Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Being the worst teacher ever

When I started out teaching, I promise, I was the worst teacher ever.  I started off as an English teacher at an Intermediate school in Hawaii. I gave my students too much writing assignments (because of course the more they write, the more they would love it, right?!), didn't hardly employ any classroom management (we weren't taught that in our college courses), and ended up mostly playing educational videos each class period towards the end of the semester just to survive the daily onslaught of never-ending grading, disgruntled parents, and students who basically wrote "f*ck this class" on the walls and desks of the classroom.

I didn't intentionally start off bad. Oh no, I was assuming I would be the greatest teacher ever, like the ones in the movies that struggled at first, but within 2.5 hours inspired students to become better people all around.  However, reality hits you like a ton of bricks when you actually start teaching. I learned that students didn't like homework and who would right? Especially if it's something you'll forget about the minute you finish it.

 I also learned that they needed discipline.  All the cultural sensitivity training you get at college is not worth a dime, unless you get your students on a schedule, enforce the consequences, and in a sense "become" their parent for the next eight hours.  I was told by one teacher "Sometimes you're the only parent they have."  Now I don't believe in going overboard with discipline, where it borders on abusive, but I don't believe in shriveling up like a ninny and letting the kids walk all over you either.  Kids need stability and it's your responsibility to provide it to them.

Additionally, I realized that I needed to give my students practical work that taught them skills they would eventually use as adults in the future, as well as work that allows them to express themselves creatively. It seemed that my students retained most of the information presented to them when working on those assignments vs. the other meaningless assignments I gave them, such as essays, fill-in-the-blank, and free writing (Yes, I said it.  This is where all the English teachers can now throw their rotten fruit at me.  I'm going to duck now.)

In the end, I became a better teacher.  As with any job and skill set, you have to learn through trial and error.  I believe I am a better teacher now.  I use creativity in my assignments as well as assign practical assignments. I also instruct adults now, so I don't have to work on classroom management as much, but I always remember to be firm. However, I will always remember the valuable lessons my students taught me at an Intermediate school in Hawaii and that point in my teaching career where I was "the worst teacher ever."

For another great perspective about teaching from a former teacher, read Jen Hatmaker's blog post.

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