Benefits and Challenges for School Teachers

Interview Continued

What is a typical day of teaching like for you?

My typical day consists of teaching 6 periods of American history plus a single multimedia class.

Each period is forty-minutes long with one planning period, a thirty-minute lunch, and one daily study hall duty. In between classes, I have hall duty where I greet and interact with students. This is a great time to build rapport with them.

My six history classes typically flow in the same manner. I begin each class with a daily goal or question to get them focused on the content. I try to provide some motivational activity to get them interested in the content. Then I use a variety of methods such a cooperative group work, games, lecture, question and answer sessions, etc. to keep the learning process flowing. Then at the end of the class, I redirect the students to the daily learning goal or question to sum up the lesson.

Since you were a special education teacher for a year, how do you use that experience to help you as a teacher in the general classroom?

Our school district provides a special education teacher for each grade level. Unlike when I was a special education teacher, I find myself collaborating a lot more with the eighth grade special education teacher. It feels more like a team atmosphere rather than every student being their own island. In addition, my experience allows me to feel more comfortable accommodating and modifying my instruction appropriately for special needs students. I know what to look for when reviewing students’ Individualized Education Plans. Altogether, I feel like a more complete teacher because of my special education background.

How much time do you put into your teaching outside of the required teaching day?

This is a relative question based on one’s experience. I have been teaching the same subject for the past four years, so I am very comfortable with the Ohio eighth grade academic content standards and my curriculum. The first few years, I feel I was putting in anywhere between one to four hours a day grading papers and preparing for the next lesson. On weekends, I would put considerable more time in preparing for the week. However, now I do not make wide changes to my curriculum, so it takes a lot less time. Nowadays, I probably average thirty minutes to an hour preparing for the next day’s class. This also includes grading.

As a teacher, how have you responded to the age of accountability that has resulted since the No Child Left Behind Act?

I began my teaching career as No Child Left Behind really became a part of the academic climate.

I definitely feel the pressure of accountability. Unfortunately, the yearly eighth grade social studies test that all Ohioan eighth graders must take statistically has the lowest student scores across the entire board. The test is an accumulation of social studies content from sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. It is a struggle to get them prepared, because I have to find a balance between teaching the eighth grade content as well as reviewing information from the previous two years. The weeks leading up to the test end up becoming a cram session – not only for me – but for all the eighth grade teachers. Some students end up feeling overwhelmed by the experience. But this is the era of accountability. Teachers must do what they have to do.

What are the best aspects of your job and what are the biggest obstacles?

The best aspects of teaching are interacting with students on a daily basis. Also, I receive enormous satisfaction out of creating a lesson or unit that clicks with the students. For example, part of my content focuses on American slavery and the impact of racism and prejudice on our society (both past and present). In my endeavors to create unique and engaging lessons, I have crafted a unit that really makes the students question their own beliefs and views on race. At the end of every year, I give a survey to students, and one of the questions ask about what unit has made the greatest impact upon them. Every year, the unit on slavery and racism seems to be the popular choice. Considering I teach this unit in the first nine weeks, it is great to know the lessons from the unit sticks with them.

In regards to the biggest obstacles, it would be student motivation. Whether it is getting students to care about the content or completing their homework on time, this is the one issue I have dealt with year in and year out. Some years are better than others depending upon the class. However, my colleagues and I are continually struggling with this concern.

What do you wish you had known about the teaching profession before you became a teacher?

I wish I would have known about the importance of communicating to parents prior to becoming a teacher. I am typically good with interacting with an audience. However, when it comes to e-mailing and calling parents on the telephone, this is not my strong point. Even with knowing this, I do not know what I could have done to make the task an easier. I think every teacher has their Achilles’ heel, and this happens to be one of mine.

What advice to have for someone who is entering the field of education?

The teaching field is so flooded in some areas right now – especially in my field of social studies. In order to get a job, you have to set yourself apart from the rest of the teacher applicants. I personally worked very hard to earn good grades in college. I developed meaningful relationships with my professors. I involved myself in extra curricular activities that allowed me to develop my leadership skills. Also, I involved myself programs that expanded my teaching credentials. Always try to create a good name for yourself and be willing to take on challenges that will lead you to greater success. Since the teacher applicant market is so flooded, school districts can afford to be choosy in whom they hire. Make yourself the best teacher you can be before getting your own classroom.

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