Teaching high school hasn’t exactly been what I thought it would be. While in college, I would dream about my classroom and what it would look like and what I would say and what my students would read. I imagined showing up at school in a little car with my coffee, book bag, and pens and then discussing literature and writing with miniature adults until 3pm with students who were receptive and happy to be at school and motivated to learn and succeed.
Some of these things came true. Some of these things did not.
What I do know is that there are many things I’ve learned along the way.
#1). High school teachers must have thick skin. Students will say whatever comes to their minds 90% of the time. Having a bad hair day? The students will let you know. Gained a little weight? A student might make a comment. Didn’t sleep well the night before? Someone will ask why you look so bad. Is your teaching a little uninspired? The students will surely let you know.
This also means that you will receive lots of compliments. New shirts, shoes, phones, car, purse, pens, and hairstyles will all be noticed. They really can be very sweet.
#2). Students like to spend time with their teachers. And then they don’t. I find it fascinating that some days I’ll have an entire army of students following me to my classroom to hang out and then other days I get a polite wave, but that’s about it. They go through phases.
#3). There is a whole lot of planning to do. I guess I imagined lesson planning as choosing a chapter to review and an essay to assign, but really there is so much more to it. There are standards, strategic groupings, differentiations, lexiles, teaching strategies, active engagement, formative assessments, summative assessments, and the list goes on and on. Lesson planning for high school English is a ton of work, especially if you work at a school like mine without curriculum.
#4). I love lesson planning! Crazy, right? I just got done talking about how much work it is, but I genuinely enjoy planning units and lessons. There is something relaxing to me about sitting down with my computer and mapping out the next several weeks or semester. I have to submit lesson plans weekly using a specific template, but I really don’t mind.
#5). High school drama really is neverending. I was pretty low-key in high school. I got along with everyone and somehow managed to avoid most drama, but being a teacher exposes me to so many different problems between different students. I have been shocked at the amount of drama that occurs in high school. From boy drama to girl drama to social media drama to ASB drama to lunch drama to family drama to teacher drama…there is something new every single day. It keeps things pretty entertaining, to say the least.
#6). My teacher brain rarely ever shuts off. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but teaching is not a job that is easy to “leave at the office.” I am continually thinking about tomorrow’s plan or exploring a new technology to implement in the class or grading or browsing Pinterest for new and awesome ideas. I even listen to education-based podcasts on my commute to and from work. It never ends!
#7). Speaking of podcasts, I am obsessed with learning about teaching. I definitely didn’t learn everything I needed to know in my master’s program or credential program. I listen to podcasts, read books, read blogs, browse Pinterest for ideas, and attend workshops and classes aimed at improving my practice. I’m a borderline addict. I didn’t know that I would stay so enthralled with learning once I became a teacher.
#8). High school kids need to be supervised too. When I used to hear the phrase ‘yard duty’, I often pictured elementary recess. Yard duty belongs to elementary teachers, right? Wrong. High school students need a lot of supervision. They think they don’t need it, but they do. I am in teacher-mode not only within the four walls of my classroom but every time I walk to the admin office or restroom. I scan for trouble while walking the parking lot to my car. And I definitely keep my eyes open when all the kids start congregating in one area.
#9). They crave relevance. I may be drawn to Pride and Prejudice by the language and quirky love story alone, but my students crave real-life connections. Because of this, I am always bookmarking articles and websites with high-quality informational texts that I can use. A couple of months ago, I passed out an informational text that was written in 2010 and I had students question its accuracy because it was written “so long ago.” Also, the best way to get my kids to discuss literature is to have them make an argument about a character’s decision or motivation using an informational text as evidence. We particularly enjoy the Pop-Up debate method discussed on DaveStuartJr’s blog.
#10). They grow up too fast! I’m in my third year of teaching the same group of kids and I can’t help but get a bit emotional when I see how far they’ve come. They are pop-up debate pros, diligent-workers, and focused on achievement. It’s like raising children. The days are long, but the years are short (can you believe it’s February already?)
When I started my BA program, I began as an elementary education major. I switched to English about a year into that process and never really looked back. I love working with high school students, but I learn new things about them all the time.
I’d love to hear what you have learned about your students.