Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Happy birthday to my mom, who is also a retired teacher! She taught Art, English, Creative Writing, and did yearbook for many years.
This was a requested topic, but it may be really boring for some! No offense if you want to click away!
I think it started in 3rd grade for me, but it could have been earlier. I came home and taught my dolls and stuffed animals everything I learned in school each day. We had a playroom with a giant chalkboard, too. I probably also taught my two younger sisters when they weren’t annoying me. I played piano teacher, too. My friends and I played school. I am still mad that my neighbor Susan who was one year older always had to be the teacher when she and I played school at her house. Susan was good to me, though. She gave me rides in high school before I could drive and I loved her car and wanted to be like her. She had a Nissan Pulsar. I forgive you, Susan.
For many years I abandoned the idea of being a teacher because I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and was big on the newspaper staff from 7th-12th grade. I even won an internship at the big city newspaper for a week one summer. When I started college, I wrote for the college newspaper and took photos and got paid! But, I had decided that my love for Spanish ran too deep and I was a Spanish major, Political Science minor and planned to go to law school. I am not sure where this came from. I probably thought it sounded good and I planned to use my Spanish.
I was really hung up on the lack of respect for teachers and the low pay and that is why I looked at other careers. Not much has changed, right?
Sophomore year of college came and I decided I should just try an education class while I was there and had the time. We had to spend a certain number of hours observing in a high school classroom each semester that we had an education class. I was hooked and decided to stop running from my first love of teaching. I do truly believe it is a calling.
My sisters are also teachers – one is an elementary teacher and has bounced back and forth from first and second grade and the other is an elementary art teacher. My cousin April is an elementary teacher. My aunt and uncle were both teachers. My sister’s husband is a middle school teacher. My cousin is a university professor at Ohio State. It runs on my mom’s side of the family!
So, I have taught at 3 different high schools in 28 years. I started at one for four years, then moved to another for two years, and now I am on year twenty-two at my current school. I qualified for retirement last October. I had to lose a few days due to maternity leave which puts me at retiring on October 1st. We have a couple of teachers in the same boat this year that are working in the office or subbing until their date comes up.
So, this is one thing on my mind. Will I know when it’s time to get out? Will they roll me out of my classroom? I want to go out on top like Michael Jordan. I don’t know anything about sports. Did he go out on top?
Some of the following are subject specific things. I have only ever taught Spanish, but I have taught every level from Intro to Spanish (it was a thing at one school) to AP Spanish (Spanish 5). I have taught 6 period days that last all year, 7 period days that last all year, and block schedule that only lasted one semester but were 84 minute periods. I have only taught grades 9-12.
Biggest Problems – Lack of sleep and tech addiction. I said it. Our school schedule is not really tailored to the teen. Teens need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. They are not getting this. We start at 7:40. When kids have after school activities, work, and homework, it’s just not possible to get to bed by 10. School needs to start earlier for the younger learner and later for the older learner. What are you working for? Your job is student and your scholarship money will pay off way more than your $12 an hour before taxes. I don’t think teens need all the things they think they need. Parents think that holding a job is a good experience for their kids and it is, but should be very limited during the school year. We also have a mental health crisis. And the phone also can keep kids from getting the sleep they need. Wait as long as you can to get your kids a smart phone and then it is not theirs – it is yours as the parent that you are letting them use. It should be charged outside the bedroom at night. Use an old fashioned alarm clock to wake them up. Social media is not good and should come with parameters.
Teaching Philosophy – Learning should be fun. Spanish is fun! How cool is it that we can learn another language. Language is best learned in community. I try to have fun with it while also having a rigorous course with high expectations.
Rules – Basically I just ask that they don’t act like a jerk. Be respectful when someone is talking or presenting, clean up after yourself, respect the classroom property, etc. I let them go to the bathroom one at a time if I’m not directly teaching or if someone isn’t presenting. I don’t want them to ask me – just grab the big yellow hall pass and do it.
Routines – We do certain things on certain days and I have gotten good feedback on this. I think kids like knowing what to expect. They have certain days they look forward to. Every Monday we get new vocabulary and every Friday we have a quick quiz. Every Thursday we play a game for the last 10 minutes to help with the quiz. Every Friday we learn a cultural note from a Spanish speaking country – example, there is a whistling language on one island in the Canary Islands. Every Wednesday we do music. I do about 4-5 activities each class period. I have honed these routines over time. It didn’t happen overnight. I firmly believe that teaching is an art form; you have to find your style and be your authentic self.
Classroom Culture – I like to think we form a weird kind of family by the end of the year. You really get to know each other in a language class by nature of all that we are able to say and share in the target language. We have topics like family, friends, career goals that we talk about. It’s really cool. I also try to create an environment of feeling like it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you are trying. If you play it safe and keep using easy expressions, you won’t improve.
Cellphones – This is a tough one. My policy is that cellphones (and Air Pods) are not to be seen nor heard, unless I invite you to get them out for an activity. I expect them to be put away in a backpack (allowed in the classroom and very few use lockers anymore), in a purse, or in a pocket. I have to repeat this at the beginning of each class. Each teacher has a different policy, so I think that makes it kind of hard. I don’t want to take their phones and put them in a shoe holder. I just don’t want that responsibility. Our administration lets each teacher decide. Some teachers use phones for QR codes, Kahoot games, Google Classroom. Each kid also has a laptop. I very rarely have them take them out. I just don’t think it’s effective. I am old school. Especially after the pandemic, I have gone back to the tried and true paper and pencil for so many things. They spend hours on computers and devices after school; they only get ME and their classmates for 50 minutes. We had rampant cheating while we were virtual. Of course I use technology in my classroom, but I am the one controlling it/showing it to the class.
As I mentioned, I am a firm believer that we all have to find our teaching style and what works for us. My way is not necessarily better, but this is what works for me. I am goofy and don’t take myself too seriously.
I use jingles and songs and dances to teach things. I use silly hints and sayings to help them remember. I engage and interact with my classes from bell to bell for the most part. There is some independent time, but not much. We do pairs and small groups for certain things, but I am still directing and circulating. They need me. If learning a language by yourself worked, we would all be fluent, right?
If you have a differing opinion, that’s ok. I will listen and think about your point of view.
Teaching is a lot like parenting. You laugh, you cry, you are bone tired, and it’s the hardest darned thing you have ever done, but it’s also very rewarding.