Question Detail

I am student teaching right now and I am really struggling with my 4th hour English 10 class: not only is right after lunch but the majority of the class are males and they are all buddies so I get the impression that they think that this + student teacher = blow-off class. My CT has given me a lot of good feedback, but ultimately, it's my show at this point and instead of rising to the occassion and taking disciplinary actions, I shrink away from the thought of confrontation. My CT has said that individual relationships are really important with these boys to get them motivated to work with you. However, this is really hard when you are a (female) student teacher, coming in half way through the school year, and you also need to set a prescedent for class expecatations and disciplinary actions when they're not followed. I'm really struggling to find a "friendly but firm" way to discipline them (i.e. break up unproductive work group and take away cell phones). Please help! Thank you!!

May 13, 2014 9:17am

  • English Language Arts
  • 10
  • New Teachers


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    • May 13, 2014 12:46pm

      As a fellow conflict avoider, I understand your struggle. However, you can still have a laissez faire style of classroom management and facilitate learning. You need to produce buy-in from the students. I would take the time to have a discussion on classroom expectations. You need to set up your "non-negotiables," but allow the students to come up with their own expectations from the class. Give scenarios that typically happen in a classroom, like "You raise your hand to answer a question, but someone else starts to talk over you or while you are talking. How does this make you feel?" Give the proverbial pen to the students and allow them to create the learning culture. You will be surprised how much this works.

      Also, I would make sure that the curriculum produces buy-in from students. Make it relevant and relatable. For example, have groups of students act out major scenes in Romeo and Juliet. These groups can be organized by the students' favorite genres. Then, allow each group to pick a book in their respective genre to read together. During this process, have the students compare and contrast the two stories. At the end, they can write a short story tying the genre and theme of the two books together.

      I hope this helps,

      • May 13, 2014 2:56pm

        I would like to recommend a book to you. It is called "Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?: Teaching Lessons from the Bronx" Written by Ilana Garon, it is a view inside the first four years that Ms. Garon taught English. Lots of lessons learned by this young lady. I had an opportunity to meet her once and it was a great treat. It will give you many ideas for motivating your students and surviving a difficult situation.

        • Jul 1, 2014 12:42pm

          I absolutely agree with Katie Novak about asking a leader in the bad-behavior group to stay after class then asking that student "what's up?" and allowing them the opportunity to explain themselves. I've done this with students and it has usually turned out that the students simply do not empathize with the instructor. Rather than it being a matter of their disliking the instructor, they are simply not mature enough to empathize with an adult just starting out. They seem to intuit that we are new to the line of work and therefore not "set in our ways", so to speak, and they use this lack of ossification to their advantage. Most students, though, don't want true chaos. So, while my heart beat like crazy and my hand shook a good deal, after I gently but firmly confronted those students the next class period went much more smoothly. I also made sure to call on them by name early on in the next class meeting, to reinforce the notion that I had my eye on them and that there were no hard feelings.

          Some of the issues you are experiencing may be tied to being the minority gender during that class period. The best advice I can offer is to relentlessly build rapport with your students. Does the majority of the class see the instructor as being outnumbered? It is unlikely. Remember that you are the adult, you are the authority figure, and the standards you set in the class through every word you say will be standards that potentially can affect these students well beyond your classroom. Female educators need not shy away from a majority male class just as they need not gravitate toward a majority female class. Find ways you can connect with those students; what are their interests and how can you tie their individual skills/knowledge back into your course content?

          Good luck!

          • Jul 2, 2014 3:18pm

            Hi Katherine -

            Thank you for taking the time to read my post and the responses, and add your perspective - I really appreciate that! I also find your insights and your specific, personal examples very useful and comforting/encouraging that I'm not alone in this journey and that things that I'm experiencing aren't "personal" but just part of the profession. I will keep these things in mind in my future classrooms, regardless of the dynamics, because what you say is true: it's important to "relentlessly" connect and build relationships and rapport with all of our students/classes. Thank you! :)

            • May 13, 2014 10:12am

              Hi Katie -
              Thank you for your response - those are some really great suggestions that I will for sure use. If not in my student teaching classroom, then definitely in my own classroom. I feel like it's so difficult to establish any new groundwork when the year is wrapping up but I have already had a few conversations with students and I'm anticipating a few more, so your suggestions regarding those will be extremely helpful in the meantime. Thank you again for your reply, suggestions & best wishes. :)

              • May 13, 2014 1:21pm

                Hi Cody -

                Thank you for your reply - I definitely agree with your suggestions for setting up the classroom expectations and making the students an integral part of that process. The struggle with where I'm at is that I came in mid-school year and the students already had one student teacher their first semester and I don't know what kind of classroom culture was developed in the very beginning of the year. My CT said she spends a lot of time developing a positive class culture, which I can definitely see. However, a year of student teachers in making them pretty sassy at this point! Nevertheless, these suggestions will be on my "must" list when I have my own classroom. :) Thanks again!