First Year Teacher in Urban School District

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    I really need some help. I’m a first year teacher in an Urban School District. To make things even more difficult, I was hired on an emergency permit and have been on the job less than three weeks. I’m in way over my head. I have no support from my admin, and I have classrooms of 30+ middle schoolers by myself. The biggest issues I am having:

    1. Classroom participation – A chunk of students in every class does not participate. It brings down my energy and the energy of the classroom.

    2. Poor behavior – The behavior of the kids is pretty much out of control. Does anyone have good classroom management strategies?

    I have already cancelled the winter concert because I can’t put them on the risers without them touching each other, punching each other or doing what they are supposed to do.

    ANY help would be better. Please, send me your recommendations!!!


    First of all assign seating so they are not choosing who to sit by and it will put you in control of that one thing to get started.
    Set your rules and post them. Make the list concise and short. For example, Be in your seat when the bell rings. Raise your hand to ask questions. The class room is a no talking zone. Respect other students by not invading their space. Gum chewing not allowed. Whatever you think will work and then their grade has to include evaluation points in it so that daily they loose points if they do not adhere to rules. The rules also need to be stated positively.

    You can’t teach them music until they reach a level of discipline where the environment is positive. Compliment them when they are quiet and respectful.

    Then start by singing unison with good tone and good vowels. When you identify a few students that can sing well have them sing alone. There is a good article in Teaching Music November about working with individual students to strengthen the group as a whole.

    As soon as possible have them perform as this helps them to benefit from their work in class in front of their parents and success will build for more success.

    Write again and tell how you are progressing.

    LeAnna Willmore
    NAfME Choral Education Council Chair


    In addition to the positive suggestions from LeAnna, my biggest suggestion, and maybe one you are already doing, is to learn all of their names. This may seem like a daunting task with large classes and being a first year teacher, all of them are new. I would see if they have a yearbook from last year? you might find most of your students and their photos in it? I f there is no yearbook, you could also photograph each class and get other teachers to help you label student’s names. Time spent in the evening memorizing names can save your patience during the day. I have found that one of the most powerful tools in teaching is knowing a student’s name. Once you know that, find opportunities to “catch them doing something good.” That way you can praise them in front of others and get some positive energy in the rehearsal. Even better than that, set up the relationship with your students by greeting them by name outside of class when you see them. Also, I would always stand by the door and greet them as they come in. Make sure they understand that you know them as individuals and not just as a crowd.

    Another thought: Make sure you are not continually teaching from the front of the classroom. The dynamic in the rehearsal can be profoundly changed by moving about the room. If you usually teach from behind the piano, pick up the music, get a pitch pipe or find a student who can give starting pitches and move closer to the singers and teach the music in short phrases. When students are not paying attention don’t try and change behavior from a distance.

    You can change things for the better.

    Jamie Spillane
    NAfME Choral Eduction Council

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