Too Far

I have lost control.

Inconsistency has beat me.

Do I let the year continue this way or try to gain it back?

Am I strong enough to make a stand and keep standing firm?


  1. I've been following your blog for a little while-- Last year was my first year teaching. 8th Grade math and Algebra 1.

    I know exactly what you're talking about with consistency and control!! This beat me to death last year. There's a little hope. Of course, it's probably not going to be back to the way you'd like it to go. I had to break it down to the very basics last year and do a complete overhaul. I had 13 and 14 year old kids copying the classroom rules on a piece of paper. It seemed so ridiculous! But at the time, it's what kept me sane.

    My biggest tip, follow through with your threats. If you say no talking-- there is no talking. What happens if you talk? Make them have a consequence. It's so hard to be consistent when you are a new teacher--because you are just learning the system yourself! I try to remember to give my students an example of good behavior that I expect and poor behavior that is not acceptable. When I give a student a redirection with their behavior--I ask them if I understand, and make them answer me. That way when they screw around again you can say, "You told me you understood." It's also good documentation for when you have to write up a student.

    Stand strong! Hope this helps!

  2. Absolutely, you can make a stand! You can turn things around at any point. Don't despair; take stock what you have been doing regularly that's good (and I know there's much). Maybe there's one SIMPLE thing you can add to that list this week.

  3. I have good kids. I teach 10th grade. "Good" is a relative term. My 12th period class is a toss-up. Somedays they are so outta control I could cry. So I wrote them a letter. "Dear 12th period class, These are the expectations for English class this year. (the same ones on the syllabus)
    These are the expecations you are not meeting.
    Etc. Etc. Etc.
    If you have read and understood the above letter sign below."

    I made mom and dad sign too.

    It helped.... a little. Mostly I remind myself that one day will not make or break my classroom. So even if I can regain a little control, one day at a time, hopefully it will get better.... by April or so.

  4. Thanks for the support ladies.

    Here are my plans for the day:

    1. New seating chart.

    2. Guilt trip. "I tried to give you freedom and you took advantage. Now, no privileges."

    3. Talk to the coaches- some are athletes and can't play if they get into trouble.

    4. Threaten to kick them out of my class and into the class of a teacher who they don't like.

    5. They have to have my class to graduate so....

    The hardest part for me will be too not laugh at their jokes, not give in, and write them up the first time they do wrong. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

    Boo =(

  5. Concerning #4: Please don't do that. Learning is about the material. A good student will succeed in any teacher's class and liking the teacher should be unrelated to student behavior. Disliking a teacher is NOT an excuse for bad behavior or bad grades. If you give the impression that it is, it will come back to haunt you because they won't ALL like you EVERY day. If they do, you are being too lenient. And you really need to support your fellow teachers in front of the students. You do not want to give them the impression it's okay to talk that way about other teachers in your room.

    Concerning discipline: I spent my first couple of years in an alternative school (which is where they send the kids who've been kicked out of regular school). I tried this after I lost control:

    I printed a spreadsheet of everyone's name and hung it on the bulletin board. Each time they needed to be warned about behavior, I put letter (T for talking, G for gum, whatever). After the third letter, any infraction was detention. If they made it a week with no letters, I gave them a reward and we started over every Monday. It helped them realize how often they were being warned. It helped in my room and I only had to use it a few weeks to see a difference.

  6. Maddy,
    I do not allow them to talk about other teachers like that. I was a student teacher in their class last year with that teacher so I know how that was for them.

    They don't have to like me but they do have to respect me. They will never respect me if I let them push me around and affect how the class goes. I'm the authority and they have to learn how to handle that.

    Thanks for the suggestion on the spreadsheet. It may come to that.

  7. I'm behind on my blog reading, sorry! :)

    You CAAAAN do it! I know you can! I struggled with this very thing as well. You have to stand your ground. You can't always be their friend and that's hard to work out. Like Sarah said, if you say no talking, and they talk, there must be a consequence. (Just don't make it more math problems - then they learn to hate math!) Make an example out of someone. Write them up when they do something. It'll change the rest of the class. Stand your ground. It's okay to be mean! They will change, but it won't happen overnight! :)

  8. I'm WAAAY behind on my blog reading, too...

    You CAN change it...it's never too late. I thought that last year (my first year), too...I had a class walking all over me and I got so frustrated by the end of the year that I wanted to give up. Little things can make big changes.

    Something that I started yesterday with Alg2 (new quarter, easy time for reflection of what's working/not working) was that if your homework isn't finished, you're here with me after school until it is. No questions asked, no excuses, and your coaches are going to have to wait for you. They hated the idea and tried to argue their way out of it, but I stood firm. (and the whole class was after school finishing their homework) You can, too.

  9. I don't even care about homework being done as much as how they treat people. In life, you won't always have homework but you'll always have people to deal with.

    So I locked them out of class and made them put up their phones and bags. Then I let them in and gave them their new seating chart, which they hated. Gave them the guilt trip and one student just mouthed the whole time and as soon as I was done, wanted to go to in school rather than sit in my class. Another student just got mad and put their head down and did nothing during class. I didn't teach, I just gave them an assignment and they had to sit and work quietly. The other students were okay with it and asked if I hated them. I said no, that I wasn't mad, and that it was my fault for letting it go so long. After that, the mood lightened somewhat. Later, principal told me to write the student up next time they leave class but to me, the problem was dealt with better that way. So all in all, it didn't go too bad but today is a short day and so I won't see their class at all, which is probably best for everyone.


  10. You have to do something. If you just let it go, you'll get a reputation at your school and this will impact following years. Just because you're firm doesn't mean you can't laugh at their jokes and enjoy them as people. Students need to know there are boundaries and that when they cross those boundaries there are consequences. You need to have a clear discipline plan as well as a clear incentive plan.

  11. I can't laugh at the type of jokes they're making.

    I did do something. See above.

    We'll see how well it worked in class on Thursday.

  12. Ugg, sometimes keeping control is really, really hard. I've done a variety of things, with varying degrees of success:

    1. New Seating Chart: But don't just make it and not address it again. If you're still not happy with the behavior in their new seats, change them again. Then again if you have to, until they get the message that you are in control.
    2. Hand Raising Rule: I've had a lot of problems with kids who want to wander around the room. I had a class that was so wander-y that I made them raise their hands for everything. Need to get a tissue? Sharpen your pencil? Throw something out? Better raise your hand or you're getting written up. It's not fun, especially at first, but again, sends a message.
    3. Constant, brutal, boring, independent seat work: Bore them to tears if you have to, but never give them a second of down time to act up. And, never, EVER give free days. Then you follow up with constant grade reports that reflect how bad behavior is impacting their grades. Again, not fun, but for the athletes and kids who care about their grades, it'll work.
    4. Accept no excuses or even explanations. "But Miss Miller, my homework is in my locker. I'll get it to you after school." My response: "Ok, I believe you. But it's not in the room. It's late." Be a total hard-ass. It's not your job to be nice. Your job is to get them to learn.
    5. No bathroom passes. With classes that misbehave, I tell them: "the only way you're leaving this room is on a stretcher." They need to feel that you control their activities. And it's not up for discussion. I also say: "when you grow up and get a master's degree and become a teacher, you can make the rules. Until then, I do. Deal."
    6. Never admit defeat. Everything you do is for a reason (even if it's really not). You cannot be a regular person to them. You are Teacher. You are The Boss.

    I teach at a pretty rough school, so maybe these strategies aren't for you, but they've worked for me. I definitely think classroom management is hard, so don't beat yourself up too much.

  13. TeacHer,
    Thanks for all the advice.

    1. Seating chart isn't really the problem, I'm just using it to show I'm in control.

    2. No wanderers.

    3. They think my interesting stuff is boring so no problem boring them to tears. The problem is, they are remedial students and seat work is not an advantage for them at all. Free days, ouch. That usually happens because they don't want to do work and so it's easier for me to not fight them and let it happen.

    4. I do okay on this one. A lot of them don't do homework period so they don't try to give me excuses.

    5. Students aren't allowed to go to the bathroom anyway. Doors are locked and if they leave for any reason they can't come back in.

    6. This is my hardest one. I am the regular person. I did it again today. Two students cussed and I did nothing. If I like the students, then I won't write them up. So then I obviously can't write anyone else up for doing the same thing.

    The problem is me! I can't do it. I can't punish them. I've written up only 3 people so far the whole year, and none in this class. For some reason, I feel like the threat is enough to regain temporary control and then I never follow up on it. These students have been running the class since day one.

  14. Teaching is way hard, right?

    Consider explaining it all to the students you like. "When you use that language, you are forcing me to choose to punish a person I like or to lose control of my class. I don't want to do either of those, so please stop putting me in that position. " Sometimes being direct is pretty effective.

    Writing someone up isn't the only punishment available. Sometimes I have them make a poster. There is one on my wall right now that says 'Ms. Maddy is awesome but you should NOT eat in her class.' It also has a picture of the Goldfish cracker he was eating. Now, if he does it again, he will have ZERO defense when I write him up. So will his classmates, as they watched him make and hang the poster in the room. I have made them do their classwork in crayon (choose an ugly color), stand beside me and point like Vanna White as I teach for three examples, clean everyone's desk top, stand beside their desk for five minutes, do jumping jacks (one for each letter of the word you said), etc. Most of these are so silly that they don't really get offended, but the whole class has a chance to see that something happens when you break rules and they often stop after attention has been called to the behavior.

    Good luck and you're in my prayers.

  15. Wow can I sympathize! Not a disciplinarian myself either. Even when I get mad at something that happens in class, I'm smiling 10 seconds later. My favourite 'punishment' is keeping the offending student(s) for 5 minutes of silent time. Some of my worst offenders would come back to my classroom in later years just to hang out. I can't help it, I keep my door open (mostly) and respect the kids, and will not resort to negative manipulation. Sometimes that meant getting little done, and sometimes that meant a very positive experience. You're on the right track, IMHO.

  16. Maddy and Mike,
    Thanks for the advice. I think this is just something I have to deal with. I've got to punish them for doing wrong, even if I do like them. They know they won't get in trouble and that's why they continue doing it. I just don't wanna deal with the confrontation. I feel like I want to be confrontational and then when it gets down to it, I don't. Can't. Won't.

  17. Think of it as a consequence for their poor choices. You aren't punishing them--they are choosing their consequence.

    As I sated earlier, I had to do a complete overhaul last year. Be explicit with your rules. Maybe create a Flow Chart? Student: Uses a Cuss Word Consequence: Phone call home, referral. Use something that is very specific, that YOU can refer to and follow. Maybe post your classroom rules so that you can see them.

    I always have guilt when I write a referral on a student-- I feel sometimes as if it's a reflection of my inability to control some students and that they will think I'm turning against them. Bottom line is you need to explain it to them that you won't allow the unacceptable behaviors in the classroom anymore and that if students choose to behave inappropriately--they will have a consequence.

    I remember last year, I went to my principal towards the end of the 1st quarter and just gave him the heads up that I have to start to get my students on a shorter leash and just wanted to give him the heads up that this might mean having to send some kids out on referrals. He completely understood. It's much tougher to tighten a loose leash and reel them in than it is to let them reel out!

    Then most importantly, if they aren't following rules, you have have have to dole out the consequence! Have you tried contacting parents? That's something else that you might find helpful depending what types of parents you have of your students.

  18. Contacting parents wouldn't be helpful in this case, unfortunately.

    The problem is me. I can say I won't allow the behavior, but I will. I do.

    Bottom line.

  19. Ouch. I can say that I totally understand where you're coming from. I've had some serious discipline issues in my classes this year ranging from kids just swearing like there's no tomorrow to drug dealing in the back of the room. I honestly don't have all the answers and I'm not tough enough on my students to say that my class is now perfectly behaved.
    One of my colleagues had a similar issue with her freshman class. She took two days with them to create a behavior plan. They came up with a list of expectations of the teacher and of themselves. They came up with a list of what the teacher should not do and what they themselves should not do. Then they came up with the punishments for each mis-behavior and it was their responsibility to call each other out on it. My colleague said the first few days were hellish, but now the class functions very well. Just an idea...
    The other thing I'd say, is never ever ever punish them with their grades. I'm a strong believer in grades reflecting what they know rather than what they do. For example, last week I gave a quarter test that took two days. As I passed them back out on the second day, one weaker student turned to a stronger student in the class and said "what's number 20?" The student responded "c". I caught them, asked them both to meet me in the hall. They were both freaked out that I was going to give them a 0 on the test. I explained something very sternly- this test is meant to show me what you know, not what stupid behavior you can exhibit. You will go back in, finish your test, and we'll deal with the punishment later. I gave them both detentions, but I did not punish their test grades for it. I think it sent a stronger message. But who knows... discipline is not the easiest. I wish you luck!

  20. It is my school's policy to punish cheating by giving them a 0. But I like the idea of creating a behavior plan for both of us although I'm sure the students would allow themselves to do more than I would be comfortable with. But I would be interested to hear what they have to say.

    I try not to punish them with grades but it's hard when I see them choosing to do nothing or not participate. I just want to take classwork for a grade because I know they didn't do it. I don't know what to do. Today was another bad day and I just don't know how to handle it. Part of it is just that I am not keeping them working the whole hour and not planning creative, engaging lessons. I've got to be able to do that or they aren't going to be interested ever.

  21. I can definitely relate with your current experiences and feelings.

    1. Make expectations and consequences clear and enfused every SINGLE day. They have full responsibility for their grade (although, I disagree with assigning a 0 for cheating and misbehaving). This is most important, as other people have previously commented. Inappropriate language and jokes are not tolerated.

    2. They are bored. Why learn math today? Having a daily routine enforces expectations and quick transitions, but you can spice up activities and catch them off guard. I know you've previously had some engaging and authentic activities. Keep it up. Maybe mini partner projects. I also like presentations where students teach students. They realize complications of teaching within only a 5 minute span of time.

    3. They lack self confidence, either from falling behind in content, peer pressure, or unclear instructions/examples. It sometimes takes repetitive poking and questioning to get responses. I never allow "I don't know" or blank quizzes. Every student has an opinion or guess that can show thought process.

    4. Hold short individual conferences and give praise. Something outside of your classroom could be influencing their behaviour, causing them to give up. Last year, I had 4instances where a quick compliment or pep talk skyrocketted participation! Just by showing confidence in their ability to succeed.

    The main goal is to STICK WITH IT!! Talk out your frustrations with your PLN at school and online. You have time to reflect and get tons of feedback. All educators have first year mishaps, which help them grow.

  22. 1. But they are tolerated. That's the problem that I can't bring myself to fix.

    2. True. This hour gets the worse of my planning time/creativity.

    3. Could be true but they are usually pretty good about participating. Well, some of them...

    4. Don't necessarily think this is the issue, but could be.

    And I definitely talk out my frustrations. lol

  23. Keep up the hard/ excellent work. Every teacher feels the way you do at more than one point in their career. If they don't, they aren't being self-reflective.

  24. Consistency! Ack! This is my Waterloo of teaching.

    I like to think it is never too late. I hope it isn't for you.

  25. I had/have a lot of these issues, too, and I don't like confrontation. I am the queen of "step out into the hall." My kids make fun of me, but who cares. I handle almost all discipline issues in the hall.

    Another good idea to help avoid too much confrontation is make a discipline card. It can have like three or four consequences on it, detention, push ups, whatever you want to use, and when a student misbehaves you just hand it to them. They have to choose a consequence.

    It will get better, it's hard to feel like "the teacher" at first. It took me a long time to start feeling like an adult in a room of children, but once I did it got easier. You'll get there.