Jun 11, 2009

More on (Moron) Classroom Management

This is a follow-up to my last post on sharing my classroom with teachers who are weak in classroom management:

I empathize with one of the 4 teachers because she genuinely tries to make an effort. In fact, from where she started in the beginning of the year, her classroom management has come a long way. However, she's a 3rd year teacher. Come on now.

It's tough. It is. 90 min. 5 days a week full of eye rolling, calling out, talking back, constant fist fights, neck rolling, sucking teeth, throwing inappropriate hand gestures, cursing, getting out of the seat, being off task, being defiant, etc. One student called me a "bitch" and another student pushed me into a wall. All in the first two months of school.

And now, there is NONE of that. No gum, no attitude, everyone is doing their work. It takes my students literally 40 seconds to sit down and start their "Do Now" assignments (I time them every day and if they beat or reach their previous time, they earn minutes which go into our "Time Bank" used for class movie time once they accumulate 60 minutes). They can read 45 minutes straight in complete silence. They speak respectfully, and if I have to call a student out for talking or being off task, I immediately get a genuine, "I'm sorry Ms. Sapida." Everyone raises their hand before they speak. When someone is speaking, everyone else knows to put their hand down. There is no, "SHUT UP." Only "Please be quiet."

I'm really proud of my management, but it took A LOT of work on my part to get to where I am with my kids now:
  1. I spent many hours and months before I became a teacher asking veterans for their top tips they wish they'd known their first year.
  2. I read 2 books about management. I highly recommend Robert J. Mackenzie's book - Setting Limits.
  3. I spent an entire month creating and practicing structures with my kids. I even had lesson plans written for things like paper passing, accountable talk (e.g., "That's a good point, but I disagree with ____. In my opinion, ______"), asking clarifying questions (e.g. "You said, ____. I'm confused. Can you please clarify that?), raising your hand, etc.
I've approached these teachers (who've each been teaching in between 5-12 years) about the level of disrespect and disorder in the classroom, and I kid you not, their responses have all been, "Well, what's the point? It's the end of the year" (even though it was only April), OR "It's not my fault he can't behave." I'm THIS close to snapping, "Really? He can't behave? Because HE CAN IN MY CLASS."

I understand that procedures and habits change as students get older, but even so, there are things like practicing accountable talk so that students clearly know how to have meaningful, respectful and effective discussions in class (In fact, I'll post my lesson plan up for this soon).

I also understand that it's harder to start good management in the middle of the year.

BUT IF YOU'VE BEEN TEACHING FOR 5-12 YEARS, by now you should have done something to address the issue. Otherwise, a young first year teacher will judge you and assume that you are either lazy, ignorant, or just plain incapable. Observe classrooms with good management. Build structures. Read theory. Practice, rinse, repeat. If it works for you, keep it. If it doesn't, try something else. There's something for everyone. You just have to put in the time and effort.

Ugh. I probably sound b*tchy, but these teachers really need to be proactive about these things. The kids aren't learning anything and so many hours are COMPLETELY wasted with them arguing with the teacher or each other or just staring at the wall or gossiping. On top of wasting valuable learning time, it's very negative to the school community and their personal growth in general.

As a first year teacher, I also feel limited in addressing the problem. I think administration also needs to do a better job with giving professional development opportunities to help improve this aspect of our teaching. Who's there to blame really? Everyone.

Jun 10, 2009

I just want a quiet place to work

I share my classroom with 4 other traveling teachers.

It's horrid.

Some have pretty horrendous management.

This classroom is my only personal workspace in the building. The kids yelling and screaming in the other classes taking place while I work here make me feel like 1) it's my responsibility to stop it or 2) it's out of my control.

I always ask politely if they can lower their voices so I can work. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

It should work 100% of the time.

Come on teachers. Up on the defense. Learn how to manage a class. I shouldn't have to be responsible for telling YOUR class to quiet down. I should have a place to work where kids are yelling, screaming, cursing, getting up out of their seats whenever they want, or straight up getting ghetto. It's not their fault. It's yours.

Jun 9, 2009

Students Don't Want to Leave Mr. G

S1: "Mr. G, are you switching classrooms next year? Why are you taking everything down from the walls."

Me: "Yeah, they're moving me to a new portable nearer to campus."

S2: "Oh, I guess we're all moving w/ you then."

Jun 5, 2009


How was Mr. G not nominated as a Comcast SportsNet Bay Area All-Star Teacher?!

Jun 2, 2009

Your Voice Must Be Heard

Support Community Colleges and Save Cal Grants

Let your legislators know what's up. Everyone can make a difference!

Top 5 Things I Lost During Year 2

I still see myself a baby to the teacher game. Yet, I'm fortunate enough to be notching a 2nd year under belt so early in the game. This means I've got 2 years to reflect on as I shape myself up for year 3. Looking back, here are the top 5 things I wish I carried over from year one to year two. Ensuring their return during year 3 is top priority.

1. Starting EVERY Period EVERY Day Greeting Students at the Door
Leaving the first year does not signify the end of 'hard work outside of work.' Though I've grown more adept at winging lessons out of thin air, and I've learned to switch up flawed lessons mid-delivery, nothing replaces a well-planned, well-thought lesson plan. Students have a sixth sense for unplanned teachers; conversely, students know when a teacher means business. Engagement rises, off-task behavior lessens, class runs smooth. Additionally, starting off class completely planned eliminates the need to scramble minutes before students enter the room, opening up the opportunity to spend precious (& ever elusive) one-on-one time with each individual as they enter the room. I should strive to make this happen EVERY period EVERY day. No excuses.

2. More Consistent Grade Updates
Last year, students appreciated grade updates. They were thankful for a teacher who updated them regularly, and I questioned the teacher who failed to provide it. If students know their exact grade ALL THE TIME, they know exactly what they need to do to raise it ALL THE TIME. No excuses. Students understand the fluidity of their grades. Gratification granted for hard work as they catch their grades literally rise. Negative feedback pushes the student who's fallen off their winning formula. Students know when they're doing well and students know when they aren't. All of this is driven by consistent grade updates. This year, I became the teacher I questioned a year ago. Enough w/ the laziness, Mr. G. Give the kids what they need. More consistency, please.

3. Stricter Enforcement on Binders & Notes
I can't decide which chore I hate more: washing dishes or checking binders? Why go around sticking mini-star stickers on kids' binders when they should know organization & note-taking is essential to success. Notes? Just take them. Quizzes? Just be sure to put em in the right place. Easy, right?

It doesn't work that way w/ high schoolers. They NEED to be guided in every dimension of their learning. Last year, kids' killed for those mini-star stickers. Why did I move away from them? Training students towards better organization and opening their eyes to the benefits of good note-taking and organization is as important as teaching them to solve for x. Major fail on my part. 10 minutes a period, once a month is well worth the effort, no matter how chore-ish a duty it may be.

4. Stricter Enforcement on Concept Checklists
For those out of the know, I'm an adopter of the dy/dan assessment method. It's a system that assesses for mastery while leaving the door open for remediation, differentiation, and constant re-learning. I see no other effective way to assess my students. Year 2 on the system's been as successful as the first, aside from one major hole. Again, I'm at fault. I did not enforce updates of concept checklists the way I should've. Concept checklists send the message that YOU CAN recover from a bad test day; YOU CAN master concepts you've struggled w/. Students see progress in front of them. Students KNOW what they need to do. But all this is to naught if checklists aren't updated. Next year, checklists will be the most important sheet in each student's binder. No exceptions.

5. Call Home More
When teacher and parent are on the same page, a student is more likely to succeed. I've been an advocate of this since day one, yet, this year, I neglected to call home time and time again. I think I fear long-winded conversations that lead to nowhere, or pushback from parents who put up defenses against apparent teacher attacks. I don't question your parenting, ma'am. I just want to keep you updated. I should set up a script that keeps things quick and to the point. Calling home needs to happen more regularly. In fact, how about this commitment - make a minimum of 5 calls a week. Year 3 Mr. G, no exceptions.