Establishing Order in a Chaotic Classroom - ProTeacher Community




Home Join Now Search My Favorites
Help


      Substitute Teachers

Establishing Order in a Chaotic Classroom

>

Reply
 
Thread Tools
returningtch returningtch is offline
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member

returningtch
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member
Establishing Order in a Chaotic Classroom
Old 01-05-2018, 09:03 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #1

Hi, All,

I have finally, finally, finally gotten my dream assignment: a "home" (albeit temporary) in a classroom. I have dreamed of being in the same place and getting to know the students I teach. At 61, I had given up on this ever happening. However, on my first day alone with the classes (after shadowing their departing sub), there were some real problems (shocking, right?!). The wheels came off when it came to a class that required firmness. Students chit-chatted as I attempted to start class; got loud when I tried to take attendance; ignored instructions for working independently when completing the previous day's assignment (which unfortunately had one question which had a question which required collaboration); Brushed off the no-swearing warning; roamed place-to-place under the guise of "helping" each other, etc. As I attempted to restore order, it felt like putting out myriad small fires. I asked the parapro in the class if this was typical, and found it wasn't (though a firm hand was required, admittedly). She suggested I get someone appropriate to come in and get the students in line. I didn't want to call in the cavalry the first day; however, I didn't want to set a precedent for the rest of my time with the class, either. When a student used the teacher's computer to peruse an online store in response for a near-disciplinary action on my part), I finally went to the phone and dialed. The biggest offenders noticed and were commenting. The class calmed down a bit and were less uncivil, making an administrative visit pointless. When the previous sub dropped in near the end of the hour, the para noticed the students fell into line to a much greater degree.

I had been warned this could happen because I am soft-spoken and don't seem firm. I practice my firm or tough voice, but I don't think it's effective. The other staff member who saw this thing play out said that she could have straightened them out, but didn't want to undermine my authority. I don't want to lose this assignment, nor do I want to be replaced. One of the biggest offenders in this scenario came from the MS I have worked in for 5 years. I tried to firmly talk to this person when I saw trouble brewing at the beginning of class; assuring him that we needed to work together (and essentially we start each day with a clean slate). The upshot was running commentary to the rest of the class while I was trying to put out fires with the rest of the class. The other adult in the room pretty much said they "turned me inside out," though I didn't cry, yell, act frustrated, or betray my emotional state (which would have played right into any attempts on the part of anyone wanting to cause chaos).

My questions for those of you with thoughts on these types of issues are:
What can a sub do to impose consequences when students disrupt the class? (I try to spin positive, as learning should be the objective; however, some students seem determined not to let that happen).

I have learned that suspension is a possibility for some of the actions that occurred (which is an option, and not a concern, because they already hate me).

Speaking firmly, in a very firm tone, doesn't seem to come easily to me. A former co-worker used to coach me on lowering my register and using fewer words (sounding brusque, I guess). Any suggestions on sounding no-nonsense?

The students have ignored seating charts; I want to give them updated seating charts. Any ideas on how to enforce them?

Though I'm Secondary certified, I haven't been in a high school in five years. I am trying to find the groove again with this age group. I know they merit more freedom than my preschoolers, second-graders, and even middle-schoolers; however, they still fiddle with their phones and act up. The warning, "not to be too big a jerk (and you'll be fine)" eludes me. Any quick thoughts on the balance there?

I lose my voice easily when I have to raise it for any length of time (due to allergies, which makes my lack of projection even more of an issue. Half the time, the microphones in the classrooms don't work. Any suggestions? I have tried lowering my voice and asking, "May I have your attention, please?"

What do you do when a student attempts to goad you? When I tell students I will speak to them privately if I have an issue (90% of the time, when appropriate). What is a good response for a student who continually asks, "What did I do?" after swearing, moving from his/her seat, etc? After I have informed him/her that I will discuss the issue privately, then hear, "You can say it right here.," it gets ugly. Not wanting to be drawn into a debate, I repeat the privacy thing (out of respect for the student). The student then accuses me of ignoring him/her, and often starts a running commentary with fellow students about what I'm doing and why my actions are of no concern.

I know this is almost a novella; so sorry. I can only repeat how very grateful I would be to have any help at all with this, because I have to get back in there swinging away at the challenge. The subjects are so fun to teach; I am on the side of my students, so I want to make it all work. Please weigh in with any thoughts you might have, fellow teachers. Thank you!!!


returningtch is offline   Reply With Quote

Mikhail's Avatar
Mikhail Mikhail is offline
 
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,477
Senior Member

Mikhail
 
Mikhail's Avatar
 
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 1,477
Senior Member
Starting midyear
Old 01-06-2018, 04:21 AM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #2

Is the pits! This can be difficult on anyone. At what point do you think that you should involve their parents? How about the administrators or other adults as supports? First and foremost, how are students responding to your behaviour plan?
Mikhail is offline   Reply With Quote
subasaurus subasaurus is offline
 
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 483
Senior Member

subasaurus
 
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 483
Senior Member
Agree with Mikhail
Old 01-06-2018, 03:01 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #3

Did a long term assignment a few years back. It too began mid-year while the regular teacher was out for surgery.

I can verify with utmost confidence and experience: Getting the kids to respect and "warm up" to your style will take months.

As a seasoned sub with much experience in the education field, I can assure you it's a bumpy ride!

What worked for me was not deferring to other staff all the time unless there was a severe behavioral disruption.

Remember, kids can smell fear and timidness a mile away. It's ok that you don't like to yell, (I hate it too) but be sure to never let the kids see you sweat.

Yes, it's survival of the fittest in this situation. Stay strong and toughen up a bit. Don't be afraid to send kids to the office or take away their privileges if they don't comply.

Good luck. Been there, done that. It ain't pretty!

Remember:

You're doing God's work.
subasaurus is offline   Reply With Quote
c6g c6g is offline
 
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 227
Full Member

c6g
 
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 227
Full Member

Old 01-06-2018, 03:45 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #4

How long is this assignment expected to last?
c6g is offline   Reply With Quote
returningtch returningtch is offline
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member

returningtch
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member
Length of Assignment
Old 01-06-2018, 09:08 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #5

Not sure how long I might be in the class, as the district is interviewing candidates for the position. This situation occurred during my first hour alone with them (regarding this particularly problematic class), after I had spent a couple days shadowing their previous sub.

Thanks for responding to y questions. I am so grateful for any insight anyone might have. I don't want to anger the students to the point that any attempts on my part to teach end up being thwarted. I'm not afraid of them hating me personally; I just want things to work.


returningtch is offline   Reply With Quote
returningtch returningtch is offline
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member

returningtch
 
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 11
New Member
Chaos
Old 01-06-2018, 09:23 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #6

Thanks for the insight. I am a bit fearful of parents complaining or students just refusing to sit where told to sit, etc. I really didn't want to call anyone in on the first day, despite the parapro's suggestion (which was valid, and much appreciated). I didn't want the principal to think that I couldn't handle things. The students did behave better when their former sub dropped in (in fact, the ringleader of the offenders asked him to come back. One thing rolls me up when I sub: the students who want to debate behavioral issues and those who talk about my behavior/decisions in front of me; often in an endless commentary to anyone who will listen. That seems to keep endless small fires going throughout the hour. Has anyone found an effective way to deal with this situation.

Thanks for the info, as well. It helps a lot to know others have had to find ways to work with these issues.
returningtch is offline   Reply With Quote
MaineSub MaineSub is offline
 
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 1,164
Senior Member

MaineSub
 
Joined: Aug 2013
Posts: 1,164
Senior Member
Content, context...
Old 01-07-2018, 03:55 AM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #7

I think what you say may be more important than how you say it. I was once in a middle school classroom that went a bit crazy while getting ready to go on a field trip... the teacher stood at the front and began whispering. (Actually, I think she was just moving her lips.) She attempted to make eye contact with individual students and looked very sincere even though no one could hear her. It admittedly took a few minutes, but ultimately the class calmed and listened.

Frankly, your "novella" suggests you are losing a power struggle that you may not have to have. One of my favorite sayings is, "Sometimes the only way to win is to refuse to play the game." When a student attempts to goad me, I usually refuse to play the game. My subtle message is "I don't have to prove anything to myself or you. Why do you think you have to prove something to me?" When a student truly challenges my authority, I will occasionally ask them, "Are you sure you want to have this argument with me? That's a pretty important choice you have to make." (By the way, I'm not quick to offer private discussions--sometimes there's really nothing to discuss.)

In the specific example you cited where the student responds, "You can say it right here" I would just walk away and not say a word. Why bother repeating the privacy thing? Use non-verbals to communicate. Walking away says "You can't tell me what to do." Sometimes the only way to win is to refuse to play the game.

I know it doesn't work for everyone, but I am OCD with a laser focus on teaching and learning. I firmly believe you get more of what you focus on... so if you focus on minor disruptions, you get more disruptions. I remember walking into a particularly challenging first-grade class to teach art. The regular teacher warned as she left the room, "Keep them busy or they'll eat you alive." I dove right in, showing them what we were going to make, ignoring questions, tattling, whining... Well, we were all busy... me running from kid to kid as they needed help cutting, etc. but they were also busy trying to assemble their projects. At one point a kid started singing "Frosty the snowman..." (Well, just the first two lines, over and over.) The other kids picked up the tune and for a few blissful moments, I was able to stand back and witness the magic on an entire class cutting and coloring and singing. I've replayed that scene many times because I'd like to take full credit, but the reality is it worked because we were all working together towards an objective. We got focused on what we needed to do, not what we weren't going to do.

Another favorite saying is, "Remember that the only behavior you can truly control in a classroom is your own." Growing up is supposed to be about learning to be independent. I think sometimes we get so focused on "keeping them in line" that we forget they're supposed to be learning to keep themselves in line. I think of one particularly stubborn kid who loves to dig his heels in... I once sat down, looked him straight in the eye, stated the problem and said, "I can fix this, but I don't think you'll like my solution. I'll bet you can come up with a better one... let me just tell you what isn't going to work and then you can figure it out." Since I'm also writing a novella, let me suggest you look into "shared classroom management."

Let me just add that I use a lot of humor. My "rule #2" when I sub is "We will enjoy learning." Frankly, I'm not there to make sure a student is sitting in the right seat. I'm there to teach. I've occasionally challenged a student to "at least look like you're paying attention" because I know I can't force him to do anything.

Quote:
The subjects are so fun to teach; I am on the side of my students, so I want to make it all work.
Yay! So teach and have fun... that's the focus. I would suggest, however, that you move from being "on the side of my students" to being on the side of teaching and learning. Basically, eliminate the sides--everybody wins. Create situations where you are all in it together. Focus on what "making it work" really means.
MaineSub is offline   Reply With Quote
c6g c6g is offline
 
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 227
Full Member

c6g
 
Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 227
Full Member

Old 01-07-2018, 08:03 AM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #8

It sounds like you might be with them for a short period of time, and are not in line to become the new regular teacher. The students know that, and that fact influences their behavior. Put yourself in a student's position: This sub isn't going to be here long. Nothing this sub does is really going to affect my grade very much. Why should I give a ______?

Having said this, you were assigned to an important (but thankless) job, to keep things going until a new teacher is hired. I've done it too, although never in the middle of the year in a high school. It isn't easy.

If you feel comfortable doing it, you could have an honest conversation with the class and explain what's going on. You could let them know you understand their frustration about not having a regular teacher, but remind them that you're very serious about what you're doing in the interim. Point out that you're following the curriculum for the course, and that work done for you will be saved and given to the new teacher. Furthermore, it will count toward their grade as dictated by school policy.

Realize that you're probably not going to turn the difficult students into hardworking angels during the short time you're there. Their other teachers probably have trouble with them too. Think instead about making small improvements each day and trying to keep a lid on things.

I like MaineSub's suggestions about refusing to play their games. Some students want to argue about anything and everything, but when you let them know you're not going to play along, you're establishing yourself as the one in charge. I also like the idea of turning around and walking away. I stumbled on that one early in my teaching career, and it can be very effective.

If a student is really disruptive, document, document, document! Don't be afraid to write a referral and put the student out of class. Do it in a very matter-of-fact manner, and don't get caught up in an argument when you do it. Do that a few times, and the rest will start to catch on.

Greet the students outside the classroom door when they come in. That often helps to relax things a little. When they enter tomorrow, give them an assignment that must be done individually. No collaboration. Some classes can handle it and others can't.

When I'm in very difficult classrooms, I'll sometimes walk around and quietly write down the names of students who are working. The good students appreciate it, and this sometimes pushes the others to get their acts together.

When you mentioned swearing, it reminded me of a suggestion I read somewhere several years ago. Don't make a big deal out of it, but look at the student and say, "You just got fired from your job." If questioned, in a matter-of-fact manner say, "In a few years when you're out of school and working, if you talk like that, you'll be fired. Most employers won't tolerate that kind of language." Then, walk away. Don't engage the student in further conversation.

I know it isn't easy. Good luck!
c6g is offline   Reply With Quote
Subinnc Subinnc is offline
 
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 453
Senior Member

Subinnc
 
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 453
Senior Member
In a similar situation currently
Old 01-07-2018, 09:54 AM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #9

You need sort of a reset. On Monday you need to start the week off on the right foot. They need to know what your expectations are, and your consequences for not meeting those expectations. Always follow through with consequences and be fair and consistent.

Not sure if this is already in place, but you need a warm-up or bell ringer of some sort. My kids know to come in, open their book and read for 5-10 minutes. It's silent time. This gets them settled and focused, making it easier to start instruction. Yes, I lose 5 or 10 minutes of class time but it beats spending 10 minutes putting out fires, trying to get them settled.

Anyone not quiet when I ask or out of their seat when they should be sitting gets to practice being seated and quiet at lunch. I typically only need to give one child silent lunch (or maybe two).

I have no idea if this would work in high school (I do middle school) but I used to put names on the board if they were in danger of getting whatever consequence (silent lunch, referral, whatever) your school allows. Once their name is on the board they have the rest of their time with me to correct that behavior and prove to me that they don't deserve the consequence...if I feel they've fixed it by the end of the class period, name is erased. If the behavior continued, name stays up and they get the consequence. I haven't had to do this in years, but it was pretty effective when I did.

Some battles are not worth fighting and assigned seats is one of those battles for me. I don't care where they sit. They can be on the floor in the corner as far as I'm concerned, as long as they are paying attention and participating. If they can't make good choices, I'll choose for them.

Language is another battle I choose not to fight. I do not want to hear a string of expletives, but if a random bad word slips here and there, I remind them that they are in school and to use appropriate language.

I haven't called administration in years, and I've only sent one child out in the last 5 years (with the exception of the two girls who got in a fight in the hall on the way to my class last year). The child I sent out was more to help his regular teachers and make a point...nothing was being done about his behavior and we were hoping me sending him out would send a message to admin.

Those are my suggestions. I love kids and I love to teach...if they don't love learning, I want them to at least not hate having to be in whatever class I'm teaching. They usually don't, but it can be rough at first. Good luck!
Subinnc is offline   Reply With Quote
lisajohnljc lisajohnljc is offline
 
Joined: Nov 2017
Posts: 31
Junior Member

lisajohnljc
 
Joined: Nov 2017
Posts: 31
Junior Member
Had a similar situation here last week.....
Old 01-15-2018, 07:20 AM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #10

I subbed all last week for a long term sub who left because he was either fired, and or not offered a contract to continue the year, I'm not really sure which.
But, he got the job after the original teacher had also left, and it's not too clear why. I think she had health issues and was out for so long the school did what they could to get rid of her.

At any rate, the school secretary had me sub for the week, until they could find someone else to take over for the rest of the year. They'd offered it to me, but I can only take short tem gigs right now, not long term.

It was high school, history. And the kids in block 8 did everything they could possibly do to make my life miserable. I even got called into the office on Friday, and basically thrown under the bus for something they did!!
I can't elaborate here, on what they did, but I'm pretty sure they were hoping to get me fired!

My saving grace is that I've been going to this school for years, so they know me and like me and I think, I'm ok going forward...

But taking over for a long-term sub who's basically been let go in the middle of the school year is just asking for problems!
I wont do it again!

Much luck to you!


lisajohnljc is offline   Reply With Quote
thecoast thecoast is offline
 
Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 87
Junior Member

thecoast
 
Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 87
Junior Member
Your choices
Old 01-22-2018, 04:54 PM
 
Clip to ScrapBook #11

As I see it, your choices are to:
1. Get outta Dodge.
2. Stay in Dodge.

If 1., discussion over. And I wouldn't blame you. I had a sub gig teaching Spanish in high school. Epic disrespect. I called to be replaced during the second period. Hadn't happened before and hasn't happened since. Why has it not happened since? I don't do high school anymore. The attitude towards subs is that subs are subhuman. I brook no disrespect. Period. So better not to take high school jobs. For me.

If 2., then you gotta be the marshal. It means you have to accept that, as a sub, you will have very little traction till you've been there a long while and they come to respect and appreciate you. That takes time. If you're 6'2" and 250 lbs. of solid muscle, that'll probably take less time than if you're 5'2" and petite. It means that if someone gets out of order, you will simply send the person to the office. Let the office handle it. I subbed at a middle school where a 7th grader walked into the classroom and, within the first 5 SECONDS--not five minutes--he lit up my radar like a speeding car on the freeway. No exaggeration. Literally he walked in with a mischievous smile and attention-getting, distracting, disruptive behavior. I've never returned to that school. (I think someday I might, just to give my PTTD* therapeutic closure. And because I think I might have established that I was someone not to mess around with. However, I digress and possibly deceive myself with the latter statement.)

Bottom line, decide what you are not willing to put up with and make sure you follow through on the consequences, whatever they are. And don't take what they do personally. (Easier said than done).



*Post-traumatic Teaching Disorder.
thecoast is offline   Reply With Quote

Join the conversation! Post as a guest or become a member today. New members welcome!

Reply

 

>
Substitute Teachers
Thread Tools




Sign Up Now

Sign Up FREE | ProTeacher Help | BusyBoard

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:42 AM.

Copyright © 2017 ProTeacher®
For individual use only. Do not copy, reproduce or transmit.
source: www.proteacher.net