T Nation

Any High-School Teachers Here?


#1

I am making a career change and have given thought to getting my teacher's licensure to teach high-school science. My bachelors is in physics and I've spent the last odd years working in hazmat as a full-time city firefighter. It was a good experience, but I left due to the horrid sleep patterns and what it was doing to my personal life outside of the station.

I just would like to get some thoughts from those whom have been in the classrooms teaching kids. What do you like, what do you dislike, what are some frustrations you find working in the school system, etcetera.


#2

tldr: Preparation, patience, repetitiveness, and don’t use calculators

I think there is at least one high school teacher in this board. I tutor introductory college classes (calc and physics) to college students for the past three semesters. The sessions I have could be taught at a high school level (I took em in high school with little difficulty) and college freshman still have that high school sass.

The biggest thing for me is being prepared. I scored 5s on AP calc 1 and 2 but the kids I tutor damn well can get me flustered if I do not come to a session prepared with problems, answers, and full explanations. If you’re doing problems yourself for fun, you can wing it. But if you expect 30 people (3-4 in my case) who have never seen it before to understand it, you need to know every example you give like

Next, I say the same damn thing 3-4 times a week for an hour at a time, minimum. Minimum because you’ll have people who won’t take notes and they’ll only ask you about whatever you said next week when it bites them on the ass in their homework or quiz. HS teachers probably get that scaled up to 3-4x/day.

You can’t ever show kids negativity. You’re getting paid to explain this shit, and it’s the first time they’ve seen it in their lives, so be cool. HS teachers lose all credibility when they flip. You in particular will go from “hot muscley math teacher” to “roid rage hothead”. Encourage questions like:

“What’s the difference between a volt and a charge?”
“So you take cosine of the force?”
“Polynomial? What’s that mean?”

Think back on the classroom experiences you’ve had in your life. I had a teacher that befriended our class and the semester finished with an 80% average. This class I’m taking right now, the teacher laughs in your face for answering something wrong, (which I think is kinda fun) but the class is averaging 60% on quizzes. These classes are about equal in difficulty with the concepts given.

As a final remark, really consider making your room a no calculator zone if applicable (I assume you’re talking about physics or chem, maybe you’re talking about earth science or biology). Calculators are safe because you can distract yourself from button pressing and forget for five seconds that you don’t know what you’re doing. Force your kids to think in terms of variables and substitutions and how units interact and cancel. Whenever one of my tutees is stumped, they’re slouched over their calculator and their sheet for scratch work is empty. Then I have them write out variable for variable what to do, and all of a sudden they have it right.

Edit: Oh oh oh. And if some smart little punk asks you the ole, “When will I need this in life? I want to do X”, I always answer with, “Because if you can’t figure this out, I don’t want you working on my missile launcher, or my tank, or my airplane, or my car.” Simple answer that just works nice time after time.


#3

marrot, thanks buddy! Great write up, I appreciate that. Yeah, I was actually a horrible math student through high-school I think from having teachers who were not patient with me at that time. It was not until college where I had a great math teacher and I gained the confidence to do math and decided to undertake a hard science.

I agree with the no calculators concept. I hated it in school, but I do agree that is important for understanding methods better.


#4

I think The Mighty Stu is a teacher, no? Hopefully he sees this and chimes in.


#5

Yeah, I switched careers to being a High School teacher almost 12 years ago, and it’s one of those love/hate things. Earlier, I worked in TV and film, and while it was truly a dream job in some respects (worked on some pretty cool stuff), it also gave me a real inconsistent life in terms of constantly hunting for my next gig, stress levels, and learning that budgetary issues - and hence your salary! - can vary quite a bit.

My initial thinking was how much fun it would be to pass on knowledge of a subject I love, and when I was teaching a few college classes at night, it made all the sense in the world. However, teaching high school, especially in NYC where the politicians all play a game that has nothing to do with actually educating the students, it can run you down pretty badly.

These days, teachers are viewed quite a bit as scapegoats for everything wrong with the system. Of course when you’ve got students coming from broken homes (one or both parents out of the picture for one reason or another), living on food stamps, coming to school without a warm jacket in the middle of winter, plus taking public transportation almost 2 hours because they were assigned a particular school based on their test scores,… well, let’s just say that showing up to your class and their scores on finals aren’t going to be their priorities no matter how much you “engage” them, teach to their “specific learning style”, or make the required “accomodations” you are legally obligated to.

I know that sounds like a bummer, BUT, there are also the amazing pluses to working with kids.

When I had my arm in a sling from surgery a few months back, there are those kids who will always stay and help you with anything. The kids who actually show concern when you don’t show up for a single day (bad cold -lol), or even those who email you stuff they found online because theuy honest to goodness thought it was related to the topic in class and that you could work it into the lesson.

And when those kids who you do reach in some manner do well, when the graduate against all odds and expectations, and they come to you with tears in their eyes to say the most heartfelt thank you imaginable,… well, it makes all the bullsh-t the system involves worthwhile :slight_smile:

(now, if you’ll excuse me, my 1st period kids are filing in -lol)

S


#6

This is my 13th year teaching high school social studies, which includes history (have taught U.S. and AP European History Renaissance-present), sociology, world geography, economics and political science.

Some of your experiences with politics and bureaucracy will be specific to your state. I am in Illinois.

Likes: The kids (for the most part), the rewards of making a difference and seeing student growth, actually teaching kids to be civic-minded (subject/discipline specific), June-August :).

Dislikes: I’m not sure where to begin.

There are a lot of political implications for education, and laws that dictate how/why/what goes into teaching are often made by politicians who by and of themselves have never been in a classroom in years - this goes for many constituents who think they know better too.

I am seeing people getting more apathetic too. The number of students who cannot ever seem to get work completed on time is growing. The number of parents who make excuses for students is growing. The number of people who blame teachers for all of the problems with schools is growing. We have many issues in the family environment that are affecting students’ lives outside of school, which in turn impacts their performance in school, and schools are supposed to fix this problem.

One of my biggest frustrations is growing absenteeism and the number of students who seem to be able to procure medical excuses for prolonged absenteeism. Sure, some kids have legitimate health impairments, but way too many doctors or excusing kids from school, giving them notes, and I know some of them are playing the system.

I think education itself is rewarding, as are most of the students. However, the bureaucratic impediments are frustrating. Budget limitations are always issues in schools. The pay varies according to the school district and the state, so I’m not going to say all teachers live close to poverty. You can make a decent salary, but starting pay tends to be low, regardless of where you teach.

In short, rewarding career, but you’ll be on the front lines in dealing with a host of “people problems” that are rampant in society, you just get to see them and sometimes modify the behavior at a young age before the student becomes an adult. If you can make a difference in even a few kids, I feel it’s all worth it, but you’re not going to be able to save the whole world either.


#7

[quote]marrot wrote:
As a final remark, really consider making your room a no calculator zone if applicable (I assume you’re talking about physics or chem, maybe you’re talking about earth science or biology). Calculators are safe because you can distract yourself from button pressing and forget for five seconds that you don’t know what you’re doing. Force your kids to think in terms of variables and substitutions and how units interact and cancel. Whenever one of my tutees is stumped, they’re slouched over their calculator and their sheet for scratch work is empty. Then I have them write out variable for variable what to do, and all of a sudden they have it right.
[/quote]

I completely agree with this for any math/physics class, but in this world of tablets/laptops/graphing calculators for all, will a school board still allow a no technology zone?

The graphing calculator was probably the worst thing to ever happen to high school math classes.


#8

[quote]tedro wrote:
The graphing calculator was probably the worst thing to ever happen to high school math classes.[/quote]

I fondly remember playing all manners of games on my graphing calculator during Trig class.


#9

<-- currently a corporate lawyer. Going to transition to teaching once out of student debt and maybe after having gotten a start on my retirement savings. Have a master’s in education already; it’ll be a change to make less than a quarter of what I make now, but I’m looking forward to doing something that I found/will find much more meaningful.

Good write ups so far, looking forward to potentially reading others if they swing by this thread.


#10

Awesome replies, thank you for taking the time to give me your insight Stu and JR. I very much appreciate it, helps out a lot.

Speaking of graphing calculators, I still have my TI-89 from college. It was like my side arm for many-a-calculation.