My co-teacher’s (CT) classroom management style is kind and respectful. However, she’s been challenged by having a large class of 44 students, 14 of which are football players (who have a rapport together and love to talk and horse around), and 7 of which have IEPs—all on the last period of the day. She prefers to look at the long-term relationship, while applying gentle pressure, in private, to students who are having a hard time concentrating, listening, not talking, keeping their hands to themselves, and completing assignments (which is about half of the class). She rarely contacts student’s parents or goes further than that along the discipline plan.
My co-teacher has the curriculum down, but about half of the students (especially in period 5) seem uninspired by the material. They also get up and walk around during class, and comment on everyone else’s comments, etc. My co-teacher tries to redirect and channel their energy best she can. We’re working on simplifying the instruction to allow critical thinking, but take their maturity level into consideration. We’ve also stopped group work because the class cannot handle it—for now.
I was starting to doubt my co-teacher’s classroom management philosophy and strategy because the situation was getting worse. I was stepping in more and more and trying to offer suggestions and help. Well, the class was out of control on Tuesday, 9/18 and my co-teacher and I were both frustrated and confused by what was not working with the class and our co-teaching. After discussing the situation at length, I’m grateful for the new perspective my co-teacher brings to classroom management. We both chose to “love” periods three and five and not police them, which wasn’t working—it just made things worse. I’m excited to see what is possible for co-teaching and inspiring all of our students.
Due to the maturity level and constant classroom management issues, we feel it’s in the period 5 students’ best interest to assess them daily and prepare to move more slowly and only cover the basics with this class, as needed. We do not get through as much of the same material as we do in periods 1 or 3.
On both Wednesday and Friday there were major classroom management issues. I had to pull several students outside to talk to them during class about making good choices and staying on task. My co-teacher wrote a referral for a student who threw a balled up wad of paper at another student during class. Today, on Friday, when I led while my co-teacher was out, period 3 was incredibly easily distracted, about seven students were giving me a lot of attitude and talk back during a practice test, and I had to separate pairs who were distracted and socializing instead of getting the work done. I pulled two students outside to talk to them after separating them from their pairs because they were talking back.
In period 5, the whole class was incredibly chatty during the practice test that I continually had to ask them to quiet down and focus. I didn’t have to pull anyone outside.
What I learned: in period 3, from my planning with my co-teacher, we discussed that students who wanted to work in pairs could do so quietly. Also, students could work individually. The step by step instructions were a bit off, as I found out in period 3. First, pairs didn’t work for the practice test in period 3, so in period 5 I didn’t have them work in pairs. Second, I should have had the students preview the stories before setting them loose to choose (the sub’s suggestion!). Third, I should have let the students “get into” and read the story at least halfway through (about 15 minutes) before having giving them the graphic organizer to complete. Fourth, each assignment was a major transition, which was hard for the class. Fifth, I learned to never disturb or transition when students are focused and working hard. Six, I shouldn’t have pulled one student out of class to talk to her when she slammed her books down (twice) when I asked her to move out of a partnership and into an individual role. I should have talked to her out of class. Her leaving class was distracting for everyone, who focused on that instead of their practice test. Seventh, the jigsaw activity includes moving all the desks in class into groups. With 42 students crammed into the classroom, it’s challenging on the best of days. It also stirs up the class and gets them chatty and disrupted. I should have saved the jigsaw activity and group work for the last activity of the day, instead of the middle activity. The students were less than focused during the practice test, which is quiet work, and hard to get into after a busy, noisy activity. In period 5, (with the sub’s help), I rearranged the schedule (since it wasn’t smooth for period 3) and did the jigsaw at the end of the class session. It worked. Whew. It was good, challenging, and I learned a lot.
Classroom management practices continue to be a challenge for my CT and I. We moved to the computer lab, so my typical signals and position in the classroom were mute in this new environment. I need to learn how to find flexible management structures that work in all settings—in and out of the classroom. We have a large class and computers and Internet access are inherently tempting and distracting. However, the students mostly worked well in the lab setting. I tried the count down from 5, which works in class, but I couldn’t use that strategy the whole time. My computer lab teacher computer was far removed from the students’ computers. I need a signal or other technique, especially in a new environment.
Teaching the same material in two classes means I work out the kinks in period 3 and then things go smoother in period 5. So, we’re cruising through the material in period 5 and it’s a bit bumpy in period 3. The good news is that I’m learning as I go and making adjustments that impact my future teaching; however, I feel badly that period 3 has to suffer through some of my growing pains. At the same time, it’s great to fly through period 5 because we have more classroom management issues there. So, period 5’s classroom management is easing, but period 3’s management difficulties are increasing. It makes sense because instruction helps guide the classroom environment.
I will work on being clearer with expectations and anticipating issues and questions. With directions, if there are three steps, I’ll say, “There are three steps, 1…” Then list, 2. Then list, 3. Then list. Also, I’ll work on clarity with my expectations with note taking and presentations. I used a Prezi today, Friday, 12/7/12 and there isn’t an easy print function for the “slides.” So, having notes for students was challenging. In the future, I’ll need to make more time to print out the notes or prepare cloze notes for students to fill in the blanks. It didn’t work well in third period, but by fifth period, I modeled how students choose the best words to write down and it worked great. Plus, it’s an important skill to be able to listen to and watch a presentation and select the key words. The assessment proved that they got the material because they took great notes based on the modeling my co-teacher and I did to help them through the presentation.
We built community at the beginning of the year and kept building throughout each lesson. Strong engaging curriculum is the best classroom management. We used seating charts to place students in appropriate places conducive to their learning and near others they partnered well with, in addition to taking special needs and English learning needs into consideration for proximity to the source of instruction. We fostered mutual respect and diversity of culture, values, goals, and ideas by having open, big idea discussions and addressing issues as they arose. We used a signal from the same place in the classroom, during discussion, to gain attention and bring students back to the discussion at transition points. When needed, we used progressive discipline plans of checking in with the student during class, discussing how we could help the student(s) just outside the classroom door during class, discussing what’s working and not working after class, contacting students’ parents, and we had to give one referral.