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February 27, 2020, 06:35:16 pm

Author Topic: Teacher crisis!  (Read 322 times)

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Teacher crisis!
« on: September 19, 2019, 07:32:20 pm »
Hey everyone!

I'm currently a secondary school maths teacher and am relatively new to the career. I love everything about my job - my colleagues, learning something new everyday and most importantly, the kids, but something that's very demotivating are some of my students.

I work at a low socioeconomic school, so naturally there will be those types of students that don't pay attention, and it's really starting to hurt. At times, it feels like I'm teaching brick walls because no one even listens. Don't get me wrong, there are students that I absolutely love, but that's unfortunately the minority.

I personally don't think I'm a terrible teacher, hell I would even go as far to say that I'm doing well for a newbie, so it also doesn't help that a lot of my class is failing the tests given, despite me giving them all the resources available. I feel extremely disheartened, and am not sure on where to go from here. Lately, I've upped the ante and became more stern, but I don't think this is working well.

Cheers everyone, whether you are a student or teacher, any input would be great :)


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Re: Teacher crisis!
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2019, 08:54:21 pm »
Hi there!

Some possibilities you might like to consider, depending on what you're trying already:

Have you tried asking them for their input, such as how they're finding class? If you're willing to ask them for their opinions in a way you're comfortable with, and they trust you, you'll receive useful info.

Could their lack of attention be a sign that they're struggling? Sometimes if students feel hopeless about a subject the reaction can be to disengage, even as a protective measure.

Rather than trying to be more stern, have you tried expanding your teach repertoire? Somtimes trying our a new method or approach can help to engage students, as can linking it to their real life experience. If you have a sporty crowd, maybe real life applications that match the math content to things where you take them out of the classroom or even just use videos as a safer option can help. If it feels relevant, there's a greater chance they'll tune in.

There's always a temptation to give resources and provide info, but they still need to know what to do with it and how to make sense of it. Have you thought about how using small group activities or differentiating, if you're not already, so that you can deal with those who aren't paying that much attention in a different way? A few minutes one on one, even just to check in, or to work more slowly through some difficulties, will likely earn you respect.

My advice would be basically: don't blame them. Instead, find out what's going on, look to reach them and maybe ask a colleague for their opinion. But it's tough, and the fact that you want to continue improving is a great thing. Hope this helps a little!
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Re: Teacher crisis!
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2019, 10:38:08 pm »
My first position as a teacher was a extremely low SES school and I was given a Year 10 maths class full of kids who didn't want to be there (majority VCAL bound - its not a bad thing but I was fighting a losing battle to begin with).

To be honest I think trying to make whatever you are teaching relevant to them is a great starting point. One of the first topics I did was statistics and naturally that's a topic where you can integrate sports stats etc into it. Some lessons I barely got anything done but just spent that time talking to the kids and building rapport. If you don't have a strong positive rapport with your students, there is no point in even teaching them, especially in the socioeconomic context you work with.

Teaching is about relationships first and foremost. Content is an important part of being a teacher but a good teacher has people skills and uses that to weave in their 'audience'.

You should be allowed and free to change things up and do things differently given you are a grad. I think also accepting that not every student wants to engage in your subject area and not every student will do well regardless of the work you put in, is a good step as well. Trying to be the wiz where everybody comes in and accepts you, your teaching, your subject and your content is an impossible idea and will never happen.

In a discipline such as maths where there is already a pre-conceived stigma also adds to the challenge. I would seek out an experienced colleague for advice and tips or tricks how to differentiate. Doing board work and textbook work (repeat cycle) will work for some but for the vast majority this way of teaching is extremely outdated and just doesn't work overall. If the kids don't get it or don't have an opportunity to feel some sort of success in your subject, they will continue to feel like they're 'dumb' and why would you try if you have already accepted this. Definitely try to cater your teaching to their current level whatever that may be - just because they are in Year 7, Year 10 etc. does not mean you explicitly teach Year 7 content and that's it. The mathematics curriculum is on a continuum and every kid is somewhere and that's what you need to figure out. If a student doesn't know how to multiply whole numbers, how can you expect them to be able to multiply fractions (for example)... or even do any topic that involves this operation.

If we're talking about VCE classes, the socioeconomic context plays a significant role in student attitudes. It honestly does.

I have worked in schools of various socioeconomic contexts from the lowest end you can go to currently now at the higher end. There's a massive difference but starting out in a low SES school will make you a much better teacher in the long run due to the additional challenges that you are forced to overcome.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 10:49:33 pm by Aaron »
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