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Home : 2002 : Feb : 24

    new teacher - classroom management
    By Carolyn

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    I had this situation occur to me when I started out as a teacher years ago. It made me want to crawl under the carpet. Not that I didn't appreciate the advice of older, more experienced teachers, it's just that it was so embarrassing to have them address problems I might have been having in front of the students. The situation really did upset me, and I can imagine that it must have upset you, too. I eventually did end up speaking with the teacher, telling her that I appreciated all of her help, but I really needed to learn to manage things on my own. I think you really need to tell this teacher (who sounds like a well-meaning person, albeit a busybody) this.

    It's wonderful that during this first year you are learning from your mistakes. Children really do try to take advantage of situations, and I guess this is part of their nature. I have taught a number of years, and I still have problems such as you described. Let's look at some solutions for these problems:

    The kids wanted to test me on the bathroom issue at the beginning of the year. I told them exactly when we, as a class, would go. Typically, after math (middle of the morning) they go while kids are working on journals. I send two boys and two girls at a time. I make sure that they are kids I can trust together. The kids know that I won't let them go any other time unless it's an emergency (to change a pad, relieve upset stomach, etc.). We also have a bathroom break immediately after lunch. I get started with spelling, then as kids are working independently I let those same kids go as pairs to the bathroom. I also strongly encourage them to go to the bathroom during recess time, which is their break. Of course, the kids would, all of a sudden, desperately have an urge to use the restroom the moment the whistle blew to end recess. My questions would always be: Why didn't you go during recess time. You may not go now. We have to get back to class. The child would whine and give me a pitiful look: But I didn't have to go then!!! (Ha!) I make all of the kids wait at least a half hour after recess before I excuse anybody for the bathroom, and then I will only allow the first one who asks to go. I only have an hour to teach science and writing in that hour, so we just don't have time for an extended bathroom break or a steady stream of visitors from our class to the bathroom. If another hand shoots up and asks to go, I will say: If you really had to go, you would have been the first one to ask. I then ignore the child and get on with my lessons. Nobody else will usually ask. They know how strict I am with the bathroom policy by now, but they do still try me, even now with only 11 weeks of school left!

    My suggestion to you about the bathroom is to go in on Monday morning and announce that you will have scheduled bathroom breaks from now on. Tell them that you are concerned about the number of children who are missing instruction to use the bathroom, and they really need to be in the classroom. Stick to your policy and don't waver, except in case of emergency.

    Next year, be sure you let the parents know at the beginning of the year that you will have scheduled bathroom breaks at scheduled times in your instructional schedule. Ask that they let you know if their child has a medical problem which required that the child go more often. Our principal requires a medical note for extra bathroom "privileges." I tell my kids that if they don't have a medical note, they may only go at scheduled times. I realize that this may difficult for some kids and event their parents to accept, but this is how it is, folks.

    As for the ice pack issue: It's amazing, but then again, it's kids' logic, I suppose. My kids would come to me at the beginning of the year and suddenly decide the moment the whistle blew to end recess that they needed an ice pack. He/she will even go so far as to limp pathetically over to you. Never mind that this child was the very same one who just scored a home run in kickball just two minutes before. It's just now that recess is over that the injury is suddenly an issue. I put that to rest by telling the students that they may not request an ice pack or band-aide once the whistle blows. It's just like the bathroom: "But my foot is swollen!" (Same as, but I gotta go now and I didn't have to before.) I guess you can't blame a kid for not wanting to give up his/her free time. However, if it wasn't urgent enough to take care of the moment it happened, then it's not urgent now.

    As far as visits to the office: I will only allow my kids to go to the office during non-instructional time. I will first find out if the issue is time-crucial. If it's not, then I let them wait until we are heading past the office anyway--on the way to related arts or the cafeteria. Kids love to waste time that way, too.

    Now is the time for you to try to practice the things you need to do to get respect as a second year teacher next year. It's not too late to practice sensible decision-making when it comes to classroom management. Depending upon your children's cooperative spirit, it may be difficult for them, once precedents have been established, to get on the right track. I do think that you can do it, however. Get this other teacher off of your back by telling her that you know what you need to do now, you have appreciated her concern, but that you can take it from here now. If she continues to bother you, speak with your administrator.

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