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cassie23 cassie23 is offline
 
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Handling Middle School!
Old 02-07-2019, 05:35 AM
 
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Yesterday, I had an hour from hell. Details: last hour of the day, 6th grade music class, about 25 students in a small room with only chairs, no desks. Also, no lesson plan. I had a heads up that they were going to have nothing to do (music teacher had said to let them play games on their chromebooks but classroom teacher said that never goes well) and so I came prepared with a set of trivia questions, intending to divide them into groups and try to get a little friendly competition going.

When I arrived at the school, the homeroom teacher says, "Yeah...we've been having lots of behavior issues lately so you really need to have something for them to work on. Here's a comprehension packet. Read it with them and have them independently work on the two essays for the rest of the class."

I tried. I really tried. They talked, laughed, complained, some threw things and ate pencils, one girl physically threatened another loudly. They had to write on their laps or the seat of their chairs. One girl scrawled on the front of hers: I couldn't focus because there was too much talking!! (Gee, thanks for the teacher eval!) I did feel badly for the few kids who did everything they were supposed to since I spent so much time struggling with the many who weren't.

I have to be back in that room at the end of the day on Friday and could use some advice about to handle it. I know it's important to communicate expectations and to have a sense of humor. I know I need to get them on my side. In terms of the bigger picture, it's way too early in my career as a sub to be turning down jobs because I can't handle the age level. Any advice would be appreciated!


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OneGreatSub OneGreatSub is offline
 
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Is there some way to find
Old 02-07-2019, 10:40 AM
 
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out in advance if an assignment will be left? If so, you have no choice. You have to cajole those who are willing to do it into at least trying.

If you are left entirely high and dry, you can try the trivia questions, but from the situation you are describing, I'm not sure you'd get a lot of cooperation.

I once had the middle school music class from hell on a two day assignment. After I went home with a horrible headache the first day, I approached the school secretary and asked her to ask the principal to stop by at the beginning of the class the second day because the students were being rude and uncooperative. He showed up, gave them hell, and the second day went well.

I wouldn't normally suggest involving the administration, but in a situation like this, the powers that be need to know what's going on. Ultimately, it's their responsibility to provide you as a "guest" with the resources needed to do your job effectively.
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cassie23 cassie23 is offline
 
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Thanks OneGreatSub
Old 02-07-2019, 12:06 PM
 
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No, I know there will be no plan for tomorrow since the regular teacher is gone on a medical leave for a month or more and a long-term sub starts next Monday.

I thought a lot about it beforehand but I decided to email the assistant principal (it's a small district) and let him know that I plan to be clear about my expectations, consequences and rewards at the beginning of class but that I was hoping it would be permissible to send kids to the office they refused to comply. Actions speak louder than words. He said it sounded fine and would speak to the class beforehand.

I see two philosophies on this board. Keep the kids in the room at all costs/ Don't take misbehavior personally and send out the offenders after one or more warnings. One teacher I know said she would never contact an administrator, just suffer. I hope I made the right choice.
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OneGreatSub OneGreatSub is offline
 
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The administrators absolutely need
Old 02-07-2019, 01:49 PM
 
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to know what's going on. When a class is getting out of hand because the kids have no respect for a sub, someone with real authority needs to step up and issue a warning that has some teeth. Middle schoolers aren't afraid of subs. They are afraid of the Principal. That's just the way of the world.

You did absolutely the right thing in this instance. I wish you well on Friday.
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cassie23 cassie23 is offline
 
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Thank you so much, OneGreatSub
Old 02-07-2019, 05:26 PM
 
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I appreciate your support and will report back on progress (or lack thereof :-/) Feeling hopeful, though.


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cassie23 cassie23 is offline
 
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Involving the Administrator
Old 02-09-2019, 01:52 PM
 
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...was the right choice. He spoke to the class earlier in the day before I had them. When I took over, I clearly communicated my expectations, rewards and punishments, then we jumped right in to our trivia competition (5 groups of 5 competing) and things went great. No one came close to getting booted, however it gave me a sense of peace to know I had that option and that the administrator would have my back. I would gladly sub for that group again.
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Old 02-09-2019, 04:42 PM
 
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Music is a tough one. I've had band, chorus and choir , and most of the time the students are mature and do some practice. I tell them I don't expect them to work all period, but to at least get something done so I can leave a good report for the teacher.
Middle school students display a lot of bravado, but I've learned what scares them into compliance.
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Old 02-12-2019, 03:44 AM
 
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I would just add that I think it's important to share expectations that are reasonable, particularly under the circumstances described. We don't have to give up "control" of the classroom (it could be argued that we don't have it in the first place) to negotiate some agreements. A simple example might be it's okay to talk as long as the noise level doesn't get too high... and, of course, you become the judge of what's too high--unless you appoint a noise monitor.

I'm a big proponent of "sharing" the responsibility for classroom management with the kids within limits. Kids of all ages are pushing the envelope, trying to figure out how much freedom they have. If there's any magic involved, it's getting the kids to bond with you instead of against you. We are ultimately in the business of teaching good decision making.

It sounds like the story had a happy ending--the principal's pep talk effectively created that bond.

I think your observation regarding two philosophies is reasonably correct. I strongly prefer to keep the kids with me but wouldn't go so far as to say "at all costs." While I've never had a situation that required sending a kid to the office, they know I will if they make it necessary. So far, that's never happened.

Some of the teachers I work with use the approach "I think we need a break from each other" when sending a kid to the office. That makes a lot of sense to me.

I do think it is "smart" to use resources and am certainly not being critical of how you handled this. It worked!
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cassie23 cassie23 is offline
 
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Thank you...
Old 02-14-2019, 06:13 PM
 
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for your perspective.

"I think we need a break from each other." I like that. I will also consider how to better share the responsibility for classroom management in the future. It's something I need to reflect on a bit more and believe I could really benefit from going forward.
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