Posts Tagged ‘Classroom Management’

I’m Done For Today…

I haven’t written an update on my freshmen classes lately and today was a doozy!

My first 9th grade period of the day started with a disruptive student whose behavior has been getting progressively worse. It kills me because she has so much potential, but has such wild anger issues that I cannot have her in class. Another student dropped the f-bomb and went to do his time in the class next door for two minutes. On his way out, he gave me a hard time about ‘losing’ his notebook; he claimed to be joking, but I had to sternly remind him that I am not responsible for his possessions and he needs to get his act together.

It’s been difficult to keep students on track lately since we still have two weeks until Spring Break and haven’t had time off since Christmas and today was no exception. This particular class let their class average drop 12% when their goal is to reach a 75 by April 1st. We kept moving forward with the lesson and some students managed to stay on task. I watched and heard as another student drop another f-bomb and asked him to step next door. He argued that he didn’t saying anything and his friends lied for him.

And then I lost it.

“You know what? I come to school every day because I know you have potential; because I know you can learn. You have so many opportunities for a good education and you are throwing them all away every time you lie, don’t take responsibility for yourself, and get lazy or ignore your work. I am sick and tired of it, so I’m done for today.”

And I walked out.

I had always thought I would walk out if students got me frustrated enough, so it was really crazy that I actually did without thinking twice. Luckily, a friend was in the hallway, so she worked through the activity with the students until I could cool off a bit. I returned to class with about 15 minutes left, so we resumed and finished the lesson.

Tomorrow, I plan on starting class by generating a wish list of the rewards they would like if they reach their class average goal. That way we can all have a positive goal to work towards instead of focusing on all the negatives.

Ultimately, I hope my students understand that I care about them too much to see them make such poor decisions. On to a new day (after some awesome mental health time by the pool!!!!!)

Triumphs in 9th Grade Science:

The beginning of my career as a general science teacher of 9th grade was rough. There were lots of tears and angry moments!

Now that 3rd quarter is almost over, I have been thinking about what has been successful. Here’s what I found:

  1. Being “mean” – I have had to go way beyond normal human levels of mean and anger. In order to get 9th graders to put their ear buds away and stop tagging on each others’ notebooks long enough to even take attendance took so much stern talking that I could feel my blood pressure go up. My husband even remarked that I was more mean around the house. Obviously, I can’t teach this type of class much longer without burning out, but at least I have them trained to behave more like students.
  2. Bathroom ticket – I think these little beauties were the major success of the year. I have had significantly less classroom management issues since initiating this policy. Each 9th grader gets four bathroom tickets for the quarter that can be exchanged for passes to the bathroom or excused missing assignments. Since they feel they have more control over when they can and cannot “go”, I have had much less of a headache! It has also cut way back on students asking to go every day since they used up their tickets in the first week!

I have one more trick up my sleeve for the rest of the school year; I have challenged each of my classes to finish the year with a class average of at leave 7% higher than it is right now. I am planning on clearing off the bulletin board and putting up the goal for each period. I’ll update it every week so they can keep each other accountable. I promised them a big surprise at the end of the year if they achieve their class’s goal. I have yet to figure out what that surprise is, but the kids seems to be really excited, so I hope it is a good motivator for them!

I’m curious to hear what tricks you have found successful with your tricky classes!

1st Day of Second Semster

Wow. I can officially say I have made it half way through my first year. It has not been nearly as traumatic as I had anticipated, but it has had plenty of ups and downs.

HUGE DOWN – my students on the whole decided not to take their semester exams seriously and had embarrassingly low scores. The part that made me angry was that they tried to blame their laziness on me (that the test was too hard). When I held them accountable today, they took responsibility. No knowing if they will do any better this semester, but – as I reminded them – I refuse to lower my expectations to their level of performance. They can keep trying, but I’m one tough cookie!

GIGANTIC UP – after feeling like I was run over by a truck at the exam results, I was reading some comments by my freshmen students. One of the essay options on their exam was to discuss how this Principles of Science course is different than the science classes they took in middle school. The following two responses melted my heart and reminded me exactly why I am a teacher:

Principles of Science is different because we go over all the stuff our other teachers missed. It’s like digging up secrets every day.

This class is different because we learn stuff and the teacher has high expectations.

The comments came from the most unlikely students. The irony was that the class that has the most behavior issues and drives me the most crazy had the best exam results and talked me down from my frustrated teacher ledge.

Now it’s a new semester and some things are changing, but mostly I am encouraging my students to reach higher goals, push themselves harder, ask for help more often, and have more confidence in their abilities. Two new implementations into the 9th grade classes:

1. Pencil Sign Out List – I tried this during the exam and it worked really well. I even personalized the pencils to deter pencil thieves:

2. McCoupons – each of my 9th graders will get 4 McCoupons per quarter to use towards bathroom passes or missing assignments. They will be responsible for keeping track of them:

I am excited about this semester – there is none of the awkwardness of creating rapport with new students and we can get right down to business. With that said – I’m off to review my Big Bang and Pendulum/Intro to Waves lessons!

Will you be at NSTA 2011??

I sure will!!

Last year, several grad school colleagues and I presented research on parent-teacher-student communication via this blog and we were selected to present our findings at the National Conference in San Francisco.

Please feel free to come to our session on Saturday, March 13. More details to come and we will be collecting more data from our new schools…until then, feel free to read our data and conclusions from last year.

See you in March!

Victory Is Mean 10/6

I’ve been using a pretty serious tough-love approach with my freshmen. Today was there first test and one kid could not keep his mouth shut (to his credit, he wasn’t cheating, he is just unable to stay quiet), so I used my tough love to remind him it was inappropriate to be talking during a test. I never expected what came next:

“Dang, Miss. You’re mean.”

Ha, those of you who know me know it’s a stretch for me to even try to be mean. In a twisted way, this was a huge victory today.

I’m celebrating by getting ready for a match rocket lab tomorrow and an early bed time :)

My First Tears 9/29

Well, it happened. After 5 weeks of good days, today was not so great and my frustration boiled over to tears after the school day was over.

My freshman have been totally disrespectful. I don’t mind students being chatty, but they have been blatantly rude. After speaking with a veteran teacher, I started implementing some new classroom management tools. Only complicating the issue further, homecoming is this Saturday and it’s almost as important as prom here. Needless to say, even my best students are distracted. I’ve just got to figure out how to deal with it until next week.

Physics has been a challenge in an entirely different way. About half of my students are only just taking Algebra II, some are in Trig, and very few are in Calculus. I am actually excited that my kids are not the typical physics kids – I love that they are working hard to learn material that science education culture dictates is only for a certain group of elite students. However, I find myself stuck in that hard place trying to teach students the content dictated by the state when the state has left no wiggle room for students without certain math credits.

My school is only in its second year, so many of the issues we struggle with have to do with students, faculty, and administrators still settling in. The athletic teams are young, so most are not having winning seasons and the students refuse to be proud of a school that can not win. On the other hand, many students are in school because it is safer than home – gangs and drugs are a huge part of their community.

I am definitely not in an impossible situation. I know there is a solution out there; I just haven’t found my “sweet spot” when it comes to classroom management with the younger crowd.

Anywho – it’s spirit week and it’s been a blast:


CrAzY hAiR dAy!

I tried to be Ms Frizzle for nerd day, but the dress didn't quite work out.

Awesome 80s for Blast from the Past Day!

Excited for Super Hero Day tomorrow, homecoming assembly, and the homecoming football game! More to come…

T-minus 5 days…

Today was incredibly productive!

My clearance still has not come through so my long term sub Ben has been helping to get the room ready and plan for next week. I’m really thankful we work well together; he told me today he can sense when I’ve reached my “Chocolate Point” each afternoon and need a little pick-me-up. Ha!

We got all the books in the room and organized as well as setting up my desk and getting the computer and printer ready to go.

The butterflies seem to have migrated somewhere else (finally!) and I am so thankful to have gone through a grad program that prepared me for teaching. On the other hand, I had no idea all the minute details that need attention the week before school!!

After our super intense first day of school meeting this morning, the faculty got to pretend to be freshman students so the “Link Crew” could practice their freshman orientation activities. It was the perfect break from working to have some fun and laugh a lot! I’m definitely looking forward to meeting the 9th graders on Friday!

P.S. Several people have already made donations to my classroom at Adopt-A-Classroom. Thank you so much – I am moved beyond words at your generosity!

Student Teaching Week 11 & 12 [4/19-4/28]

MONDAY – 6th grade classes finished their presentations on ecoscenarios. I was observed for the last time during the 7th grade classes. I did a lesson on digestion and absorption of nutrients using the List-Group-Label (LGL) literacy strategy and differentiated levels of reading on the topic. The class went relatively well – the class was a bit rambunctious and I still haven’t found my classroom management groove with this age group, but they got the reading and activity done, so I can’t complain!

TUESDAY – A tear out my hair and never come back to school day. Haha, it wasn’t that bad, but the kids definitely pushed me to the edge. Even the regularly well behaved students were incredibly rude and there was absolutely no decorum. I don’t even think it had anything to do with my cooperating teacher being out today. There wasn’t much I could do except be consistent with inappropriate behavior and not condone any of these new behaviors.

WEDNESDAY – 7th graders finished their digestive system monologues and we combined them all into a fabulous bulletin board outside of the classroom. The kids were all excited to see their work on display!

THURSDAY & FRIDAY My cooperating teacher was out again, so I was on my own again. After Tuesday’s experience I was sort of dreading it, but I was up front with the kids and instated a new policy: if I have to speak to you more than one, you get a check next to your name and will be reported to the cooperating teacher. I hate having to threaten them, but since she is their ultimate science classroom authority, it worked! The 6th graders watched the National Geographic Video “Hawaii: Strangers In Paradise”. It is a fantastic documentary on the organisms of Hawaii and led to natural conversations about adaptations and advantages within a population!

On Friday, the 7th graders completed endocrinology based patient simulations and had to use their notes on the endocrine system, as well as an article on endocrine disorders common in children, to diagnose their “patient”. They all took the task seriously and worked diligently in teams to come to a diagnosis!

MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY – State Language Arts testing began, so the classes were all whacky. Plus, I developed some sort of upper respiratory infection and lost my voice! 6th grade continued talking about adaptations by completing the FOSS Ecosystems and Populations Walkingsticks Simulations. They enjoyed working together on the computers and did a great job graphing their results! 7th grade moved onto the nervous system and has been working hard to understand the significance and delicacy of this body system!

Wednesday was my last day of student teaching and I’ve got to admit that I was sad to say goodbye! I have plenty of frustrations with the middle school age group (who doesn’t), but I feel so fortunate to have had such a positive experience – the kids, faculty, and administration welcomed me to their school and embraced me. One girl even begged me not to move to Nevada so I could get a job at the school next year; I am so thankful to be ending the experience on such a good note!

I’ll miss the view from my classroom!

The end of student teaching means the end of this series of posts, but just get ready – in the fall I’ll start a series of my first year teaching!

Student Teaching Week 10 [4/12-4/15]

Last week flew by so fast I forgot to write about it!

MONDAY – 7th grade classes did the lung capacity activity where they blew up a balloon in one breath and then calculated the volume of the balloon in order to determine their lung capacity. The first period, we split kids up and half the class worked with balloons while the other half used microviewers; the groups switched halfway through class. While it was a good idea to work with smaller groups of kids, chaos ensued. The second period, we just did the balloon activity and allowed students who finished sooner to work with the microviewers. I almost lost my cool with some students who would not focus, but I forced myself to be patient until the end of the period.

6th graders did some data analysis of an ecosystem with several populations as well as biotic and abiotic limiting factors. I love watching the kids sift through charts and be able to make meaningful conclusions. This was the third data analysis exercise in a row, so we were tempted to scrap it, but I’m glad we didn’t because it is a tremendous moment when the kids have gained enough skill from the first two attempts to successfully analyze complicated data!

TUESDAY – 7th graders had a quiz and watched the Magic School Bus episode on Digestion. The kids enjoyed watching and we did to! My favorite line from the episode: “In my old school we weren’t allowed to be digested.”

The 6th grade classes began research for their Ecoscenario projects. Each table was assigned an ecoscenario from the book; these included National Parks and preserved areas around the United States. Part of the assignment was to infer enough information from the articles given to create a food web. It’s amazing to me that they expect all the answers to be given. I had to explain countless times that the info should be inferred and not copied. It worked out well to assign the ecoscenarios as opposed to give students a choice since a brawl over Yellowstone National Park almost broke out!

WEDNESDAY – 7th grade officially began the Digestive System unit by discussing mechanical and chemical breakdown. 6th grade continued to work on their projects.

I covered two periods of the 12-1 class (a classroom for remedial students to have more one on one time with a teacher). It was a great experience and I loved the relaxed atmosphere. Each student had their own personal workspace and the room had its own fiction library. At one point, two students started verbally squabbling and quickly escalated to hurling insults and arguing. I recognized right away that I could not handle the situation and called the Vice Principal (who had already offered assistance if needed). I am glad I knew when I needed to ask for help and that the VP was there to support me. As soon as I called, the disagreement dissolved on its own. My training as a Writing Intensive Tutor in college came in handy since I spent both periods helping with their Biography assignment.

THURSDAY – my last day for the week since I took Friday off. The 7th grade classes learned more about the digestive system and had the opportunity to ask questions about anything related to the human body. We showed a plastic model with removable organs and the kids were totally grossed out; it was great! At one point a girl asked where a baby in utero would fit since the intestines are already squished up in the abdomen. The conversation continued down reproductive lines as another student asked about belly buttons. Finally, my cooperating teacher was trying to remember the word “placenta” and asked for the sac that carries the nutrients. One student rattled off every name in the female reproductive system and proudly announced to the class, “I’m the best at Sex Ed!”. It was hard to contain the giggles!

Only 2 weeks left of student teaching – I can’t believe it!

Seating Chart for the First Day

After stumbling upon the Classroom Management Protocols; Designing an Environment for Success, I couldn’t help but dream about how to set up a seating chart for the first day.

I’m not too keen on alphabetical seating charts – especially by last name since those kids get grouped together on a regular basis. The first day of school would be a great way to mix things up and provide students with a Nature of Science (NOS) activity.

If you arrange the seats alphabetically by middle name or by first name in a spiral pattern, you can give kids the opportunity to figure out how the room is arranged. Since I am hoping to get a Physics teaching job, my students will be 11th and 12th graders and will know each other enough to begin to figure out the pattern. It’s a great way to point out to them that they already possess the skills necessary to “do science”: they naturally observe, predict, and question in order to find an answer.

Which methods of seating students have you found most successful?