Confused about teaching

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-23-2004
Confused about teaching
8
Thu, 07-29-2004 - 3:49pm
Hi,

School will start for us next week. I am a first year teacher. Well I taught the last 6 weeks of school 2 years ago and I taught in the middle of the school year last year. I am still in my 20's and chose education after leaving Epidemiology and starting a family. I really enjoy teaching but my problem is that the situations that I have taught in have beem less than favorable and the students (from inner city schools) do not care about their futures or anyone elses future. Because I have not come in the beginning of a school year yet my management skills have not been great, and I am scared to start this school year with problems as I had at my other schools. I am also 7 months pregnant and will have to leave shortly after school begins and may not return until January. I really do enjoy teaching when my students are enjoying it, but instead I get the majority of students talking, sleeping and beautifying themselves. Are there any suggestions as to how to handle the first days of school jitters and concerns? I have read the book and seen the videos Harry Wong have put out, but nothing seems to work with these students. I was antidepressants the few months that I taught last school year. I really would like to teach and succeed in doing so but the behaviors and attitudes of the students are really bringing me down.

I appreciate you letting me get this off my chest, I really don't have anyone to talk with about this.

How did some of you handle your first years of teaching?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

New Teacher

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Fri, 07-30-2004 - 1:41pm

You don't say exactly what grade and/or subjects you'll be teaching. This would help with advice. In general, however, devise a plan, be fair, stick to your plan and carry through.

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Sat, 07-31-2004 - 10:39am
I remember those first few years, and they were rough.

One thing that makes a huge difference - that you probably won't have much control over - is the administration of your school. The school where I teach is about 70% minority, but neither the principal or assistant is to be trifled with. The kids do not want to hear their names on the morning announcements to report to Ms. Whoever's office. They know they'll come back with some kind of disciplinary consequence.

What follows from this is the whole attitude of the school. The kids know they are expected to be in class, working.

You would probably benefit from some type of mentor teacher. Any chance of finding that? Someone you can go to with concerns and questions.

I finally worked things out in my classroom to where things run fairly smoothly.

My top # 1 rule is STAY IN YOUR SEAT. That's when most of the chaos would happen - when someone gets up to throw something away, sharpen a pencil, etc. I keep plenty of sharpened pencils on hand. I can exchange need-to-be-sharpened pencils for them, and I can also supply the "I-don't-have-a-pencil" people.

The talking is more difficult. You can try approaching that with the parents and asking them to speak to junior. This will work for some. It could be helpful, if you have something set up with another teacher to remove the biggest talker in a time-out like atmosphere. Sometimes, I just sit and wait.

I have a reward system in my classroom that works for me. It allows me to reward those who do what they are supposed to, and warn/consequence those who are not. I have a small class (I teach 7th and 8th grade resource), and an assistant, so it works for me. Probably wouldn't work for a larger class.

What some teachers do, is keep a roster handy. If someone is in need of a "correction" for talking or tardy or whatever, they make a mark on the roster next to their name. This contributes to their conduct grade. 0-2 marks is an "E", 3-5 is an "S", more than 5 is an "N" or whatever. Then, once a week, they send the number of corrections, along with their average in the subject home with the parent (I can tell you more about HOW they do this without adding a ton of work to themselves, if you're interested.) Those who have had ZERO corrections for the week, receive an "emergency pass" - a little square of colored paper (to help avoid counterfeits) with something cute xeroxed on it which can be used in that teacher's class to leave class for a bathroom visit or whatever or they can be saved and redeeemed at the end of the 9 weeks for extra points. Most save them.

I'm rambling, now, but if you want more information about any of this, let me know. I don't stress too much about sleeping, (though I do usually let a parent know if it becomes an ongoing thing) but the talking and grooming distract other students. I tell 'em they're gorgeous already - to please put their accessories away.

Good luck!

Karen

 


PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-04-2003
Sat, 07-31-2004 - 8:03pm
Hello camilliab, welcome to our board. I understand your problem because I have ONLY worked in inner city schools with students who don't give a flying rat's butt about their futures and I wish I had an answer for you. I wish I could tell you how to make it better but I don't really know. All I know is this, establish your rules and policy from day one and NEVER WAIVER FROM IT. I don't care if you are there for 10 seconds, they are supposed to honor your classroom or they must serve a consequence.

I have fought through much depression over my job as well. These students are allowed to verbally abuse you and you are just supposed to take it and love them anyway. It's too much and frankly, I am trying to decide if I am going to be a teacher for the rest of my life because I am getting burned out after only 6 years. Do what is best for you and your baby. Know your deal breakers and be ready to move on if your work environment becomes less than favorable.

On the bright side, you will meet a student that will make it worth it on some days. There is always one who will capture your heart and make you happy for just a moment that you became a teacher. You must decide if this is your true calling. If it is, stick with with it. If not, save your sanity and move on. Your health is worth it. Take care of you and always devote 100 percent of yourself to your job. That's all anyone can ask of you in the end.

GT33

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-04-2003
Sat, 07-31-2004 - 8:09pm
Hey Karen, send me some of that positivity cause I am reaching my breaking point. UGH!!

You gave some awesome advice. I am going to do what you suggested. I know it will work.

GT33

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Sun, 08-01-2004 - 2:52pm
Sending TONS of positivity. One thing that has helped me is to find SOMETHING to complement - even if it's not entirely the gospel truth - both as a class and as individuals. "I've NEVER had a class who has gotten this lesson on the first try!" "You know what? You guys did great to get THIS close to the library without talking! And don't worry - because I'm gonna give you ANOTHER chance to get all the way to the library/cafeteria/wherever without talking. Let's go back to the class and try again so we can make it ALL the way." "You know, I think I had this stuff in High School. I can't believe they're teaching it in middle school now. They must have smart kids today!" (Not entirely a lie.) I tell them how smart they are, how I know they can get something. I think at the beginning we all know that I'm blowing smoke, but I think by the end of the year, we mostly believe it. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any time I can without telling a total lie, I tell parents, other teachers, administrators, even other students, what a great class I have - and it helps if my students are there to hear it. But even if they're not - word gets around.

Those that are the worst, I try to find some redeeming qualities. Whether it's that they do great artwork, or they're good readers, have beautiful handwriting, wonderful smiles, cute hair, hard workers, a thoughtful nature - something. I make sure they hear about it a lot.

I had one kid last year, who I knew was going to be h*ll on wheels. I made it a point to call his mom early on in the year before he had done anything to get in trouble for in my class. I told her how polite he was and what a good worker he was. She nearly dropped the phone, but from then on, I had both of them on my side. Unfortunately, he didn't last long last year - he and the AP didn't get along at all - and he was gone to an alternate setting by the end of September. I'll have him back this year, so I made sure I wrote on his final report card that I was looking forward to seeing him and congratulated him for a great report card. Hopefully that will pay dividends. I hear he has a gun tattooed on his ankle these days, etc.

The way my colleagues send home the info weekly (or bi-weekly) is this: They have a slip of paper preprinted with "My average in (Science) as of (date) is a ____% or (letter grade). This week I had ______ corrections and my conduct grade is an _____." There is a place for the child to print their name and hour and a place for the parent's signature. At the beginning of the year, they assign each kid a "secret number". This is usually the hour + a 2-digit #. 497 would be someone in 4th hour. They are not given out alphabetically to avoid some smart little thing knowing that Avery, John has a 53/F.

Then every Wednesday or whenever, the slips are passed out. The averages are called out by secret number - 410 - 78/C; 427-100/A. Etc. The kids write down their averages. The corrections are called out John, 2 corrections/S, Jimmy 4 corrections/U, etc. Everyone else - 0 corrections/E. He then calls out those with 0 corrections, has them come up to get their free pass, and they are done with that. Probably takes 10 or 15 minutes of classtime a week, but his class runs like a smooth-running machine. To encourage them to bring them back signed - it's a 10 point grade per week. If they're brought back the following day, it's a 10/10. Any other day is a 5/10. Not at all is a 0/10.

Many of my students have this particular teacher for science and they think they're helping themselves to not show a bad grade to their parents. I have to point out that by the end of the 9 weeks, these little 10 point grades add up to 90 points - about as much as a test. Easy points if you bring them back 90/90. Significant loss if you don't. Nobody ever leaves his class without presenting him with a free pass. Unless they're called to the office.

Some teachers fill out the slips themselves, some send them biweekly, some use the returned slips as bonus points, but he seems to do it most effectively and efficiently. At the end of the 9 weeks - he raises their report card grade by 1 point for each slip they wish to redeem.

It works to reward those who do what they're supposed to do - get to class on time, stay in class, pay attention, behave. It does not spend a lot of time on those who do not, other than to say, "Jane - that's a mark for talking."

Another teacher I knew - who mostly dealt with 5th and 6th graders would put a message on her board hangman style (one for each hour). When the kids were especially good, she would call on a couple of people to guess a letter which she would fill in. When the message was completed, she would have them bring 50 cents, and then she'd buy donuts or something for them.

It'll take some trial and error to find what works for you. Everyone always told me that I needed to be "meaner", but that didn't work for me.

Gotta run - my kids are calling me.

Karen

 


PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Sun, 08-01-2004 - 8:25pm

Karen:


Thanks for all the great advice and support.

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Sun, 08-01-2004 - 11:27pm
Any time.

My attitude about the parents is that most of them are doing the best they can. It ain't great, but most of them at least talk a good game about trying. I think a huge part of teh problem is the predominance of 1-parent families....especially in the minority communities. Hard enough to raise kids with 2 parents. Gets really tough when you've got a 13 year old boy with no dad to put him in his place. I'm talking about kids who don't know their dad at all or haven't seen him in years.

It has been my experience, too, that most parents want better for their children than what they've achieved themselves. Some of them don't have a clue about how to do that, but most at least have that desire. "I never learned to read" or "I didn't get past 8th grade", but they won't more for their kids.

When I call parents to discuss Bam Bam's behavior, I almost always get a promise to speak to the child or something along the lines of "he's doing the same thing at home...we don't know what to do with him/her." If I get that line, then at least the parent knows where I'm coming from.

Two things I have seen improve work ethic - welfare reform - almost all of my students have parents who work, and the kids no longer see 'getting a crazy check' as a career choice. And for all of it's downfalls, high stakes testing has given them some motivation.

A huge help in dealing with this is support in the workplace. Our school has gone with teaming in the academic subjects. Those teachers are able to meet together every day to discuss students, meet with parents, meet with students, etc. I have a teaching assistant, who is a lifesaver. Our faculty is very close, for the most part. I think that helps with sanity.

I think I've been through the burn-out phase and come out the other side. I really don't let what goes on at school cause me to lose sleep. And for the last 3 or 4 years, I have really loved my job. Maybe it was just because I had great kids. I think more likely, though, was that we got a new principal 3 or 4 years ago. She does her job, and expects the same of everyone else. And she pretty much gets it!

Karen

 


PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

Avatar for cre8lovin
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2003
Thu, 08-05-2004 - 11:13pm
Have you read The Essential 55 by Ron Clark?? I am in the middle of it, and it is so enlightening. I would urge you to read it before the beginning of school. I would also outline your expectations, rules and consequences and form a contract that the parents and the students sign. That way, when they say, "That is so ridiculous that...(fill in the blank)" you can say, "Ma'am, just look at page 3 of our contract and you'll see..."

Melissa