Changing lives and saving the world. I've taught various grade levels in MA, CA, and IL., always at schools with progressive education philosophies. So I've done zip-lines & ropes courses, traveled abroad with students, taught Sex Ed, done service work, performed in teacher-student talent shows, and initiated lots and lots of dialogue about friendships. The longer I taught, the more I realized it's the emotional and social lives of kids, rather than the subject I teach, that I really dig.
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Oooph. You want to get me blacklisted with my teacher friends? So. The traditional (as in one room) school year is based on the farm cycle. Did you know that? So, crops get harvested, kids are no longer needed as much...ship them off to school till the Summer planting season. We were an agrarian society and families needed kids as labor at specific times. And school days are sometimes dependent on bus schedules and things like that (while teens need more sleep they can also wait safely for a bus in the pre-daylight hours while an elementary kid can't as easily, hence the younger you are the later your day tends to start.) Many schools are extending the year or starting them earlier. I certainly don't think we should keep doing what we're doing because that's what we've always done. But I also like the idea of recognizing that not all learning happens in a school. Camp, summer jobs, internships, travel, all those are good for the soul and the mind. I've been the beneficiary of that because I grow basil and that's about it. And I've LOVED using summers to A) travel B) develop professionally (sometimes through travel) C) recharge (I've mentioned the emotional toll teaching can take in previous answers). And I really don't like the idea of doing something because we FEAR some other country "beating" us. We could do a HECKUVA lot more to improve the majority of public schools and make them unbeatable by investing in schools, teachers, and kids. Sure, more days might help. But I don't think it's the only answer. Or the best one. It might be a very good one and we might find that we need to do it AND a bunch of other stuff. Can you imagine no summer vacation though? Who would keep ice cream trucks in business? It makes me sad to think of my daughter not having idle days in the sun. Perhaps that's just nostalgia. But I also know I am not worried about her quality of education because I am fortunate to live in a well-funded district that is doing great work.
Ahem. It happens. A lot? That's a good question. I'd say no more than any other workplace environment. We have holiday parties. We have happy hours. Stuff happens. I've worked at 3 schools. There were couples that met and married while working at all three of them. There were couples that dated. There are two affairs I know of. There were a couple epic break ups. At one, there were at least six sets of teachers I can think of that were married. Two married while I was working there, one was hired as a married couple. I dated a teacher at that school (briefly, and dating is a generous word). Most schools seem to be ok with it so long as it doesn't impact your job, just like most jobs. Some schools have a disclosure policy...that you have to alert the administrators (blech). I worked with one very, very young and inexperienced teacher who didn't quite get that you can't pout at your desk or run out of the room crying if you are rejected or if it ends. She was ridiculed by everyone in the building--kids and grown ups. Most handle things very professionally...so professionally that even I, a gossip maven, couldn't always get the straight story. So, most of the teachers who dated kept it on the way, way DL until they were practically engaged. "Oh, we just carpool" is heard a lot. A break up with kids asking questions is pretty heinous. The key to kids, especially middle schoolers, is that if you give them even the briefest glimpse into your life they want more, more and more. I didn't let my students know much about my now husband until I was pretty sure he was in for the long haul. If you need kids to think you are cool because you have a boyfriend, you have other things you need to deal with. So if a teacher were daft enough to tell students he/she was dating another teacher or had hooked up, I say they have whatever intense adolescent scrutiny they've got coming. So yes, hook ups happen. Not as many secret trysts in the copy room, I imagine.
Most of my teaching has been in independent schools with well-to-do families. In that environment, over-protection is hands down the most prevalent parent-related issue that I see hampering kids. It’s totally understandable that parents would advocate for and protect their child. As a mother, I understand. But many parents so badly want their children to succeed that they prevent them from ever failing. Along with protecting them, parents have to help them build self-reliance, resiliency, and a sense of consequence. If a kid forgets an assignment, they'll bring it up to school. I've seen one mom at school almost every day for the last three years. Rather than bolstering her son, she's become his crutch. Parents should trust that we won't just let a kid fail ... that we are there to help and will let them know what we see (even when that's seeing the mom at school way too much). Children need support while also learning to put weight on themselves (at a developmentally and individually appropriate pace).
Fabulous question. Yes. And, eh. So, technology is so much more than things with cameras and wireless. I imagine every teacher has quietly cursed against every technological advancement. While they all make teaching better, easier, and more effective (truly), that means every clever student who wants to cheat has a new tool. Phones I'm sure caused stress a hundred years ago when they were rotary dials! But, the internet, for example, is a middle schooler's best and worst friend. So many kids who don't understand original research (or who don't want to) are caught by the beauty of Google. If a phrase in a paper sounds too sophisticated, entering in Google will often pull up the site (and sadly, sometimes the whole paragraph) a kid used. So it's a cat and mouse game. Kids can buy term papers online and teachers can submit papers to sites like turnitin that use fancy algorithms to see if the paper was taken from an online source. As more and more stuff in the classroom happens online and plugged in, it is hard. I'm not going to lie. Our whole grade was granted iPads this year. Awesome for sure. And our school was on a Google email format. Double awesome. But that means googlechat and googledocs allows sharing of information. But it also allows for tracking changes and chat records. The immediacy of the internet and access to insane amounts of info (not all good) diminishes the hard work of research sometimes. Please, kids, don't give me a paper with the hyperlinks still blue and underlined from Wikipedia. I am on to that. I've been on to that. I've had far more problems with quizzes that happen before and after lunch than I've had with kids transmitting answers via text. Word of mouth is the worst enemy of authentic assessments of students. I HATE having to write four versions of a quiz, but you do. And sick days. When kids aren't "sick". I've had problems with tutors or parents helping too much. Kids who maliciously steal from the internet are fewer and farther between and often have already been caught using luddite cheating methods like copying off a classmate's paper. More often, a younger student has no clue you can't change one word in a document and call it paraphrased. I think education and responsibility are the keys. (As usual) I had a student in LA who asked me about cheating. I always told him I had tried it all and if he could get it past me, he should be prouder of himself for coming up with it than for a fake grade. I was totally lying because I was WAY too scared to cheat in school. But he and I spent a lot of time discussing options. His best? Clues/help/whatever written inside gum wrappers that were then re-wrapped around the gum. So, not so hi-tech. Really, a kid who is going to want to figure out ways to cheat is going to do it. I think figuring out how to teach ethical and responsible use of resources is critical. And that's not the easy answer. Having some kind of laser beam or program that catches it is. Being a teacher...meaning teaching kids how to do the right thing...is harder, takes more time, but ultimately, works. And still some kids are going to cheat.
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I don't think there's a “most” because there are so many different types of teachers: teachers who are parents, teachers who are single, teachers with huge graduate school debts, and/or teachers who work at higher-paying schools. Most teachers do *something* during the summer. It may be a job, it may be parenting kids who are off for the summer, or it may be pursuing graduate work or professional development. I think very few teachers spend the entire summer watching TV, at least amongst those I've worked with. Even if teachers aren't working a second job, we meet and plan curriculum, go to workshops, attend courses, or travel. I worked full-time during summers when I was younger but try not to now. I needed to then because my salary did not cover my (what I consider modest) living expenses. Now I don't as I was coming back in September less and less refreshed. But I still pursue grants for travel or writing. I know many, many teachers, though, who need to work in the summers and often during the school year too to supplement their income.
I'm sorry for the delay. I wanted to take time to process and consider without just replying through pure emotion. Because I have been just so, so sad this week. My honest answer is no. Sadly, I can say no because I was training to be a teacher when Columbine happened. And since then, there were at least four others I can think of off the top of my head before Sandy Hook. Are you a bit rattled? Sure. I can fully and totally reconcile the statistical chance of me being harmed in my classroom or my students being harmed or there being an incident in my school being very, very, very low. Years of being afraid of flying have made me better about saying, ok, things happen but that doesn't mean thing is going to happen to me. I'm not anymore scared of being in my classroom than I am of being at a movie theater or a mall. The sad truth is that these events are happening in many places. So I don't worry, per se, more about entering the school the next day. I have the heaviest of hearts but more I'm sad that this is happening at all, anywhere. And, I feel equipped, as best any of us can be, to talk with my students and colleagues. I've done a lot of counseling training in an effort to best serve my students. My first week of teaching was 9/11 and that profoundly shaped how I view the role of teacher in times of crises. So as horrific as it is, I can be a person kids talk to. I know the way their brains work and know how to toggle between the terrifying and the inane as kids their age do. I know what's appropriate to share, how to know which kids are struggling more, and which kids to keep an eye on for other reasons. When I heard the news on Friday I had two parallel reactions. One was as a teacher, angry beyond measure that someone would desecrate my holy place. As a child, school was the only place I felt totally safe. I loved being in schools. In previous answers I shared how critical good schools were towards me being somebody, anybody. To target a school is just blasphemous. It's horrific. It's unbelievable. The fact that I've had to explain to 7th graders why the walls of windows that make my room so warm and welcoming are dangerous during lock down drills. The fact that we're discussing concealed carry laws in daycares make me want to scream. My other reaction was as a mother. These little children were so, so little. To think of the joy of a first grade classroom, the small feet and the tiny chairs and tables. Cubbies with pictures of families as anything other than a beautiful, warm space made me die a little inside. Thinking of my friends' new kindergarteners. Thinking of my own daughter skipping into her preschool now because, aside from home, it is her favorite place in the world makes my heart leap. Knowing that 20 families had that joy ripped from them makes me want to curl up in a ball and quit. But it doesn't make me want to stop teaching. Would I be as heroic as the teachers who cleverly hid students? Or read to them so a story was soothing? Or put my arms around a group of students willing my body to be a shield? God, I hope I would be that teacher. I don't think I should have to be willing to die for my profession. I realize firemen and other professions take their jobs knowing an inherent level of terrifying risk. I don't think teachers should be in that camp. That's a long winded answer, I know. But no, I don't fear going into the classroom. I fear guns. There was a mall shooting and a theater shooting in recent memory. I cannot allow myself to begin fearing going anywhere and everywhere. So I return to my school as sanctuary model and hope society finds its civic and civil core.
That's a tough call because administration means many things. There are administrators who manage/oversee teachers, those who deal primarily with parents, those who deal with students, and then those that work at an intersection of those groups. Most teachers stay in the classroom, and if they leave teaching, they may stay in education (reform, policy, training). Growth is also in the classroom so it's easy to feel challenged with each new year (new technology, a new crop of students, new units to teach, new opportunities for collaboration). There are also administrators who've never taught in the classroom (my personal belief is that is not always awesome). I think most of us begin to think about next steps or areas for growth but that might mean changing subjects or grades. For some, it does mean stepping outside of the classroom.
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