Sunday, October 23, 2005

above and beyond the call of duty

We have a new 3rd grade teacher this year. Principal asked me to be her mentor, and of course I said yes. Miss F, the new teacher, was a psychology major in college. She's had absolutely no classroom experience prior to this year. No student teaching, no observation, no after school tutoring programs... nothing. I met with her at the beginning of the year about organizational things and school routines. She didn't have any questions for me, which I took as a good sign. My mistake.

Her classroom is in a constant state of chaos: kids standing, talking, walking around, poking around on her desk, throwing things, running to the coat closet, yelling, calling out, even fighting. Six girls got in trouble a few weeks ago for wetting toilet paper and throwing it on the ceiling. This past week, one boy got into three fist fights in the classroom (two of them on the same day, and both of those with girls).

Principal is aware of the problem. She's been cornering me on my break to talk to me about Miss F. "Miss M, I'm concerned about _____." or "Make sure you talk to her about ______." And I have. I've observed her twice, and I met with her several times since school started to give her advice and help her arrange her schedule. The advice included the following:
~ Plan well, so that there's no down time for the kids
~ Give the kids something to do first thing in the morning and right after lunch
~ Don't acknowledge any child who is out of their seat or calling out
~ Don't begin teaching until everyone is sitting quietly in their seats
~ Make sure that the only thing on their desks are the books you want them to have
~ Staple a weekly behavior calendar into their homework book and ask the parents to sign it daily

I told her all of that (and more) in a very friendly, teacher-to-teacher manner. She has taken little or none of the advice. Principal has met with her, too, but I guess that hasn't done much good. Her room is next to mine, and all day long I can hear desks thumping, kids shrieking and Miss F yelling. Principal has asked me and Miss W (2nd grade) to walk by or poke our heads in on our breaks, to get the kids to settle down. (Which we've done, but I feel like that takes the authority away from Miss F.)

Last week, Principal came up with a new plan to help alleviate the situation. Apparently, she feels that 3rd grade's worst time is the afternoon. They have a "special" class (art, music, etc) on Wed, Thurs and Fri afternoons. Principal asked if 1st and 3rd grade could do a joint activity on Monday afternoon, and if 2nd and 3rd grade could work together on Tuesday afternoon. To help Miss F "break up the long afternoons," she said.

"For how long?" I asked.
"Oh, about half an hour," replied Principal.
"No," I said, "I mean, how long are we going to be working together on Mondays?"
"Just until things get better," Principal said.


So now I have to rearrange my schedule on Mondays and plan a lesson that 49 children can do together whilst crammed into my relatively small classroom. I'm all for helping her, but is this really necessary?

As her mentor, it's my job to make sure she's doing okay. But it's not my job to babysit her or her kids. Any advice? I could use it!


MsAbcMom said...

You are in a rough position my friend!
Your principal is asking you to do his or her job. Do you have any new teacher mentoring program in your district? Can you at least be compensated by your school for the extra time (and grief) that you are spending with this teacher?
Good luck!

Pigs said...

Oh my gosh! Are you being paid for that? That is so much outside of a mentor's job what your principal is asking you to do! You have your own class to deal with. He/she needs to get in there and fix it! Sorry you're stuck there.

Sara said...

This makes me sad because here I am, a teacher with five years experience, just wanting more than anything to teach again. I wish I could have her job and work with you. I sure hope I get a position next year. I hope your principal appreciates you. :)

GuusjeM said...

You are being taken advantage of and your kids are being robbed of valueable instruction time. He's being a wimp, not doing his job and not doing right by his staff or the students. And they hired someone with NO teaching experience or coursework at all????

I'm sorry you are stuck in the middle, you deserve better.

Miss R said...

Wow! Is your state short on teachers? She must be just hired on as a sub then, right?

Well, if she really is going to be sticking around-- I suggest that the principal, instead of burdening you overmuch, schedule some regular time for this teacher "Miss F" to observe other teachers. Schedule a sub for her for two hours in the day while she observes you, her mentor teacher, and others. Perhaps if she doesn't take your suggestions she would like another style of teaching better.

Honestly, If i had come into teaching with no prior knowledge, training, or experience, I might be a little overwhelmed with all of your suggestions. Try giving her one "suggestion" each week to work on, and have a maybe 10min de-briefing time to talk about how it has been going.

Also she should be doing some catching up--including on her reading. Maybe have her read Harry Wong's New Teacher book to start. Hopefully she has a little motivation to do this, it is a lot of work...

I like your blog idea.

Your fellow first grade teacher,
Miss R,