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Monday, October 11, 2010

Welcome to my 3rd Year Teaching!

This has been a really hard year so far.

It started the first week of school when students kept enrolling, and getting put in my class. More and more students. It got to be nearly a joke. I got 10 new students over the course of the first week of school.

The part that bothered me the most, though, was that classroom numbers were (and are) wildly unequal at my grade level. Some classes have 10 students fewer than me. The irony is, in my insane state, that segregates children based upon English language proficiency, I am working with the group of students that is supposed to have the smallest class size. Even the State Department of Education advises that classes such as mine have fewer students than I currently have. But, because "language levels" cannot be mixed, and my administration is not willing to find ways around the rule, I have 10 more students in my class than teachers in my grade level with less "needy" students.

I know it's not helpful, or healthy, but every day I look across the hall at the teacher who has so, so many fewer students than me, and imagine all things I could do if I had that number of students. I could actually meet the needs of my students! There would be room in the classroom to move around! I would have enough materials for all the students! It would be a dream!

Aside from the sheer number of students, this is the chattiest group of students I have ever had. So chatty. SO CHATTY. I have tried so many different things to try to get them to use the chattiness for good, not evil. Before we read any story, the students talk about their predictions of every single page with a partner. While we read the stories we have ample opportunities to share with a partner. At the end of the story, students talk with a partner. We're starting to figure out how read-alouds work.

Direction-giving time, though, is still a mess. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the students to pay attention to the directions/rules for games during math or literacy centers. This results in the direction-giving times lasting too long, (since I have to repeat myself so many times, since students aren't listening) and students getting antsy and bugging each other.

And that's another issue that I have not experienced before. Students are stealthily mean to each other. I have had so many parents talk to me, telling me that XXX student and YYY student are bothering their child, and why am I not doing anything about it. I see nothing in the classroom. If I see nothing in the classroom, I'm not sure what to do about it, since I don't know who is telling the truth. We have had "discussions" (which means we sit in a circle and talk). We have role-played. We have drawn pictures, written stories, taken photographs of positive models. I cannot get the children to be regularly kind to one-another, to keep their hands off of other people, to stop calling each other names or threatening to not be friends.

My current goal, in this area, is to figure out how to get students to differentiate between "tattling" and telling the teacher when someone is bothering them in a more serious way. We made a chart today that lists "cheating during centers games," "stealing my crayon" and "bothering me in line to get a drink" as things that do not require teacher interference. "Pinching, hitting, and pushing" and "if someone bothers me after I tell them to stop 3 times" were put under the heading "Tell the Teacher." I don't know if that's right, or not. We'll see if anything come of it.

Aside from teaching, I have spent the last month or so obsessively following all the Waiting for Superman controversy on the internet. For the record, I think the movie Waiting for Superman is a teacher-bashing, charter-supporting, privately funded, harmful piece of propaganda. I've read nearly every article posted by Not Waiting for Superman on their Facebook page. (As a result, I have a renewed love for Alfie Kohn, which is a whole different story...) I just don't understand why people aren't stopping to look at the community and socioeconomic factors that influence schools and the students who attend schools. Some day, when I have more energy, I will write more about that, hopefully...

I also am about 3/4 done with my masters degree. This semester I am working on an action research project, and have been taking reflective notes on some of the things I do in the classroom. I'm hoping I can take some of those ideas and turn them into blog posts, and maybe actually post on this blog! I really enjoy going back and reading my thoughts from student teaching and my first year teaching. I'm sad that I have practically nothing from last year. I need to document my development as a teacher, so I can look back on it in 10 years and laugh (or cry, I don't know which).


Blogger ms.understood said...

My kids are a bot older, but the resource teacher gave me a tip that has helped my whole class listen to directions better. I was having the same problem with blurting out, talking or trying to ask questions during instructions. So, I now have this file folder with a giant ear on the front. When you open the folder, there is a picture of a student sitting and raising his hand. My kids know that the ear means listening time they are not allowed to talk to me or others when they see the ear. If they do talk, I look at the student, point to the ear and that is the warning. The second time, they have to turn their behavior chart card. I have had better luck with this because it is a silent and visual cue. I can redirect the student while continuing with my directions.

11:43 PM  
Blogger ms.understood said...

When I open the folder, it means it is now okay for them to raise their hands and ask questions. I always turn it back to the ear while addressing a question to remind them to listen. They cannot raise their hands when the ear is showing.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Vagabond Teacher said...

One of the best ideas I ever heard to deal with the kids bickering was a "peace table." When something came up, the teacher asked the conflicting students if they needed a few moments at the peace table to work it out for themselves.

Being a sub, I haven't had the chance to try it, but it seems like a great idea.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

Ms. Understood - I think you're right. I need to make something incredibly visual to let them know when it is NOT question time. NOT chatting time. JUST listening time. If I make something like the file-folder you mention and only use it for directions time (mostly reading/math centers directions or science directions), then the children will know that it is one of the few times when they MUST listen and there are NO exceptions. The visual cue will hopefully help.

Vagabond - I was just talking with someone in my graduate class who mentioned a similar thing she does with her 3rd grade students. Thanks for the suggestion. I am going to try something similar.

11:52 PM  
Blogger miss bioteacher said...

Woohoo on being 3/4 of the way done with your Masters!!!! I won't be done until May of 2012 and it seems like f o r e v e r.

I wish I had reflected more last year as well, I have basically nothing from then. I'm going to try to document how things are going more consistently this year - we'll see how our teaching lives are paralleling again :-)

And in ten years, we'll be laughing. At least I hope so.

In terms of getting kids to be quiet - I work with much older kids but I just stop when they're being ridiculous. Sit back down at my desk and tell them quietly that I can continue at 2:30 or whenever the school day ends. Works relatively well for older kids, don't know how well it would work (if at all) for the youngins.

How does it work in your state? Do you get tenure after this year??? You're still in the same district you started in, right?

8:36 PM  
Blogger luckeyfrog said...

We had a Tattle Box last year, and then set a limit on how many tattle slips they could each use in a day. This was a BIG challenge for one girl (only 3 tattles in a day?!) and we did have to talk about appropriate uses for tattle slips and when they needed to come to the teacher.

Having only 3 slips would mean that we could ask, "Are you sure you want to use one of your THREE slips for today?" They had to decide if it was really worth a tattle.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

Miss Bioteacher - No tenure in my state. :-/

Luckeyfrog - I like that limit for the tattle slips.

9:36 PM  
Blogger We're New York's Brightest said...

My kids are in 8TH GRADE and some of them STILL have not grasped the concept of tattling vs. telling. I really like the chart you did with your class! Hope everything's going great in your third year right now. :)

4:11 PM  
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11:54 PM  
Anonymous buy discussion board posts said...

I can't even imagine how can you cope with the annoying students all over the year. I would get mad and lose my mind if worked with students in so tight contact. Perhaps, it's just because I'm not so stress-resistant as you.

6:50 AM  

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