Today was an odd day as it was good for the most part, but I had one of my worst classroom management issues.
Today, my cooperating teacher was pulled from the room as the school was short on substitute teachers. She was asked to sub for another class, so I was the only teacher in the room all day. I wasn’t worried as I’ve subbed for my teacher several times and have been the primary teacher for almost two weeks now. Plus, it was Friday, and the classes are usually easier to handle on Fridays.
The classes did go well for the most part. I was direct with the students about what I expected from them at the end of the day, even though it was a work day, and I reminded them about the quiz that they’ll be taking on Monday. I helped students continuously and seemed to bond with the students as well as they talked to me about their interests and told me that they didn’t want me to leave after next Friday. I felt that the classes were productive, yet fun. I was feeling pretty good about everything, but then 5th Block occurred.
5th Block is notoriously the hardest class to control and the most tiring class of the entire day. I was expecting today to go smoothly as it was another work day and because the Special Needs students had let me know that they were not going to be in attendance today. We have a group of about 10 Special Needs students that come to the class each day, so without them, the near-40-student class would be greatly diminished. I thought that this would make the class quieter, more focused, and easier to handle. Unfortunately, I had several issues and did not address them all correctly.
The class began as normal with several different students needing me for several different reasons. I was taking attendance when I received a call from Tutorials asking for one of my students. When I told the student he needed to report to Tutorials, he wouldn’t go at first. Students needed to get a drink, go to the bathroom, needed my help, and some even needed to turn in assignments from last week. I felt overwhelmed for just one person. Finally, everything was settled and the work day began, but there were some students I just could not get to work. It’s hard to motivate students to work, help students who need assistance, manage students who are misbehaving, and keep an eye on the entire class at the same time. Teaching is way more than I was expecting. I just don’t remember seeing this many problems when I was in high school as a student.
All week, my teacher and I have been having issues with foul language, but today during 5th Block was the worst. I had four students continuously using bad language. The first instance, I addressed the student about it and he said that another student had put clay in his hair. Although the usual punishment for language in this class is to clean the sinks, I let him go without the punishment because of the circumstances and decided to address the students who had harassed him. I then noticed that they were continuing to harass him as almost half of the class were calling him names and asking why he was pouting or crying. I immediately stopped the class from harassing the student, but then caught a student drawing on another student’s crutches in Sharpie. I addressed the student and had him put away the Sharpie and return the crutches to the original student. I then overheard a student across the room use language and I sent him to the sinks. As I was showing him what I expected him to clean, I then heard a fight break out. The student who was drawing on the crutches and the student who owned the crutches were in a shouting match, face-to-face. Extreme language was being launched by both of them as I overhead that a piece of the crutches was missing and the owner suspected the artist of stealing it. I immediately sent the artist out into the hall, and he walked across the tables to leave the room and slapped the crutches student in the back of the head with his journal as he passed him. The student was not injured and the class was stunned, including myself.
I tried to wind the class back down, asking everyone to return to their seats. The bell was about to ring, so they had been putting away supplies and tend to gravitate towards the door. Thankfully, they obliged and the bell rang, but I felt terrible.
I do not feel as if the class was managed well. I feel that at some point I needed to address the class in a commanding fashion, but I don’t know where that point would have been. Now that I’m replaying all of this in my head, I’m not entirely sure what I would have done differently, but I feel that it was handled well.
I spoke with my cooperating teacher afterwards, and she agreed that I needed to command the class with a “teacher voice” to get their attention, point out the students who were misbehaving, and send them to their seats to be quiet. She told me I was correct for not punishing the student for language who was being harassed by other students. She also suggested that I double the length of the quiz on Monday for this class only, in order to keep the class busy to prevent misbehavior and to punish the class in a way. Otherwise, my teacher just explained that that class is difficult to control.
Overall, I just feel that I need to become more strong and reactive as a teacher. I may need to give students less quality assistance in order to improve my awareness of the class and handle classroom management better. I have been setting rules and sticking to them, but I am having trouble with managing some situations. I feel that I have a lot of improvements to make before I feel confident teaching.
“I’m really not sure whether I should try critiques with my own students or not”
Yes. But —- First I showed examples of work that was strong and how, with the help of Photoshop I made it stronger. I still do that in experimental water media and in 2371 using the iPad. ONLY after students actually SEE the possibilities do they begin to be able to imagine them during critiques. Also, having criteria such as “ repeat things in different amounts in different parts of the page to create unity, balance and rhythm” helps student have some idea of what to talk about.
“That was a good ending to my day and I learned more about working with students with serious needs. Hopefully I’ll be able to reach all of my students in some way when I begin teaching.”
“I feel as if I’m not benefiting the students since I’m not actually teaching, but I know that’s not true.”
I have found over the years that the most teaching and learning happen during the work periods as students, with or without the benefit of my coaching, made decisions about their work.
I think when you get your own classroom, it won’t take you long to get your students past the “I need help” stage and working more independently. That is what the ideal is for a teacher, but, believe me, it can be REALLY boring when no one needs help or coaching. So, that is when, I guess, the art teacher makes her own art (or uses the iPad or computer to show students possibilities.)
“Next time I do clay, I’ll prepare for it better and cut all the clay I need ahead of time.”
It is quick and easy to cut clay. I used to cut a 25 pound bag into 96 pieces 2”x2” with only 11 pulls of the string or wire in less than 30 seconds. I can show you how on Monday.
“It’s crazy that some students finished within a few days and others don’t look like they’re going to make the deadline. It’s hard to set deadlines in the art class.”
It always is good to have an alternative project. You could have an ongoing assignment such as a Dan Eldon type journal. See:
“I think that an experimental day could be a positive reward for good behavior or possibly for students who finish early.”
They could experiment with all those materials in the ongoing journal project.
“I am incredibly nervous about entering the job force and don’t know what to do.”
You will be a strong teacher. The first time a fledgling takes wing, it is scary. The first weeks in your classroom will be like what you have been describing in this reflection, but, with diligent classroom management AND projects that should produce diverse outcomes and produce feelings of success in your students, before long you will not feel overwhelmed very often. You might even feel you don’t have enough to do.
“Why aren’t the Painting II students accepting of a critique?”
You noted the reason earlier in the reflection – they have not been trained to understand and participate. First you model how to conduct one by giving feedback. Do not give students choices as to whether or not they work on the problems identified in the critique – just give them choices for solutions as well as the freedom to come up with their own solutions.
“How do you get students to work who refuse to work or seem completely uninterested in every single assignment?”
That has to start at the beginning of the year, with projects that have diverse outcomes so no one can compare end products. Once a kid has compared his work to that of others and believes himself to be “no good” there is no way to get him to work. The criteria have to be broad enough to help everyone succeed while guiding them. The teacher has to show examples that can stimulate those who are interested in realism as well as those who work expressively or abstractly. Unfortunately most high school teachers assign projects in a way that make it really easy for kids to compare.