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Sublime Sublime is offline
 
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1st grade, 4th substitute
Old 12-09-2017, 09:51 AM
 
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Teacher is out with a broken foot and I was the 4th sub yesterday. No plans, I had to piece them together from what was done the day before and a little help from a neighboring teacher.

About 1/4 of the students drove me absolutely nuts: the ones who tattle constantly, are always on the move, can't open their books, etc. The ones who take 5 minutes to transition to the next activity. The ones who tell you you're not doing it right and correct your pronunciation. The kid who gets very little work done all day because she can't focus and ends up playing hopscotch on the rug! The one who for the life of her can't draw a tree for an art activity even though I had a sample up for 15 minutes and every other student could draw a tree. The ones you have to just tell to go sit down when they come up to you to tell you something for the 3rd time. And then you get the random sweet kid who comes up to you in the middle of class and wants to tell you their life story. And you just have to cope the best you can.

In the morning the secretary had asked if I could come back all next week. I was so relieved that I already had jobs even though I didn't know yet what I was getting into.

And I know this is about normal for 1st graders, especially having so many subs! My drug of choice was a big ol' milkshake after.

If anyone knows how to wrangle 1st graders, please please let me know! Or share your experiences. I have had wonderful 1st grade classes, but more often they are like the one described above.


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MaineSub MaineSub is offline
 
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Herding cats...
Old 12-10-2017, 04:29 AM
 
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It's a tired analogy, but they do keep you busy. I would suggest it was "worse" simply because they were on their fourth sub, but the patterns are more normal than not.

Two things I would offer. First, there's some commonality in all these behaviors. One is that these kids are desperately seeking our attention. The challenge is how to give what passes for individual attention to twenty first graders at the same time! I tell my kids right up front that they'll get my attention when they are on task and we are working together to get the job done. I do not sit when teaching... I'm constantly on the move, pointing to work, leaning down, asking questions, etc. I give lots of "great job" kinds of comments when appropriate. The message I'm trying to convey is "we don't have time for that." I also do things like, "I'll be back when..." keeping the focus on what we should be doing, not what we shouldn't. I also do not allow another student to interrupt when I am talking one on one.

Second, I ignore a lot. If one or two kids are not making the transition, I just keep going. If you focus on them, you'll lose the ones you have... first graders do have short attention spans and very little patience. If we don't keep them busy and engaged, they'll find something to do. In a sense, we have to figure out how to take advantage of their energy. Does it really make sense to expect a five-year-old to sit in her chair all day with her hands folded, awaiting our words of wisdom? They are little people. We are not that different, just bigger.

One of my biggest frustrations is that we simply don't have much "one on one" time with the kids... they need and deserve it and it's difficult to dole it out fifteen seconds at a time. I give a lot of "thumb's up" across the room and try to make eye contact with each kid often. I try to remember that I have individuals, not just a bunch of kids.

I always remember the school counselor who liked to remind staff, "Just because they are little doesn't mean their problems are little. What seems trivial to us can be a really big deal to them."

I will never forget one first grader... she cried easily and her response to any redirection or correction was to tell me she loved me as if love conquers all. She was high maintenance. (She's now in fourth grade and quite the manipulator. ) At the end of a day, she was literally driving me nuts for attention while I was organizing the kids for dismissal. I kept sending her away, "I don't have time right now... please get packed..." When the kids were finally lined up, I went and found her at the back of the line, in her correct spot. I told her I now had a minute and asked her why she wanted to talk to me. She looked right at me and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I know my behavior wasn't too good today and I'm sorry."

It was my turn to cry.
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Little people
Old 12-10-2017, 05:15 PM
 
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I love your post, MaineSub! I often teach 1st graders (1st and 2nd are my favorites), and I think of them the same way. They are "little people"...in other words, they have many of the feelings and frustrations that adults do (just on a smaller scale), but it's all on the outside for everyone to see. That's really why I love the little ones. They are just putting things together and I have the opportunity to provide caring and guidance.

As for difficult classes... last week, I subbed 3 days with a 1st grade class whose teacher had been out for 3 weeks (knee surgery). I was the 5th sub. The kids were sweet but unruly and very difficult to get on task. Even worse, one of the kids was severely disordered...even psychotic. He was completely unpredictable and mean...would without warning jump up and begin running around the room shouting and throwing chairs, trash cans, baskets of sharp pencils, anything he could get his hands on. He also would attack other kids, hitting and scratching them. I was instructed to call the office for help. But they'd keep him for 10 minutes and then send him right back to repeat the same behavior. By the 3rd day, it got so bad that I finally refused to take him back. The school counselor (a young woman clearly unseasoned) told me "we have to provide education to every child. We can't turn him away." I told her he was dangerous and a threat to the other kids. I was responsible for their safety and could not allow him to endanger them. The district doesn't allow me to lay hands on him, so I was unable to restrain him. I was ready to walk off the job if needed. But the counselor backed down and removed him for the day. I have never experienced anything like that. I hope to never again!

Overall, I find the little ones to be full of energy but very sweet and appreciative. Even the smallest praise or reward brings big smiles. I am a very active teacher, and they keep me on my toes. Just my cup of tea.
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Old 12-11-2017, 02:19 AM
 
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Thanks... not trying to hijack the thread, but I feel compelled to respond to your comments about the special needs (SN) student. I had a similar situation (not as bad) when an older student attacked some of my second graders, pushing them around in the cafeteria line. When I finally managed to stop him (without touching him), his "handler" came running over and attempted to stop me because "he's one of ours." It turned out he was from our self-contained room, had come to get his lunch. I was actually later lectured about how "fragile" SN students are... I replied, "And so are my second graders."

This "every child deserves..." attitude is not incorrect, but it is currently very one-sided and out of balance. One aspect of the problem is that it becomes very difficult to justify keeping an SN kid out of a regular classroom, so regular teachers (and subs) are often required to handle distracting and dangerous behavior. When the SN Teacher approached me about my situation I repeated my observation that the second graders are no less fragile and if this child needed a higher level of supervision, it was not present when the incident occurred. (His handler was off gossiping with some other staff members.) I covered my butt three ways to Sunday, even involving the Principal with the reminder that in addition to giving every kid an education, we are also charged with maintaining a safe learning environment. Other than the fact I have one staff member who now clearly doesn't like me very much, it turned out okay.

I share the story mostly to make the point, that as difficult as it can be, we need to take firm stands when it comes to creating and maintaining a safe learning environment. So I congratulate you on standing firm with the school counselor. Well done.
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:24 AM
 
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more in the right. Where was the case manager when this blow out happened? Was the case manager standing by this SN student? If the SN student has behaviour that's volatile, why didn't the manager keep a tighter "leash"? If you ask me, it was a manager's fault too for not keeping a tighter rein on that kid. I wonder if it would've worked better if that kid had his own separate line or if the case manager gets the food in the hash line for him.


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Old 12-11-2017, 09:55 AM
 
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I was in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms early in the year and each had a special needs child being mainstreamed. One girl lay on the rug screaming for a lot of the class. She did have an aide with her. I understand parents are reluctant to put their kids in a special ed class but this is unacceptable for the other 25 students and the teacher. The other class had a girl who would walk out of the class at any time (she also had an aide) and had other behaviors but was not as disruptive.

I came to learn the girl who screamed was eventually moved out of the classroom and possibly even the school and I later saw the other girl at a different school which had a class aimed at students with behavioral problems.

Teachers' jobs get more difficult every year it seems to me.
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:24 PM
 
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In the class I described above (1st grade), the violent kid didn't have an aide. I was told that he'd only recently started acting out this way, so apparently, he wasn't labeled as "special ed" yet. Everyone at the school knew about this boy and they knew he was violent, but for some reason, the principal and counselor weren't doing anything about it. I've just started subbing with this particular district, and I've noticed that they have very few aides and very few special ed classes (low budget). That is probably the problem.

On the subject of strategies for handling 1st and 2nd graders, I have developed some that work really well. I use team competition...using either the established teams or dividing the class into several teams (grouped by where they sit). The teams earn (or lose) points throughout the day based on how well they follow the class "rules" and participate, help out, answer questions correctly, etc. If one team loses a point, I give the point to a deserving team. I keep a running tally on the white board and at the end of the day, the 2 winning teams get rewards (stickers, school "award" tickets, whatever). The kids really get into this. And it causes them to self-monitor and keep each other on task and in line as well as help each other as a team.

I also emphasize positive reinforcement by rewarding kids for "good" behavior. I have an "awesome" list where I write the names of kids who have done good things or done well. They also get rewards at the end of the day. If I have to penalize anyone, they are no longer on their "team" and they get a warning, then lose recess time (in 5 min increments). During recess, they have to make up the classwork they didn't complete. I may have 1 or 2 kids at most lose recess in a day. Most of them want to do well for their teams.

I also avoid getting angry or yelling at the kids. Yelling is intimidation and bad strategy. It may work for 5 minutes, but then they're right back at it. In time, no amount of yelling will work. It's ineffective and poor classroom management. You are also punishing the entire class for the misdeeds of a few. It's unfair and alienates those who are trying. I find the kids respond really well to calming, focusing exercises such as doing the "waterfall" with them for a couple of minutes. You can also do a little Tai Chi or yoga (there are online videos you can use if needed) or maybe simply have them put their heads down and close their eyes for a few minutes.

It's all a matter of being creative and trying out different strategies till you find what works for you. And most importantly, I find that keeping a sense of humor and playfulness helps me bond with the kids and enjoy them and my work.
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:18 PM
 
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Thank you. Teams would not have worked here because the 5 or 6 troubling kids all sat in the same place! And there was a list on the board of respectful students. I appreciate the advice and will use it in the future, just not in this class! What is the "waterfall"?
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Old 12-12-2017, 06:41 PM
 
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I can picture your situation. The thing is it's your option to establish the standards for the day. You are the teacher in charge. You can create your own list of exceptional students for the day. You can also resituate students who are problems. For instance you can split up the boys in the back so that they are not so much of a problem. I find that if I isolate kids who act out, they often quiet down because they don't have an audience. You can also make them their own team and let them lose points throughout the day. They will soon see that the other kids are rewarded for positive behavior while their team fails miserably. The team option works wherever you have students you can group together. Usually I find teachers already have them grouped in teams and I just use the teams that exist. Either way you might give it a try with the class you're talking about.

As for waterfall, a lot of kids learn this in kindergarten. It's a simple exercise where you quietly begin making motions with your fingers like water falling down in a waterfall and you make a waterfall sound as you're doing it. Have the kids join you. No words are spoken, just a gentle movement of your fingers like water drops flowing downward as you verbally make the sound of rushing water. It's a very soothing and quieting exercise for the kids.
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Old 12-12-2017, 09:48 PM
 
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Ooh I like that; I'll try it tomorrow in 2nd grade. Thanks for the advice.


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Old 12-19-2017, 12:19 PM
 
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I used to be a 1st grade teacher. They are louder and easy to get distracted. You need to use some tricks to keep them engaged in your class. For example, at certain point you need to turn on and off lights to make them pay attention. Good luck!
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Old 12-19-2017, 04:48 PM
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Good classroom management is important
Old 12-19-2017, 04:50 PM
 
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When I go into a classroom one of the first things I do is lay down my ground rules. 1) You must raise your hand before getting out of your seat, for any reason, and get permission from me. Even if it's just to go throw away something in the trash. 2) No talking unless I say it's Ok, after all of your work is done, I may or may not let you have some free talk time. 3) I expect all work that I pass out to be completed, I collect all work that I pass out. 4) If all of your work isn't completed before lunch I will make you finish it during specials or recess. Even if that means you will be on the wall outside during recess finishing your work. 5) If I catch you talking or getting out of your seat without permission I will put your name on the board and deduct 5 minutes from your recess time, each time I catch you talking or out of your seat.

Then I make sure to follow through with what I say I will do. You'd be surprised how quiet it usually is in the rooms I sub in, and how you rarely even see anybody out of their seat without permission. And the majority of the class usually does their work also. For the more difficult students who are the biggest trouble makers I usually write them a referral and send them to the office, if you let one kid get away with disrespecting you then you can expect many of the other kids to try it too.

Good classroom management, and being able to follow the lesson plan, and get most students to do their work is a big deal to teachers. And if you are able to do this a lot of teachers will request you to keep subbing for them. The worst subs are the ones who can't control the class and can't get the kids to do the work that the teacher left for them. Be firm but fair. Don't let the kids run things, you take control and let them know you are in charge, your reputation as a sub depends on it.
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