Sunday, January 27, 2013

Being a good teacher: Part 1

Before I started working at the school last November, I wrote a post about accepting my fate as a self-employed person. I have always had the worst time trying to get a steady job; I’ve had temporary jobs, crappy jobs, horrible jobs, and jobs that I would have liked if the company had laid off everyone. I have sent out more application and resumes that I would even know what to do with (thousands, I tell you.) It’s always made me feel like a lesser person because I’m just not the kind who comes into a job and stays there. I struggle and struggle, look high and low, find something, then either can’t stay if I’m good at the job because of funding (as was with the Space Center) or, with teaching, I just absolutely suck at it (unless it’s at a college.)

As I’ve said before, the only place that would even consider calling me for any type of job was working in the public schools. Once you’ve worked in that field, you get stuck in it. I was never formally trained as a teacher, I was thrown in to try and swim as much as I could with training while I was working more than forty hours as week, plus dealing with administration, parents, grading papers, lesson plans and the like. It’s really not something I’ve ever been good at but that’s the only kind of job I can potentially get over here.

I had the same problem with classroom discipline as I did in Florida. I have been told time and time again to just “be mean, “ but until last term, I didn’t realize that I honestly don’t understand what “being mean” means. When I was first bouncing from public school to public school in Florida, my aim was to survive among my struggling students (who, bless them, were really fun to be around.) At the British school I did everything I thought I should do. I gave orders, acted consistent, moved seats, had good lesson plans, gave detentions, yelled, acted stern, gave “the look”, etc. etc. all like everyone else did at the school. (Incidentally, I was told all the time in Florida not to yell but this school really used that as a form of managing children.)

But I didn’t get asked to come back for this current term because I didn’t get the whole “mean” thing. There’s always been these essential elements that I miss so the way I conduct class is a bit messy. If I had known what I know now I wouldn’t have even considered teaching in public schools after I got my English degree. I would have gone right into my Master’s program and fought tooth and nail until I was able to work part-time at the community college. Then, maybe, started working on my doctorate.

I’ve known hundreds of teachers who are “good.” I’ve known people who are absolute loons, and/or idiots who are “good” teachers. It’s all about this meanness factor, I guess. I’ve been fighting myself the past few weeks about even going back to the school as a substitute/supply teacher because I was told, verbatim, not to do it. I had worked at a really good school last term and I would be setting myself up for major problems if I tried to go into a place with more behaviour issues.

But that’s the only kind of job I can get – so what else can I do?

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