On being a teacher

On being a teacher

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04 Dec 08
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Here's something I wrote up about my job. I left it on my work laptop so that my replacement or employers can read it, assuming they take a look at what I put on the computer before they wipe it.

There is very little structure given when one is first given a class to teach. I was handed a textbook, a disorganized pile of worksheets and tests and such to organize and then make photocopies of, and a CD case which goes with the book and told to go to it and teach. I had never managed a classroom before, though I had been a tutor and assistant in any number of instructional roles. The lack of structure given to new teachers combined with the high levels of structure and clarity demanded from them means that you need to be organized and disciplined coming in the door. If not you’re going to have an extraordinarily difficult time.

The CD’s features mostly seem disabled. Only the online copy of the textbook and a few other things are available. I found out only recently that the “Directed Reading” worksheets, which are filled out as the textbook is read, are found in the online copy of the textbook, at the end of the Chapter Sections. This is in contrast to the Earth Science Directed Reading packets which are in a clearly labeled softcover booklet dedicated to only being a collection of these worksheets. Many of the other CD options, labeled in such a way as to suggest they might contain such worksheets, are not available, which led me to believe that the CDs were nothing more than electronic copies of the hardcopy textbook I was given and therefore useless. There was a program I could use for making crossword puzzles and I think some other resources but figuring out what was available and what was disabled and how to use each feature is a chore.

One worksheet that can be used are the Cornell Notes. These are worksheets that have statements from the book, to be turned into questions by the students, and are to be written by hand, which means preparation time. I did not know this. I thought there were master copies of these somewhere. Ms. K, the Life Science and sometimes Physical Science teacher, has some she may share, but she apparently had to prepare them herself. They are often paired with Verification Statements in which the student needs to look up statements in the textbook and provide the page, paragraph and line number that demonstrate the correctness or lack of it of statements on the worksheet. These are hand-made by the teacher, again, and again, Ms. K has some which she may share if asked.

Students like to be given pre-written notes. They like Powerpoint lists of bulleted notes which they then copy down. This takes time for the teacher to prepare.

A huge part of teaching a class is simply preparing lessons, getting worksheets ready for the copy crew to prepare two days ahead of time, distributing papers, collecting papers, grading papers, organizing papers so TAs can grade them, taking note of who is absent or had to leave the room or has In School Suspension, making sure to have their papers saved for them whenever they get back, preparing tests, calling parents to get kids in trouble, sitting with kids for detention, etc all of which takes place during the teacher’s free time (including the Preparation Period, in which the teacher is on campus working but given no specific responsibilities precisely so he can take care of some of these things). How many grades to give per day or week is very confusing to me and I end up with mountains of assignments to grade and have difficulty keeping them organized. The fact that students often do the wrong assignment, fail to put headings on their papers, etc makes this tremendously more confusing. They also often staple multiple separate assignments together when they can get their hands on a stapler, making it hard to figure out who has done what. Sometimes one assignment will be stapled to the back of a second, multiple page assignment, forcing you to look through each page and figure out how many assignments the students is turning in with a particular packet of papers.

Because students so often fail to put proper headings on their assignments, pre-printed worksheets are wonderful. They can be easily distinguished from other work. Students’ handwritten assignments are much more difficult to keep organized because you often can’t easily tell which paper is supposed to be which assignment.

Keeping the classroom environment pleasant and organized is difficult but important. Students’ charm and good qualities should be acknowledged and appreciated for the teacher’s sanity as well as to encourage the students who are doing right. Many, many students are disciplined, caring, pleasant people whose education is often badly disrupted by other students. Dealing with those disruptive students is extraordinarily difficult. You cannot just send them away. They need to have an adult escorting them at all times. If you remove them from the class somehow you need to keep track of them and make sure they are able to do all the work they need to do. In addition, students in In School Suspension need additional work just to keep them occupied, and the adults who are assigned to supervise them often ask for such. Therefore, you can not just get rid of disruptive students. Even if they’re not in the room they are still your responsibility and require your energy and attention.

There are parents asking for your time and attention. There are observers coming in to check you out. There are fellow teachers asking for help, students running up to you in crowds and poking you and shouting at you for anything from requests for help in your class to requests to talk about the latest video game. They’ll run into rooms you unlock and then hide and refuse to leave, keeping you from leaving until you can coax them out, while other students run into the room behind you. This makes it very difficult to move around the campus quickly making preparations. They are just being affectionately mischievous and friendly but it slows everything down.

I do NOT recommend going to graduate school while teaching both for the first time. Graduate school is rigorous and formal. My “Introduction to Teaching and Learning” class at Loyola Marymount University was basically structured in a “read a lot of stuff that is not available at the bookstore and then write a ten page detailed paper about your formal management/assessment/intervention/whatever plan and how it connects to what authorities in educational science have written.” It’s basically another pile of time consuming and stressful work that gets piled on top of you and in which an authority figure judges your worthiness as you’re trying to figure out what you need to do in the classroom. I was told that I should not be expected to get good nights’ sleep by my co-teacher because of my choice to go to graduate school. They have their own set of observers who come and check you out and who require formal lesson plans prepared ahead of time including details on demographics, what special accommodations students get who had Individual Education Plans, which California Standards you’re addressing, which other standards (TPEs?) you’re addressing, etc. I found I had a lot of teachers and professors and observers and co teachers and various authority figures coming and going and analyzing and critiquing and giving seemingly contradictory advice, each of whom insisted on having their individual demands taken care of in a prompt and efficient manner.

In fact, teachers (even those who majored in education like my sister, who got her B.A. in Urban Learning – not a common major for middle school teachers it seems, who have majors like Math or English) seem to be trained in content, but never given a “Teaching For Idiots” class. LMU’s Introduction to Teaching and Learning teaches teaching theory, not practical classroom and course management. The horror and trauma of a teacher’s first year are legendary throughout the field. It’s just part of the job; a hazing process in which those who are not truly dedicated are weeded out.

8th Grade Physical Science and the California Standards for it are important because the students are tested on it by the state and this may influence the funding the school gets.

Supplies are often bought by the teacher, though many things can be ordered through the office catalogs. Supplies are often treated communally and not returned. Students destroy chairs and stools by standing on the rings supporting the legs. Once the ring is broken off the stool, students will then refuse to sit on it.

In the classroom students shout, walk around, throw things, etc unless you figure out some way to keep this from happening. The constant shouting and ignoring of the teacher is extremely wearying and frustrating. The single strongest tool seems to be the telephone call home. This, however, especially when paired with a formal Detention form, adds more homework to the job. Teachers have a lot of homework of their own to do. It’s just part of their reality. You don’t get to go home and leave your job behind on campus. As a teacher, especially one going to graduate school, your time outside of work is not your own. You are expected to spend much of that time preparing for the time you spend in the classroom. As a salaried professional, you are on the clock in an informal way all the time.

On the bright side many, many of the students are wonderful, most of your co-workers are wonderful, and pretty much anyone in the field understands how hard it all is. It is said that once you get used to it things become much easier. Student charm and affection are powerful and very pleasant.

p

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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
Here's something I wrote up about my job. I left it on my work laptop so that my replacement or employers can read it, assuming they take a look at what I put on the computer before they wipe it.

There is very little structure given when one is first given a class to teach. I was handed a textbook, a disorganized pile of worksheets and tests and ...[text shortened]... d to it things become much easier. Student charm and affection are powerful and very pleasant.
I'd frame this except I'm jealous that you get prep periods and someone to help with grading.


Well done, mate!

S
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05 Dec 08

Originally posted by AThousandYoung
Here's something I wrote up about my job. I left it on my work laptop so that my replacement or employers can read it, assuming they take a look at what I put on the computer before they wipe it.

There is very little structure given when one is first given a class to teach. I was handed a textbook, a disorganized pile of worksheets and tests and ...[text shortened]... d to it things become much easier. Student charm and affection are powerful and very pleasant.
My wife was a teacher in Fayetteville , Arkansas for 15 years before we got married. In 1974 , she began teaching for $6474 a year. In 1987, she got her Masters in Education and was making around $22K When she left teaching, She was making about $25K, this after receiving several national awards for her work with special needs children. All this after the education governor, Bill Clinton had been for a few terms and had promised to raise the teachers salaries (that happened a couple yrs after the wife went to teach corporate executives how to use computers)

Her major compliants about teaching were school board members who didn't know anything about teaching and parents who plain demanded more from the teachers then they demanded from their children.

Immigration Central

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Originally posted by pawnhandler
I'd frame this except I'm jealous that you get prep periods and someone to help with grading.


Well done, mate!
I gave notice πŸ™

P
Banned from edits

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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
I gave notice πŸ™
I quit being a teacher after the 2008 school year. I miss the kids terribly, but thats all I miss. I taught at the school for 5 years. I posted about my job and my leaving at length over the years.


As it turns out, along with the great success in my new career, it was the best decision I ever made.

edit - and much of what you say in your first post does go along with my experiences as well. People just can't know what being a teacher is until they do it.

Immigration Central

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Originally posted by PocketKings
I quit being a teacher after the 2008 school year. I miss the kids terribly, but thats all I miss. I taught at the school for 5 years. I posted about my job and my leaving at length over the years.


As it turns out, along with the great success in my new career, it was the best decision I ever made.
My heart's breaking thinking of the kids I'll leave behind πŸ™.

P
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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
My heart's breaking thinking of the kids I'll leave behind πŸ™.
I keep in touch with many of them over email, and have had a few gatherings for lunch with them. You never forget them. But you really have to do whats best for your future.

We can always go back to it someday if we want to. But right now, teaching just plain sucks.

Immigration Central

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Originally posted by PocketKings
I keep in touch with many of them over email, and have had a few gatherings for lunch with them. You never forget them. But you really have to do whats best for your future.

We can always go back to it someday if we want to. But right now, teaching just plain sucks.
I take solace in the fact that education is a failing industry, and that everyone knows it. That is, I take solace because this suggests that my unpleasant experiences and difficulties are probably rooted in the nature of the industry and not just my own failings.

The idea of keeping in touch with my students feels kind of creepy to me somehow. I don't feel comfortable being an adult man keeping in touch with young teenagers who I chose to stop teaching.

p

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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
I gave notice πŸ™
I totally understand! πŸ™ Someone once said it's the only job where you have to be an experienced master on your very first day of work. Do you have another way to work with kids?

Immigration Central

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Originally posted by pawnhandler
I totally understand! πŸ™ Someone once said it's the only job where you have to be an experienced master on your very first day of work. Do you have another way to work with kids?
I'm planning to be a substitute teacher, but I really like the long term building of relationships which being a sub will not really allow.

ZellulΓ€rer Automat

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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
I gave notice πŸ™
That's a shame. Wrong environment for you?

What are you going to do now?

Kali

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Originally posted by AThousandYoung
I take solace in the fact that education is a failing industry, and that everyone knows it. That is, I take solace because this suggests that my unpleasant experiences and difficulties are probably rooted in the nature of the industry and not just my own failings.

The idea of keeping in touch with my students feels kind of creepy to me somehow. I ...[text shortened]... fortable being an adult man keeping in touch with young teenagers who I chose to stop teaching.
I was a teacher for 14 years, an accountant for 10, and a FC/IT manager for about 5. Now Im a small businessman 2 yrs now. Looking back teaching has the most job-satisfaction by far, and accounting the least. Accounting has the most money and teaching the least.

Yes, the teaching profession has many flaws, but I think teachers (good ones - apparently like yoursefl) underestimate what an important role they play in the lives of students... especially if they are in their teens. Many young people have uncaring idiots for parents, who lack the ability to guide them and good teachers fill a very important need in society.

Doug Stanhope

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Originally posted by Bosse de Nage
That's a shame. Wrong environment for you?

What are you going to do now?
Causing terror among the neighbors while cycling high around the hood?

STS

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Subs make up to $150/day in California, depending on the district. No papers to grade, no developing lesson plans, no staff meetings, just take roll and tell the students to do the assignment, work 6 hours and go home. You also get in the Calif State Teacher Retirement system as a sub .Just get in with a school you like and stay there instead of bouncing around the district.

It's a sweeeeeeeet gig if you do it right.

p

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Originally posted by Sam The Sham
Subs make up to $150/day in California, depending on the district. No papers to grade, no developing lesson plans, no staff meetings, just take roll and tell the students to do the assignment, work 6 hours and go home. You also get in the Calif State Teacher Retirement system as a sub .Just get in with a school you like and stay there instead of bouncing around the district.

It's a sweeeeeeeet gig if you do it right.
In Arizona a sub can only work 120 days in one school during the school year. But if you're a long-term sub, you have to do everything a teacher does without benefits like insurance and holiday pay.