Saturday, February 14, 2009

Did I take ED 105: Classroom Management for the Aspiring Teacher? And if so, where are my notes?

Late last week Anne and I had a conversation about my 9th graders. They were being a little unruly and generally disrespecting me in front of the classroom. I gave them work time on their assignment, but they neglected to use it well. Instead, they decided that they wanted to talk with each other, which obviously is not the point of work time. I asked the class thirteen times to settle down and be quiet, which is obviously way, way too many times to ask students. In addition, I had multiple conversations with individual students about their behavior in the class and how it needed to stop. Yet, at the end of the day they were still chatty and they left class with me questioning how I let chaos rule the classroom. I was embarrassed as a teacher, an educator, and as a student in that class. It was not appropriate for the students to be doing what they were doing, but at the same time I did not employ effective methods to cease or halt it either.

Many people may think that because I am at a high achieving and award winning school that I do not have classroom management issues, which is of course completely wrong. What may be the case is that my issues in the classroom are much subdued than say student teachers at other inner city buildings (where not only is classroom management an issue, but so is discipline, motivation, attendance, violence, and a whole host of other issues). Having to deal with a student or even a class out of line every once in a while is not a bad thing to have happen. After all, all students at AHS cannot be angels all the time!

So Anne and I talked about the different classroom management strategies I have at hand, which includes everything from talking to the student to moving him or her to even writing referrals and sending him or her to the office. Then we talked, or rather Anne questioned me, about which strategies I had employed. I learned very quickly that I was not stepping up to the plate. I was talking really big and taking advantage of the first two layers of intervention; however, I was not moving students up that ladder so that they could be dealt with and I could teach a focused classroom. It was a really interesting revelation for me to have. It started to make sense to me, I needed to actually back up what I was saying, and not just talk or look the part. I needed to take action.

To that end, Anne and I devised a plan of me talking to the students in my firm “teacher voice” the next day to really let them know that I was disappointed in them and wanted better. I wanted respect in the classroom, because I wanted a better learning environment. The students were out of line, I knew that and Anne did not have to tell me, because I was not happy with myself. However, at this point I wanted to know what to do. Using the teacher voice was not enough, I had tried that (or at least I thought I did). She told me that I still had not pulled it out, that I needed to have a real conversation with the students about their behavior.

So the next day, last Friday, I came into class and had them put all their laptops away. I really wanted to talk to them. I pulled out my notes and used them to talk about respect, expectations, and a few other things. The only problem, I ended up using my normal teacher voice, and not the angry Randon teacher voice - The one where I am really upset that they did not have their homework done, the one where I get upset and they really know it. Plus, I used notes, which, looking back on it was a huge mistake. If it is really something from my heart then I should be able to talk about it without notes. Teachers always talk about understanding if their students get a “come to Jesus talk” by the look of the faces of their students. Well, after another week let’s just say that they were not as attentive to what was going on. They did not get it, and the problems continued into this week.

This week it progressed. I gave them a new seating chart and put them in and near people that they would not talk to, well there is mistake number one. Those that are chatty will be chatty no matter what. I think that has to be a commandment or something. Anyway, I killed a lot of the moving around issues, but I still had the talking issues and I was not doing anything about it. They still talked when I was talking and they still were not respecting me or their classmates. It was really frustrating. So once again Anne and I had a conversation about what was going on. We walked up the ladder of intervention and the next steps that I could take and did take with students. Things seemed like they might get better…then Thursday.

Thursday came and Anne and I split up the students based on how far they were on their papers. Anne took the students that were caught up out into the hall and I stayed with those that needed a little extra work time in the classroom. I have one student who over the past few days caused some issues respecting me, respecting other students, completing work, and staying focused. What happened was I had decided before I came into class that day that I was done with this type of attitude and behavior out of students. I needed a change. I needed some peace and quiet. I had given this specific student a warning after his first issue in class, talking to the student across the aisle. I went on giving instruction, and then it happened again. So I did what I needed to do to maintain the instruction for the rest of the students – I kindly asked this student to step out into the hall. He was not happy about this choice, I was not either, but it needed to be done. So he left and the class worked well for the rest of the period. I had to move a few students that were chatting while I was talking, but that was it. They worked hard and life was good in C-11 (my classroom number).

At least until the end of the period came. The bell rang and I went to confront the student that I kicked out. I told him that we needed to chat and he ignored me. I told him that we needed to go next door (where there was an open classroom) and talk, away from the rest of the class. So I walked towards the door and he followed me, although when I turned left into the other classroom he turned right and walked down the hall. I called out to him multiple times and he ignored me. I told this to Anne who said the next step was doing something I have never done before – a student referral.

So I went through the process, filed the referral, and then went to talk to the administration about the problem. The whole issue was resolved today when he was called into the office and I had a little chat with him and the administrator.

All in all, I wonder if I left him in the hall too long to cool off. I wonder if I made the right choice of choosing the thirteen students in my classroom over him. I wonder if there was something else I could have done to make this situation more effective for all parties involved. I honestly do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that I did what I felt I needed to do. I removed the student from the situation based on behavior that both he and I knew was wrong. He had been warned multiple times about his behavior, and this was the end of the road. He escalated it to the referral stage, not me. He took the step to walk away when I only wanted to chat. Did I do the right thing? With a new week starting on Tuesday and being almost halfway through my placement, only time will tell.

A minor situation also happened in English 10. I have a very motivated, ex-Honors student in my class. He does very high quality work when he is motivated to do it, but there are times when he just wants to goof off or turn around and talk to his friend behind him. So Kristin and I had talked about me pulling him out of class and talking to him individually. He was pulling the same stuff he usually does and I finally today decided that enough was enough – the kicker was that he was even doing it during a quiz. I pulled him out into the hall and told him about how I knew he was a good student and that he could do high quality work, only his behavior the past few days and the past two weeks has been unacceptable. I wanted more out of him. I told him he can do it, he just needs to focus. After our little chat he was better in class, but still at times I need to correct his behavior. I am planning on giving them a new seating chart on Tuesday, so hopefully that will alleviate some of the stress of the situation. We will have to see what happens next week.

At the beginning of my student teaching I thought that I was on top of the world, and everything was great. I understood how to plan, how to teach, and manage a classroom. Now, at the end of six weeks into a fourteen week placement I have realized that I could not have been more ignorant. Lessons could always be more effective, I still want to push the students more than I am doing, and I still have major problems with my teaching – well not major, the major “rocks,” if you will, are in place. Now I just really need to figure out the classroom management situation. I was reflecting with Anne after school and she told me this quote that her college professor told her, “I can teach you everything about teaching, how to lesson plan, how to call home to parents, how to use effective reading strategies, etc., but I cannot teach you classroom management.” Wow, what a quote I thought. I looked at my own Wartburg College education and realized the same thing. I have taken classes on the history of education, teaching TAG and BD, and 504 students, I have looked at how to form a lesson, taught individual lessons, and done a myriad of other education related activities, but there is no way to properly teach classroom management. Where is ED 105: Classroom Management for the Aspiring Teacher? I want to take that course – oh wait, that course does not exist. So I have to learn it out here, in the field, really learning in the trenches. No one said teaching was easy, and classroom management is definitely that – Not easy. With the fantastic support from my cooperating teachers and the constant reflection, I am sure that although I did not take ED 105 in college I am currently enrolled in it here at AHS.