Be The Change…

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 01 2011

Listen to the veteran teachers, they really do have know some things

It was 2:45 Monday and I had enough. My students in my last period class were talking, disrespecting me, and finally they made a racially insensitive comment. The end. I just stood there for like 3 minutes and breathed and the kids in my room yelled across the room to each other. Then I had it. I told them all to shut their mouths and told them that if I EVER heard racially insensitive comments again, I’d personally walk them to the office.
But, all my classes were a bit more chatty Monday. And I took the blame for it. After all the chaos from Hurricane Irene destroying houses, families, and lives in my hometown in NY – I really didn’t sleep well this weekend.

So, I went back Tuesday. All the other classes went better. I started a few new games and got them on track with some behavior management. Not 7th period. Same yelling, screaming. I just stopped the class. Our class operated in silence for 55 minutes with me just handing out worksheets and collecting them back. If anyone said anything, I’d just send them to the office. That was enough. The class was silent. That proved to me that they could do it.

That was the last class of the day and I walked across the hallway to a veteran teacher who has been amazingly helpful. With tears in my eyes, I told her I could not do this job anymore. I do not have the energy or emotional fortitude to battle with 15 year olds all day. She just stood there in silence and let me complain and get it all out. Then she looked at me and told me that I could definitely do it and all teachers have days like that. Then she gave me the best advice I think I could have ever gotten (and I’ve gotten this before, but this time it sank in based on how she explained it) She just told me to call parents. She explained that parents need to know. They have a right to know. And she said don’t be intimidated by parents (after all, who am I to tell them how to raise a child?). She said most parents usually already know these things about their child. And the most enlightening thing she said was that most parents are embarrassed that their child would ever act that way and WILL fix the problem themselves just so they aren’t embarrassed by their out of control child. She said to write out a script, don’t beat around the bush, and just tell the parent the facts and ask them their help solving the problem. So, I went home – screamed at my roommate about how frustrated I was with my job. Then sat down and made the calls.

Then I sent a message to an “old” teacher of mine from high school who has taught for 30+ years and just pleaded for advice. How did she stay in this profession for so long? She wrote back and said point blank – you are in charge. It is your classroom. Rude kids can be put in their place, and need to be put there. Take control and then when you have control, teach and they will respect you.

Here is the result: IT WORKS! It really does. Now, I won’t say its fool proof. But, these kids really did straighten out. Are they perfect now? Nope. But if I do have to kick them out, their parents know exactly where I am coming from now. It worked so well that I called some other parents tonight for students who are starting to become a problem so I can snip the problem at the root. One Dad I talked to was legitimately offended that his student would “act a fool” in my class and apologized on behalf of his whole family. I’ll see how his son acts tomorrow, but I am inclined to believe there will be a change in behavior. And I laid out the rules and took charge completely. They now know that if they talk, there will be a consequence. The choice is theirs to make.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned this week – listen to the veteran teachers. They have survived this crazy profession for many years. They have so much advice to give and if you listen, you will reap the benefits of their experience. Because they’ve been in our shoes too. And as much as we want to see our students succeed, veteran teachers want to see us succeed.

2 Responses

  1. CY

    Veteran teachers have gotten such a bad rap in the reform movement! TFA teachers tend to think they are going to walk in to those schools and just own it. I’m sorry, but that rarely happens. Veteran teachers are not just schlubs. They know things. And they are willing to share.

  2. This is why you were hired by TFA. Because you strategize, problem solve, and best best best of all: know when to ask for help and do it.

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A small town person with big world dreams

Mississippi Delta
High School
Foreign Language

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