Teacher (T): “Oh, happy to help. First off, a caveat: Asking me questions about teaching in February/March isn’t ideal. This is the time of year when teachers and students are all incredibly burned out and sick of each other, and were still several weeks away from spring break. ” Me: “Fair enough! I have never taught in your capacity so I will take your word for it. What is your job title, what are the subject area you teach, and the age of your students? T: “That’s a mouthful. K lets see. I am a high school English teacher.
I usually teach 9th grade (14-15 year olds) and juniors/seniors (16-18 year olds). Me: Very cool. And what motivated you to want to teach? T: “l have always loved school and learning, and eventually realized that I was seeking out training positions at all of my previous jobs. It finally occurred to me that should just go back to school to be a teacher. ” Me: Got it, well that makes sense. Do you have a philosophy of teaching or a particular type of pedagogy that you believe in? ” T: “Honestly, our teaching methods are largely dictated by the school district.
We are constantly being trained in current best practice and are expected to demonstrate those teaching ethos in our classroom. Something that has always been important to me personally, though, is having high expectations for students. I have had to defend that quite often though, surprisingly, and have definitely lowered my expectations over the years because I’ve grown tired of fighting the battle. Me: Oh my… Sounds like you have good reasons to feel frustrated. Again, this is exactly the kind of stuff was curious about, so thanks for being so candid with me. Ender, sort of along these lines how does the reality of the job square with how you envisioned it would be to teach? T: ” There are things I love about teaching, and teachers have always been under-appreciated, but the current political climate and attitude toward education makes it very difficult to be a teacher. I also never could have guessed how awful some parents can be. You go into teaching expecting to deal with difficult students, but the parents are much, much worse than the kids. ” Me: “No kidding. And what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
And the most challenging? ‘ T: “The most rewarding aspect of the job is when kids visit or email from college o thank me for being their high school English teacher. Recently received a message from a former student who told me he was the highest-ranked student in his college English course, and he knew it was only because he had me for two years in high school. That kind of stuff is really rewarding. What’s challenging is the way that both parents and administrators want to coddle kids to the extent that we’re setting them up to be failures in the real world.
Nobody wants to let kids fail in high school, which is ludicrous and infuriating to me, and all the teachers know. Me: ‘That all makes sense to me. Again, thanks for this window into your working life! What are the greatest needs of the children you teach? ‘ T: “I usually teach AP- and honors-level courses, so my students’ greatest needs usually have to do with mental health issues depression and suicide attempts are a big problem and home problems like parents getting divorced, students having negative relationships with their parents rather than with academic or behavioral concerns.
Me: “Got it. Uh huh. And what do you see as important factors in children’s lives that motivate them to learn? T: “High school students are so social that they have a difficult time learning whenever they are preoccupied with a social issue (breakup, fight with a friend, Homecoming week, etc. ). Of course, another factor is the ability to see the value of education in the real world. Students who lack that have a difficult time motivating themselves to work hard. ” Me: ” Uh huh. I see. And the biggest obstacles to learning? T: “The biggest obstacles are things that are almost completely outside of the teacher’s control, such as poverty, mental health issues, family problems, etc. There are also students who do not value learning or education, and it is very difficult to get those students engaged. ” Me: Yeah hear that, hear that. What are typically the first things you notice and pay attention to when you arrive to class? ” T: “l try to talk to my students as they enter the room and see how their day is going so far. Most of the time, this just helps me build rapport with my kids.
Sometimes, with challenging students, that also becomes a way to gauge what kind Of an attitude the student is going to have in class that day. For example, can think of one student last year who had mental health, behavioral, and family issues. She and got along pretty well and didn’t have too many problems, but if she was already having a bad day and didn’t know it, she could escalate into inappropriate/disrespectful behavior pretty quickly. ” Me: ” No kidding. I get the sense you have decent people skills, that’s needed in your profession!
Anyway, how do you see the role of the school social worker? ” T: “We don’t have a school social worker, per SE. We have a school psychologist who will observe students in the classroom if problems have plopped and who will help to plan accommodations and plans for students in need of them. We also have four guidance counselors who deal with everything from students failing classes to family problems to mental health issues. ” Me: “Oh K. Have you ever called upon any of these other professionals for assistance with a student? If so, how did that go? T: “l often contact students’ guidance counselors if I have academic, social, or behavioral concerns. It depends on how well the counselor knows the student in question (and, to some extent, which counselor it is), but it can be very helpful o get another perspective and some background on the student, e. G. Does the student have a history of behavior issues? Are there certain learning styles that help him/her focus or learn better? There’s not usually an “easy’ answer to working with the student, but they can often give me information that wouldn’t have had otherwise. ” Me: “Got it. Right on.
How does that school manage parent outreach? ” T: “OUr school hosts parent-teacher conferences device per year (once at the beginning of each semester). Teachers also meet with parents as needed to address academic or behavioral concerns. Administration is usually not a part of those meetings unless it is requested by the parent or teacher, or unless it is a serious ongoing issue. Me: “Gotcha. What is your approach to developing relationships with parents? ” T: “l send a letter home with all of my contact information and academic and behavior expectations at the beginning of each course. Nearly send mass emails a couple times a semester about what we’re doing in class, and follow up individually to address questions or concerns. ” Me: K. How important or not important do you see developing DOD relationships with parents to be? ” T: “It’s important, but I hate it. It’s my least favorite aspect of teaching. Have often found working with parents to be challenging and time-consuming, and sometimes dealing with them even makes things worse. Because of the negative experiences Eve had, I’ve become more reluctant to include parents. Legalize that’s not the way it should be, but dealing with a crazy mother for months on end will make anyone think twice about calling home about a student (Seriously, I have some stories about really insane mothers. If you ever decide to write a book r paper on that topic, definitely let me know! )” Me: “Ha. I definitely appreciate your honesty! Have you ever held parent-teacher conferences, and if so, what is your goal with them and what tends to be the outcome? ” T: “Usually, parents just want to meet you and know how their student is doing in your class. Ray to come prepared to speak to students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as to the overall course goals. ” thank her for her time and we say goodbye. Conclusion rather enjoyed being able to picture the teacher’s job and perspectives on her job. My feeling is that this teacher intellectually understands the importance of creating relationships with parents and the importance of living into the worlds of her students – she called it rapport building – but I am not convinced she really has a felt sense for it, it feels like an intellectual knowing as opposed to a knowing in the bones.
It’s not that can’t empathic with dealing with difficult parents, but I cannot help but think that if the teacher truly saw the importance of relationships and involving parents she would approach it in a way that might produce different outcomes -? not that t would necessarily cancel out her hate but there would also be stories of how great it was to see “so and co’s” parent, and things of that nature.
Furthermore, the way the teacher spoke of the mental health professionals and their role – there was a definite appreciation for their services, but her talking about this piece also seemed to lack a certain depth and vibrancy – I am reminded of her opening caveat statement regarding this time period being particularly straining.
I did not get a sense that the teacher has a genuine interest in the emotional worlds of her students, but instead felt hat she instead does what she minimally has to in order to create a rapport for the sake of making the process of imparting the academic information as smooth as possible, but beyond that the “drama” of their other lives and interests appear to be seen as mere obstacles to taking in and assimilating the information she wishes to impart on the students.