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[teacherartexchange] Tomorrow is my final group!


Date: Sun Mar 05 2006 - 12:06:33 PST

Hi guys,
Tomorrow I get my last batch of middle school kids. I've been warned that I
have some very difficult students once again. Many are on behavior contracts
with the school, so I am determined to do this better this time around.

I am thinking that I need to change my entire approach, restructure the class.

Tomorrow, I want to discuss the rules and really enforce them all week. I
also want to get them a little excited about art. I've heard many different
things while reading this list, so many good ideas. I'd like to approach it by
expaining that they will all become artists for nine weeks. I thought about
explaining what an artist is, but I'm not sure the best way. Should I explain
that an artist is a scientist, a historian, a storyteller,...etc. Should I
think of some cultural icons that they can relate to...such as rap singers who
are artists because they create and express themselves. Does anyone have any
good resources?

I'm also trying to decide if I need more structure. I was all about not
talking so much and allowing them to just get creative and work, but to be honest,
it really didn't work so well. I think that the freedom was too much for
them and only enforced their preconceived idea that my class doesn't matter. I
hate to say it, but I'm wondering if I need to make it more like a lecture
class, require that they take notes, give tests every that they will
treat it like any other class. It's not what I wanted, but I really don't know
what will work with them. I tried tapping into their interests, and even when
they enjoyed working on a project, many still misbehaved...running around the
room, hitting each other, spilling paint, using obscene language...I just
couldn't control the horseplay.

I guess I really need to figure out how to approach them tomorrow. I know
that I sound like a broken record. I've tried many of your ideas, and some have
helped and some didn't seem to work on these kids. I've tried giving them
rituals...something to do as soon as they come in...but they simply ignore the
assignment and don't care if it's graded. I've tried relating art to hip hop
and letting them talk about their issues. I've tried giving them a lot of
freedom as to how they want to create art and what they want it to be about. I've
tried offering rewards like listening to the radio on Friday if they are good
all week. I've tried calling parents and getting the dean involved and being
mean. I've tried talking to them one on one, letting them know that i care
but that I expect more out of them and believe that they can do better. I even
offered to call their parents with good news if they were good for a week. I
was only able to call one parent with good news.

I guess I'm asking again...mostly those teachers who have worked with really
troubled students. How did you get them to behave? How did you get them to
respect and trust you? How did you get them to get something out of your
class, to see art as an enjoyable thing without taking away the value of it? How
do I get them to care even just a little bit? I'm so frustrated that I haven't
figured it out yet.

I think that I need to really commit to enforcing the procedures...every time
one student doesn't enter my classroom appropriately, maybe I should make the
whole class exit and reenter the room. Maybe I need to do this EVERY SINGLE
time...even if it happens every day. Every time a student talks during my
lesson, I need to be stern. One verbal warning, then writing the rules, then the
essay, then a detention...and simply take the time to do it EVERY time. I
find that it's so exhausting to have to stop and discipline every minute. I
tend to let some things slide or give tons of verbal warnings because I'm tired
of stopping, but I suppose that I need to give up on the dream of actually
teaching for a while. If I have to spend the entire hour writing students up,
then I guess I need to do that until they get it.

I feel embarrassed that I'm still asking for help and searching for answers.
I guess I just keep praying that I'll stumble on something that will finally
work well for me and my situation. I hear so much conflicting advice that
it's tough to know which route to go. Some people tell me to be really nasty and
others tell me to really try to relate to the students and let them know that
I care about their interests. I feel like I've tried both, but I've failed
miserably each time.

Some people tell me that I just need to find a new school, but is that really
the answer? I feel like if I can stick this out at least another year, then
I'll become a better teacher because of it. I hate to think that I failed
these kids, that I simply couldn't deal with them and had to leave. Many of my
students have been left teachers and parents. Many don't even know
who their father is. I know that this is part of the problem. They don't
trust anyone and they want to be tough and let you know that you can't touch
them. I'd rather leave for other reasons than giving up on them.

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