to deal with discipline. They are losing far more instructional time on a daily basis than if they had taught the procedure correctly in the first place.
     
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  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Oct 1, 2019

    Does your wife know you are here asking questions? If not, I hope your hope to help doesn't turn into one more self-defeating incident in her life where she thinks that you think she isn't capable of figuring out what to do and even someone who isn't a teacher is now more able than her.
     
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  12. PluggedP93

    PluggedP93 New Member

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    Oct 1, 2019

    Thank you so much everyone who took the time to respond. What a great community you are! So many insightful, detailed, well-explained and helpful points. I am taking all that you have all written to heart and will definitely reflect on all of it before bringing any of this up to my wife, especially whether it will actually help her or bring her down more, as some of you have pointed out.

    My wife does come to me for comfort often, and for advice occasionally. I won't be printing all of this and bombarding her with it as a "you must change all your ways now" solution, but it does give me some great ideas I will be able to pass on when she is looking for advice or a solution to some problem she is having. If I see that she still struggles as much as she is now, then I will recommend this community to her, so she can she that she is not alone in this.

    I am also seeing, unfortunately for her, that the school she is working at seems to be a part of the problem (which I'm sure you have all experienced at least once). Without going into details, 3 of her colleagues have found reason to terminate their contracts just in September.

    Once again, thanking you all for all your time and help :)
     
  13. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    When it comes to classroom management and teaching style, it is easy t feel confused and overwhelmed as a new teacher. There are so many ways to do things, and you can ask 10 teachers, they will have 10 very different styles.

    There are several books out there, she should try to read some and use ONE that resonates with her. I've always loved the Tools for teaching by Fred Jones, and stuck with that. Other books, like Teaching with Love and Logic or Teach like a Champion, I didn't agree with s much, so I focused on the one book I really liked. Not to say that she can't take bits of advice from other books, but if they contradict each other, it's just a big mess.

    This is the same thing with asking other teachers for advice. Maybe she could ask someone at school who she knows, trusts and respects (as much as she can in such a short time) and see what they would suggest, and try it out, if she agrees with that style.

    Give things a little bit of time to see if they work, if not, teak it a little, try to figure out why it didn't. It's not recommended to change up classroom management styles often.

    I'm just saying this because new teachers, who feel like nothing is working, are often quick to give up a certain procedures / consequence system, and want to try to something new, and not really give it enough time to work.

    All in all, as others suggested, classroom management has to come first, so she can teach.
     
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  14. Kendall2018

    Kendall2018 Rookie

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    Oct 2, 2019

    I am also a first year teacher who has always dreamed of having her own classroom. I was so excited to decorate my classroom and start. It was so much harder than I could have ever thought. It was information overload and I hated going to work. I was depressed that the job I've always dreamed of wasn't what I imagined. It was the worst feeling.
    One month in and I'm learning to allow myself to make mistakes and give myself time to learn everything that was thrown at me. I also asked for support with some of my challenging students.
    I asked for help with the curriculum and guidance. This week was the first time I enjoyed my job and my students. I was too stressed and too numb to feel anything else before.
    I am starting to see progress in terms of behavior and learning.
    I was very firm and continue to be firm and structured. I ask just starting to see results. It'll happen and your wife will start to enjoy coming to work. It took a lot of patience and I'm still learning and have lots to learn, but I'm starting to look at the positives like how my students are growing and it is rewarding.
    I learned to allow myself to continue to learn and make mistakes.
     
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  15. Tired Teacher

    Tired Teacher Cohort

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    Oct 5, 2019

    This grab and can hold their attention for a day! I love it.
    Also, I love Bella's ice cream suggestion! :)
    The 1st yr of teaching can be tough. She is lucky to have such support!
     

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