When the Center Did Not Hold — Or Your Classroom Management Plan Imploded

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Hi New Teacher! Or anyone who has had a tough year with 7th period or the like….

So you followed the many instructions from your professors at school. Maybe you even contacted a few of them for advice. You put all the supports into place. You defined roles and expectations. You asked coaches for advice (but not TOO much advice) and you sought out a classroom management seminar, not to mention a few webinars. You gave the management piece your very best shot.

Middle school and high school teachers: Yet the movie title that comes to mind when you look at your 7th period is “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” You are trying to teach the First World War. At least a few students seem determined to start that war in your own classroom. (Hopefully you have not reached the “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Children of the Corn” stage. 🙂 )

Practical advice: I’m late with this advice, but some readers may benefit.

If you are coming up for an evaluation, think ahead. You may be given a choice in which class will be observed. Prepare a sound reason why that period should not be 7th period. Some possibilities:

  1. We are working on reinforcement right now. I would rather present an original lesson.
  2. I could use some advice in 4th period due to the number of students with IEPs that require accommodations. I am not always sure how to include my lowest students. (Any area in a class that is functioning well where you can use advice makes a perfect suggestion.)
  3. I get nervous when I think about being evaluated. I would be happy to get my evaluation out of the way early if that works for your schedule.

The above assumes that you do not have a disciplinary meltdown underway, just one tough class or two. It only takes one student to make a class more difficult. Two or three can complicate life enormously for a new teacher.

Eduhonesty: I will be floating shortly.  As a retired teacher who subs, I sometimes pick the mystery lollipop, labeled “floater” on the sub system. I think I will publish this and finish it later. If readers know anyone who might benefit, please pass this on.

Response to feedback: In response to comments, I’d like to agree this post has an odd feel. It’s not the usual post about how to get ready for an evaluation with reminders about incorporating visuals and managing transitions. Yet I feel the need to share these thoughts.

The teaching evaluation process can be inherently unfair, filled with politics and based on sometimes only an hour or two’s real-life observation. I once watched a second-year colleague get axed essentially because a group of girls (who liked me a lot, thank God) decided to take her down. Kids understand the evaluation process. That out-of-control class which first and second-year teachers may encounter can result in an ugly evaluation that unfairly targets a teacher. My second-year colleague wanted so badly to be a great teacher, and I believe she would have reached her goal. She never got her chance. She never got a second chance, either. Her area of endorsement was too crowded.

Especially in schools where administration turns up rarely, maybe only for evaluations, teachers must strategize to put their best groups forward for review.

P.S. Stuck with that review of 7th period? Plan and strategize the heck out of that lesson plan. Do a version of the plan a few times before game day so that everyone knows exactly what must be done. Consider sacrificing a few of the evaluation shibboleths if you don’t think your class can manage them well. For example, skip the gallery walk if Nathan, Johnny and friends are likely to sabotage that walk. Only do activities you know your class can do well.

Before the evaluation, throw out carrots and raise the specter of a few sticks.  “I’d like to relax the seating chart sometimes but I have to know we can manage if…” or “I really hope to make some positive phone calls home this week-end to tell your parents how well everyone has been doing.”


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