T Nation

Teaching-UPDATE

First off I’d like to thank all those who responded to my first post, like Chris SHugart, Paul & Zev, back in September. I promised that I would throw out an update every so often on how I was doing and this is the first one. Its been about 4 months since I started teaching, feels more like 3 years. I mean I feel like I’ve been at this job forever, and it hasn’t even been a full semester yet. There is so so much to learn, and so much for me to say, and I have so many stories to tell, its amazing. This job isn’t boring, that’s for sure! I feel like I’ve learned an ice cube’s worth of knowledge and there’s still a whole iceberg left to know!
(As a refresher, I’m teaching a foreign language to high school kids in a wealthy New Jersey suburb. I’ve never taught before and I’m coming in thru conditional certification.)


I kind of laughed at Chris Shugart’s interview from 2 weeks back when he said he started out in the mid 90s making 18 Gs a year (sorry Chris). I’m making just over 40, and I’m not even certified. But then again, this is a public school, they always pay more than private. The reasons I laughed were 1) I felt bad for Chris, but also 2) I don’t know if I could do this job for less. I’ve come to realize that teaching is by no means an easy job, suitable only for women and p#ssies. It’s a hard job, full of stress and a lot of suppressed anger. For example, when a little sh#t is mouthing off to you and won’t stay quiet, you can’t just suplex him through a window or choke him out, no sir. You’ve got to bite your tongue and tell them to sit outside, or tell them to go down to the office or else he’ll be written up. When a girl disrespects you to your face and causes a scene and poisons the classroom environment with her attitude and talk, you can’t call her out for being the lazy, whiny, excuse-making, me-so-solly, “its-Mr. S’-fault-cuz-he’s-so-mean” loser that she is, all you can do is write her up, give detention and prepare for the backlash from her parents.
Sorry, I’m having kind of a hard time with classroom management in 1 of my classes. :slight_smile:
Another surprising thing is how much of this job I take home with me. Grading-at home. Writing lesson plans-at home. Thinking about the little shis who piss me off-at home.
What is great though is the kids who get into the lesson, the ones who are always happy and upbeat, who shout your name out in the hall and rush over to say hi, that’s cool. The ones who pick up the material quickly and then want to talk about it with you after class, that’s cool. I work with a lot of nice people, that’s rarely happened before. Not too many p#ic
s in this profession. Plus, I’m the alpha male and only T-man of the whole campus, and how cool is that?! That’s right, BMOC. Of course, it is a high school and not a college, but?

I hear some Texas teachers are starting out in the 30’s now, but that’s “combat pay” - teaching in inner city schools in bad areas. I always taught in small towns and this was before then Gov. Bush gave us a couple of pay raises. If I were teaching today, I’d be making in the mid-30’s. So you’re doing great at 40! Don’t move!

The first year I taught I stayed after school several hours, then took work home with me and worked until well after dark. The more I taught the less I took home. You just learn better time management and your preps gets easier with more experience. My last year of teaching I took nothing home with me (which was good, because I was writing for T-mag a little then and also had a daughter to spend time with.)

The first year is always the worst it seems. Most who quit do so after one year. Just stick it out because next year will be much better.

And remember, discipline and classroom management is not about giving detentions and writing them up. That makes you feel better, but it rarely solves the problem. A private one on one talk is the way to go. Sometimes the best method is to do exactly the opposite of what you feel like doing. It’s tough and takes more time at first, but it’ll make the rest of the year better. (Took me several years of teaching to learn and accept that of course.)

“Shoot first, interrogate second.”

Also, it might help to keep in mind that, as teenagers, most of the “problem children” really aren’t responsible for their poor behavior. They’ve got a bad home situation, and don’t have the life experience/maturity necessary to deal with it effectively.


I would NEVER say that bad behavior isn’t someone’s fault if I were talking about an adult, but for a lot of these kids…well, often it seems like they get blind-sided and don’t really have much of a chance. Accordingly, if you’ve got a problem kid or two in a particular class, it might be helpful to talk with the parents.


Just another option to think about.

I’m in a physical education program and the few teaching experiences ive had were very rewarding. I had to teach a dance class(all pe majors have to take this dumbass class) and i taught a funky dance called tinikling. Well i did such a good job that the students got word back to the department head that they wanted me to come back and teach it again. Its very rewarding to know that you can have an impact on a kids life. So what if you dont reach them all? Just one is worth it. And teachers in my area make very good money. When i start out ill be making over 35 a year. and thats for a first year teacher.

NO, NO, No Char. Don’t give miscreants an excuse for improper behavior. I know lots of folks from great homes that turned out rotten kids and lots of kids from bad homes that turned out to be great citizens. Bad behavior is not acceptable, period. I also know, firsthand I might add, families from both ends of the spectrum that had one kid turn out great and the other headed towards a jail cell. I don’t disagree with talking to the parents but it should be to warn them that their kid is heading down a bad road, but, then again, they already know that. By the time an adolescent reaches high school, he knows right from wrong and what is appropriate behavior in society. Excuses at a young age can assist in leading to more serious criminal activity as an adult, at least in my opinion. It needs to be nipped in the bud and nipped hard. When I went to school initially, my teachers could whack me with a ruler if I acted up. 50 years later I still remember that it only took one whack to shape me up. However, Chris’s suggestion of a one-on-one sit-down is probably more appropriate than a whack in today’s litigous environment. Or, we could just blame the lawyers for making it so that scholastic discipline has become non-existent which has lead many fine young people to a life of crime. (I kinda like the sound of that last rant, don’t you? I always like to blame the lawyers.) :slight_smile:

40 Gs!!! Damn, I gotta get out of SC…

I did some time teaching in public schools and I think I was paroled on some early release program for good behavior! Nah, it wasn’t TOO bad although I totally sympathize with every last word of your post as I’m sure anyone who’s taught public school would also do. And, you teach a foreign language too–geez, down here kids repeatedly fail their ENGLISH classes…yikes!

I too have no official certification and taught under what we term “critical needs” with conditional certification, etc, though we start at 24k(AND, SC is doing away with any form of conditional certification…48th in the nation in education and shooting for 50!).

It's sure refreshing to find fellow T-men that teach and work with young people; I think anyone who hasn't actually stood in a classroom and taught has NO CLUE how bad or difficult kids can be. It's rather humbling to go deadlift the weight of a European car one day and then get eaten alive by a group of 14-yr-olds the next!

What pissed me off most was that the guy who’s mom was a prostitute and who’s sperm donor father was in prison was really a good kid and tried hard save for a little trouble focusing, surrounded by a bunch of upper-middle class suburbites who act like a bunch of $hit heads! What’s worse any probably not an issue in NJ so much, but the administrators and parents think that since you’re not certified, they should tell you how to teach, especially if you use some sort of unorthodox methods in the classroom. Okay, enough of my ranting…your fellow teachers are with you brother! And we understand!

oh, one more thing...Since you teach a foreign language you might think about this as time goes on. One of the main reasons I left was that I would bust my ass all day and put up with bullshit only to come home and make MORE money teaching a private studio after school! One of my student's mother tutors spanish arond town and makes a ton of money doing it(approx $100 an hour...not a typo!). Just a thought for those days you get really pissed... ;o)

Congratulations on not choking anyone yet. If you are taking a lot of work home with you, one of the best things you can do is read “THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL” by Harry Wong. It has some really great information on establishing procedures in the classroom to simplify your life. The kids should be the ones doing all of the work. Your job is to teach, and this book really helps to put the kids to work for you.

The $40k a year is in Jersey. That’s like $25k a year down here in SC (that whole cost of living thing). I’ll agree with Operaman - the educational system in SC is horrible. I actually wasn’t aware that we’d moved from 49th to 48th. I think we were always thankful for Mississipi or one of the other southern states for keeping us out of #50.

I teach, but in a different capacity. I recently started teaching at Kaplan. My first course was teaching the GRE, and that went fine, but I'm about to start teaching the SAT. It worries me, as I see parents "encouraging" their unwilling children to take the course. But I'm looking forward to it. I had wanted to be a high school teacher, and I may still be one day, but I have chosen to pursue more financial freedom. Hats off to everyone here who teaches our children.

Here’s an idea for ya. When kids in my dad’s classes are being bad he makes them stay after & copy out a whole page from a dictionary, word-for-word, line-for-line, with perfect spelling & the exact same punctuation. If they mess it up they have to do it again. I think he got that idea from his old librarian who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had & one of the best my dad has ever known. He teaches grade 8 though, maybe your kids are a bit old for detentions.

Glad you wrote. I was actually wondering how you were doing after your initial postings in early September. I too am struggling with behaviour issues in one of my classes (there’s always one, isn’t there?). It’s the whole “strength in numbers” thing that goes on in high schools. Usually, if you get these kids by themselves to talk to them, you discover that they are really decent people. But when the pack mentality takes over, watch out. And inevitably, they will be with some of their cohorts in classes together. So, it sucks for the teacher that gets stuck with them. Detentions are still given in high school, but my experience has been that the kids that transgress the most, rarely show up for the detentions. The only benefit to actually saying they have one is that you can document the fact that you tried to do something about their behaviour. That creates good ammunition for sending them to administration and/or calling parents. I work in an inner city school and the kids there are pretty rough. However, the upside is that the school has a reasonably decent weight room and I volunteered to supervise the weight club as my extra-curricular, so I get to work out for free with decent equipment. Today, it was just me (a female teacher) and the black football team. What fun! Anyways, don’t take things personally, be glad that the really bad kids are not your own, and keep talking to other people. It really helps to vent.

Why can’t you get one of those Super Soaker pistols and just wet down anybody who gets out of hand? What harm does it do? Some smart ass girl gets out of line, and she has a bad hair day for the rest of the day.

Not an excuse for bad behavior, don’t worry. I still hold these kids accountable - and 100% accountable when they turn 18.


But I’ve seen a lot of situations where bad home environments lead to bad behavior on the part of some students. It’s kind of hard to worry about algebra when your Dad’s coming home drunk and kicking the shit out of your Mom, y’know?


Some students are mature enough that they can compartmentalize this type of thing and still do well in school. And some aren’t.

Both Char-dawg and Avoids Roids have very good points about responsibility. As having been one of those “problem children”, I can say that for me the best thing anyone, let alone a teacher who didn’t have to intercede, ever did was take me aside for an adult style one-on-one. Detentions and reprimands gained them nothing but more aggressiveness, disrespect and disruption from me.

I had two teachers that I started out hating (well, I hated all of them or any other authority figure) but ended up thanking God for them every night. Those two teachers were the only people in my life from ages 12-18 that gave two squirts of monkey piss about what was going on in my life (including my absentee parents) and I came from what would be considered a “normal” working-class family. They are the only reason I pulled my head out of my ass and am not either dead or in prison now. The one-on-ones really had nothing to do with how I was acting out in class but were approached from the “what’s going on in your life and what can I do to make things easier for you” angle. Of course, the first few attempts were rebuffed and but with persistance and a friendly-but-slightly-aloof demeanor, they got inside my armour. Our one-on-ones evolved into mentorships and again, they are reason I am here to be typing this.

Because of the difference those teachers made in my life, I have something of a devotion to mentoring “at risk” kids (I use that term loosely). I feel your pain when dealing with some of the little shits and their attitudes. I get that sometimes from my kids. Take whatever advice you can from the teachers posting here to make the “teaching” part of the job easier but take it from me (and others) that what you are doing is of immense value. Find a way to make it work for you and you’ll make a tremendous difference in some of those kid’s lives.

I could never teach. I can’t understand why anyone would want to teach.

I thank GOD there are people out there who are willing to do it though, it’s one of those jobs that has to be done, and has to be done well.

Here’s an idea. Learn how to roll up a frying pan. Then when you get lip, just pull out the frying pan and roll it up.

Oh, here’s a better idea. Hire a kid actor/stunt man. Use him as a ‘ringer’ in your class. Then, second day of classes, have him lip off to you something fierce. Grab him by the throat, choke slam him against the wall, and toss him out of the class room. Since you haven’t done it to an actual student, you shouldn’t be in TOO much trouble. And goodness, will they fear you.

To “Say”, That would be illegal at least in NJ

Those of you who teach in regular schools should thank God for alternative settings. Imagine your 2 or 3 problem students multiplied by 10. There is only one way to maintain discipline: FEAR. The students you speak of can smell fear a mile away. The thugs, crack dealers, and gang bangers who populate our schools respect only one thing: FORCE. Once you let the little turds know you aren’t afraid to stomp their ass you get respect. Respect out of fear, but respect nonetheless. It never fails that I have a student ask me “What would you do if I hit you?” My stock response is " Stomp your guts out." They normally say, “You can’t touch me, you’ll get fired.” I reply, " I was looking for a job when I found this one. No way am I going to let some 16 year old punk hit me." Once they know I mean business the bullshit stops. For you new guys, realize one thing. You can’t save everyone. No matter how hard you try you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit. So all of you working at home and staying at school until 7 or 8, get a damn life. Take out your girlfriend or wife, have a few drinks, and make love like a champ. Oh yeah, make sure to thank a alternative class/school teacher. They make sure candy ass teachers don’t get devoured by the real problem kids.

Problem with teaching in the US is that it’s not a respected profession. (Comparing to Japan, Europe, Africa etc) In our society respect is tied to money. As long as teachers are not on par with engineers accountants or lawyers how many parents are going to say, “I wish my son/daughter is going to be a teacher”. Even film directors and film actors were considered less worthy professions before film industry started making a ton of money. There are only two professions in the US that are facing ever-growing shortages: Teaching and Nursing.

If only we were able to take your suggestions and actually use them in a classroom these days. Unfortunately, our hands are tied and the kids know that, so…Actual teaching is not so bad, it’s all the other shit we have to put up with everyday that is hard to take. A seasoned and retired teacher had a bit of wisdom regarding the “scare them” approach. He suggested walking up and down the rows in your classroom, tapping a long yard-stick on the floor as you went. The kids see the stick, see the mean look on your face, and figure that maybe, just maybe you might decide to use it. It worked for him really well. I haven’t tried it because I don’t “look” mean and plus my school has carpets on the floor, so it wouldn’t have the same effect. Anyways, if parents did THEIR job and parented their kids properly, there wouldn’t be so many discipline problems in the schools. Teachers and administrators alone, cannot solve a problem that starts at home.