Teaching in Kansas City, one day at a time.

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 05 2013

The beginning of the end? Your thoughts sincerely appreciated.

Today sucked.

Everything about today sucked.

Well maybe not everything…During my plan time, I was in the office when a woman brought her daughter to school late. We recently got a security officer in our building for the sole purpose of protecting our principal and staff from this woman. There is a restraining order against her coming into the school. The security officer asked her to leave the premises and when she refused the cuffed her and called the police in front of her 7 year old daughter. She screamed and sobbed and ran down the hallway. I hugged her and sat with her for a good 40 minutes, we read a story and cuddled in the guidance office. Her mom was released and the little girl was unenrolled from the school.

Then I had to pick up my children and go teach reading intervention. At reading intervention, one of my students was sobbing because her uncle died that morning of cancer. I sat with her and hugged her for a bit. I felt like I could make a difference on that level. I could show my kiddos I love them, even if I can’t always teach them very well.

During lunch, I watched a sixth grader get extremely violent, lie on the ground and start kicking the walls. I had trouble getting by her to get my kids from lunch. When I picked up my kids from lunch, they were themselves. I love them.
During class, I had some kids on board but not as many as I’d like, there were moments of compliance which was nice. However as the afternoon progressed it got nuts. One kid punched another in the jaw and the other kid pushed a chair and desk over.  Then a kid drew all over the wall and on my poster that I hand drew, then a child started taking things from my drawer, and I lost it. Sincerely and utterly lost it on a child, screamed my face off. I’m not proud.

The vice principal heard it.

She took my kids to the bus and asked to meet with me.

Cut to: I’m sitting in the principal’s office waiting, like one of my misbehaving students, to meet with the principal. She had told me that we need to get on the Professional Growth Plan (PGP) that she had talked to me about earlier (2 weeks ago or so) and basically that I had 30 school days to show growth or else be fired.

I hate this. Feeling like I have an ax over my head. I’d rather just be fired. This probationary thing sucks.

The meeting was an hour long.

Honestly, I have heard so many tips about how to make my classroom management better. In fact, I could probably give a lecture on how to make classroom management better, however I have no idea how to effectively implement it, consistently.

Maybe I should just quit.

Thoughts?

 

11 Responses

  1. DM

    I’d love to have an update on how you are doing these days.

  2. Shannon

    Correct me if I’m wrong…but this doesn’t sound like a unionized school…

  3. parus

    Piggybacking off EMinNM’s statement about getting in-classroom assistance and about the admin’s accountability here – this is something a union should also be able to provide assistance with. Exactly the kind of situation they exist for. Highly recommend getting in touch with your union rep, if you have one. Better to do it earlier than later, I think.

  4. EMinNM

    Classroom management is rough. You have to gain experience until you find a system that works for you. Unfortunately, that experience time is often hellish, which it sounds like it is for you. I have so much sympathy!

    One thing about worrying that you are going to be fired, though. You need help! Not theory-help, because you sound like you’ve got the theory, but practice-help, so someone in your classroom, with you, helping you iron it out. Or a plan made with you, and an immediate debrief on how that plan for management worked or didn’t. TFA and your MTLD should help with this, but if your school is putting you on an official PDP, they should be offering support too. Don’t be afraid to hold them accountable for actually supporting you! Be clear about what you think would actually be helpful, and see if you can get it put in the plan so it’s official that you should get that support.

    You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to do it all on your own. At the end of the day, if you feel like you made a difference for a kid, and that your kids were better off having you there than not, I think you should stick it out. The two distraught kids were glad you were there. I’m sure others are too. Hang in there!

  5. Christina

    Another alum here who had a tough first semester during my first year, including what sounds like a similar situation- my school wasn’t offering any support around classroom management, but my principal essentially told me to get things under control or I’d be fired soon.
    It’s obviously up to you to decide what’s right for your situation. I stuck it out and things improved a ton after winter break- after a lot of advice and support from my MTLD and other great teachers.
    I needed to turn around a really rowdy and disruptive classroom culture. What eventually helped me turn the corner was setting really specific and short-term whole class behavior goals, i.e., we will get a class point for every 5 minutes that no one gets out of their chair during work time. We will get a class point for every two minutes that no one shouts out during INM. And then tons of positive praise/rewards for meeting certain point goals. Not the prettiest classroom management system, but I really think that’s what helped initially set a more positive tone overall, helped me better focus my behavior expectations and got kids to “buy-in” more. (Had to make significant adjustments later for a more sustainable long-term system).
    Whatever you decide, hang in there and best of luck. You’ve got plenty of people rooting for you.

  6. daltongoodier

    I know the last thing you want is advice, but it sounds like you could definitely use some encouragement. Like DM said before, I regularly read your blog and am in your corner. It’s tough now, but it gets better!

    Take some time away from teaching, then tackle the two or three most important things. When I got frustrated, I’d spend hours last year rearranging seating charts and creating posters when I should have been creating really strong lesson plans. When I had great lessons planned and lots of work for students to do, things improved immediately.

    If you find you do want advice, feel free to reach out to me. I had a rough first year and got it turned around for my second. You can too!

  7. Meghank

    I would have been just like you my first year if I didn’t have people (family members) telling me I could do this, that it was the administration that was setting me up to fail by not supporting me and, in fact, undercutting me every chance they got. I stuck it out and my second year I had good classroom management and I had an amazing, wonderful year. So I guess they were right.

    But I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been given the chance to come back for the second year. I don’t know how much you can improve in a month. I suppose you can stop yelling. Just realize it never accomplishes anything (even though it seems like everything else you do never results in what you want, either).

    At least you won’t be as sick (voice hoarse) on the weekends from yelling all week.

    I’d say stop yelling, stick it out, and, since it makes no sense to fire a first year teacher for poor classroom management in a school where no support is provided by the administration, maybe they won’t do it.

  8. parus

    Classroom management and instructional aptitude come with time and practice. There are certainly supports and techniques that can help, but a lot of it just comes from experience, and the only way to gain experience is to keep doing it. Try to be patient with yourself and your students in that area, and realize it’s a pretty universal new-teacher experience, exacerbated by the challenges of your particular school and your particular classroom.

    Of more concern, I think, is the anger and sadness that jumps out at me when reading your posts. It seems like it is not only affecting the way you interact at work, but also the way you view yourself. That sort of thing can become cyclical. Please don’t take this as me calling you a nut or anything, but you might consider looking into a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach to managing your stress responses. It’s a pretty logical, rational approach to dealing with anxiety and depression, both situational and chronic, and there’s often a fairly quick turnaround between implementing CBT techniques and seeing improvements.

    I think only you can decide whether quitting is a necessary or desirable option at this time. I’d encourage you to take a few days away from work – maybe a weekend plus a day of leave or something – wherein you don’t do ANYTHING related to work/TFA, to clear your mind and gain a bit of distance. With a bit of remove you may be able to assess the situation more objectively and from a wider angle.

  9. Classroom management and instructional aptitude come with time and practice. There are certainly supports and techniques that can help, but a lot of it just comes from experience, and the only way to gain experience is to keep doing it. Try to be patient with yourself and your students in that area, and realize it’s a pretty universal new-teacher experience, exacerbated by the challenges of your particular school and your particular classroom.

    Of more concern, I think, is the anger and sadness that jumps out at me when reading your posts. It seems like it is not only affecting the way you interact at work, but also the way you view yourself. That sort of thing can become cyclical. Please don’t take this as me calling you a nut or anything, but you might consider looking into a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach to managing your stress responses. It’s a pretty logical, rational approach to dealing with anxiety and depression, both situational and chronic, and there’s often a fairly quick turnaround between implementing CBT techniques and seeing improvements.

    I think only you can decide whether quitting is a necessary or desirable option at this time. I’d encourage you to take a few days away from work – maybe a weekend plus a day of leave or something – wherein you don’t do ANYTHING related to work/TFA, to clear your mind and gain a bit of distance. With a bit of remove you may be able to assess the situation more objectively and from a wider angle.

  10. DM

    I also wanted to give you a little management advice, although I know the last thing that you want is more advice spewed at you. I think management is something that is tricky because it is so personal. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person and vice versa. It was so frustrating for me to get advice and try to do what I saw other teachers do, only to have it not work for me for whatever reason. For me, the thing that helped me more then anything was having clear procedures. I think one place to start is to have a “do now” type activity at the start of each lesson that the kids can sit down and do independently. have the kids be silent while working, be super strict about being silent, and give massive rewards to those following these rules (I gave out tickets that students could exchange for a prize at the end of period). This sets the stage for learning and helps the rest of the lesson run more smoothly. It also gives you a few minutes to catch your breath and deal with any individual issues you might need to deal with.

  11. DM

    Hey,

    As a former struggling CM who eventually figured it out, I think you should tough it out. I was put on the CMIP at institute for similar classroom management issues as you are describing. I too, thought about quitting and felt terrible about the situation. However, I realized I had nothing to gain, and everything to lose if I quit. I knew that if I tried, and failed, at least I knew that I gave it my best. However, if I quit, I would always wonder how things would be different if I had stuck with it. I got all the help and advice I could get, worked hard to make sure I was doing everything I could do to make things run smoothly, and managed to close out my CMIP. I had a struggle of a first year, but came back for a second, knowing I could change everything that went wrong with my first year and that it would just get better. In the end I spent seven years teaching at my placement school (where management was always an issue) and now teach at a school abroad (where management isn’t an issue at all).

    All in all, I think you owe it to yourself to try. Tell yourself that if you can change one thing a day, that is showing improvement, and that, in the end, is all your PGP is asking you to show. I follow your blog regularly and am rooting for you!

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About this Blog

Teaching for the first time… praying we all get out alive

Region
Kansas City
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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