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Really struggling with classroom management

(33 Posts)
Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 08:21:56

I'm new to teaching and I've got a class of 16 year old boys. I'm horrified at how bad I am at managing them. And the other teachers are horrified at how bad I am too, as no one else finds them that difficult.

Basically I naturally follow attachment parenting, and I never formally discipline my own children or go around telling them to stop and they can't do something.

I can see that what this class needs is someone to bark rules t thm all the time. I know what needs done, I just can't do it. Has anyone else felt the same way? Or any tips I can use to try and get them under control?

Littleturkish Sat 10-Jan-15 08:27:49

Ask to observe them being taught by someone else. You don't need to 'bark' at them- there isn't two extremes of teaching style with nothing in between.

And parenting is NOTHING like teaching, so that has nothing to do with it.

Also I would look at your lesson content- give them interesting and challenging things to do that are worth behaving for.

Littleturkish Sat 10-Jan-15 08:28:39

There arent two extremes of teaching style.

Sorry, rewrote that too many times and then didn't proof read!

Cerisier Sat 10-Jan-15 08:31:18

You don't need to bark orders, just be firm, fair and kind. Make the lessons busy and interesting and get to know the students and they will soon warm to you.

feelingunsupported Sat 10-Jan-15 08:35:23

How is your classroom set up? Groups of desks is great with a well behaved class but with one like this a horseshoe works best.

Sit the students who cause the most problems at the ends of the horseshoe - if one acts up stand in front of him, with your back to him so that you can address the others but block him with your body (effectively cold shouldering) him

Once he has stopped move back to 'let him back in' to the group.

feelingunsupported Sat 10-Jan-15 08:40:19

Do you want to tell us what the main issues are? I've been teaching teenagers for years and still get classes that I find a huge challenge - and the worst thing to hear is other people say 'oh, they're fine for me'

Skatingfastonthinice Sat 10-Jan-15 08:43:38

How long have you been teaching, does your school or college have a clear discipline policy that you are following? have you got a mentor, or someone who will give you practical suggestions?

Are your lessons planned, interesting, appropriately pitched and are you confident delivering them? Are they all disruptive or just a few and the rest are following on. Are you clear and consistent, do they know where they are with you and the activities?
Has this been going on since September?

You do realise that you are failing to provide them with an education if you can't get them on task, focused and learning? That there will be students in the class who are failing because of the disruption you are allowing that they are not a part of, and those that are disruptive are failing because you haven't got a clue that discipline doesn't involve barking orders that the class will ignore?
Are your children very young? Because yelling at teenagers is one of the least effective methods of getting them to listen and co-operate.
And WTF has attachment parenting got to do with inspiring, motivating and teaching 16 year old boys?
If you just can't do it, if all the boks on behaviour and classrom management aren't enough, and observation of other experienced staff isn't working, if they are learning nothing in your lessons, then there's only one thing you can do that is ethical and that's hand them over to someone else.

Singleandproud Sat 10-Jan-15 08:46:58

Spend half hour coming up with class rules that can be put up on the wall and consequences. I used to have my desks in an L shape (2together), you can move around them easily, students can do group work easily but all face the board. I found a U shape used to create more situations of throwing things across the room and shouting to each other

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 10-Jan-15 08:47:31

Have you actually got a teaching qualification, and a mentor? As you should have been through behaviour management during the qual and have someone to talk to/mentor you in school.

Littleturkish Sat 10-Jan-15 08:47:55

Woah, Skating! That's a bit harsh!

She's a new teacher- she could only be teaching them for a week! Lots and lots of assumptions in your post. This is the start of someone's career- nobody I know started off teaching perfectly, she's asking for help, she isn't a lost cause!

feelingunsupported Sat 10-Jan-15 08:53:52

Skating - you sound like one of my managers. People like you are the reason we're losing new, potentially good teachers. She needs support and advice, not a massive guilt trip.

LizzieVereker Sat 10-Jan-15 09:02:51

Don't panic yet, it's early days. You don't need to bark or be a "shouty" teacher to get teenagers to behave, some of the teachers with the best control never raise their voices. You will develop your own style of "managing" them.

Do you want to tell us about a couple of specific problems and then we might be able to suggest practical strategies to help?

Skatingfastonthinice Sat 10-Jan-15 09:02:56

Attachment parenting or drill sergeant?
Those are her choices? Two polar opposites with nothing in between?

coolaschmoola Sat 10-Jan-15 09:30:08

I'm in a similar situation, I teach in a FE college, teaching only males, predominantly aged 16-19. I teach a compulsory subject and the vast majority of my students have behavioural issues and/or additional learning needs.

It's not easy. I have one group who are incredibly challenging, I'm talking violence, constant swearing, refusal to work, distracting others, people walking out. I've been called names, sworn at and threatened....

But, it IS possible to get somewhere with groups who are initially very problematic.

A book that has been invaluable is Getting the Buggers to Behave. Another good one is Behaviour Management in Further Education by Susan Wallace.

The biggest thing I did was change my perception. I will freely admit I dreaded this group. I'd even say I actively loathed some of them. And that isn't good. I couldn't teach them effectively when I was going in already stressed and with massive barriers up. I spent time reflecting on why I felt the way I did, and actively forced myself to identify at least one good point about every student. I needed to see them as individuals rather than a group and I needed to see their positive points because I was focusing on the negative and it was impacting my teaching.

I found tables of four the most effective, but only when used with a seating plan. Divide and conquer. Split up the friendship groups, place people who do work next to the ones who don't.

Lots of short tasks worked with this group, using peer support, praise and ground rules. Resources they haven't seen before like Kahoot go down well, particularly as it is point scoring and can be differentiated so everyone has the opportunity to achieve. Competition has a way of focusing the minds of young adult males.

Speak to their other tutors, find out what works for them.

Boundaries need to be clear, fair and absolutely rock solid. You could even get the group to help devise them so they are more invested in them.

It's really hard when you get a group like this, but you can do this.

Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 13:28:36

Ah thanks for all your replies - I really appreciate it!

I've taught this group 4 times before, being observed by their original teacher, so I know them a little bit. I knew I had to go in strong as I had been far too soft in my previous lessons and they'd walked all over me.

I had ground rules ready and waiting written up on the board when they came in, and we spent the first part of the lesson talking about that, and they seemed to like the fact there were rules, particularly when they could shout out about a friend who was breaking the rules.

One of the main ways I lost control was near the end of the lesson, when they realised that the 3 strikes and out mobile phone rule didn't matter as we were all going home soon. So loads of them got their phones out. I couldn't write all their names on the board so I just ignored it.

Things had been degenerating all day, and the last task was a team quiz, where I would normally write team names on the board and record the scores. One student who is usually quite good wrote a really rude team name, as I was standing right next to him. I just ignored it, and didn't write any team names on the board But looking back I should have really disciplined him for that.

I am teaching a subject they don't particularly care about, and I have them for 4 hours one day a week. So it is a long time for a boring subject. I know I could jazz it up somehow but I've got to learn all these lesson plan tips as I go along.

I've observed their normal teacher with them and she is very strict, I was taken aback the first time, but that's what I need to get to.

They have been sitting in groups of 4 round a table, but I'm going to try horse shoe or L shaped as recommended. I've tried dividing the groups lots of times in my lessons, but almost all of them are just as bad next to each other. There's only two quiet ones in the group who don't cause problems.

Basically right from the start I started weakly. They were all waiting outside the classroom, and at 2 minutes to go I opened the door and said 'Start coming in.... when you're ready' I shouldn't have added that last bit, as then they didn't come in for another 5 minutes and I had to go out and get them. Then the student who had been closest to the door when I originally opened it, decided to go to the loo. And all the boys had a great time telling me he was going to do a dump, he later walked into the class 10 minutes late, and I couldn't challenge him.

What would you do if boys were telling you their friend had gone to do a dump? I ignored them, but what should I have said?

I've not started teacher training yet, I was hired as the college were actively looking for people with industry experience.

Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 13:28:38

Ah thanks for all your replies - I really appreciate it!

I've taught this group 4 times before, being observed by their original teacher, so I know them a little bit. I knew I had to go in strong as I had been far too soft in my previous lessons and they'd walked all over me.

I had ground rules ready and waiting written up on the board when they came in, and we spent the first part of the lesson talking about that, and they seemed to like the fact there were rules, particularly when they could shout out about a friend who was breaking the rules.

One of the main ways I lost control was near the end of the lesson, when they realised that the 3 strikes and out mobile phone rule didn't matter as we were all going home soon. So loads of them got their phones out. I couldn't write all their names on the board so I just ignored it.

Things had been degenerating all day, and the last task was a team quiz, where I would normally write team names on the board and record the scores. One student who is usually quite good wrote a really rude team name, as I was standing right next to him. I just ignored it, and didn't write any team names on the board But looking back I should have really disciplined him for that.

I am teaching a subject they don't particularly care about, and I have them for 4 hours one day a week. So it is a long time for a boring subject. I know I could jazz it up somehow but I've got to learn all these lesson plan tips as I go along.

I've observed their normal teacher with them and she is very strict, I was taken aback the first time, but that's what I need to get to.

They have been sitting in groups of 4 round a table, but I'm going to try horse shoe or L shaped as recommended. I've tried dividing the groups lots of times in my lessons, but almost all of them are just as bad next to each other. There's only two quiet ones in the group who don't cause problems.

Basically right from the start I started weakly. They were all waiting outside the classroom, and at 2 minutes to go I opened the door and said 'Start coming in.... when you're ready' I shouldn't have added that last bit, as then they didn't come in for another 5 minutes and I had to go out and get them. Then the student who had been closest to the door when I originally opened it, decided to go to the loo. And all the boys had a great time telling me he was going to do a dump, he later walked into the class 10 minutes late, and I couldn't challenge him.

What would you do if boys were telling you their friend had gone to do a dump? I ignored them, but what should I have said?

I've not started teacher training yet, I was hired as the college were actively looking for people with industry experience.

Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 13:29:11

Ah thanks for all your replies - I really appreciate it!

I've taught this group 4 times before, being observed by their original teacher, so I know them a little bit. I knew I had to go in strong as I had been far too soft in my previous lessons and they'd walked all over me.

I had ground rules ready and waiting written up on the board when they came in, and we spent the first part of the lesson talking about that, and they seemed to like the fact there were rules, particularly when they could shout out about a friend who was breaking the rules.

One of the main ways I lost control was near the end of the lesson, when they realised that the 3 strikes and out mobile phone rule didn't matter as we were all going home soon. So loads of them got their phones out. I couldn't write all their names on the board so I just ignored it.

Things had been degenerating all day, and the last task was a team quiz, where I would normally write team names on the board and record the scores. One student who is usually quite good wrote a really rude team name, as I was standing right next to him. I just ignored it, and didn't write any team names on the board But looking back I should have really disciplined him for that.

I am teaching a subject they don't particularly care about, and I have them for 4 hours one day a week. So it is a long time for a boring subject. I know I could jazz it up somehow but I've got to learn all these lesson plan tips as I go along.

I've observed their normal teacher with them and she is very strict, I was taken aback the first time, but that's what I need to get to.

They have been sitting in groups of 4 round a table, but I'm going to try horse shoe or L shaped as recommended. I've tried dividing the groups lots of times in my lessons, but almost all of them are just as bad next to each other. There's only two quiet ones in the group who don't cause problems.

Basically right from the start I started weakly. They were all waiting outside the classroom, and at 2 minutes to go I opened the door and said 'Start coming in.... when you're ready' I shouldn't have added that last bit, as then they didn't come in for another 5 minutes and I had to go out and get them. Then the student who had been closest to the door when I originally opened it, decided to go to the loo. And all the boys had a great time telling me he was going to do a dump, he later walked into the class 10 minutes late, and I couldn't challenge him.

What would you do if boys were telling you their friend had gone to do a dump? I ignored them, but what should I have said?

I've not started teacher training yet, I was hired as the college were actively looking for people with industry experience.

feelingunsupported Sat 10-Jan-15 14:05:17

I'm still learning after 15 years - honestly, kids and their behaviour changes class by class, year by year.

You need to take back control. Next lesson stand by the door, greet each one as they come in as nicely as you can and direct them to where you want them to sit in your new arrangement.

The mobile phone one is hard - would you consider using them to your advantage? We had training from a behaviour psychologist recently and she advised that mobile phone management is a life skill that needs to be taught.

My students come in and put their phone face down, on silent, in the corner of their desk. At a natural lull in class I let them have 2 minutes of timed phone access.

feelingunsupported Sat 10-Jan-15 14:10:38

Sorry...

Once the time is up they put the phone back down. Some initially refused so I said 'that's fine - but you miss out on text time unfortunately'. Having the desks in a horseshoe means that if one goes missing to be fiddled with under the table I can see it and the rest of the class lose out. Peer pressure is your friend.

I'm guessing you're teaching some kind of PSD or Functional Skills?

Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 14:27:38

I'm actually teaching another subject, one which they have chosen to do, but the module I'm teaching they all find a bit boring and pointless.

That mobile phone idea is interesting, and actually sounds a bit more realistic. The only thing is for my own credibility I have literally just made my strict ground rule on mobile phones. It might look a bit lame if I come in next week with a different ground rule on mobile phones.

Before I posted on here I had been planning to sit them in pairs in rows, do you think that sounds ok? It sounds like no one does that, is the horseshoe more the done thing now?

Yes I'l start next week standing by the door and greeting them one by one, and also as they leave.

Also thanks coolaschmoola for the book tip, I'll look that up too.

noblegiraffe Sat 10-Jan-15 14:29:57

No teacher training and you've been dumped with a class of 16 year old boys for 4 hours at once? The college are taking you for a mug! Even an experienced teacher would struggle with that set-up.

Anyway, the class are testing you. They will test all new teachers, this is what children do. So they will try rude team names, they will tell you their friend is going for a dump, they will piss about on their phones.

What behaviour management systems are available to you? I don't work in FE, can you give detentions? Phone home? Have a kid removed from your lesson? If yes, you need to start doing all those things.

If a 16 year old wrote a rude team name, I'd bin their paper, give them a fresh one and tell them to write something more appropriate. If it was really bad I'd issue a sanction. If they said their friend was going for a dump, I'd be entirely humourless, and tell them it was inappropriate and far more information than I required. I wouldn't have a 3 strikes rule for phones. If they have it out, it's mine. I assume with a 4 hour session you have breaks when they can use them?

A seating plan, and seating in rows facing the front is your best weapon.

Also, google Tom Bennett, the TES behaviour guru. He has loads of good advice for this sort of thing.

Also, consider teacher training sooner rather than later.

noblegiraffe Sat 10-Jan-15 14:33:30

Oh, and the other teachers being horrified at how bad you are at behaviour management is appalling. Presumably they are trained and experienced.

Like I said, the college are taking you for a mug dropping you into this scenario with no training, they really shouldn't be surprised or horrified that you are finding it tough. They are the idiots, not you.

Singleandproud Sat 10-Jan-15 14:39:14

I was in exactly the same position as you last year, a member of staff left unexpectedly and nobody applied for the job so I (an administrator for the department with experience in the subject and had studied it myself when at College) was thrown in. It was the hardest 12 weeks of my life. If you are at a College they should pay for your Pttls course but to be honest getting my head round teaching/marking/planning and studying myself was too much.

The reason the rows things isn't done so much is they are hard to move around ie difficult to get to he back row.

Elizabeth1984 Sat 10-Jan-15 15:08:47

Wow I've just googled Tom Bennett - it looks just what I need, so I'll have a look at all those resources, thanks.

With the college, they actually interviewed me for the job, then decided not to give me it, then I fought back and finally got it, so I kind of did throw myself in at the deep end a bit.

I'm feeling ok about it at the moment, I'm not at the floods of tears stage, but I do feel like I've been knocked about a bit. I really need to be more assertive and take control in my general life, so in a way I'm hoping to practise this all out on these boys. I'm not actually intimidated by them... yet. I just need to get stronger and more active in the class, and not ignore things I don't know how to deal with.

What I'd love to do is an acting role play or something, where I could practise getting out of my comfort zone, and being stricter than comes naturally. But otherwise I'll just practise on this class each week.

margerybruce Sun 11-Jan-15 09:29:20

You need to find out from your manager what the college policy is for poor behaviour. There will be one. There will be some sanctions you can use.

I assume these learners all want to pass their course?

Then you have to find some resources which make the module not boring and pointless. Can you tell us what the subject is?

You need pace in your sessions which means that there is no time for misbehaviour.

Are they doing the work? Are you standing at the front and talking at them for four hours? Teaching adults/ older teenagers means THEY do the work and they use peer to peer learning. You use the group and the group dynamics to teach.

I think rows facing the front is the way forward until you get their respect. Do you know your subject inside out?

Making their activities into a competition with points awarded towards a prize could help you, but this supposes that they are actually doing the work/activities and not just listening to you the whole time.

Read up on body language and how to use your voice - this DOES NOT MEAN shouting. Nor does it mean barking rules.

I am afraid that at this age teaching means getting their respect and making your sessions so interesting that they can see what's in it for them.

When I have had difficult classes I have found out what the college policy is and told them what will happen if they don't buck their ideas up. On the other hand if you can show them that you know your stuff and can make the sessions interesting and meanigful to them personally then you are getting there.

If they behave for other teachers it shows they know exactly what they are doing.

When I did my PGCE I had no clue whatsoever how to deal with children - including my own. I had two small children and no parent figures who had a clue either so I was flailing around a bit. My PGCE taught me how to bring up my own children never mind stand in front of twenty teenage boys. It gave me confidence.

You have to think - 'well whatever happens I ALWAYS know more than they do'!

IF you could PM me the subject I can have a think about how to make it interesting. That's the key really.

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