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HELP!!!!! New Teacher Wants To Regain Control

1196836_crazy_faceIvy writes:

I am in my first year as a Special Education teacher. My class is out of control. Kids are yelling at each other. Nobody is focused on their work. I am yelling and screaming and they are talking back and yelling back at me. Everybody is trying to help me out. Some say I need to be more positive, some say I need to be stronger and more strict. I do not know what to do. As a group, they are against me. The situation is very confrontational. I can not stop them going crazy. The kids know it. They are going crazy but they do not care. Some kids even have a lot of fun of it. they want the class go crazy so I can get fired. Please help. I am seriously thinking resignation because I do not think I can turn the classroom around since I can not change the nature of some of the students.


Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

13 thoughts on “HELP!!!!! New Teacher Wants To Regain Control

  1. Firstly the kids do not like it, they may look like it but they do not. Going to be hard! Do you thank kids for doing the right thing and not punish those that do not? Have you asked them how they would like to be asked to be quiet? Have you asked them how they would like to learn? Do you smile? Do they have work they can do? Lots of questions that only you can answer!

  2. Great questions. Some of the kids might like it for a while, but it gets old. I find that usually when kids act out, it is because they enjoy seeing my reaction.

    Even in my 8th year, I was reminded yesterday that when I say things like “thank you Juan for sitting up straight and being quiet,” that other students will follow without having to be told to do so. It’s just challenging to remember to do that all the time.

  3. Ivy, I would strongly suggest reading Harry Wong’s The First Days of School. There’s something in therecalled the 4 P’s= Prepared, Prompt, Productive, Polite. This is the basis for your classroom rules. Go over the rules with the whole class. Set aside time for it. Do not let administration tell you that it’s unnecessary. It is so necessary because if you don’t have control over the class, you CANNOT teach.
    I am here to tell you that once you get the classroom management under control, your job will be a pleasure. It’s not as hard as you think. It’s a little bit of work, but not hard. You have to let them know that you are in control. If you don’t have the confidence, fake it ’til you make it. When you tell the students something, act like it’s a foregone conclusion that they are going to do it. Most importantly, follow through. If you tell them you are going to do something, do it. DO NOT ISSUE EMPTY THREATS! I REPEAT, DO NOT ISSUE EMPTY THREATS. You may have to face off with the unruliest student. I’m not sure if that scares you or not. Even if it does, think of the alternative. Once you establish that you won’t back down and the students know you mean it, they will respect you.
    I used to tell my students that I wasn’t perfect. That covers your bases. That way if they try to throw something in your face that you did, you can respond with that.
    If you need further advice you can email me @

  4. I find myself doing some of the same things as a 2nd year teacher and it’s frustrating and makes me sad. It’s exhausting to yell and really not worth your energy. I agree it seems like they like making the chaos but in reality they do desire a peaceful larning environment. This is going to take some planning on your part, but you might want to try to make an incentive for the kids. Like let them play a game at the end of class if they do well that day. Only let the ones who do well participate (which may only be 2 at first) and the others need to do a writing assignment. Eventually they should see that doing the wrong thing is not getting them anything positive. Some kids may never turn, but if you can get some or most to, that is an accomplishment. Also, have you tried having a “real” conversation with the class where you come more to their level and ask why they are acting out? You may find a positive response when they see that you care about them. Good luck, hang in there and remember that every year is different and teaching is a constant battle with many rewards in the end.

  5. One thing that worked for me was what I called “The Chain of Success” that involved paper chains. I told the class that I would put a check mark on the board each time they were so noisy I couldn’t teach or so rude that I couldn’t teach (etc). If they got less than a certain number of checks (don’t start off too strict because you want them to be successful but don’t start off to lenient or they won’t improve) on the board per hr. or class period, we would add a paper chain to the chain that began on the ceiling hanging down. When it reached the floor, the whole class would get a reward (homework pass, or educational movie or whatever you think the class would like). The kids started monitoring themselves so they could get a paper chain added. Be consistent though and don’t put a check up for the behavior on one day and not the next. Be clear about what positive behaviors you are looking for.

  6. Also another thing that worked for me was to find something positive to say about a student and call home to brag on them. The next day, ask that student if the parents told them what you said and if not, tell that student what you said. Try to call the parents every two weeks to brag on them. If a student asks why you haven’t called home, ask that student to help you find something positive to tell the parents. The parents love this and brag on the student and then the student comes to class and tries harder. It breaks the negative cycle that they are used to.

  7. Ivy,

    When do you find that you start losing control? What sort of procedures and structure do you have set up in your class? If you don’t mind sharing, what type of Special Ed. class do you teach? There’s a big difference between the management of ED and LD.

    If you can provide us some more information, we can provide more specialized suggestions. It sounds like generalities probably won’t work, though “the first year is always the hardest” does seem appropriate to insert here :)


  8. It’s late in the year. And it is usually far more difficult to regain control than to start with it and keep it. There may not be much to salvage (especially if your year ends very soon).

    1. Focus on surviving the last few days or weeks.
    2. Focus on having a good break, a restorative break.
    3. Look through the excellent ideas that have been shared here. Think of which ones (or perhaps something else) you’d like to adopt for the new school year, when we all start fresh, and think of what you would need to do to make it work for you.

  9. First, take a deep breath. Relaaaax. You will make it.

    I have absolutely been there, and I think a lot of teachers have. One of the most important things, I think, is to pull aside individual students, usually a few minutes after the behavior, and talk to them individually. Show concern and worry when you can, and explain that you need their help. Ask them what you can do differently to motivate them, or why they are behaving the way they are ("Is there something changing at home?"). Sometimes this doesn't help, but sometimes you'd be amazed what they're dealing with.

    Make sure that you are giving them motivating tasks to do. I know it's hard to give them something active or hands-on when you're afraid they're going to destroy everything, but worksheets are not going to make these kids want to work. Math manipulatives were great for me, as they usually promote learning but the kids consider them a privilege (and don't like when they're taken away). They also make a great incentive for better behavior earlier, especially if you put something interesting in plain view. "We'll get to do that later, if we can finish this activity!" Choices (even between two seemingly boring activities) can also make some students happier and more compliant.

    If there are individual students giving you a lot of trouble, try to find previous teachers who have worked with them. Ask them what they found that worked, and don't stop trying new things until something works. I had three students who needed individual behavior plans on their desk. For two of them, keeping track of the day in smiley faces and frowny faces helped them to succeed. They learned to monitor how they were doing much better. The third student, though, was only great until he got a frowny face, and then the world came to an end. We had to change his system. I also have one student now who does not change misbehavior for any reason- until you threaten to call her mom. And until I did it, she didn't believe me. Now, I give her a quick countdown- 3, 2, 1, and if she hasn't made a better choice, I call her mom. Usually as I start to walk towards the phone, she instantly stops.

    I think what has KEPT her behaving well is that I've sent home two positive notes (in less than two weeks). She told me her mom keeps every one. Positive notes or calls really help to reinforce good behavior. If you need to, call and focus on one behavior or area of strength.

    I think you just have to find what works with the worst offenders, and make sure that you follow through on consequences. Once you have followed through in front of the other students a few times, they'll start to think twice before misbehaving.

  10. There are great suggestions already posted. I would also recommend you get your administrator involved. Discuss which students are your worst offenders, those who are breaking school rules consistently. Pre-arrange with your administrator what some consequences would be for those students (it may not be the same for all). Then, when necessary, CALMLY send them to the office, let the administrator mete out the consequences and word will get around. (It's called "good-cop, back-cop.")
    As a teacher of students with emotional disabilities, I have an understanding with my administrator. S/he knows that if I send a student to his/her office, then I've tried everything I can think of and some consequences need to be administered. (I also recommend certain consequences because I know what my students would absolutely hate!)
    Good luck and hang in there!

  11. I found a great site that can help you with your problem… has tons of free content to help you gain control of your class. There is also a number of free ebooks available on the site dealing with classroom management. Good luck to you and I hope that your upcoming school year is better than your last!

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