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Is new teachers getting a hard time normal?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Mr_Madonna007, May 2, 2016.

  1. Mr_Madonna007

    Mr_Madonna007 New commenter


    Is it normal for a new teacher to be given a hard time by the children at a secondary school?

    I'm new to teaching, and years 8 & 9 are really giving me a hard time (year 9 are the worst). I'm picking up from where the last teacher left off, and year 9 answer back, keep talking when I'm trying to teach, answer back when I pull them up about chatting, and then argue with me when their names is written on the consequences board.

    Last week, the assistant head walked in and the whole class stopped talking. She had to stay with me for 15 minutes so we could get some of the lesson completed.

    It made me feel inadequate as a teacher, and year 9 just seems to have no respect for me (minus 5 children who are lovely).

    It's played on my mind for a few days, and worried the school may think I'm not good enough.

    I have openly stated year 9 are difficult children.

    I attended another teacher's class who teach the same year 9, and they behaved - is it just me?

    This will be my fourth week, and wondering will I make it until July!

    I can walk away, but that would be too easy, and I want to prove I can teach. I know I'm good, but year 9 are making me doubt my class management skills and teaching ability.

    Sorry for the rant.
  2. MissHallEnglish

    MissHallEnglish Occasional commenter Forum guide and community helper

    As a new teacher, there will nearly always be 'that' class. Sometimes, it'll be a different class, sometimes it'll be all of them and it could depend on everything & anything. Don't despair!

    My advice would be to get them into a routine.
    Welcome them at the door with a cheery disposition; have a starter activity ready on the board or the table - something easy that they can access without you; start your consequence system from the word go - don't give them opportunity to misbehave; thank/praise good behaviour, no matter how small.
    Be consistent, make sure students are aware of the consequences of their actions. For example, could your HoD support by doing lunchtime detentions if they reach a certain point in the behaviour system? Just a thought.

    Consistency & routines will help massively. Also, don't give them a whiff that they make you edgy: be confident, act if you're not & the confidence will come with experience.

    Keep going! Best wishes. :)
  3. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Top advice from @cate_h

    Do all your classes disappoint you? Or just a few?

    Anyway. Yes, it is normal. It's a rite of passage you will go through many times in your career. Whenever you change schools! You will be dealing with this in perpetuity. They will try it on and you will get better at dealing with it.

    Do as cate advises. Never lose your cool (more easily said than done).

    Consequences board? Is that school policy? Do you have to do that? I don't like them much. Definitely not for children of that age. It's awfully babyish. Can you ditch it? They probably delight in getting their name up there. Note the names in your own book and let them know it.

    YR8 and 9 are horrible. Always were and always will be. They become human eventually. Doesn't mean you're no good.
  4. wordsworth

    wordsworth Senior commenter

    You have my sympathies OP, I remember only too well what it is like when you're new and the kids see you as fair game. I agree with what cate said. Things will get better if you just stick with it. Teaching is a complex business, no matter what some people say, and it takes time to find your feet. But you will find your feet. Best wishes.
  5. dominant_tonic

    dominant_tonic Established commenter

    Don't give up - yes it's normal.

    What sort of secondary school are you in - a big city one or a more local one? I ask, because I teach in a local more rural type school, and the staff have been here forever. Much easier for them to establish discipline when their reputation goes before them.

    Have your classes had supply teachers before you? Mine did, and it was a nightmare after they had spent 6 weeks having pseudo free lessons and winding the previous teacher up. I followed the discipline policy to the letter, but it still took from October half-term until well after Christmas to get lessons going as it were, without the constant disruption. As they realised I wasn't going anywhere, and they were not going to be able to get the badge of honour of getting rid of me, and after months of them telling me the other teacher couldn't handle them and they didn't think I would, they gradually began to settle. They will try, it's what they do.

    Don't worry about them settling for the AH, of course they would. It's inevitable. Stick with the policy, don't deviate. If you have a staged warning system, use it. Give them the first sanction, if they answer back about it, that's the second, if they whinge about it it's the third, maybe in under a minute. Keep going. The first few months I had to get senior staff to remove pupils from my lesson who had reached the top sanction but refused to go, at least once a week. Haven't done it for ages now.

    And yes, year 9 are almost universally difficult. You'll get there.
  6. emerald52

    emerald52 Star commenter

    Phone and email parents. Use the sanctions and rewards policy. Be consistent. They've seen off others, tell them you are staying.
    Dragonlady30 likes this.
  7. englishteach101

    englishteach101 Occasional commenter

    I think this applies not only to new teachers, but teachers who are starting at a new school too. I started at a new school in January and I have 2 classes who were like this for me (both year 9!) and are now settling down. Consistency is key here. Don't let them get away with anything you don't want them to, phone parents and always follow your threats through. Try to make some positive calls also, that makes a massive difference for me. Get or make some positive praise cards, they go down well at home.

    Keep at it. Year 9 can be a funny year. Just keep going, you'll get there.
  8. stupot101

    stupot101 Established commenter

    It is exactly as Dominant_tonic states. It brings back memories.:)
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  9. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Perfectly normal, it shouldn't be but it is. You'll get better at handling it with experience, get support from colleagues and don't give up. You'll get there in the end.
  10. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Don't forget the praise.

    I know it sounds pathetic but you do have to 'catch them being good'.

    You can try a bit of reverse psychology. Sometimes it works.

    "And how's my favourite class today? You know I love you guys. You're so feisty, so individualistic, so animated (look it up, yeah) and I admire your spirit."

    "SIR!!! WT efF are you on about?"
  11. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Completely normal in my experience and not just when you're a new teacher but also when you begin at a new school. They test your boundaries, see whether you're tough, whether you're fair, where your buttons are and how they can push them. In more challenging schools they're also probably used to high staff turnover and want to see if you're in for the long haul (my first school was very tough and my first year was appalling in terms of behaviour, but when my classes realised I was sticking with them, they completely changed and were my biggest fans).
    Be consistent. Don't just lose your rag one day and put the whole class in detention. Stick with the sanctions and rewards you've been consistently using.
    Be fair. If you make a mistake and tell Johnny off when it was actually Jane that was talking, hold your hands up and say you made a mistake. Don't penalise the really naughty kids more than a mildly naughty child if they've done the same thing - always be fair.
    Be yourself. Smile occasionally and show you enjoy their company when they're behaving. Most children respond brilliantly to positive praise and if you show you like it and lighten up when they're behaving well, gradually their behaviour will change.
    Ask for support when you need it. Don't struggle on with it alone - it's isolating and you will feel like you're the only one who's ever had a class push their buttons. Take tips from other teachers but ultimately you have to find the way that works for you. As you are at the school for longer, your reputation will grow and you may find that siblings' good words about your lessons impact well on your Year 9 class.
    And don't feel alone. In my sixth year of teaching I had a Year 9 class so badly behaved that I went to SLT and said I couldn't teach them anymore as I did not feel safe (I was pregnant). It happens to all of us.
    Lara mfl 05 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  12. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    The super stickers website is good for getting a nice range of stickers and stamps. If you're getting a stamp for a pound or two more you could get a personalised one, I've got a number of stamps including a couple of personalised ones. The kids really do love them, and you can do it as a drive by stamping which is great if the kids don't want to be seen to be getting praise.
  13. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Agree with all the posts above.
    Yes perfectly normal. Even 'normal' for any experienced teacher new to any school.

    It's always easier at the start of the Autumn term rather than Spring or Summer terms.

    Yes Year 9 are notoriously difficult. Found their feet and yet not having to knuckle down to exam work in years 10/11.
    Year 8 for similar reason and by this time of year the year & newness has worn off too and they will start trying their luck.

    As advised keep sticking to the policies. Firm, fair and consistent will eventually pay dividends.

    Honestly almost every teacher will tell you they have felt like this, especially at the start of their career.;)
  14. bob1503

    bob1503 New commenter

    Completely normal. I recently moved schools, after 10 years as a head of year I was used to walking in and classes going silent. Went back to being a teacher in a new school and was humbled in my first lesson. Lots of phonecalls to enlist parental support, emails and detentions later and all is good. As all the other posters have said, stick to the policies, you'll get there.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  15. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It's quite shocking that @Mr_Madonna007 wasn't warned about this.

    In my day the HT would have put a hand on your shoulder and told you not to worry. S/he would have told you the ancient tales of how YR9 are notorious for their insolence and wished you all the very best. You'd have had a pep talk and then someone would have checked later that you were OK and said, "If it all gets too much for you just threaten them with blah blah de blah."

    Don't colleagues support each other any more?
    -myrtille- likes this.
  16. Dragonlady30

    Dragonlady30 Star commenter

    Bless you, but you're fighting a battle on 2 fronts-starting in the middle of an academic year and year 9. I began teaching in 1974 and year 9, or year 3 as they were called then, were a nightmare even back then. Follow the excellent advice given above, but don't beat yourself up.

    Take care, and any help that's offered.
  17. muso2

    muso2 Occasional commenter Community helper

    Yes, it's totally normal! And always a shock, especially when you're experienced but start somewhere new. Extra tricky starting at this point in the year, when many year 9s will have made option choices and possibly not be doing your subject next year.
    Lots of good advice above. It does get easier!
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  18. Geoff Thomas

    Geoff Thomas Star commenter

    In my first post, back before the Flood, I was given 3M last lesson on Friday afternoons - that really is the thirteenth stream of Year 9. For maths. On a Friday afternoon.

    And I was about to leave the profession before my probationary year was up.

    But I did hang in and I did change school pretty quickly, and then did another 20-odd years before moving on.
  19. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    It is normal.
    It can also be worse if they have smelt blood. If a previous teacher has told them that they caused them to leave then they will try and continue the trend.
    If you ever get the change, it is a good experience to see an experienced teacher with a new class.
  20. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I always advise people to read a book by Paul Dix called Taking Care of Behaviour.

    Try not tonuse the names on the board since it makes the reprimand public and you then get drawn into arguments. If you possibly can, give warnings discreetly. This is all covered in the book with more useful advice.

    It is normal what younare experiencing and they are testing you to see what you will do.

    Once they know you mean business and are seen as fair, they will fall into line.

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