November 18, 2017, 08:11:20 PM

Author Topic: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?  (Read 500 times)

Offline amyb72

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Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« on: November 10, 2017, 12:17:43 PM »
I'm teaching public middle school with classes of about 34 students. I can control and have smooth lessons with most of my classes but there is this one class of 1st grade middle schoolers who recently have been giving me a hard time.
The co-teacher for this class sits at the back and does her work and has nothing to do with my class. A large amount of the students don't have a good level of English so I make it really simple and sometimes use Korean but whenever I use Korean (my Korean is pretty decent) they just laugh at me. The problem is this class are the type of kids that treat the foreign teacher's class as a joke or an easy class, I know Korean students are stressed and I'm fine to do a fairly easy going lesson with students as long as we are both working well together.
There is one boy in particular who always has sarcastic rude type jokes and whenever he jokes everyone laughs along and then other boys will join in. The thing is when I discipline these boys everyone else laughs when I discipline them so then everyone thinks itís a big joke and doesnít take it seriously. They love to see me wound up and I know that but itís so stressful alone with the most part of 34 kids laughing at me. In any case, Iíve never yelled at students, however they can just see Iím like flustered I guess and then itís come to the point where I guess they donít take me seriously at all. Other teachersí advice has been to take their free time, this works with a lot of classes but not with this class.
In my classes I also use a positive reward system, so I have ďfree timeĒ, ďmusic/movie timeĒ, ďteacher has to buy snacksĒ coupons etc and this is really effective. This class doesnít care about these at all.
Iím all out of ideas, Iím trying my best to keep my cool and just keep the lesson going but itís stressful and frustrating. Today it really got to me and I ended up just crying after the lesson :/ Especially since I put so much time and effort into my lesson plans and to have these kids just throw it back in my face and have no support from the co-teacher.

I would be really grateful for any advice or tips!!

Also if you read this whole post, thank you very much :)

Offline ithinkinailedit

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2017, 01:40:17 PM »
Since you have 34 students I'm going to assume it's a public school class? One thing I've always found to work in public school, is to take away their precious 10 minute break between classes. Think back to when you were in middle school. Didn't it suck to not have that brief moment of social time between classes? I always give them three strikes, then make them stay 5 minutes later after the bell. If they continue acting up (very rarely), I'll stretch that out to 10 and force them to be late to their next class. It also helps to see if you can talk to their homeroom teachers. Get the names of the students who are causing the most problems and basically report them.

Offline amyb72

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2017, 05:23:26 PM »
Since you have 34 students I'm going to assume it's a public school class? One thing I've always found to work in public school, is to take away their precious 10 minute break between classes. Think back to when you were in middle school. Didn't it suck to not have that brief moment of social time between classes? I always give them three strikes, then make them stay 5 minutes later after the bell. If they continue acting up (very rarely), I'll stretch that out to 10 and force them to be late to their next class. It also helps to see if you can talk to their homeroom teachers. Get the names of the students who are causing the most problems and basically report them.

Hi ! Yes public school. And this is what I have currently been doing :/ I take away their break time. It works with other classes but this one class just doesn't care. They don't like it exactly but they will still come back the following and be the same!  I actually did end up talking with their homeroom teacher and his response was "I'm very sorry, my class is worst class in the school and we don't know how to control them" ... Not so helpful but at least I know now they aren't like this only in my class..

Online Chinguetti

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2017, 08:49:53 AM »
In your case, the problem is down to one or two students. They're controlling the behavior of the rest of the students, and for as long as those students think THEY'RE the ones in control, the other students will follow their lead. You have to take control away from them. Taking away their free time is a good start, but it's already late in the year and they've already developed "coping mechanisms" for dealing with it, which isn't good for you; however, this is mostly gonna be due to the leading problem students.

First, you'll need to speak with the your coT and their homeroom teacher to find out how far you're permitted to go. Some schools will allow you to boot them from class. Others... not so much. If you're permitted to boot them from class, try to escort them directly to their homeroom teacher. If their homeroom teacher is teaching a class at that time (find out first), then see if you can escort them to the teacher's office where they'll have to sit and wait for either their homeroom teacher, or the VP/P. But before all of this, you really need to discuss if you'll be permitted to do this with the KTs and the VP/P. Either way, you need to zero in on individual students rather than on the entire class. You only deal with the entire class AFTER you've directly removed or effectively castrated the main problem students. You need to show them AND the rest of the class that YOU'RE the one in control, not them. For that, you need to understand both student mindset and Korean hierarchy. Make them lose face, but do it in a way that the rest of the class will feel that the problem students are embarrassing themselves, and that the class is also being childish by following their lead. Example: When a student is purposely trying to make YOU lose face by saying disrespectful things and laughing while you're talking to him -- stop talking. Stare, and stare hard. Don't stop until he gets super uncomfortable. And believe me, if you stare long enough and hard enough, he will. The longer you have to stare at him before you can continue class, the sooner it becomes clear to both him and the rest of the class that he's being childish and only embarrassing himself. At this point, one of two things will happen: 1) He'll stop, or 2) his behavior will escalate to try to recover some face. In my own experience, they'll get visibly angry and try to shut you down, or they'll try to storm out of class. Either way, you react immediately by escorting him from the class OR preventing him from leaving the class without an escort. Either way, the confrontation doesn't end on HIS terms... it ends on yours. It's okay if he gets visibly upset. That's actually good for you. You just can't allow yourself to become visibly upset. You can be angry. But it needs to be controlled and systematic.

Second, no matter how much effort you put into your lessons, and no matter how badly the students behave, you have to learn not to take it personally, even if it feels personal. These are kids. Yes, they know what they're doing, and yes, the majority probably know what they're doing is wrong, but they lack the maturity level to really see exactly how it makes them appear to others outside of themselves and how it may/may not effect their futures. This is just a game to them. All they know right now is that they like feeling like they're the ones in control, and they'll try to maintain that using any means necessary. So, don't take it personally. Turn the game around on them. They're trying to show the teachers who's boss, and they'll believe they've won each battle if they see you getting upset and flustered. By all means, you can show them that you're angry -- but this must be a controlled burn, and one with consequences that they'll regret. This is something you're gonna have to establish over time, and, with proper execution and support from the school, you'll be surprised by how fast it works. But you need to show the class what can and will happen to them by making examples out of select students. You punish those students first, then the rest of the class. Rinse and repeat.

I've got more to say but I need to get somewhere.

But please, feel free to follow-up and to provide more info, including on what type of punishments you've already tried to institute outside of the free-time-removal, and what, if any, actions your school has actually done in dealing with these students. They're all low-level and misbehave in all of their classes, but I'm betting that a lot of them aren't as low-level as they pretend to be. A common Korean student tactic is to play dumb. They believe it gets them out of doing certain types of work, and that it gives them more ability to disrespect the teacher, ESPECIALLY the foreign teacher (because their excuse is why do they need to respect a teacher whom they can't understand?). The rest is potential. For as long as there's a toxic atmosphere, there's no conducive motivation to learn or to behave themselves.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 09:14:59 AM by Chinguetti »

Online Chinguetti

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 01:08:27 PM »
Following up to finish what I started.

The other thing that you have to learn to do is to get your coT more directly involved in handling class discipline. That's the very bare minimum of their jobs. But when you do, it's ideal to have the two of you acting as a team. He or she needs to back up anything you say to the students and vice versa. It's easier to get results when you've got two teachers coming down on a single student. So talk to him or her about it first, and let them know what you're planning to do so that it doesn't catch him/her by surprise, and what you expect (aka hope) that he or she will do in response to it. (S)he needs to be prepared to take any offending students out of the classroom, either for a private lecture/scolding, or to escort them to the next authority if that student(s) refuses to bend.

Everything you do must be consistent and immediate. No exceptions. Establish a pattern, and be stern but very clear and fair about it. You need to reaffirm your expectations and set them as the norm, not the exception. This doesn't mean going off on long rants and lectures at the entire class. Actions speak louder than words, especially with students. You went over the rules, and they know what they did. They just need to understand what the consequences are, and that these consequences are inevitable, especially with low-level, highly unmotivated students who tend to act out in order to establish dominance or alleviate boredom.

Finally... you can also try joking and bullshitting with the students more often. Not all difficult students are best handled by cracking the whip. Sometimes you just need to get down to their level and not take them or yourself too seriously. If they make fun of something you say, use some wit and toss a friendly barb right back. Learn to analyze the students' behaviors, their facial expressions, their tendencies to glance at each other to gauge what others are thinking/will do. Sometimes you just need to toss them some good humored shade. Other times, you need to bring down the hammer. Either way, you need to establish that while you can be friendly with them, you're not their peer.

Also, try to work in some activities that require students to use more "athletic" abilities, especially those that require hand-eye coordination (like dart boards with English words taped to them, boxes with ABC labels on them -- to represent answers to questions -- that they have to shoot balls into from certain distances, and etc). It could help with bad behavior that is boredom-motivated. Anyway, let us know how your situation progresses. Wishing you the best of luck.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 02:09:59 PM by Chinguetti »

Offline Dave Stepz

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2017, 09:09:49 AM »
I agree with Chinguetti's two posts, very very good.

Firstly, you'll find that a lot of us have been in the same situation and we've come out the other side better teachers, especially if the things you've tried have worked. 

When I taught in a girls' middle school a few years back there were ten classes in the second grade, 9 were great and 1 was filled with five girls who should never have been put together.  For all other teachers classes they messed around, the teachers even found a facebook group of their's where they discussed about how they would wind up the teachers.  My co-teacher had a lot of problems when he taught them alone and there were a few times during my class where he reacted to their winding up and they just thought it was funny, he crashed their tables and books and the minute he walked off they smiled to each other.  He'd then apologise to me for doing it.  Similar to your group, they do it to get a reaction.  In the second week I was there, the main bad girl burped loudly during class, so I scolded her.  Then when I was monitoring, she did again but about a metre from me.  'Get out!  Now'  That was it.  She didn't talk to me for the rest of the year.  I found just making the class more interesting than their fooking around made them lose interest in disrupting it because the other students were interested in studying.  She just spent the class putting on makeup.  As it was a girls middle, it had some very good students who I felt sorry for because it really messed up all their classes.  In a lot of ways, it is the same for other teachers too.  The homeroom teacher of that class was getting it the whole time.  One time, the main bad girl had her phone in class, so the homeroom teacher threw it and broke it.  Cue calls from parents complaining about their little darling's broken phone. 

I remember years ago I had one bad countryside middle school class, who I felt like giving up on, like you.  When I spoke to my mum on the phone, she bollocked me.  'You're the adult.  You're the teacher.  You're the only one who fix this!'  Since then I've always seen it as a challenge that I have to rise to, as she was right. 

Although Chinguetti wrote a lot of things, I think the idea of seeing how far you can go is a good idea.  If it is just one student who is influencing others, then I'd be up for waiting for them to act up, march them to the teachers' room (corridor is a little risky as they may walk off), plonk them down on the floor somewhere in full view with a piece of paper and make them do lines for the whole class.  When the bell goes, find them and see what they did.  If it happens again, then do it again.  No facial expressions, nothing.  You don't need to shout, silence is much better.
 In that time with the other studetns you can teach the rest of the class and I'd take a wild guess that you can get the majority of class on your side and that will take the power away from them.  Over time, I'd also expect that student to crack a little bit when they realise they don't have that same power.  In some ways, in this situation it comes down to wresting control back from them.  If your Korean is good then that is a big positive. 

You could also spend time with them outside of class, during breaktime.  It helped at my countryside school that the worst students loved football.  So at lunchtime, I'd play football together and as I can play well they liked that.  During corner kicks, I'd hold their shirts and smile and joke that way, they did it back to me.  It all helps, but it takes time.  It may be a bit late now as you probably only have 4-5 weeks or so of teaching before the winter holidays.  But if you stay next year, then they'll be second graders, right?

I think the main thing is not to take it personally, it is just a challenge that you can win.  Kids change.....hopefully  ;D  Don't lose your temper and don't react angrily to them.  See what you can do with regards to isolating the bad students.  When they are apart they are not as strong or as cocky as if they are together.  We've all been there, so can empathise completely with you.   ;D

Online Pecan

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 03:33:08 PM »
Great advice thus far.

Amy,

Sorry to learn about your struggles.  Take comfort in knowing that we have all been there.  Chin up.

Questions for you: since the beginning of the year/semester, what sort of things have you done with your students to build rapport?

I ask, because if most of the students genuinely feel like you are interested in helping them (think empathy), overcoming this sort of hurdle can be much easier.

Are you the one who arranges the seating chart?  Can you relocate your students?  Remove someone from class?

Do you know your students names or can you at least easily reference a seating chart to be able to address each and every student by their name?

It sounds like you might be wearing too much of your displeasure on your sleeve, if you know what I mean.

As has been said, you are the adult in the room, so keep control of your emotions (crying, etc. might be "normal" for some, but it's NOT going to help your cause).  Clearly articulate your expectations and get them to parrot it back to you.  Don't let anything slide (this ship might have already sailed for you, as we are in the second semester...these things need to be done from day 1).

I wouldn't tolerate my coteacher simply chilling out in the back of the classroom, if the wheels were falling off the cart.

Give us some more info, so we can be more helpful.

Hang in there.

Offline Dave Stepz

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 07:39:30 AM »
Are you the one who arranges the seating chart?  Can you relocate your students?  Remove someone from class?

This, to me, is the absolute first thing that you do with problem classes.  If you have bad students coming to class and they think they can just sit with their mates making the situation worse, designating seats will give you a psychological advantage.  I had one class where every week I changed the seats for the students and it worked out great.  Even at my academic high school now, I change the student's seats, a little to stop the chattering friends sit together but also I think it's nice for students to have different partners and to work with others.  I can also put the weaker students with the helpful students. 

Offline net.panda

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 09:54:58 AM »
I can't help but relate to this thread since I also have a troublesome first year class (and third year class) but this is mostly due to the fact that my CT seems to be "absent" during my classes :rolleyes:. In terms of my first years, apparently they have been a handful since their elementary school days, I'm very sure that this ONE class' behavior  is not your fault as well. You aren't the first teacher they have caused trouble for, and you won't be the last. Some groups are just a lot more well behaved/easier to control than others.

I'm shocked your CT isn't seeing that you're struggling to maintain control over the first year students and isn't trying to help since they're actually present in your class. But then again some CT's have the mindset of "not my class, not my problem" personality, which can really suck. I agree with Chinguetti, try to get your CT more involved in minimally classroom management in reprimanding specific students. There is strength in numbers, so you want to diminish their's and increase your's if possible, at least "mentally".

Personally I have tried switching seats, but that didn't work for my specific students. Some of them just talked to each other from across the room. But don't let my experience stop you from trying, it is good tactic to try if you haven't done it.

One way I have some control over my students in the introduction of in-class money, but it looks like that is similar to the coupon system that isn't working that well for you... In which case I also support introducing more physical activities to your lessons if possible. If your class is high energy take advantage of it. Find what their interests or what they are generally good at and try to use it/reference it during your lessons.

Good luck amyb72! If you can take anything away from this thread, know that there are many of us also suffering with troublemaker classrooms hahaha.

Online Pecan

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 10:14:06 AM »
Amy,

I received a warning for offending you with my post above.

I'm sorry.

To be honest, I don't know what offended you, exactly, but that was not my intent.

Again, my apologies.

Offline amyb72

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2017, 01:14:45 PM »
Amy,

I received a warning for offending you with my post above.

I'm sorry.

To be honest, I don't know what offended you, exactly, but that was not my intent.

Again, my apologies.

Hello, I haven't reported anyone?? I haven't been offended, don't worry. Not sure what that's about!

I've just checked this post again now and wanted to say thank you everyone for the really thorough replies, I will be using some of these strategies (starting with the seating plan) in the upcoming lessons and will approach the class with a strong and positive attitude.

:)

Offline Iwtgtk2017

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Re: Help!!! I have one terrible class! Management advice?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2017, 12:51:54 PM »
I have the same problem.  My 1st graders are a nightmare.  It doesn't matter how great or fun the lessons are, they just will not meet me half way.  It was stressful for the first couple of weeks, but then I decided that I will just plow through my lessons best I can and not stress out about it.  Don't take their behaviors personally.  I think this is the key.  They are teenagers and they just don't give a rip.  They are also low level English students and are not used to the middle school curriculum being 1st graders.  Try to give them some ways to build on the English that they already know.  Don't make things too complicated and keep your energy level up during class.  What worked for my wild donkeys is just taking time inside and outside the classroom to get to know the students.  Show that you are interested in them and remember their names.  It's easier to control them if you know their names.  Always keep your cool and don't show that they are getting to you.  Teens can be brutal if you show any weakness.   You are not the only one with the coTeacher not getting involved in managing the students, which is primarily their job.  My coTeacher just stares into his phone the whole time.