A Young Teacher\\\'s Guide To Working With A Difficult High School Cla
Mar 5, 2012 Classroom Management 2767 Views
Having difficult classes at some time in your career is part and parcel of the profession to which we belong. This is especially true in a high school situation where there is potential for a teacher to have more than one difficult class. 'Difficult' could be in a behavioural or academic sense.
Often, it is simply the particular combination of students you have in the class that creates the difficult environment.
Below are strategies you can consider using.
*When the class lines up outside your room, set up how you want this to occur so that they are settled before they enter the room. Invite them to enter the room quietly and take their seats and prepare to begin the lesson. Unless you relax the rules, your stance must always be that the classroom is for work and not play. When the entry is not acceptable, practise it until you get a quiet one or practise it in their time if they don't cooperate. Praise them when they do it well.
*I tell all my classes that I want to enjoy my time with them and I want them to enjoy it too. I want everyone to get the most out of our time together. Thus the rules, which I set up, are designed to keep that in mind. Some teachers negotiate their rules with their class. You may like to try that too.
*Seating plans can be arranged in a number of ways. The best way, initially, is to use an alphabetical order. This is easy to justify as you need to learn their names quickly and it makes boring roll marking a quick exercise which legally we must do. You can offer changes later as you get to know the class. Your rule needs to be: 'No one can change places without your permission even when you are away as the relief teacher will have the seating plan'.
*If you have your own room, set it up in a way that suits you and your classes. Even if it is not your room, you can rearrange it to suit your needs. Organise a trusted group of students to do it each period for you.
*Teach your class exam technique. Have them practice it during the practice exam and review its success. Perhaps, discuss how to do the practice exam first using exam technique before actually doing it. Then do your review afterwards.
*You could extend this idea to give a short practice test after each topic. It is amazing how these tests switch on the most disinterested students. Keep a record of these practice tests as a backup to your exam results for further reporting information.
*Invoke the school discipline code only as a last resort or in an extreme case.
*When you first meet each new class, note the names of students who exhibit negative body language or are slow to get involved in the lesson. These are often the ones who become your future problem students.
*Sometimes, a class can be 'rattier' than normal. It may be because of what happens in the previous class period, especially in junior secondary classes. Find out what lesson it is particularly if it is the same lesson and teacher each week. You may be able to discuss it with that teacher to ease the problem.
However, if that is not possible, you will need to adjust your teaching strategies to help settle down the class. It could also simply be that the period is after lunch on a hot day.
*Some classrooms can encourage difficult classes to be worse or better. Check out the rooms allotted to you in advance. If the room/s is/are unsatisfactory, then seek out better ones. Remember you are doing the Deputy Principal a favour taking the class and the better it behaves the better it is for all concerned.
*Practice exams are useful as a learning tool and to keep students on task at least a week before the exam. Give them two parts. The first part should consist of the basics they must know, e.g. the learning work. The second can be simple problem solving using the learning work. However, stress that the basics are the most important to know. Make sure the questions are from old exam papers to give credence to the test. Do all questions in a follow up lesson and point out what the class needs to study as a result of the practice test to get ready for the exam.
*You could extend this idea to give a short practice test after each topic. It is amazing how these tests switch on the most disinterested students. Keep records of these practice tests results as a backup to your exam results as further reporting information for parents.
*Have a revision program each term. You and they working together to beat the exam.
*Tell them what text book questions they need to do as part of the preparation for the exam. Concentrate on the basic skills to get them right.
*Tell the class everyone starts with a clean sheet. Tell them, "I don't remember your reputation unless you remind me by the way you behave."
*On a day when some students are absent, the whole atmosphere of the class room may change for the better. That will be a clue to those students who upset the working environment of the class. Recognizing this, you can then take measures to lessen their impact.
Being successful with a 'difficult' class often gives most teachers a greater sense of satisfaction than being successful with other classes. These strategies will help you get that sense of satisfaction but, more importantly, they will also give the students the idea that you want them to be successful.
For further information on this topic see eBook "The Discipline Book" and other publications aimed at the young and beginning teacher on the website http://www.realteachingsolutions.com.
The author, Rick Boyce, has taught for over forty-five years. The last fifteen years before retirement he was the Head of Mathematics in a large Australian school. He began his career when young teachers were often given difficult classes, especially in high schools, to 'show their metal' and to 'earn the right to teach good classes'. His time as Head of Department saw him assist many teachers cope with difficult classes. Often he was called upon to take over the class to demonstrate some behavioural strategies to assist young teachers particularly early in their career. These experiences have come together here to produce this article and the eBook mentioned above.