A Long Day

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to make these optimistic prognostications. Invariably the day after I think I've got a handle on things goes horribly. Yesterday I wrote, "I feel like I'm turning a page and opening a new chapter of more creative, engaging and interactive learning." Today, creative lesson plans be damned, was a long, tiring day.

I'm sure I can blame part of the struggles on my new seating plan which has the students working in groups of 6 or 7. Sitting in such close quarters the students are much more easily distracted and more likely to be chatting away while I wait for quiet and attempt to explain a lesson or give out instructions. According to the current pedagogy this group seating encourages interactive and cooperative learning and will help my students thrive. For now I only feel like I'm seeing the negative byproducts - namely constant talking.

I yelled a lot today. And I didn't like it and it wasn't effective. My mentor is telling me I need to lose my temper and show my aggressive/authoritarian side from time to time to get my kids in line. But I feel like I end up displaying more frustration and powerlessness rather than intimidation and power.

After a full day that felt twice as long because of yesterday's half day I had to wait around until 5:30 for parent-teacher conferences. I was happy that 19 out of 25 parents showed up. I was also happy that it wasn't only the parents of my top students but parents of students from across the spectrum. I had a hard time being brutally honest though. Some of my best students (behavior wise) are really struggling and it wasn't easy to explain to their parents that there is a real possibility their child might not pass the upcoming ELA exam. So of course rather than do this I tried to paint even the bleakest picture a little brighter. Hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot in doing so. Because who's going to be to blame when a child scores a 1 on the test and their parents are blindsided? Still it was nice to meet the parents and hopefully establish a partnership towards my students' academic success.

Comments

Jose said…
Well, I know the only thing that really worked for me was watching other teachers' discipline and seeing what style worked with my personality. For one, I'm not a screamer. Never have been (unless I'm in the middle of a concert or a party, then I'm all over it). I'm more of the strong, and silent type. My discipline tends to be good even with those whole grouping BS they're feeding us into.

The best advice I can give you is to not let them win. Call them out for any little thing they do, even if it means you catch them in the middle of the hallway or after class. Isolate them and talk to them about their behaviors. Today I kept a whole class just for being too loud. In a sense, it's like a cold war and you want to make sure you win this one. After you do, you'll start to see more of the previous and productive behavior you mentioned before.

Just, whatever you do, don't yell a lot. Do the opposite and watch how powerful every word becomes.

Also, as far as parents, try to read how the parent is. If the parent sounds like they want the truth, then give it to them. If they sound like they might come attack you, then stick with your Plan A. Sometimes a little honesty goes a long way.

I hope I was being helpful, because I know blogs are more about venting sessions than they are counseling sessions. Good luck nonetheless.
bygpowis said…
i said i wasn't going to smile 'til christmas. they'd eat me apart. i was 26. actually started growing a beard to look older. to each his own. you'll find your way and all that. is our children learning? is our teacher learning? where you teaching? i grew up taking the # 4 to brooklyn tech for four years or getting on and off at utica ave for everything else.
Hugh O'Donnell said…
"I yelled a lot today. And I didn't like it and it wasn't effective. My mentor is telling me I need to lose my temper and show my aggressive/authoritarian side from time to time to get my kids in line. But I feel like I end up displaying more frustration and powerlessness rather than intimidation and power."

Ruben, forgive me saying it, but your mentor has his or her head up his or her wazoo.

Yelling is ineffective and stressful for everyone. It's disrespectful to the kids and they won't respect a yeller. You've got to develop tools that are less stressful to use.

I just teach kids, briefly, about the respect zone -- our class, our school. "I respect you, you respect me." Then I tell them that the rest of the rules are in their student handbook. I remind them of the Golden Rule.

Naturally, that tactic works only so long, then it's on to group pressure. No, it's not "fair," but it works.

For each disruption, you hold the class 5 seconds. Or, if you have a jogging watch, one that beeps, just turn it on. (Explain this consequence before you have to use it.)

If the class really settles down, you have the option of forgiving the time and letting them have all their precious passing time.

In any case, don't make them late for the next class, but do cut significantly into their "free" time between class.

Explain that you can't manage the class without a team effort. The stronger personalities will quickly become your allies.

It's not foolproof. If the biggest jerk is the strongest personality, you have a situation for the VP in charge of butt-kicking.

Give it a shot, but stay respectful of the kids. And get a new mentor. ;)

Hugh aka Repairman
Hugh O'Donnell said…
Ruben, my apologies. My secondary ed bias showed through. If you're teaching elementary school in an all day self-contained classroom, the passing time group pressure tactic obviously won't work.

But my point remains, find a way to keep order without yelling. You don't want to spend the rest of your career yelling. When you get to be my age, the top of your head my blow off. ;)

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