Classroom Management in the Inner City
I've been teaching art 1 in the inner city for three years now, this year has been the year I've reconsidered my career and/or school. Although, it is also the year I have mostly freshman, as opposed to usually having juniors/seniors.
The noise level in most of my classes is ridiculous, or accepting responsibility for doing work, nothing works. Also, not to mention the profanity. Write-ups to the dean haven't worked. I've been brought to the point of saying "Shut the hell up" and "God damn, be quiet." I'm turning into the teacher I'd swore I wouldn't become. I feel I teach things that are relevant to them such as street art/graffiti art and the history of body art such as tattoos etc, and try to link it to the elements in principles of art.
Where did I go wrong? Advice please?
Oh Art, I completely know where you are coming from. Our freshman class this year has been incredibly difficult to manage as well. Kids come in with major chips on their shoulders, foul mouths, and poor attitudes. It's been a challenge to say the least. I think it is really neat that you design lessons around relevant issues like graffiti art and tattoos..how interesting. I myself would love to learn more about those areas.
One thing that I have done every year (I generally deal with freshmen) is to make it a point to do home visits on every one of my students. I prioritize the ones that need "immediate" attention and then go down the list from there. Granted, our school is not that large so I don't generally have more than 50 students total to go see, but in all honesty.. it is probably one of the most important things that I do every year. Relationships with my students has greatly improved and the lines of communication between myself and the parents/guardians is less tenuous.
Putting yourself out there is hard to do at first, but I never go on home visits alone. Pick your 5 most frustrating students and see if any of their other teachers are as exasperated as you and find out if he/she is willing to go on the home visit with you. I realize this takes a lot of time... time that we already have precious little of, but the rewards have been worth it for me thus far.
I also hope you will stop reconsidering a new career. Someone with enough caring and interest to bring in real-world lessons like tattoos is someone that needs to continue to teach. Your students are lucky to have you. Hang in there.
ArtED773, if i were teaching, it would be art. it does seem like students think art does not matter, and they can fool off too much like you describe....
i like that you,"try to link it to the elements in principles of art."
i wonder if they could do a group project that would remain in the school. like ceramic tiles around the school, or class 'grffiti' that everone has a part in, and to be authorised by principal...something to get them all involved, and that they can return years later to enjoy.
you might check out Drachen Foundation. they are a world wide kite making company, who offers materials and instruction. i attended a workshop for teachers, where a Japanese 'master kite maker' taught....way more soffisticated than i ever imagined! SO amazing! i learned alot, and thought how fun it would be to explore this with kids.
I'm slowly learning how to gain control of a classroom myself, so I may not have many words of wisdom, lol. I was thisclose to quitting just yesterday with my combined 7th/8th grade English class, just over the sheer noise level, and last semester the 9th grade drama class was quick to gain control the moment they sensed weakness.
Some things that I've tried that seem to work (so far):
1. Even though art is an elective, use real punish work if you need to. Essays. 5 page, double spaced essay on the historyof tattoos, for example. It's still a part of the class, but hopefully it'll make them think next time - would they rather write an essay or shut up and do the fun assignment? To make it extra rough, make them come in during every break and lunch to work on it. Kind of sucks for you because you lose your lunch also, but I tried that with a couple of extra rowdy Seniors in my English class and after they discovered that a) I was serious, and b) their "Senior-ess" did not make them immune to punishment, they were much better behaved.
2. I don't know how much help you have from your administration, but come up with some kind of plan to weed out the troublemakers by sending them straight to the office the moment they break a rule. One curse word, one butt out of the seat without permission, whatever. Straight to the office. I'm sure you have at least a few kids who genuinely want to make some art, and it's not fair to them, so get the troublemakers out! And if they get sent out, they get a 0 for that day - whether it was a 10 point participation grade or a 100 point project. They'll either learn the lesson or earn themselves an F in what should be a fun elective.
In order for either or both of these new rules to be effective, you have to introduce them in a way that will grab their attention. Be a total bitch if you have to. "I'm sick and tired of the rude attitude, the disrespect you show me and each other, the foul language, and the lack of effort in this class. From now on, here's how it's going to be." They will test you. Let them. Make an example on one or two if you need to. The rest will learn.
Now I'm sure there are other opinions out there. Nicer ones, lol. Like I said, I'm a first year teacher and I'm sure I'll learn better ways eventually. Last semester I had two classes that really tested me, and this semester I have one. And this advice (handed down from the principal of our school as well as fellow teachers) has proved to be effective.
Good luck! Don't let the kids "win" by pushing you out of teaching. From your lesson plans it sounds like you really care, you're really trying, and you are a really good teacher. Don't give up.
I'd feel guilty if I wasn't to ask if Adrienne's post was tongue in cheek humour? I have never heard of the term "punish work," are we in the business of slavery or education?
Originally Posted by Adrienne
A punishment, where I come from, is something I generally do not like to experience. Encouraging students to view essays as punishment will not create positive feelings towards most text types (letters, short stories, advertising). Essentially, that kind of discipline could shut down a learner's ability to be creative.
Perhaps ArtED773, all you can do is persist. There always will be one class that can take a little bit longer to win over but that's our job pal. After reading your question my only presumption is that you just aren't connecting with the students' out-of-school contexts. Do you live in the community that your school is located? I'm assuming in your school there are many different cultures represented in the class. Identifying with these cultures all at once may be hard.
My best advice would be to find that one student that you do make a connection with and make it work. Use what you were, hopefully, taught in behaviour management lessons at university and identify members of the class who show leadership qualities. These are your classroom changers and shakers, mate.
Throughout your relationship building process, remember to create blocks of lessons that inter-connect and create a narrative for the students to follow. If you can inter-connect your lessons it breeds continuity in the classroom behaviour.
Another way to emphasise consistency is by making connections between what the class is learning and how it applies in the real world.
Another poster suggested doing a graffiti art exercise, perhaps you can connect famous graffiti artists (google it) to older artists of past generations who painted their work at a young age.
Enthuse your students and you will be ok.
Get some passion back for your job, you'll make a difference to one of these kids.
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