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Tweed Patches on a Leather Jacket [TEACHING ADVICE] Updated-How do I reach these kids?

noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
edited February 2013 in Help / Advice Forum
Not sure if anyone remembers or has followed some of my previous posts, but for the last few years I been glacially moving towards getting my teacher certification. This past semester I took my two required state tests and passed them, so all that's left is this upcoming semester of student teaching and I'll have my certification/degree.

The way student teaching breaks down is that for the first couple of weeks I'll be observing the teacher, before slowly taking over one of her classes, and as the semester progresses, picking up more of her classes and implementing my own lesson plan. Of course, as our student advisor told our group, there's been times when the student teacher gets thrown into running the classes on their first week, just like there's been times when the teacher doesn't really give control off their class through out any of the 12 weeks.

I want to try to make as good of an impression as possible, as there's been quite a few previous student teachers that got hired at their school/district based solely on the work they did as a student teacher, so I'm looking for any advice any of you guys might have. If it matters, I'll be doing English I at a High School.

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    mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    Advice on what?

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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    i did my graduate teaching diploma (english, secondary) last year.

    - don't be afraid to teach. the sooner you jump into the deep end, the sooner you can take control of consecutive lessons and get into a rhythm, the sooner you'll feel comfortable. if you're observing 90% of the time and have a lesson or two a week, you'll be so worked up about executing the 'perfect' (read: impossible) lesson and be so obsessed about the meaningless errors you made last time that you'll have a hard time with it. yeah, this will depend on your supervisor, but push to get as many lessons as you can as quickly as you can.

    - classroom management can be easy. don't be too proud to ask questions - be they of your supervisor or your students - and make sure you get to know names right away. make an early point to understand the school's discipline system. you will not immediately have the power to dissuade students from being jerks, but if you know the system and can refer them as they would usually be referred to, say, a head teacher, kids will understand very quickly that you can't be toyed with. that said, i was much more forgiving than my supervisor and it worked out for me - feigned ignorance is sometimes going to be necessary. i just had to be able to be a hard-ass when things got out of hand.

    - use technology! but make sure you have all your links ready in a digital lesson plan (or posted to something like edmodo if you use that). it's very easy to think you know exactly where to find a youtube clip or whatever, only to come up utterly short in the heat of the moment. you will feel pressure in a matter of seconds when things don't go quite right in the classroom. that's time that's not happily wasted, so the better your mis-en-place (to steal a cooking term) is, the more headaches you'll save yourself

    - literacy is key, and if you can try to teach explicit literacy skills every lesson you will be so good-looking to your department that you will get a job for sure.

    - dress well. most of the negative comments about prior student teachers i heard was directly related to their clothing choices. teachers are a funny lot - you'll see everything from suits to shorts and sandals. err on the side of professionalism.

    anyway, i could blather on but please let me know if there are any more specific questions you have about the student teaching experience! i loved it. just make sure you're enjoying it. it will set the tone for your career.

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    Lord PalingtonLord Palington he.him.his History-loving pal!Registered User regular
    I got thrown into a unique situation for my first extended teaching experience. The thing that allowed me to finish out the year (unlike the five that tried that class of students before me) was not to take what the students said personally.

    I got called some names, someone tried to throw the globe out of a window while another student distracted me with something on the other side of the room, and a ton of other stuff besides. If a student is going to be a dick, it's usually not because they don't like you, because they don't actually know you. They are trying to mess with the Teacher. Don't give in, don't give them the satisfaction of some big blow up reaction. Just follow whatever disciplinary plan your school has (write them up, call home - hell, don't be afraid to call their parents right then and there), and it'll work out okay.

    You probably won't really have to worry about it that much, but it's something I've kept with me.

    Using technology is awesome, and you definitely want things ready to go ahead of time as mentioned above. Just have something to fall back on in case the technology doesn't work. Don't worry about having a full secondary lesson plan, but just have a quick emergency go-to in case the internet goes out, or the bulb on the projector burns out, or whatever goes wrong. In an English I class, it could be a class discussion on genre, or they could write letters as a character from a book you've studied, or to a character, or ... I don't know. I teach math, so I'm sure you've got way better ideas here than I would.

    Also, delete your facebook page. Or set it to super-duper private. Kids these days are great at online creeping. Or you could set up a secondary "teacher" facebook, some of the faculty at my school does - just check with the school about their social media policy. Easy way to get resigned.

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    HewnHewn Registered User regular
    I taught English. And I remember student teaching like it was yesterday...

    I really liked bsjezz's comment about dressing sharp. It's often overlooked, but you have no idea how many positive comments I got by showing up in a suit jacket and tie. It also sets the tone for the students, who need to know you mean business. And then later down the line, it was a factor in my success after hired. I looked young for my position (voted most likely to be a student for the yearbook awards... yay) but the sharp clothes set you apart and become your uniform. The same way a police officer instills some level of respect in his uniform, your clothes are yours. Is this vital for all teachers? Eh, not the established ones who are awesome at classroom management. But for a noobie who is looking to make your mark, it's worth investing in some nice slacks and coats.

    The following is a few tidbits I'd pass on to any student teacher. Some overlap with more of bsjezz's advice (I think that guy/gal knows what he's talking about, so know I agree with everything he said).

    Be friendly and personable with your students, but always make sure they know there's a line between you and them. You're in charge. In a few instances, I was only 3 or 4 years older than some of my kids while student teaching. That gap is large, but not. We related to the same video games, music, etc. Some kids thought this was their "in" and they could get away with murder. Stomp that out immediately. You can set the tone of strict rules without being a jerk, and do so in a way that suits your personality. Some, like myself, use humor. You are their teacher, not their buddy. A few of my friends got too buddy buddy, some dumb ones even adding them on Facebook.

    Steal! Your mentor teachers in the building understand where you're at, so don't be afraid to pilfer their lesson plans. Ask, of course. But after you ask, photocopy anything they'll let you. Lesson plans, tests, assignments. All of it. Start making a folder with all that material and save it for your teaching job. Your first year full-time is going to be a whirlwind and you want all the material you can get. You'll find most teachers open up their lesson plans to you gladly, and some even take quite a bit of pride in passing on that knowledge to the next generation.

    Learn the rules of the school you're in. What is the discipline procedure? This served me well. Know when and who to send a student to if things go foul. One thing schools hate is when you send a kid to the principal when, oh hey, they don't send them there for that level misconduct. The school I worked at had a full time dean to handle discipline problems and he was very clear what issues to have him get involved. Knowing those moments saved me a ton of headaches.

    Volunteer. When student teaching I volunteered to help debate, the prom, tennis, and yearbook. When I was later interviewed for my full-time job, guess what the school needed somebody to take over? Yearbook. Bingo.

    Develop a few "showstopper" lessons. That's what I called them. I had 3 or 4 lessons that I put my heart and soul into and really worked to knock them out of the park. Those lessons were good for the days where the teacher lets you take over the whole day, but also it's great to have them for your upcoming interviews.

    Journal or take notes. Be writing down the things you're learning/observing constantly. What is your mentor teacher doing well? Or poorly? Those observations will go a long, long, long way. Also, don't be afraid to wander the school a bit. Ask your mentor teacher if they could introduce you to other teachers and you could sit in on their classes a bit. English classes will help you the most, but I also yanked some great ideas from social studies and art teachers. And remember, if you like what they did... go back to steal!

    Have fun and don't be afraid to make mistakes. This is your time to learn and everybody knows it. Always ask for feedback from your mentor teacher. Ask for feedback from students, too, but be sure to take some of their recommendations with a grain of salt. I once got told I should stop giving quizzes. Sure thing, Jimmy. Let me just put away the gradebook. You get a butterfly.

    For more specific advice, just ask. Seems like you have several folks here ready at your disposal.

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    GrisloGrislo Registered User regular
    This will depend on the type of school and the types of students you'll be dealing with, but I've found that it's better to veer towards the stricter side initially, and soften up a bit.

    You don't want to be the guy who's 'going to be their friend.' It can be hard to come back from that, and I've seen it bite people in the ass.

    And as Lord Palington says, be careful, to a point, about social media and such. Don't Facebook friend anyone, or anything like that. Which I guess goes a bit without saying.

    Also, relax. You want to look your best, but there are going to be hiccups along the way, and that's fine. Perfection is difficult, so don't expect it of yourself.

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    TPSouTPSou Mr Registered User regular
    Ive been teaching for a few years now, and I've trained student teachers too. All the advice above is pretty good, but my main one for your question is to get involved. Ask what else you can do, ask if you can teach a class, stay behind after work and get some sets of marking done. The other teachers will love you for it, you'll get experience and you'll have loads of things to point to in interviews. We get too many trainees who just do the bare minimum and thus become easily forgettable.

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    GrisloGrislo Registered User regular
    It might be interesting for you to follow your regular class for a day, to see how they behave in subjects that are very different from yours, and how other teachers handle them.

    The first piece of advice anyone gave me when I started teaching:
    "Stay away from the girls who develop a crush on you. They're fucked up and have daddy issues."

    Thanks, new colleague I'm meeting for the first time.

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    DustyBottomsDustyBottoms Registered User regular
    Don't go in with a chip on your shoulder just because you just learned all these new teaching methods in college. I learned more in one semester of student teaching than I did in most of my classes combined.

    One of the best compliments I got, both from cooperating teachers and senior teachers when I got my first teaching jobs, was that I didn't act like I was God's gift to teaching just because I was fresh out of college and had all these bright new ideas. Sometimes, yes, the senior teachers need to get with the program, but I've had more success when I try something new and get others interested in what I'm doing rather than telling them what I think they should be doing.

    Remember that you are not yet a certified teacher and that you are a guest in your cooperating teacher's classroom. As others have said, there are good and bad coops. Some will allow you the freedom to do what you want and others will want to control everything you implement. Either way can be a valuable learning experience.

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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    Hewn wrote: »
    Develop a few "showstopper" lessons. That's what I called them. I had 3 or 4 lessons that I put my heart and soul into and really worked to knock them out of the park. Those lessons were good for the days where the teacher lets you take over the whole day, but also it's great to have them for your upcoming interviews.

    on that note - and this is more useful for something like your first year out than your time student teaching, but it's relevant - some of the best advice we had from a local teaching guru was to plan to execute just one brilliant lesson a week. it sounds lazy, and sort of runs against the natural feeling that you have to impress and inspire your students all the time, but when you think that those lessons aren't one shots - they bank up in your bag of tricks and will transfer to other year groups and other units of work - you'll see that a brilliant lesson every week will accumulate into a unique and creative teaching repertoire within the first couple of years. and it means you're not inventing new resources for every lesson, you're spending your time on the basics of consistency and management that are important to nail down early.

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    noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    Wow, so much awesome advice so far, thanks!

    Yeah, I already locked down all my social media accounts, as that's something that was drilled into us in most of our classes.

    I feel pretty confident about getting up there and teaching, though I know I'm going to have to work on not using so much humor and sarcasm, as those tend to be my go to things in most situations.

    What I'm more worried about is creating the actual lesson plans. Something I've struggled with is connecting the lessons with the Bloom's Taxonomy-- that's something that was heavily emphasize in all my classes, and while I get it, I have trouble implementing it, if that makes any sense.

    Does anyone have any good websites or resources that I can use for lesson plans? One that was mentioned by our advisor was teacherspayteachers.com, which I'm looking over, but any others will definitely be appreciated.

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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited January 2013
    i'm not a raging blooms' fan, personally. it works best when coming up with questions for a given text, but i prefer the simpler literacy focused equivalent, 'literal, inferred, applied' questioning. you can then add 'extension' activities that focus on creative and analytic responses, and you've basically hit all the notes you should be hitting.

    i made it a habit to write all my own questions and i think it was a good idea. having that skill from early on meant i could use any random text i wanted on any day - i wasn't restricted to what had associated resources ready made.

    edit: as for actual lesson plans as in the document itself, i could upload a couple for you to look at a bit later if you like? i had fancy, detailed ones for 'important' lessons that were overseen by the university and a much more basic, 'just get down the essentials' version for day-to-day lessons to ensure i didn't stuff up

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    GrisloGrislo Registered User regular
    I agree, you shouldn't be trying to apply Bloom to an overall lesson, but it's good for questions/assignments.

    I almost always write my own questions as well. It just works better for me.

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    HewnHewn Registered User regular
    After leaving college Bloom never came up again for me. Never came up from my mentor teacher or any department evaluations. So there's that. If you're forced to play that game now, though, I'm sure we could help review some plans for you.

    I pulled some lesson ideas from the New York Times. They have some ideas for lesson plans as they relate to some current events and such. http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/category/lesson-plans/

    But most of my best inspiration came from asking teachers in my building. There were times that I took their plan, tweaked it for my own use, then they liked the tweaks so much they took it back from me. When you get that kind of sharing going, it helps tremendously. Take bsjezz up on his offer. I'd help, but since I'm out of the profession, I threw most of it away.

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    TPSouTPSou Mr Registered User regular
    A couple of good UK websites that people here use regularly are www.teachit.co.uk and www.tes.co.uk They do use English jargon though so KS3 (Key Stage 3) means 11-14 year olds, KS4 is 15-16 year olds and KS5 is 16-18 year olds

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    noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    Hey everybody,

    Today marks my first month as a student teacher, and first of all, thanks for all the advise in this thread, it's been really helpful, and I've tried to do everything everyone recommended it.

    So far, teaching is well...hard. Duh right? But I find that the more responsibilities I have, the more enjoyment I'm getting, so that's good.

    What's not so good is my last period of the day. It's a ninth grade, 'on level'(meaning it's not pre-ap, honors, etc) English class, and the kids there have been my biggest cause of concerns and headaches. From my first day, my teacher had warn me that they were a difficult bunch, and in fact, part of the reason it was the first class that I fully took over was because she was at her wits end and was really not having much luck with them anymore.

    Now, despite what I sometimes think when they're ignoring my lessons, talking back, talking to their friends, or just shouting/throwing things across the room, they're not all a bad bunch. I realize that they're kids, and unfortunately, to add to that, many of the trouble makers seem to have either learning issues, emotional issues, or issues just outside of the classroom.

    I've tried so many things with them. I made a mistake and probably was a bit more lax with them than I should have been, erroneously thinking that if they saw me as the opposite of their current teacher (who's main tactic is yelling at them as soon as they get inside the classroom), they would listen to me. Instead, they ran all over me. So I've gradually gotten tougher and tougher with them, but I'm afraid that won't work for long before I'm also yelling at them. I've also tried sitting down with them one on one and trying to talk to them just as people, find out what they want out of the class, explain that I'm here because I want to be here, etc. That worked for one day, and then it's like they forget the whole discussion.

    Two things makes all this even more frustrating. One is that due to the lesson plans set up by the district, I don't really have much flexibility on what I can teach them, what they need to be doing during class. I mean, as loud as they can get, I can't really fully blame them when we're asking them to read silently for a full class period(almost an hour). But if we don't do that, they simply won't read, and failing them doesn't seem to be an option.

    The other thing is that I'm caught between two extremes for advise. My university advisor is very upbeat, very "every student just needs a good talk to right their ship", while the teacher I'm with has already made up her mind about the students, and has no qualms about calling them names when talking about them(never to their face). So half the things my University Advisor tells me to do, the teacher either says no to, or just goes "If you want...I don't think it'll help though".

    So what can I do? I'm almost to the point where I have this mindset of "just make it through the remainder of the weeks. This class is already entrenched in a toxic environment' and I hate that line of thinking.

    Hmm. Sorry for the length, I guess I probably vented a bit.

    TL;DR: I have a difficult class that I don't know how to turn around. Getting conflicting advice from Advisor and teacher.

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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    that is a hard situation - mostly because classroom management and lesson planning are so intimately tied; if you're given such strict instructions on how your lesson has to go ahead, you're really really limited in engaging your kids and getting them onside. i would be having some serious discussions with your supervisor and - if need be - the english department head about allowing more flexibility if the current set-up is so unproductive.

    you will find at some point in your student teaching career that you have to trust yourself, and advice can't be taken as 'what to do' and more as 'one of many many options that i can comfortably navigate on my own.' both of my supervising teachers were excellent, but the first one i found myself too deperate to emulate; i was looking for the 'right' way' to teach, which doesn't exist, at least not universally. there is a right way for you to teach and you'll get there - just remember it's not your academic advisors right way and it's not your current supervising teacher's right way (though it sounds like she has yet to find a right way of her own)

    in the short term, i would suggest something like a class raffle, with tickets given out for good work; we used that sort of system when i taught a mainstream, mostly-boys year 10 group that could be a nightmare if it decided to. rewarding may seem a bit of an old-school, behaviorist approach (they should be intrinsically motivated! fap fap fap), but it works, and with a raffle set up it's a good trick because you only have to give away a bit of junk food or some cheap stationary at the end of the week or month. if the school has its own merit or reward system make sure you're using that too, but don't be afraid to go beyond it - kids get jaded on that stuff real quick.

    the other thing that worked for my particular group was making sure there was healthy, class-wide discussion - casual enough, but on-point - before writing tasks. if the group isn't a real academic one they will generally have better ideas in that context. then when it gets to putting pen to paper you can remind them of what they've already come up with and they'll be much more satisfied with their work.

    again, you're in a hard spot and there is no universal answer. but remember, you're here to learn to be a teacher - and sad though it may be, you will at least learn as much about good teaching from bad situations as you will from good ones. don't rest uneasily, you can't be burdened with the responsibility of making sure these kids turn out alright. not yet. that comes later.

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    DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is. In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    I don't have any experience with 9th graders, but I did teach 8th graders for five years. And those two grades are pretty close.

    I'll be straight with you, student teaching is one of the hardest things you will do. You are there long enough that you have to really educate them, but they know you are short term so they see you as an easy target.

    The school I taught at was strict Love and Logic, which is a discipline program that has been around for like 50 years and they keep repackaging it and reselling it. And you know what? It works pretty well. We took entire summer courses on it, so I'm just going to be able to give you the gist of it. Keep in mind that it works much, much better when you are a full-time teacher, as it works by building relationships with your classes.

    Basically, the outline is you set clear boundaries and consequences, and the instant one of those rules are broken the punishment is handed out. No warnings, no "I'm going to count to five." You let them test the boundaries, and you deal with it swiftly. You don't get mad, you don't yell, it's just punishment and move on. Once the class begins to realize you are serious, they start to fall in line.

    So, what are the boundaries and consequences for your class? If a student is talking when they're not supposed to be, what is the school's policy?

    The fun part about this program is that you can twist their actions back on them. I was a p.e. teacher, and every year on the first day of school we made the older kids do running tests. One, it gave us a good baseline to evaluate for later, and two it let us know who thought they were too cool to participate. And it happened every year like clockwork, a handful of kids, usually the sports kids, would just walk the entire time. I'd get the "I have asthma" or "I can't run that far" excuses. Well that's okay, because when we started flag football the next week, you better believe I benched those kids because I was "concerned about their health. " Well if you can't run four laps, there's no way I can let you sprint in flag football until I get a note from your doctor.

    To get more relevant to your classroom situation, I did sub for other teachers when they had to run off for a conference or something. I don't know if you are allowed to give these kinds of rewards, but I would always let the class know that if we got through the lesson like we were supposed to, we'd go outside for ten minutes of free time. I would then write "FREE TIME" on the board, and I would teach the lesson. Every time someone talked when they weren't supposed to, I just quietly erased one of the letters and continue on the lesson. I didn't say what I was doing, I didn't warn them or tell them that if they lost their letters they would lose it. But when I got to about " FRE" then the class starts policing themselves.

    Edit: http://www.loveandlogic.com/ Here is the website. I'm not sure how much info you can get for free, but I know they send out newsletters and such.

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    SilverEternitySilverEternity Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    bsjezz wrote: »
    that is a hard situation - mostly because classroom management and lesson planning are so intimately tied; if you're given such strict instructions on how your lesson has to go ahead, you're really really limited in engaging your kids and getting them onside. i would be having some serious discussions with your supervisor and - if need be - the english department head about allowing more flexibility if the current set-up is so unproductive.

    It's going to be hard to be a newbie coming into curriculum discussions like that but lesson planning and classroom management definitely effect each other. My advice is to try and find ways to make the existing curriculum more exciting. For example if they need to do silent sustained reading are they required to read a certain book? If not, try to build a classroom library. I found this was a good relationship builder in the classroom. Find a local library with a used book sale or look for cheap books online that your students will connect to (two authors I recommend are Sharon Draper and Walter Dean Myers). Within the existing curriculum try to find some great real-life anecdotes, stories or tie-ins for your hook.

    On the classroom management side of things I would really avoid yelling. It may be effective short term, but your students won't respect you based on yelling. In my experience, as a student teacher you are likely to have a hard time with classroom management because you are trying to navigate classroom norms that have already been established and you don't have any built-in respect or relationship with the students.

    I've had luck with doing a classroom contract with students. In fact, during my student teaching, I was faced with some of the same issues you are having and I took a half of one class (with permission from my mentors) to ask the students for input and then created expectations from there. I think that time is well spent because if the classroom is well managed and behaved, much more learning is going to take place. Also, by asking the students you show that you respect them and their thoughts. In turn this will help them build respect and a relationship with you. I use the questions: "What do you expect from me?" "What do you think I expect from you?" "What do you expect from each other?" and "How should we handle conflict?" as discussion/brainstorm questions. Based on the discussion we create a classroom contract, then you can hold students to the contract they created rather than being the authority figure coming down on them.

    Please don't let the mentor teacher's negativity effect you, it's really easy to start thinking that way (I have in the past) and not only does it hurt your relationship with the students, but it makes your workplace really unenjoyable.

    Also, echoing what others have said, if you are young it's really easy for students to start to see you as a peer (and thus someone they don't need to respect as a teacher). Do your best to keep a firm professional line, but appreciate their input and build respect through the way you interact with them. Try your best to always be consistent and reliable.

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