Love the job, but is this insurmountable?

(26 Posts)
AnneOfSleeves Thu 25-Jun-15 19:18:43

Earlier this year, I left my career to begin to retrain as a teacher. As part of my preparation, I volunteered in a primary school a few miles away, and last half term, they offered me a job as a TA. My previous job was dealing with adults and I've never had anything to do with children before, other than my own child.

I love it. Absolutely love it. I believe I'm good at the job, the children like me, I think I create good self esteem in the children and the children I've worked with seem to have come on in leaps and bounds (which gives me a sense of achievement like no other). I'm confident and have no problem standing up in front of the class. Colleagues seem to like me and give me positive feedback about my conduct. Overall, it's a perfect job for now (yes, really! Could pay more though...)

The only fly in the ointment seems to be that I am struggling with getting the younger children (nursery age) to pay any attention to me. My classroom management with that age is poor and the tips and tricks I've seen other teachers use don't seem to work when I use them. Keeping their attention on the carpet is very hard. They are quite "lively". I use the clapping/"one, eyes looking at me, two, ears listening" techniques etc but the children just talk over me and largely ignore it. Because they're nursery, there are no sanctions in school for this kind of behaviour as they're considered too young. The teacher just lets me get on with it and doesn't usually offer any support.

An example from the other day was when I was putting a nursery rhyme clip on the smart board to fill in 5 minutes before home time. They just wouldn't sit quietly, so I had two children rolling around the floor on top of each other, one sloping off to hide in the "building site", two standing up in front of the board obscuring the view of others and the remainder generally a bit chatty. One child wouldn't sit on the carpet and sat on the teacher's chair where I was sitting, refusing to move even after I told him several times, the ones rolling around wouldn't stop even when I was calling their names, the one sloping off wouldn't return. While I was dealing with the child on my chair, the other children ramped it up a bit and then when my attention was diverted to them, the original child hopped back onto my chair. The noise was horrendous! En masse, they just don't seem to listen to me. One to one (or two/three), it's absolutely fine.

I think part of the problem is that they think I'm really nice and haven't seen any other side to me. I've looked at the TES forums and behaviour management strategies but they all seem to be for specific strategies and I think this is more of a generic thing I think.

When teachers start training, does this sort of thing happen? How can I develop classroom presence? I'm starting to think this is going to be a barrier to me developing this lovely career in an area I'd dearly like to work in and that's making me a bit sad. I want to start again in September and make a positive start on a note that means I'm more effective with the children and make my communication with them much better (basically, they need to know I'm in charge and they have to do what I need them to do!).

Sorry it's long.....please help!

Littlefish Thu 25-Jun-15 19:25:53

Don't be afraid to be firm with them.

You can still be nice to them, but use a firm, stern tone of voice and face.

Personally, I think it's a bit of a cop out to say that there are no sanctions. Children of 3 can definitely understand that there are consequences to their behaviour.

I would probably say something like...

"I need you to come and sit down now. If you don't come now, you will have to sit with me when all the other children go and play. You choose.

It's really important to follow through with any behaviour consequences once you've said them.

How many children are in your group?

Pointlessfan Thu 25-Jun-15 19:29:15

I sympathise - I'm
a secondary teacher but the most defiant child I've ever encountered was a 3 year old in nursery! I agree, they should have sanctions at that age.

Loveleopardprint Thu 25-Jun-15 19:31:17

When teaching nursery I used to use a hand puppet in emergencies!! I would bring out a colourful drawstring bag and tell the children they had to sit down and be very quiet. Then I brought out the puppet saying he was scared of loud noises. If they made a lot of noise he would shake and go back in his bag. If they were quiet he would wave at them, stroke their faces etc. It was a good way to focus them. They loved it.

Loveleopardprint Thu 25-Jun-15 19:32:06

When teaching nursery I used to use a hand puppet in emergencies!! I would bring out a colourful drawstring bag and tell the children they had to sit down and be very quiet. Then I brought out the puppet saying he was scared of loud noises. If they made a lot of noise he would shake and go back in his bag. If they were quiet he would wave at them, stroke their faces etc. It was a good way to focus them. They loved it.

Loveleopardprint Thu 25-Jun-15 19:33:09

Sorry posted twice. Action songs are good too and bubbles if you can get them to sit and let the bubble land on them.

Shosha1 Thu 25-Jun-15 19:52:58

I always do fidget time first before any having to sit still time.

Stand up
Sit down
Lie down

Repeat

And

Repeat

In any random sequence. Usually by the time they have done that for a few times they sit still.

If you have to line them up or have them wait for anything.

It's then hands on heads, hands on noses, hands on toeses and so on till time to move on.

Something physical is always better.

If you have two boys who tend to be noisy together, get one to ' help' do something, other one to get the next book sort of thing. Split them up without them realising.

Remember to, that it's not ' Stop Running' it's ' walk please'

If you tell a pre schooler to just stop they don't get what they are suppose to do, so give the command you want them to do, not the command you want them to stop.

Split instructions into 2 clear parts

'Sit down'
' now fold your arms'

AnneOfSleeves Thu 25-Jun-15 20:01:17

There's 25 in the class. Some SEN and some children who don't often encounter "no". The nursery teacher has only been there a year or so but she manages to keep them in line with a lot of "oh that's a shame/very sad" etc but no actual sanctions unless a child has actually hurt someone.

Littlefish - I am firm (I think) but if I say something like you suggested it doesn't seem to work because I'm not "in charge" and can't really decide if a child goes out or stays in (or whatever), so I'd be setting myself up to be overruled when the teacher decides the opposite to what I'd said, meaning I'd look even more ineffectual.

To the child sitting on my chair who refused to move, I said "when a grown up asks you to do something, you need to do as you're are asked, please move now" while trying to move him by the hand. He laughed, said "no" and stayed exactly where he was. Short of picking him up and dumping him on the floor, I had no option. And I don't know, can I pick up a nursery child and move them? I'm sure his mum would complain about that.

Loveleopard Hand puppet is a good idea, I'm going to use this one tomorrow, I think it's something they'd respond to.

A lot of the problem occurs when they are supposed to be in one place (i.e. carpet) and they don't fancy it. They then spend the time either hiding under tables, behind bookcases and refusing to come out or rolling on the floor, legs in the air refusing to sit up. I'm not asking them to sit still, I just want them to sit on their bottoms when asked and be reasonably quiet!

efeslight Thu 25-Jun-15 20:17:00

I think you could try praising the children 'doing the right thing' and almost ignoring the ones not, eg 'oh, look at you, sitting so nicely' ,i also used to count the ch who were sitting nicely, so, oh, i can see one person sitting nicely, on, look, now there's 2' oh look, another one,' as they all clamoured to be counted.
Or, as a pp suggested, have a wriggle before you sit down, a wriggle and a tall stretch, can you touch the ceiling...? And then sit down.
Are you clear on what you expect, eg legs crossed, arms folded, looking at me, when on the carpet.
Is there another adult in the room, can they sit near ch who may have problems, just to model the good behaviour, and repeat instructions.
Or get the ch who may find it hard to sit down to carry out a special job for you sometimes, which means sitting near you, eg holding the book or pen, or a bear who might like to listen to the story too at story time.
i think this kind of management improves with practice and you have to feel comfortable with trying out a few techniques and seeing how it goes.

Rosieliveson Thu 25-Jun-15 20:25:51

Another vote for praise for the right thing. A gasp and over the top 'Oooh, wonderful. How lovely, just look at how nicely x is sitting. I'm very proud of you. Have a superstar sticker' has always worked for me in the past. Gradually I just say less and hand out a few stickers to those sitting beautifully. I always found the calm of praise and promise of a sticker sorted out the majority of disruption.
One thing I often did when children didn't respond to praise or behave well was write their name on the corner of the board. I'd then tally 'lost minutes' of play or choosing. You may need to seek permission/advice from main teacher before doing that though. Good luck star

AnneOfSleeves Thu 25-Jun-15 20:28:27

Thank you for the advice. Will definitely give this all a go. I already use positive language (walk please, look at X sitting nicely etc).

I need to develop strategies to get myself heard over their general unruliness and then I can try the techniques suggested. I'm sure it does improve with practice, and having a few alternative techniques is helpful so I can try them out. I just feel a bit "new" at this, and don't want to appear ineffectual in my job. It is only with the younger ones - the older children all respond really well to me!

DocHollywood Thu 25-Jun-15 20:29:05

You need to use your teacher more, either by using similar techniques or asking her for feedback and help identifying that 'moment' when you lose control and how to recover. Very tricky sometimes and I've watched countless teachers either successfully manage classroom antics or spiral into frustration and voice raising!
Positively praising the few children who are doing what's been asked ('You're sitting beautifully would you like to choose our story today?') generally works for me and keeping my voice low means children have to come over to hear what I'm saying, then I might whisper actions for them to do and curiosity gets the better of the few stragglers around the room and they finally come and sit down.

Finola1step Thu 25-Jun-15 20:41:42

Nursery are a tough crowd. Many at that age really couldn't give two hoots about being well behaved for the teacher etc. They are dull of ego centric wonder.

You need all your acting skills. Lots of variation in your tone of voice. Lots of exaggeration. Hand puppets are great. I have often used the old trick of using a hand puppet to praise and reinforce. So lots of acting (like a cbeebies presenter) and "Ooh look who's here, it's Freddy the Frog. Freddy has come to see all the lovely children in nursery. Goodness, Freddy has spotted Johnnie sitting very nicely with his kegs crossed". Lots of the puppet whispering in your ear when he or she sees "wonderful" behaviour. Puppets have saved many a carpet session with nursery children in my career. Once they get bored with one, introduce a new one with a new theme.

MrsUltracrepidarian Thu 25-Jun-15 20:45:10

Another vote for praise for the right thing
Definitely agree with this.
I am a secondary supply teacher and meet some very challenging behaviour
But focusing on those behaving well is the key.
Even if there is mayhem initially - really important that hose who behave well are recognised. The DC really do notice this and grudgingly respond until you have the critical mass behaving, and the trouble-makers have lost their audience.

Stitchintime1 Thu 25-Jun-15 20:47:10

You deserve a medal. 25 nursery children!

ppolly Thu 25-Jun-15 21:13:46

Don't say please, say thank you, as though the child has already done whatever you want. As in "x come and sit on the carpet, thank you".

Rosieliveson Thu 25-Jun-15 21:17:35

Also, it's ok to feel unsure and new. You are new after all smile

drspouse Thu 25-Jun-15 21:20:35

And praise every tiny move, e.g. Look how lovely you're getting up to sit on the carpet! Even if they have just stretched one leg.

pollyisnotputtingthekettleon Thu 25-Jun-15 21:23:34

We had a three step chart - when figgeting i would stand next to the chart and look for nice sitting, move names up ... this worked so well i didnt even refer to the chart just stood by it (brilliant in obvs) teacher should back u reguardless, short of total unreasonable over the top reaction ... dont be afraid of using this. Also you are not their friend and you are not there to be liked. They will still have respect for you.

level3at6months Thu 25-Jun-15 22:21:18

Ok. Nursery aged children can't sit still, nor should they. Like others have said, you're going to really have to ramp up the drama to get their attention, but don't expect them to sit crossed legged and attentive because they just aren't ready. Get them up and doing something active. If you have to have them all in one place in front of the smartboard, at least have them up on their feet joining in with an action song. Better still, get them involved in a story telling session, number rhyme or anything that doesn't involve them trying to sit still and be passive.

Behaviour management in the Early Years does take a lot of thought and what works for older children won't necessarily work for little ones. Think about what their behaviour is trying to tell you. Bored? Tired? Uncomfortable?

You will be able to do it - you're on a winner by wanting to crack it already, but please remember that they are very young children. And tbh, you shouldn't be having to deal with 25 of them on the carpet on your own.

rollonthesummer Thu 25-Jun-15 22:46:48

tbh, you shouldn't be having to deal with 25 of them on the carpet on your own.

This. Why were you filling in the five minutes before lunch rather than the teacher? Where was she?

CamelHump Thu 25-Jun-15 22:51:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EmberRose Fri 26-Jun-15 05:59:10

I tried something recently which was something I've always done, but this time I experimentes with it more. This is secondary, but I think the idea transfers. They were mostly working, a couple chatting more than I'd like so I just said, 'fantastic, X is really focused- merit' and instantly the other took note, they more I did this. Same thing with merits for first 3 people to get started, packed away etc, I think we forget the power of praise!

CharlesRyder Fri 26-Jun-15 06:45:49

Although I'm sure you could crack this and there is loads of good advice here, maybe Nursery just isn't your thing?

I teach children (mostly UKS2) with complex needs and challenging behaviour and am really good at the behaviour management side of things but I would run screaming from the prospect of keeping 25 3 year olds happy on the carpet!

AnneOfSleeves Fri 26-Jun-15 21:15:46

Thanks so much for the advice. I've put some into practice today and I think it's been a bit better. Certainly I've been firmer than I've been previously (one of the first pieces of advice I was given) and I think that was beneficial.

Although I do think that nursery really isn't my area of either interest or "expertise", and I'd much rather work with older children who seem to respond to me better, but beggars can't be choosers as they say!

I'm going to implement some of these strategies towards the end of term and once September rolls around, I'm going to start the new term much firmer and more focused along the lines of higher expectations, more action/less passivity, praise and puppets!

Many thanks smile

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