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Re: [teacherartexchange] Long email with tons of questions

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From: Bunki Kramer (bkramer_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Sep 24 2005 - 11:14:28 PDT


> Just an update. So, I've been teaching now for about six weeks.

Would it help you if you realized that all new teachers go through this
stage of "new teacher" to the students and they are testing you everyday to
see what buttons they can push or what their limits are with you? You
haven't a "reputation" yet so they don't know if you mean business or not.

Secondly, never take ANYTHING personal. It's normal for things to come out
of their mouths before engaging brain. It's not YOU, it's the situation.
Don't reprimand a middle schooler in front of peers...dangerous. Pull them
outside or alone in a corner and give them plenty of uncomfortable listening
time from you before you open your mouth. This gives them extra time to
think about what they did, ponder it, and extra uncomfortable waiting time
to see what you are going to do about it. Don't hesitate to use consequences
when necessary. That "pee in the trashcan" should have been dealt with
IMMEDIATELY with a trip to the office and a detention to follow. That was
out of line and he knew it.
 
>I have assigned table
> captains. The captain is responsible for getting the supplies for the table,
>...I find > that > most of the middle school students don't want the
>responsibility.

Maybe what I do might be helpful to you. I stash all my supplies in
different spots in the room. When we begin, I mention all the supplies they
will need. As I discuss them, they decide amongst themselves at the table
who will get what. All this is done before anyone moves. This way you don't
have 38 kids in one spot of the room and everyone has responsibility. When
we paint or whatever, the brush person at the table washes all the brushes,
the water person, empties all the water, pencil person collects all the
pencils, etc. This way they get to decide which responsibility they do that
particular day and they see everyone at their table pitching in.
 
> I'm still having trouble with too much noise and students getting out of
> their seats. They simply can't seem to control themselves.

Yes they can. Let them know you EXPECT it. Don't paint if they can't handle
it. Some days my beginning 6thers at the start of the year are the same way
and we clean up 30 mins. early if they can't handle it. If one person is out
of line, we all clean up. That goes for handling tools too. If you can get
them to police each other to follow rules, it works. Peer pressure is a
beautiful thing.
 
> I know that part of my problem is that I'm not hard enough on them.

Remember you are setting your reputation right now. If you want to be a door
mat, don't follow through with consequences.

> These two > students > were talking during "silent art."

Silent art is dangerous too when you've got over 30 kids. It's "test the
teacher" time. The teacher against the students. Wanna go there? Don't set
yourself up unless you have good consequences and plan to follow through.
Personally...silent art never worked for me. Putting stuff away has worked
better.

>Any ideas > on > how to keep the noise level down?

Have you tried music? That works if I keep it low enough so they have to be
quieter to hear it. Not quiet enough, no music.

> I also want to start some sort of incentive program.

If you use bucks, let them know if they lose them, they lose their cash-in
privilege. It's like money. You lose it, you're without. I personally think
kids don't need incentives. If they do, then they aren't learning
responsibility so much as learning "I get something if I follow rules". I
have a prize bowl for those I see doing something extra like to help a
friend or clean for a friend. These are little toys I buy at the dollar
store...like 20 little dinosaurs for $1, etc. Often I'll bring back samples
from a NAEA convention and stock my bowl. I find these silly little items
more "immediate" feedback then bucks.

> 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.

For the very reasons you mention, our middle school doesn't allow candy
rewards.

> I'm also having so much trouble with the helpless behavior of my students,
> especially the sixth graders. ..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?

You're doing the right thing. Explain it to them no more than 2-3 times,
then tell them to ask a tablemate. They are needy still and want the
individual attention they probably got in elementary school. If they learn
they have to listen to directions, they respond. If you say it over and over
and over and over again, they will come to expect an answer at any time from
you.

Two things someone long ago told me that I keep with me always..."Middle
schoolers will give you exactly what you expect of them...whatever bar you
set" and "everyday is a new day".

And...humor will defused almost any situation but that has to come from you.
And when you use it in a difficult situation, it's appreciated by all
involved. Toodles.....Bunki

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