With the assistance of fellow art teacher, friend, and education blogger Rachel Wintemberg, we created this list of helpful advice to survive this special population spurred on by a Facebook post by fellow art teacher new to this situation, HERE. Essentially it all boils down to these: Set clear expectations, be fair, don't take it personally, build relationships, and rewards help.
Rachel's top tips are these:
Advice for a new teacher in a difficult situation/setting:
1) Q-TIP- "quit taking it personally" It's not okay for them to call you names, but it's not personal to you either.
2) Bribery: End of class give a single m&m or skittle to the three kids who were well behaved. The next time there will be more kids to earn it. Keep doing this consistently as long as you need to. Be stingy! Seriously, just a single skittle. You can do less and less of this as you gain their trust and control.
3) Call the houses of all the focused kids and tell the parents how wonderful their behavior is.
4) Consider video taping your demo, speeding it up and setting it to music. Sometimes this stuns kids into quiet.
5) Separate the groups and put all the quiet kids in the front. Go quietly to the best behaved tables and get them started. Instill a 'quietest tables first' policy so the Disruptive kids get the LEAST amount of time to do art. (Though this may seem counter-intuitive, but those who are ready are more easily set to work, then you can focus on the others who need more time to be re-focused, and an opportunity for relationship building. E.G.)
6) Wait until you have narrowed it down to the most disruptive offenders before calling the homes. Then call and tell them that their child is failing your class and you are concerned.
7) The first year is the most horrible it will ever be. If you can survive that year you can do anything. Surviving the first year will imbue you with superpowers that will last the rest of your life.
Rachel Wintemberg's example:
The kids that are misbehaving and calling you names, they desperately crave your attention. You hold all of the power. They hold none of the power. So, since they crave your attention, LET THEM EARN IT.
I walked into a classroom once and made everyone stand up. I declared that I was no longer going to allow the kids who were there to learn to be victimized by the ones who weren't. I put all the quietest kids (you know, the ones whose names you don't know) in the FRONT and I told them that this was THEIR art class and that from now on it would be all about them. I put all the loudest kids, the ones who were preventing me from teaching, in the back. "You should be happy now. You get to sit with your friends. Don't be so upset. You won. You don't have to learn if you don't want to." One boy's face fell; "Does that mean you are giving up on us? Giving up on me?"
Until that moment I had no idea how much power I really had. "No" I answered confidently "It means that, if you want to be a part of this class you are going to have to earn your way back in. You have a choice. You've always had a choice. Up until now, THIS is what you have chosen. Man up. Make different choices and I will notice."
I then went to the quietest table and introduced the lesson, just to them. Then on to the next table and the next.
Within three class periods this group went from my most disruptive class to a class I looked forward to. Ultimately three kids were the driving force behind the disruptions. I couldn't fix their behavior but I could take the power they had over their peers away from them. I could show the kids who could go either way the stark reality of their choices. Had I yelled or punished I would have caused them to make a different choice.
I saw some lives change completely for the better that day as a few kids took ownership of their behavior. I won't lie to you and say that it got easy. The three kids in question were very troubled...
Additional Advice from HERE:
1. Build Relationships, try to connect with the more difficult students.
2. Avoid using "YOU!" in addressing behavior. Start with an "I" statement.
3. Create lessons that allow them to express situations in healthy ways.
4. A simplified TAB program seems helpful and projects based on student interest that allows deep personal connections. (More Info)
5. Strict but clear rules and expectations. KEEP IT SIMPLE, and post them. Keep them positive, and be sure to follow your own rules too.
6. Stay calm and non-emotional. Students often mirror your tone.
7. Don't have a "back and forth" in discipline. Address it and move on.
8. DO NOT WAVER in discipline. Be consistent and even-handed.
9. Say something positive before you correct behavior. "I'm glad you came on time today but..."
10. Share your own work so you become a "real person" to them.
11. Assign jobs within the room so they take ownership of the program.
12. Give more positive reinforcement than negative. Recognize even small positives like "I appreciate that you've stayed in your seat today" even if they were loud.
13. If they are in groups, sit with a different group each day and learn about them. Spend little or no time at your teacher's desk during class.
14. Partner with a seasoned mentor teacher if you are new.
15. Keep it together in front of the kids. They can smell weakness.
16. Sometimes sending kids to the office = your weak. Try not to do it. (But sometimes you must call for back-up)
17. Learn names quickly and address them by name in class and in the hall. It shows you care. Play a name game if you must. Strict assigned seats helps too.
18. Stickers make good rewards too, (but candy is primal.)
19. Document issues immediately. This will protect you should issues come back like a parent complaining you're racist, unfair, or worse. Sending yourself a daily email diary will time-stamp your experiences and is admissible in court. A lawyer once told me this bit of advice for teachers, "If you don't write it down, it didn't happen. Don't wait 24 hours. Do it the same day it happens."
Understand that their behavior is a symptom of their situation. They smoke, do drugs, act out in order not to "feel." As art teachers we are in the unique position to bridge that gap and begin the healing process.
Books by Ruby Payne, "A Framework for Understanding Poverty"
Books by Ron L. Clark
"Teaching with Poverty in Mind" by Eric Jensen
"Paper Tigers" by KPJR Films
Free Video: http://goo.gl/53ZgnN (TED)
At Risk Class Advice: http://goo.gl/X5IZvV
Lesson from Piper Glass: http://goo.gl/WVg8of
From Anna Nicols' blog: One, Two, Three, Four, Five.
"Smart Classroom Management" Tips HERE.
Art Ed Teaching resources HERE (30% off when you order direct.)