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[teacherartexchange] Long email with tons of questions


Date: Sat Sep 24 2005 - 10:13:12 PDT

Just an update. So, I've been teaching now for about six weeks. I've been
going through it all...the highs and the lows, the frustrating parts and the
few rewarding parts. It's been really hard, but I knew it would be. I keep
trying new things. Some things work, some things don't. Some things work for
certain classes and not for others. Some things work one day and then for some
reason don't work the next day. Here's what I've been doing so far:

I have rearranged my tables so that they are in a "U" formation with one in
the center, like an island. This allows for only four students per table and
six students at the one in the middle. It works a little better because I can
see all of my students, but it is crowded, very crowded. It also seems to
work a little better because there are less students per table, and it feels more
like a typical classroom setup...less freedom. I have assigned table
captains. The captain is responsible for getting the supplies for the table, for
keeping his or her table quiet and for making the students cleanup. It works
well for the younger students, not as well for the middle schoolers. I find that
most of the middle school students don't want the responsibility.

I'm still having trouble with too much noise and students getting out of
their seats. They simply can't seem to control themselves. Cleanup is a
nightmare when they use paints. Simply a nightmare. My sixth graders like to make a
mess, paint their hands, and then they can't seem to get the whole, "only one
table at a time will clean their brushes and rinse the cups." They all want
to get up at once no matter what I tell them. Or they don't listen and won't
clean up when I ask, and then only half of the class has cleaned up by the time
the bell rings.

So, now I only allow half of the students to paint and the other half works
on another project. The next day we flip. It helps a little.

I know that part of my problem is that I'm not hard enough on them. So, I
handed out two notes home on Friday. The parents need to sign it and the
student owes me a 150 word essay. The next step is detention. These two students
were talking during "silent art." When it gets too loud, and I have to warn
them three times, I ask for silence. They can't handle it AT ALL.

I'm really not sure what to do. Do I hand out detentions to the whole class
because they are talking during silent art? I did buy a timer this weekend,
and I'm going to see if we can start MOnday's class with five minutes of
silence just to set the tone. I'm really not sure if it will work. Any ideas on
how to keep the noise level down? My mom says I simply should not allow any
talking, but they need to share supplies and ask for help often. I've told them
that they must whisper, but they can't seem to keep it to a whisper. It's

As for the cleanup, I need help there too. It's just so hard when it's 33
students. That's why I'm only allowing half of them to paint at a time. I
could use more tips though. I keep their supplies in bins, and I inspect the bins
before they can line up. I explain that their portfolios must be stacked
neatly on the table, that their supply bin should be organized with the lid off
for me to inspect, and that they must be sitting quietly. After I inspect the
bin, I allow the captain to put up the bin and portfolios, and that table can
line up. It works better, but it's still not perfect.

I also want to start some sort of incentive program. I've bought two charts,
one for my elementary classes and one for the middle school classes. For
elementary, I figured I could do it by day, as in whichever class on that day has
the most stars will get a reward the next class. I have the elementary kids
only once a week for the whole year. As for the prize, I'm thinking bucks and
then allowing them to cash them in at the end of the month or every two
weeks? For the middle school, the tables in each class would compete. Whichever
table in the class had the most stars at the end of the week would get bucks
the following Monday. I only have them for nine weeks, but I see them every
day. As an incentive to be a good captain, I thought the captains could get two
bucks while the other students at that table would get one. I need help
figuring this all out. How should we keep track of the bucks? Should they hold on
to them? Should I? What if they lose them? I need a system that will be
easy, not a lot of work for me or else it won't work. I won't have time. How
should I decide which tables get stars, which don't? If a student is acting up
at a table, should I stick something on it and explain that the table has
lost it's star for the day? It's difficult because I have a total of 16
different classes a week. Also, what should the rewards be? I have stickers and
pencils for the little ones. I have some other things like cute notepads and
calendars for the older ones. As far as candy, I'm a little nervous about it.
What if a student isn't supposed to eat sugar? If it's candy, it needs to be
something they can eat quickly. My mom suggested the mini twizzlers that come
in bulk.

Some of my students are starting to give me attitude when they get into
trouble. They get angry and turn on me, and it's actually quite hurtful. I had a
student goof off in the hallway the other day for about 3 minutes before he
entered my class. Then he asked to use the restroom and I told him that he had
wasted three minutes in front of my class and should have gone then. He got
angry and threatened to pee in my garbage can. I was outraged. I should have
given him a detention, but I think I was just so disappointed and shocked.
This student was a problem in the beginning of the year because he was always
goofing off and getting out of his seat. Then all of a sudden he started
working, and I realized that he was my most talented student. For the past three
weeks, I've been beaming with pride whenever I walked by his table and saw him
working hard. I've been bragging to others about his talent and how proud I am
of him. He's never spoken to me in this way, and I was so hurt when this
happened. I know I made a mistake when I yelled at him in front of the whole
class and asked him to come up to me and apologize. I probably should have told
him to sit down, gotten the other students working and then taken him outside
to speak privately with him. I should have given him a detention.

I'm still having so much trouble with the whole classroom management. People
tell me I'm too nice, that I have to be a bitch...yet I feel like I'm always
yelling. I've tried talking to the kids, showing respect, asking for their
ideas, but the truth is that middle school students don't want to be reasoned
with. They really don't respect you more if you try to be diplomatic and reason
with them. I've tried being mean, giving them behavior forms to sign, but
they just get angry or cry. It doesn't really improve the behavior in the long
run. Sometimes I let too many things slide simply because I'm tired, don't
want to do the paperwork, or am too busy helping the class.

I'm also having so much trouble with the helpless behavior of my students,
especially the sixth graders. They really cannot work on their own. I feel lik
I give simple explanations, show examples, walk them through it...but they
never seem to "get it" and will ask me over and over what they should be doing.
I'll review the same thing every day for a week, ask students to explain it
back to me to make sure they know what to do...but then I still get like 10 or
more students who haven't paid attention and are completely lost. They can't
seem to figure things out, or it's as if they are too lazy to try. They want
me to do it for them, and I've started telling them that they need to figure
it out or ask their captain. Any ideas on this?

Thanks so much!!!


So yeah, these are some of the issues I'm still having.

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