Teaching Advice, Please

Aug 10th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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Teaching Advice, Please

On Monday Iíll start the job I hate the most Ė teaching teenagers Spanish and English until Christmas. For once, Iíve known I got the job well in advance, several weeks really, but havenít got around to preparing myself. I still have some time though. The first week there will only be teachers around. They are even worse, but at least it will not be my responsibility to impose discipline. I donít know what weíll do. Probably group talks about how to live up to the new slogan of the municipality. I barely survived the last teaching job I had. My problem is that I understand why the pupils hate school and to them empathy is the same as weakness. Now I have to install mortal fear in their confused little brains and dark little hearts. Iíve been told the first meeting is all-important. What should I do? Head-casting? Soil-horning? Sideswiping? Cavorting? Pawing and defecating?

If I post this on a teaching forum Iíll just get snide remarks about that there are reasons there are teaching colleges.
Nyamera is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 02:42 PM
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With all due respect, why do you teach? You obviously hate it, hate the children you teach, the other teachers etc. etc. It's quite sad if you are only doing it for the money, kids will learn and want to learn with the right teacher and/or environment, and you are not giving them that environment with your attitude about the whole job. DO some good and teach them empathy is NOT weakness. TEACH them Nyamera, don't just sit there waiting for a paycheck. There are teachers out there that want to teach and inspire children to learn more. I had a teacher in 6th grade (many years ago)that inspired me to learn and read and keep learning and I still have a thirst for learning, thanks to her.

Why don't you adopt a positive approach this year and see if it rubs off on your class, who knows, maybe YOU will become an inspiration to learn. You really have nothing to lose.

I don't mean to offend, but the childrens minds are in YOUR hands for the time you are with them each day...USE that time wisely and TEACH them.
matnikstym is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 02:46 PM
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There are reasons there are teaching colleges. (Just kidding)

You need to come prepared for the first day, if you look like a bumbler you have lost them. Have your material ready and know what you are going to tell them.

What I do is start (after finding out if they are in the right class)by telling the students that I will respect them as students and assist them as much as possible in mastering the material but I expect them to respect me as a teacher and also respect their fellow students as learners. I give them a short list of things I don't allow in class popping gum, rubricating, etc.) and then tell them a story either about the boy who brought a puppy to class or the boy who sat in the back row with two pencils up his nose. I then ask the what I said about that kind of behavior. The smart ones will answer correctly "nothing" and then I will explain that the conduct didn't violate my rules (one of which is do not disturb the other students, but it these cases they didn't) so it was fine. Usually I use the puppy story because it has a funny ending. One day the puppy didn't come to class and someone asked the boy where it was. Turns out it wasn't his puppy, it was his girlfriend's and they broke up. Next class a group of students approached him and aksed him to get back together with her because they missed the puppy. The point is that I don't have a lot of rules, but I do expect the ones I have to be followed.

I also tell them a story about a returning woman student who approached me because she was very worried she would not be able to do well in a science course. I asked her if she was a good student and she indicated she was. I told her not to worry. I usually have some senior pharmacy majors take my course because it's the first time they have a chance to take an elective. They have had nothing but math and science courses for 3 years. That semester was the first time one of them didn't have the highest grade in the course. That's right, the woman who had been out of school for years was the lucida. The reason I tell this story is so none of them start by thinking they can't excel in the course.

We also go over how the course will run, how testing will be done, and then we get started. I try to tell them a few things they don't know in the first class to start them thinking that they will learn something in the class (see rubricating and lucida above).

I've been teaching for 17 years and have not had a problem yet, knock on wood. After a while you don't even have to worry about it as most of the students will have heard of you by reputation and will already know they need to behave in your class. Of course these are college students so this may not apply in your case.
tuckeg is offline  
Aug 10th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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Nyamera- I've done a little teaching of high school and adult students. I learned from the "school of hard knocks" that you must start class prepared for class. Tell them what is expected of them both academically and behaviorally. Like the above replies have said.

But what I really want to say is this. Now listen up to your old Uncle Tom. For around 15 years I was not satisfied with a major area of my life and I could not decide what to do, if anything, about it. I could have just let it continue and life would have been tolerable. Living in a semi-comfortable rut. Change can be scary with all of its uncertainties. But I finally asked myself this question, if I am dying, on "my death bed", will I say - "Why did I live the last 20 years of my life that way? Why did I waste it?" I do not want to be thinking that when I die. If what you are doing seems like you are wasting your life away, stop doing it as soon as you possibly can. Maybe not tomorrow, you don't have to drop everything and run. But resolve yourself to making it happen. In my case it took me about six months to make it happen. And I no longer fear that question will be on my mind as I am dying.

And now, back to happy talk, your regularly scheduled Fodors forum - safari - I will be starting safari in South Africa three weeks from tomorrow

regards - tom
ps - no, that decision I had to make had nothing to do with travel.
cary999 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 05:53 AM
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Dennis, you say you donít mean to offend, but you do to a very high degree. Iím not sitting here waiting for the paycheck, or, itís not what Iíll be doing from next week. During the spring term I didnít sleep more than 5 hours a single night because I was trying to TEACH things that I was quite clueless about. I did this because it was what I was being paid to do and because the 1 or 2 pupils in each class who wanted to learn deserved it. Being an inspiration is something I fantasized about the first time I was thrown into a classroom completely unprepared. Only a small minority of the people who want to be teachers and who spend years learning how to teach achieve being an inspiration to learn. Iíve always more or less failed Ė the last time it was ďmoreĒ because it was an extreme school Ė at being an acceptable teacher, and it has always been because Iím not good enough at the dominance displays needed to keep the majority that doesnít want to learn but do want to get good grades away from the influence the minority who want to take over the class. When I ask the pupils what I can do to make the classroom a better environment for learning, they almost invariably say, ďyou have to scream at us?Ē and if I ask if they behave better with other teachers and why that is, I get the answer, ďbecause weíre afraid of him/herĒ. My last job was an exception, as I was told I was a bad teacher and there was nothing I could. This was because they had had one of those rare teachers that are an inspiration to learn. Of course, a unique individual like that got a better offer and left in the middle of the school year. When I talk with parents to the pupils that tell me to throw myself from a bridge and who throw things at me, or the parents of their victims Iím ALWAYS told I have to show them whoís in charge. They donít use antelope vocabulary, but their expressions are very crude. Now Iím convinced itís the only language the calves of our species understand. Though personally Iím an aberration to nature and Iíve always hated dominance displays. The school where Iíll start working on Monday is next to my old ďhigh schoolĒ where Iíve vowed never again to set my foot because there were some people who tried to frighten me. The answer to your question ďwhy do you teachĒ is without any doubt ďonly for the moneyĒ.

Tuckeg, thanks for your stories and advice. Iíll have to prepare my own rules and stories. The problem with the rules is that the school also has rules that have to be followed even if they donít exactly make sense to me, and the problem with the stories is that Iíll have to make them up. The puppy story made me think that school would be a much nicer place if there were animals. Unfortunately, many young people have allergies.

Tom, I resolved myself to making things happen a long time ago, but to me itís taking a lot more than six months.
Have a wonderful safari!
Nyamera is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 06:47 AM
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BTW, I think Iím going to Kenya next year. Iíll earn good money this autumn and even if Iíll just have evening classes (with grown ups who want to learn), short-term supply teaching and Nyamera Kenya Imports during spring term, I will be able to manage my style of Kenya trip. Though thereís a risk I can no longer get evening classes and I might decide to do something serious with Nyamera Kenya Imports - and then Iíll run out of money completely. Iíll look for school jobs after Christmas as well, but Iíd prefer almost anything that would give the same money.
Nyamera is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 07:07 AM
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FWIW, I tried teaching last year and found that I did not have the aptitude for it. There are great, inspirational teachers out there, and it's not right for the kids for me to be a mediocre one. And I thought that I loved kids but found that they get on my nerves after a while, and more, they just plain made me mad. So, now I work in the office of a middle school. The money is a little less, but the stress is WAY less. And I am still a positive influence on their lives, since I can help the ones that need it. I have been looking for my niche in the school system, and there are many ancillary jobs, where you can be with kids that want to be with you - I considered being an athletic trainer, where you work with the various school teams kepping them healthy. That would suit me to a T since I love youth sports, 2 of my boys are athletes, but it requires more training, 4 years, that I am willing to commit to now.

Anyway, would anything like that work for you, Nyamera? or, could you make a career teaching adults, who, as you say, want to be there? i just finished a class (Spanish) with some other adults, and our professor loves teaching adults. That's all she does.

It really does sound like you are burned out on kids, and that's not fair to them, or you.
Momliz is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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or if not burned out on kids, burned out on your system which seems to give you a shocking lack of support.
Momliz is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 10:11 AM
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Nyamera -

As a parent of 3 teens - one in college, one in high school and one in middle school it greatly disturbs me to read your post. If you hate what you are doing, DON'T TEACH! Students can certainly clue into your feelings about what you are doing and perhaps that is why they don't seem to respond to you. My advice for you is to find something you are passionate about and find a career in this area, you will be giving more to your students by leaving and finding a job you enjoy than subjecting them to your unhappiness!
MikeDeb60 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2007, 11:04 AM
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Momliz, thanks for your thoughts. I was burned out on the school system and on kids in groups already as a pupil. I donít see it as Iím taking the job from a great inspirational teacher. As I have no teaching training AT ALL, schools only contact me when they canít find anyone else. Iím doing the dirty work no one else wants to do. Iíd definitely Ė even though itís not what I want to do with my life Ė prefer office work Ė and as far away from a school as possible. But, competition for office work is very stiff and I really donít have a chance. I know exactly what I have to do and thatís to find a good business idea. Iím already trying to sell Kenyan ďcuriosĒ and itís not a good idea. Talking about burnout, the teacher who had this job last year was medically burned out, at home and in bed for much of the year. Iíve already met some of the pupils when I had that teacherís Spanish the last weeks before Christmas when I really should have been dedicating 24/7 to Nyamera Kenya Imports. For those groups itís a bit late for a good first meeting. One boy told me he was going to ďcrushĒ me. I took it a joke of bad taste, but I hope heís no longer having Spanish. Then I had to bribe them to sing villancicos (Spanish Christmas carols). Later the school phoned me when I already was at another school, so I donít think the pupils learnt that much Spanish last year. Now theyíve hired a very qualified teacher, but sheíll be on maternity leave until Christmas and thatís why I got the job.

MikeDeb60, great idea to do something Iím passionate about instead of something I hate! Iíll try that Ö But, Iíll certainly not say ďno thanksĒ to a teaching job while not having a better option. Your post reminds me of whatís even worse than teachers and pupils Ė parents! Donít worry Iíll not teach your kids.
Nyamera is offline  

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