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magoosmom magoosmom is offline
 
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magoosmom
 
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Toxic Classroom
Old 12-30-2009, 06:05 PM
 
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Hey guys...I'm looking for some advice for dealing with a particularly tough group of students.

Basically, I teach 2nd thru 8th grade at a small rural school. I go to the middle school in the morning for the first two periods, then travel to the elementary for the remainder of the day. This is my second year teaching gifted and my 6th full year teaching. In the "regular" classroom, classroom management was not an issue for me, so I find myself very frustrated with the current situation.

Basically, it involves my 1st period class at the middle school. The students are mixed grades so I have 6 sixth graders and 3 seventh graders in this class.

The crux of the matter is that their personalities REALLY do not mix well--at all. I've tried community building, team exercises, etc., but nothing works. The 7th graders are VERY mouthy this year. I've had a fairly good relationship with all of them in the past, but this year, they have really hit that teenager mentality. I think it makes it worse that they are the oldest in the classroom. My second period group has a mix of 6th, 7th, and 8th and it is the total opposite of this class. Of course, their personalities are very different as well.

One of the 7th graders is a bit of a bully. I actually taught this student in a regular classroom and know how to work with him, but he still tends to be a bully and say really inappropriate things, particularly putting others down. I don't ignore this and always address it with either a warning or a consequence, but it still has caused major bad blood between him and some of the 6th graders.

Another seventh-grader has gone very diva on me this year. You can't tell her anything and she's claims that she is never happy with anything we do in gifted. I've suggested that she can choose to withdraw if she is that unhappy, but that is not a desirable option as they would then have to take Reading.

One of my 6th graders has a temper/anger mgmt. problem. He is the only student that I have had (in gifted) who had to be referred to the office from my room. I have a pretty great relationship with him, but he still has his days. Then a couple of my other 6th graders are very negative and loud.

All but one of these students are very loud normally--it's just how they speak.

I am heading back in to the classroom in January and want things to be different, but I feel stuck and not sure how to begin the changes. I have talked to them about how we must behave in our classroom like we would in a professional world, but it is weekly (sometimes daily) that I am having to pull someone out of the room for a discussion about attitude/anger issues or to settle a dispute. When one of the 7th graders cop an attitude the 6th graders go back on the attack.

I am ready to throw up my hands, ban group projects for the remainder of the year, and just keep them separated. I'm pretty tired of the negative attitudes and heartsick over how my 6th graders--who were my BEST group last year--have started showing the negativity that the 7th graders put out about their work, etc.

I'm desperate for any advice on how to start the new year off right. I'm not sure these students will ever get along, but I will settle for just a calmer, more professional, less emotional semester.


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Old 12-31-2009, 07:41 AM
 
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I don't really have any advice, but I have experienced some of this. I've never had mixed grade classes however. I have seen some of my 6th graders really act differently as 7th graders. Sometimes I have just shut down the group projects and worked on a lot of thinking skills around the table. I also have found that food really speaks to Jr. High kids! I bring them homemade cake sometimes if they've had a really good week! I'm usually not one to bribe kids, but I will on occasion if it works! I hope you have a better semester after the holidays!
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Many factors...
Old 01-02-2010, 12:58 PM
 
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Considering the age of the group, I'd start with a group meeting. Set the guidelines for speaking/sharing/discussing and let them talk about about what they like, don't like and would like changed about the class. The thing about gifted middle schoolers is, they can't be "managed", you need to start teaching them how to manage themselves, and then let them deal with the consequences when they don't.

As for the projects, you may find you have a group of students who like doing group projects. You may also have those who don't want to work with the group and would prefer an independent project. Allow them to make some choices. While learning to collaborate with others is a skill they need to learn; independently completing a task is, also! Have some projects that have to be done as a group; have others where they can choose to work alone if they prefer.

As for your diva, if she's not happy with what you plan, tell her to create her own project. Have her write up a synopsis of the project, including objectives she will cover, content area, skills, products to be completed, and a timeline for the project... all of which have to be approved by you before she can begin. IF she's really "bored" with what you are doing - she should be willing to come up with something she's not bored with. If she's just being "whiny" - she won't want to put forth the effort to create all this.

The bully is a whole other issue, there has to be some underlying issue why he/she is doing this. I'd suggest talking to the counselor about working with the student, or a behaviour interventionist (if you have one).

Lastly, the "loud" - I have students like that. You just have to teach them how to speak quietly... with my little ones, we put our hands on our throat while we "whisper" - they shouldn't feel any vibration if they are whispering... they then can remove their hand. As long as they whisper, they continue working. If I can hear their voices, they have to work for a few minutes (5-10) with their hand on their throat to "feel" to see if they are whispering... maybe that could work with older kids too.. .
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Thank you!
Old 01-14-2010, 04:20 AM
 
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I wanted to say thank you both for the suggestions. When they came back last week, I had a breakfast waiting for them. We sat and talked about some issues. My 7th graders were still a little hard to deal with but ever since then, I have seen a huge improvement overall with this group. They are working independently now but they will be paired up for a research project today so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all will go well on that front.

One day at a time, right?
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Old 01-14-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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Glad to hear that!


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