Need help, class descending into chaos!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by OCaptain!MyCaptain!, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! Rookie

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    Sep 16, 2017

    Hello, this is my first year teaching and I teach at an urban high school in NJ. This week has been nothing short of a disaster.

    When the school year started last Thursday, I had three units of seniors and two units of freshmen. The first few days we were given a loose outline of what we should be doing that first week and a half. We had a nice day of ice breakers on the first day, a review of class policy and expectations on the second day, and two days powerful days on 9/11 poetry. All my classes, though a bit shaky due to me still getting my bearings, were relatively successful. My students were engaged with all the lessons.

    However, due to a series of scheduling shifts and the dissolution of certain senior classes, I was instead given a schedule of almost entirely sophomores and left with one unit of freshmen. Once the switch was made, everything went right down the drain.

    Day 1, this past Wednesday, I tried a different ice breaker technique and my classes were nowhere near as great as my first few days but I had a decent enough level of engagement.

    On day 2, I launched right into the curriculum and could not maintain any semblance of order in at least two of my new classes. Kids were coming in and speaking loudly with their friends. Even after 10 minutes had passed, few had even begun their do now activities which I wanted collected. When I tried to begin my mini lesson before we went into coursework, there was a persistent buzz that I could never completely eliminate despite all verbal and nonverbal cues. If I could get it quiet enough while reading, I would stop what I was presenting, look at the offending party until they got the hint, then resume. However, after enough stoppages, the buzz got to a level that I had to yell above the class to quiet everyone down which I absolutely hate doing. I had to warn several kids to put their cellphones away or they would be taken away. The following day, I had already taken 3 phones.

    By day 3, I decided that despite it not being the first week of school, the behavior on our day 2 was unacceptable and that we would need to review the procedures, something I wrongly assumed they were taught in their last class. Today was my "putting my foot down" day. I modeled what to do for the do now procedures, then kicked everyone out of the classroom and had them come in quietly to try it as a class. This was met with significant eye rolls, groans, and complains that "this isn't kindergarten". I was able to get them into class quietly but again, I couldn't crush the noise level enough to get any semblance of meaningful learning with these two classes. The kids who were there to learn looked entirely helpless and likely disappointed in my inability to get things together. It truly broke my heart to see that. For several of my classes, I'd tried to pull several individual kids that were egregiously ignoring me and had talks with them. I don't know my kids well enough to feel comfortable throwing detentions at anyone yet. However, it's not as if I had the time to yank 5 or 6 kids into the hallway so I had to choose the 1 or 2 from each class.

    Come Monday, I refuse to walk into my classroom without any meaningful game plan. I know for certain that I'll burn out before the end of the month if my classes continue like this. I've asked countless colleagues for advice on these classes and have formed some ideas of what I want to do. My supervisor has been nothing but supportive. She has come to observe my classroom and made recommendations about techniques. She's allowed me to deviate from the school's prewritten curriculum guide for as long as I need to get my class under control and she's also offered assistance in anything discipline related. I have nothing but love for my staff here. Except maybe whoever it was that switched my schedule lol.

    Anyway, here are some things I know I still need to do.

    1. Learn everyone's names and faces - I essentially got 80 new faces midweek and have to relearn everyone. Memorizing names is tough because the community itself is 80% black and I'm still familiarizing myself with the proper pronunciations of several names. I know once I start calling kids out by name, they'll respond a lot better.
    2. Make a new seating arrangement - I was so disoriented by the shift in curriculum that I had no time during the week to make a new seating chart. This should help me tremendously with memorizing names and keeping some of the problematic groups apart.
    3. Design an engaging enough lesson - I'm not going to lie. The required readings were a bit dry and I could pitch them with the same efficacy as I did the 9/11 poetry lessons which were entirely my own. I have the department's blessing to teach whatever I want to get my class in order so long as they have a copy of what I'm doing.

    In the mean time, what are some strategies that you can recommend as far as management and engagement? I feel as if I definitely lost some respect day 1 already and will need to find a way to not only get that back, but to maintain order.


    tl;dr: I teach at an urban school and can't get my classes under control enough to have any meaningful learning. Kids are largely ignoring the class structure I'm trying to put into place and doing as they will. Help!
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
    AlwaysAttend likes this.
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  3. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Enthusiast

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    Sep 16, 2017

    I think you're doing all the right things . Only thing you could have done differently was hit your new classes with rules and procedures after the icebreaker. The good thing is you recognized that and rectified it. You'll find your footing. Engagement is important and I'd start there (in addition to what you described above).
     
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  4. rpan

    rpan Comrade

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    Sep 16, 2017

    All students test their new teachers, see what they teacher is like, what they can get away with and what they can't. You showed them who's the boss of the class so that's good. Once you learn their names and form relationships with them things will improve. Be respectful in your interactions with them. If 'straight up' poetry is not well received you could try making it into a song, using ultra tune or similar software, that could be engaging. If they are enjoying your class, it's a proactive classroom management technique. Students who are engaged and respect you as a person and appreciate your effort, don't go out of their way to make your life hell.
     
  5. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! Rookie

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    Sep 17, 2017

    I wish I'd done a better job of showing them who was boss though. Students are certainly capitalizing on the chaos and choosing to do as they please because "everyone else is doing it." I just need to tilt it just enough in my favor to have the majority of kids on my side. I've been thinking a lot about it and the new seating chart is priority number one. The further kids are from their friends, the fewer opportunities they'll have to be distracted.

    I'd like to think my classes are engaging but I suppose how I feel when making the lessons may be different than what the kids are feeling on the receiving end. I doubt anyone in the crowd is as big a lit nerd as me but perhaps I can mix it up with a few more youtube clips or more hands on lessons.
     
  6. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Sep 17, 2017

    https://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2017/09/16/why-your-students-need-to-play/

    You may find this interesting. I know what "buzz" you're talking about and have had the same eye rolling "we're not in kindergarten" reaction when practicing procedures. I have two groups of students; one is awesome, one seems to hate being in really any classroom at all, mine included and would rather just not listen anything a teacher says. I'm going to continue sticking to rules and am going to actually be tougher with consequences but also looked at ways to get students interested this upcoming week. Find some engaging hooks to start your lessons, find some videos or popular music that relates to what you're learning, and find a way to make class a bit fun (maybe dramatic read aloud while you are reading boring dry text?).

    (FWIW - my students are younger and an entirely different demographic I imagine, but take away those indicators and I can completely relate with what you've said.)
     
  7. DAH

    DAH Companion

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    Sep 17, 2017

    Hello Captain. Monday morning make a tentative seating arrangement. Start by focusing on students who are not part of the rowdy crowd, and group them together, up front, closest to the teacher.

    The worst behaved students, push to the back. Having everyone spread-out all over the room, good student's mixed in with troublemakers, makes it even harder for you to manage. So, first thing: Group them.

    Begin to teach those who want to learn; they're seated up front, they can hear you. Get them started, then walk to the back and deal with those who are just horsing around.


    Eventually, some student's from the back will choose to move forward, when they see that they are falling behind and may not pass.
    Good luck...
     
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  8. RWorld1

    RWorld1 Rookie

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    Oct 12, 2017

    Ahhh.... there was a great book on classroom management which I read a while back. Can't remember the name of it to save my life. Will try find it and get back to you.
     
  9. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2017

    It's been a little over a month and things are still a bit rough. The seating arrangement alleviated some of the issues but some days are better than others. I tried not smiling and giving shorter, clearer directions which helped a bit too. However, last week felt particularly chaotic.

    As a result of the chaos, I'm ending up with a lot of kids asking me to reiterate my directions and I'm ending up with half completed worksheets.

    Here's a new strategy I was thinking. Every day, I'm going to grade kids on a 5 point scale.
    1 point for doing today's Do Now activity
    2 for participation/punctuality/behavior
    2 for the actual classwork

    Before I was grading each and every worksheet and spending hours checking to see if every response was correct and half my kids ended up failing because they couldn't get every single detail of every worksheet. I'm hitting a bit of a reset button with this new system.

    I think with grading done this way, kids can see the direct correlation between their behavior and their grades since most of them check their grades daily on the school's grading software/app. Also, I can just spot check to see if they engaged with today's lesson in the worksheet but not spend hours checking for every detail.

    Maybe for kids who can nail a perfect score for the week, I can treat them to small prizes like candy or a pack of pencils. What do you guys think? Any suggestions about implementation?
     
  10. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Enthusiast

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    Oct 15, 2017

    Maybe the kids are bored with the worksheets and that's why they're acting out. Aren't you bored teaching that way?
     
  11. OCaptain!MyCaptain!

    OCaptain!MyCaptain! Rookie

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    Oct 15, 2017

    Could be possible that it is a matter of engagement. We're currently doing The Crucible right now.

    Our school doesn't have enough copies of the book for each student so all reading for content really has to be done in class. I originally wanted to get the whole class reading portions of the play but I found it cumbersome, many students tuning out or starting their own sidebar conversations while we had a dedicated few trying to read over all the noise.

    Later I tried having them do small group reading and again, some groups were able to get on board with it while others just sat around refusing to read together.

    The reason they've got so many worksheets and graphic organizers is I've had the highest success rate showing portions of an excellent stage production on our Smartboard. I need something to grade them on to see that they're understanding the major plot points.

    But I think you might be right in that some might be bored. I think I've been too concerned with managing the chaos to realize if I enjoy teaching this way. I essentially looking for any way to teach to get my class functional.

    If you have recommendations for unorthodox approaches and activities, I am receptive to trying anything and everything. We get laptops twice a week also so I'm on board with integrating technology into my classroom too.
     
  12. AlwaysAttend

    AlwaysAttend Enthusiast

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    Oct 15, 2017

    What is the home internet access like with your population? Move the videos online for homework so they come to class prepared for what you're planning. If you don't think they'll do the homework, do it in class.

    I never read the book but seems like you could use a mock trial if it's about the salem witch trial. You could rewrite scenes from a different perspective. You could also just google search the book title and project based learning. I work with younger kids so I'm probably not the best guidance (but those ideas I gave you seem good to me). Try posting this content question in the content forum for ela.
     

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