15 Responses to the Question, “Now that you are nearing the end of 8th grade, what would you do differently at the beginning of the year?”

– Stay on top of my homework

– Try harder and try harder to get more sleep so i’m not tired at school

– nothing #no regrets!

– Interesting question. I’m not completely sure of my answer, but off the top of my head I would probably tell my younger self to complete homework as soon as I get home instead of procrastinating until the last minute; it’s been really difficult to break out of that habit, so now I’ve resorted to practicing piano before dinner and completely homework afterward.

– Work harder and make homework my first priority

– Be more happy

– I don’t like the way I was living in general, but nothing specific to school. But I wouldn’t actually do anything different because everything lines up perfectly to create the outcome you are currently living. If I were given the chance to change even one little thing in the past, I wouldn’t. I’m okay with how negative I was living(subjectively and relative to now)because it has allowed me to live the way I currently am, and to appreciate the change. It wouldn’t mean anything if I couldn’t compare it to the “before”, since nothing accurately means anything without relativity.

– I would probably talk to more people and ask for more help.

– I wish my makeup wasn’t so cakey, I wish I hadn’t worn foundation.

– I don’t know, not much. I think I have a pretty good routine on getting through the day. I don’t really have anything I would change.

-I would have tried not to miss as much school because its really hard for me to catch up on all of the work, and that makes my grades worse.

-Told kids who were bothering me to shut up and leave me alone because I don’t want to have to deal with your garbage.

-Take different electives because I took the same electives as last year and didnt try new things. I would also try to reach out and meet new people. After meeting them I would actually stay in touch.

-Actually try

-Study harder

27 Things Teachers Need To Know About Their Students

27 things teachers need to know about their students, as told by students themselves

1.  Students often know more than they let on, and are either too tired, or scared to answer hard questions.

2.  They will try and be on their phone as much as possible, they want to do fun things like labs etc.

3. A lot of students today are rude but there are still a lot that are nice, also most students are on there phones (or Chromebooks) most of the time when teachers are teaching so be wary of students not paying attention.

4. The students of today are basically the same as last year, when I was in 8th grade. 

5. We have busy schedules.

6. I have really bad anxiety and I get stressed out really easily and I have a lot of anxiety when I am on the spot.

7. They we are pretty awesome.

8. We are not as crazy as we seem.

9. Students aren’t always ready to learn and still needs time.

10. Each student works at their own pace, and there’s always new trends.

11. Teachers need to better know and understand a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions (things they are intrigued about, etc.) in order to build a more comfortable, exciting learning environment for them.

12. We like music and partners to work with.

13. I am tired.

14. A lot of students are tired because of a lot of the other activities they have to do after school or because of how late they stay up.

15. That we like to be told descriptive directions so we know what to do.

16. We just want to live our lives.

17. Kids like to be disrespectful and not listen to directions.

18. Know who our friends are so that we don’t sit them next to them. They should know a class’ general interests so that their lessons can be fun. If they have anything like bad vision or dyslexia or something else that prohibits them from learning.

19. If there’s a trend everyone talks about it.

20. It’s hard to focus.  

21. If someone’s hand isn’t up, don’t call them. They aren’t mentally prepared and might get extremely anxious.

22. Students can be really mean, and stubborn.  So if you keep a closer look and discipline them that would maybe help.

23. We don’t like to be rushed, and we need a lot of clarification on certain topics. We would rather do interactive projects and experiments other than just write something on paper.

24. Teachers need to know about our background such as hobbies and life experiences. This is helpful to have good conversations with students and to create positive relationships with students.

25. They probably won’t listen all the time, they want to be treated like adults, they only know and need to know so much.

26. Students know a lot about the internet and can usually figure things out easily which makes it easier for them to play games and do things with their chromebooks.

27. We are learning different subjects at once and it’s hard to focus on one.

9 Strategies for How to Deal with Disruptive Students

9 Effective strategies from a veteran teacher that can be used in any grade or setting

1. Proximity

Proximity is the teacher spidey-sense that makes you get closer to them.  You often do this without knowing why you’re doing it. The closer you get, the more they realize what they’re doing is a distraction.  

They have received your attention, and then they should get the clue. Sometimes you might even end up sitting on their desk before they realize it’s time to pay attention!

2.  Don’t yell at them

Don’t yell at them, but don’t be afraid to use your big teacher voice if you have to.  

If you use it too much students will start calling your bluff. Yelling at kids is also a quick way to establish “me against you,” instead of “me with you.”  

Yelling at kids that have experienced trauma at home can make them feel unsafe. This can trigger the same emotions they’ve felt last time an adult yelled at them, and is not the best environment for a child to learn and grow in.  

3. Lower your voice

I’ve heard from many veteran awesome teachers that by talking quieter and calmer works very well.

It lets the students know you are a calm adult who is in control of any situation – your mood and demeanor aren’t determined by a loud kid.  

4.  Send them out of the room

This is effective if they aren’t a student who will wander once they’re out.  It tends to be most effective if used only once for a student. Once you’ve done this more than once, it loses its bite.

Make sure to (once the students in the room are working on something) hang halfway out the door and have a respectful conversation with the student. 

Make sure you’re not lecturing them.  Let their voices be heard – listen to them.  Sometimes we all need to be heard and believe what we say, or how we feel matters. 

5. Early, constant contact with parents

This might be the best way to deal with disruptive students.  Get in touch with the parents or guardians early in the year through a phone call, email, or a back-to-school event.  

Make sure you set a positive tone and have something good to say about their child. Stay on top of the disruptive behaviors early.

 This lets the student know you’re not afraid to keep in touch with their parents and that  you care about their success in class.  

Next time you ask them to get on task or do something, they know you mean what you say.  It shows them that you will follow up with mom and dad if you need to.

6. Ignore them

Sometimes the best strategy to deal with disruptive students is to ignore them.  

Don’t give them the attention they’re seeking. When you don’t give them attention, it tells the rest of your class to follow your lead and ignore them too.  

This doesn’t always work, but it works well enough for it to be in your toolbelt.

7. Send them on “errands”

This is a creative way to have those students get rid of the disruptive energy they have.  This also gives you and the rest of the class a break.

You need to create a pact with another teacher in advance.  In this pact you’ve established that a student can always go to their room to “deliver” something. This can be something of value or something with pretend value – it doesn’t matter.  

This special professional covenant can work both ways too!

8. Make a seating chart where they’re far away from everyone else

This can be the simplest solution sometimes.  

Keep trying new seating charts until you find one that fits.  Keep trying until you find one that isolates the child from other students who laugh or give them attention.

You want a seating chart where everyone can actually focus on their learning and the task at hand.  

9. Build a relationship with them, learn about the whole child, and use every resource available to address those needs.  

This is by far the most effective and meaningful form of dealing with disruptive students: love them.  

Every student has something going on in their life that we as educators could hardly imagine.  Take the time to try and understand why they are acting the way they are.

Talk with the school counselors, other teachers, past teachers, their family and relatives. Have conversations with those students outside of the classroom; maybe in the hall or at an assembly.

 Get to know them.  Show them you care about them and don’t want them to “be quiet” all the time in class. This is sometimes very hard to do, especially when you have a hard time forgetting how they were acting and what they were saying in class.

This strategy can more often than not have the longest and most profound impact on them.

From my first year… “No More Christmas, Nate.”

I’ve never seen a 6th grader that acted, and actually was, that tough.  I’m not talking about the student in my 6th grade class who has been held back 2 times, and has “Lil Mike” tattooed on his neck.  I asked him who let him get it, and he said “My momma.”

I’m talking about Nate.  “Sup” was the reply to my “Good Morning,” if I got any reply at all.  Nate was a smaller than average 6th grader, had an earring in his ear, and wasn’t too bad of a writer.  He was also apparently part of a blood-line that was known to all the teachers in the district for being wild, disrespectful, violent and pregnant.  

I can’t remember exactly why we were in a meeting with his mom (a bus driver or dump truck driver – I couldn’t quite distinguish), but there we were: an assistant principal, one of the counselors, and all of his core teachers, including me.  His mom didn’t bother taking her blue tooth out of her ear, apparently just in case there was something more important than talking with her son’s teachers about the fight he started in class (oh yeah, we were there to discuss another fight).  

It went a little something  like this:

“If you say that to me one more time, I’m going to hit you,” Nate declared.

Guess what?  The other student (I’ve got a post coming about him too!) said whatever “it” was one more time… 

Nate got out of his seat (all of this happened while I was trying to teach) and hit the kid in the back of the head with a closed fist.  

This was my first fight that happened in my room. I told Nate to go to the office, while I went over to the student he hit, checked if he was ok, and asked him to go outside so I could talk to him.  

I think I handled the situation as appropriately as a first year teacher could. This was one of the many issues we wanted to talk to Nate’s mom about.  Other issues we were going to address with Nate’s mother included: cursing at teachers and students, not coming to class prepared, skipping class and not pulling up his pants when asked to by teachers.  

The assistant principal began the meeting by thanking her for coming and all the other formalities that come with a meeting of this kind.

I remember how hard it was to keep a straight face in the light of everything that was being said and especially the tone at which it was being said. I was only 24 at the time, and still could get a case of the “man giggles” when the conditions were just right.  After trying to think about something else besides the current situation, Nate began to cry. Then his mom (who still has her blinking blue-tooth in her ear and reflective driver/construction vest on) said, “Look at Nate, he’s crying.” In a voice that was one part Maury Povich-guest-vindicated-by-paternal-test-results and another part “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” she said, “You’re not so tough now, are you Nate?”  “Everyone look at these tears.”

Then she said something that made me want to leave and go home and curl up in the fetal position and cry: “You know what?” (still in that Maury-Ain’t-Nobody-Tone) – “There’s going to be no Christmas for Nate.”  If there was anything that a child could hear that would irreversibly change the trajectory of their life it was that phrase: “There’s going to be no Christmas, Nate.”  

Dude.  She did it.  She said it. I wanted to be anywhere but here in front of a kid that is having Christmas taken away.  Nate’s eyes began overflowing with tears, but he didn’t cry, he just let gravity do the work.

First Day Teaching – 10 Years Ago

“You gotta get gruff, be gritty,” said the teacher doing morning supervision outside her classroom while the students began arriving at school, continuing conversations they were having on the bus, with the added voices of those they see on their way up the stairs to the 300 hallway.  

This was the first day of my teaching career. I was teaching a 6th grade Science and Social Studies class at a middle school in a district that is in between the inner-city and the suburbs.  

I remember stopping at a 7-11 to get TUMS because my stomach was so upset – I was nervous – I also never eat TUMS.  All the district trainings the weeks prior could do nothing to prepare me for that first day.  Sitting in those meetings, talking about teaching standards, management practices, health insurance from the district, all I wanted to do was to just get at it.  I knew I would learn as I went.

As the students slowly trickled in, I made sure to greet each one of them.  I had no idea who would be angels, and who would test the limits of a teacher’s, or really a human’s, patience.  

The teachers on my team told me that you could predict how good the year would be based on how many students bring in the required tissue box for the class.  

A good year could be represented by as many as 80% of the students bringing tissue in, and a bad year represented by just a handful. These kids brought in just a handful. I made the mistake of telling the students they could sit where they wanted as they came in.

The first bell rang, and I closed the door behind me and walked in.  It was a surreal feeling. 20 something pairs of eyes looking at me, waiting for me to do or say something.  I can’t remember what exactly I did, but I somehow got through that first day – so elated when it was finally over.

Looking back, it’s hard to remember the flow of events.  I can recall heart-pounding instances, and reflect on success and failures but I believe the only way to give an accurate account of what happened is to bring to light those flashbacks, those unforgettable moments of humanity at its most raw and beautiful form.

 I think that there are certain segments of the population that get to see how people truly are; their best, their worst – their most primal. This segment includes teachers, nurses and doctors, police officers, combat-veterans, social workers, emergency workers (EMTs, Firefighters), and prison guards.  I know I’m leaving some jobs out – forgive me. What we, what I have seen, is truly remarkable.

A Teacher, a Dad, a Husband

I currently teach 8th grade social studies and have been at my current location for the past 8 years.  Before that I taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade science and social studies at another school closer to the city. I love the freedom I have to teach how I think kids learn best, and the creativity to make the whole child better.

I’ve been recording many of my experiences since I first started, and believe what I’ve been through and done, whether it worked or not, is of value to the rest of the teacher (and parent) community.  I’ve made management and discipline mistakes that have cost me most of the year, and I’ve also been a part of, and created some amazing experiences that I think improved students’ lives.  

I’ve been fortunate to have the freedom to create and currently run a program called The Young Men’s Initiative, which helps 8th grade young men reach their full leadership potential.  This is accomplished (or at least attempted) through weekly meetings where we discuss everything meaningful in their lives, they mentor/tutor elementary kids, go on trips to universities and high schools, benefit from local leaders’ coming in, helping and working with disabled students, and we even went scuba diving!  I plan on bringing this up a lot.

My wife is also a teacher who works in a private K-12 building.  She’s an incredible PE teacher and an amazing partner and mom of our 3 kids.

I hope I can help other teachers who have questions about anything and everything in and out of the classroom.  I want to bring real life examples and scenarios, lessons and practices, mistakes and successes out in the open so we can all learn and help make this profession better than when we found it.  

Thanks for taking the time to get to know a little about me, and feel free to ask if you have any questions!