What is the hardest part of teaching high school?

Discussion in 'High School' started by amaryllis, Sep 6, 2009.

  1. amaryllis

    amaryllis Rookie

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    Sep 6, 2009

    Hello!

    I am several years from teaching still, just about to begin substituting this semester, with previous experience TA'ing and section leading (really independent teaching of small groups) at the college level.

    What would you say are the hardest parts of teaching high school?

    I'm hoping to teach at a private school, but since I'm in California, I know that I may very well wind up teaching public. With luck, I'll teach high school.

    Give me the good, the bad, and the ugly? I want to walk into this knowing the gamut of what to expect, especially after three more years of education (dual MA and single subject teaching credential).

    I don't want to face burnout, disillusionment, or a feeling of "why did I sign up for this." Perusing this board for awhile and want to really hear what you all would consider to be... THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE.

    :thanks:
     
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  3. Historyteaching

    Historyteaching Cohort

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    I teach high school, 9th/10th and I love it. The "Reader's Digest" version:

    -They are still kids, always remember that, some you may be inclined to talk to like an adult..Don't.
    -The missing of school, skipping, dropping out is higher
    -Questioning EVERYTHING and sometimes not nicely
    -The language
    -They want to be accepted and loved still as teens
    -They still love to get stickers and stamps on test papers!
    -They still like to get treats and prizes and play games
    -Pregnancy rates
    -Premature deaths due to new drivers or alcohol
    -Attitude, attitude, attitude (not like middle school, but its there)
    -Not as much parental involvement-sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes a bad thing.
    -Many uncaring toward their future, most teens can't see past the end of their noses, no realization of their actions sometimes.
    -Funny, witty, make you laugh and in the same instance make you want to shake your finger at them to be good.

    Okay..others..please share! I love my students..those are MY KIDS..I may want to shake them..but they are mine and as I tell them, you come 1/2 way I will too..you don't I won't. Those that do..I'll defend them to the end and back.:blush:
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think you just about covered it!

    The only other things I can think of are....

    You have to really know your content at the high school level. Having a "working knowledge" about your subject area just isn't good enough. You should be an expert, or at least willing to learn more and eventually become an expert.

    Many students in this age group don't care a whole heck of a lot about having the approval of their teacher. This means that that's one less resource you have in your discipline arsenal.

    They are mature in so many ways, and also so immature in just as many ways. They might know more than you do about sex, drugs, alcohol, whatever....But they might not understand the consequences associated with those sorts of things/activities. This means that they have lots of D-R-A-M-A.

    You as the adult need to understand how to work around their drama. When they come to you for guidance and advice, you need to be able to determine whether you should refer them to their counselors. You also need to be able to step away from their drama and not get caught up in it. Remember that you teach in a high school, you're not actually in high school (some teachers at my school have a problem with this...).

    Whatever your subject area, you teach reading and writing. Please don't dismiss those things as the job of the English teachers. All teachers are reading and writing teachers.
     
  5. Historyteaching

    Historyteaching Cohort

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    Ahh yes..the drama....that is a big one I forgot!

    Each day I see drama unfolding between bf/gf..girl/girl..boy/boy. Come in crying or mad...oh yes.

    Oh, remembered something else..don't ask questions of what they did over the weekend or break..some may be completely honest and tell you things you really don't want to hear!
     
  6. amaryllis

    amaryllis Rookie

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    Excellent (and I'd love to hear more people's views on this as well, MORE, MORE!).

    What keeps you going? what is it that makes you happiest about being a high school teacher?
     
  7. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I love being there with them as they face the light at the end of the tunnel. They need lots of support as it dawns on them that they really are about to be held accountable for what they have or haven't done over the last 12 years.

    I also love being there to share so many of the big first moments: first car, first date, first break up, first prom, first football game, etc.... They feel everything to that nth degree, so there is always so much energy being around them.

    If you approach them correctly, they are still very malleable, too. They are able (and sometimes willing) to listen to all sides of an argument and form their own opinions different from those of others.

    They are able (and sometimes willing) to take a stand and right a wrong.

    I just love them. However, I'm not sure anything will keep you from feeling moments of disillusionment and burnout, but I think that's true in every job. You just have to find your joy again when you lose it.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    That's the single worst part, though I would add in the occasional death due to cancer or other health issues. It's brutal and tears your heart out each time it happens-- and you have to be "on" to help the kids, some of whom are facing their first death at this time. You don't even get the release of letting go publicly, since your first priority is the kids.


    That aside, though, teaching is the most wonderful profession I can imagine-- and this is year#24 for me.

    There's no other job in the world for me.

    Amaryllis, I suspect that I'm currently teaching in your "dream school"-- a college prep Catholic high school of over 2500 kids in teh suburbs of NYC (Most days it's my dream job!). Our administration is incredibly professional and supportive, the parents tend to be great. And the kids, like all kids, respond very honestly. They love you or they hate you, but they never leave you guessing.

    I think the thing that many new teachers find hardest is coming up with their teacher persona-- defining exactly what type of teacher they will be. Everyone wants that perfect combination of Mary Poppins and Mr. Chips. The hard thing is figuring out how to set exactly the tone you want-- inspiring respect but not fear, discipline rather than punishment, humor without chaos. It's a tough balance, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The balance that Alice mentions also quite probably varies from year to year and possibly even from class to class: the dynamics of the group - whether they they get along, how they get along, where they all are psychologically - can play an incredibly huge part.
     
  10. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    I teach middle school, but I want to pipe in how important it is to have content knowledge. Even at middle school levels, it is vital to have strong content knowledge...especially with science and social studies.

    Good luck!
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    That can NOT be said often or emphatically enough!!!!
     
  12. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I'll second that emotion on content knowledge, and in elementary school as well... To paraphrase one of my favorite professors, learning is to teaching as sin is to confession: if you don't do the one, you haven't much to talk about in the other.
     
  13. amaryllis

    amaryllis Rookie

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    Content knowledge indeed. Could not agree with you more on this. I'm so eager to impart my passion for English to students!

    It's awesome to read through all of this and I'm bookmarking it for future inspiration.

    Hard to think about the car wrecks. The rate is high here because drinking is a way of life where I live. I'd never even considered dealing with that, although so many friends passed away when I was in high school myself from drunk driving :(
     
  14. amaryllis

    amaryllis Rookie

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    Yes, you ARE at my dream job, Alice. I'm grew up outside of NY, BTW. So you really, really have it pegged. The environment that you're describing sounds like what I know I might have trouble finding in California. Letting myself be flexible though, even if I know where I'd do best.

    I'm laughing at your discussion of teacher self-definition. I've never really put this into words BUT have thought about it a great deal. It's problematic, especially because it's just something that happens organically. While there have been teachers I've admired so greatly and sometimes want to push myself toward being similar to, who can I be but myself? It'll happen. It just hasn't yet. :thanks: But yes, should drop the Good Will Hunting fantasy already, ha!
     
  15. krysmorgsu

    krysmorgsu Cohort

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    I think that remembering that they are still kids is sometimes hard. Sometimes they'll act so mature, it amazes you. Other times, they act so immature, it'll frustrate you to no end. In the end, though, they are still kids. It's great to see how they mature and change over the time they are in high school.

    One of the worst things is the lack of respect that they have. Students today are not the same as when I was growing up (and I'm fairly young!). We would never think of cursing out a teacher, or hitting one, or getting in a teacher's face...but kids today do. It's a different culture. We have to remember that we are the adults, and that we have a part to play in training them to be adults. On the flip side, the good moments will make you feel on top of the world, all fuzzy and warm inside.

    Teaching in general is exciting, rewarding, frustrating, and a lot of work. You need to really love what you do in order to have a career in teaching as long as Alice's! If you can love teaching, love the students, love your content, then it's the most wonderful profession in the world! However, if can't do that, then teaching is miserable. Whichever it is, you have to be honest with yourself.
     
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  16. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    I second what Alice said. I think for me, there can be more irritants, like the drama, but those types of things are easily over looked.
     
  17. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    The hardest part for me is having 5 preps in social studies/history. I can never research enough to add to my arsenal of content knowledge!
     
  18. Vegas Art Guy

    Vegas Art Guy Rookie

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    Procedures are key. Have them down before you start the year. Practice them with your students and be ready to reteach them. If you are going to sub, steal everything you can from the regular teachers and always have your own set of plans, dry erase markers, band aids etc. Keep your rules simple and be consistent.
     
  19. sahsjing

    sahsjing Rookie

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    Two things are the most important:
    1) Classroom management skills, especially if you teach at a inner city public high school.

    2) Content knowledge, especially if you teach at a very academically challenging high school.
     
  20. djcalulod

    djcalulod New Member

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    Hello! I am an incoming practicum teacher and I was able to teach as a substitute teacher in our high school, and the hardest part that I encountered was that I was never able to finish teaching my lesson plan because of the time consumed for the "bumpy moments", like disciplining the students, making listen to you, and getting interrupted with their unnecessary questions. I just hope that when I become a teacher I would be able to handle these experiences well.

    Dina Jedidah Alulod
    Manila, Philippines
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dina, those things do become a lot easier with some experience.
     
  22. mrs.et

    mrs.et Rookie

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    I was a tutor at a high school for a semester during my undergrad, and I definitely think that classroom management will be the toughest thing I encounter. However, I also think that I was really good at it! I was frustrated to no end some days, but I think that accepting that it will be frustrating is the first step to a successful attitude. I couldn't help how I felt, but I could held how I reacted. I made sure that my reactions were appropriate for the situation.

    When one goes in to teaching thinking that the students are going to be quiet and attentive, I think that's when the reality check hits hard.
     
  23. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    YES!
     
  24. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I experienced the same thing last year during a long term position. Except I was always ahead of schedule with my smallest class. I'm convinced that smaller class sizes would be SO much better for students, but that's just a silly dream.
     
  25. sequence

    sequence Rookie

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    At my last school, before this one, there was no administrative or parental support. That was super tough
     
  26. Raye

    Raye Rookie

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    It also depends WHEN you have a class. I've noticed that my morning class tends to behave much better in comparison to the class I have at the end of the day. It seems to be a consensus among everyone I work with that the last period is the most difficult to manage and gain their attention because their minds are pretty set on going home.
     
  27. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    It's a pretty good rule of thumb: later in the day = more boisterous or hard to keep on track. That said, there is often a spike for classes that are 1) right after brunch or 2) right after lunch because they still have yet to settle down.

    I've also had classes in the last or next to the last period that were pretty mellow - but they were smaller class sizes or had generally less boisterous personalities.
     
  28. kfhsdramaqueen

    kfhsdramaqueen Rookie

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    The hardest part of teaching high school for me is all the non-teaching crap that I have to do. I love my job (I teach AP and Theatre Arts), but it's the paperwork, meetings, ego stroking, gossip avoiding, testing, conferences, spec ed conference, duties, sports duties, etc. that are tough. Having to justify everything you do and covering your a** all the time, no matter how innocent it is. If teaching was actually about teaching and not about playing a game, it would be so much easier.
     
  29. atomic

    atomic Companion

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    You nailed it. Teaching is fun and rewarding. Dealing with the students is challenging.

    All the "other" stuff is insane.

    At my school, they are constantly starting new initiatives and never saying the old ones are done. We have had three new ones this year alone. They resemble the same ones from years ago that didn't work either.

    Kids will always be loud, late, truant, disrespectful, etc. You just need to make the best of it.
     
  30. think 2100

    think 2100 Rookie

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    Establishing a Presence in the Classroom

    When just starting out, I think the toughest thing that new teachers face is developing enough confidence to create a personal presence in the classroom. This is pretty vague, I know, and it varies from one teacher to another. But all effective teachers have it. When they speak, people listen. Another early challenge is developing "with-it-ness." This doesn't mean that you are cool. It means that you know everything that's happening in your classroom in a moment. You know immediately who is paying attention and who is not. You pick up on kids who are feeling tense or perhaps are having a bad day. You know the "look" of someone who has their electronic device out without seeing the device. This kind of radar allows you to move the class quickly into learning mode before the lesson begins, or back into learning mode before it continues. A third thing that is very challenging for beginning teachers to develop is to nip all those things in the bud that interfere with learning mode - and to do it quickly without emotional tension or confrontation. A lot of this comes from experience that brings confidence, and it cannot be taught in an ordinary college classroom setting. It is similar to a basketball player who has enough on-court experience to keep track of everything that 9 other fast-moving players are doing on the court. Until the player has developed this court awareness, she is bound to make a lot of turnovers.
     
  31. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    YES!!! So true. I teach middle school, and this is my third year, and I am just starting to "get" it :p
     
  32. manatee23

    manatee23 Rookie

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    I just rediscovered this site recently and haven't posted in awhile, but I wanted to add my hardship to the mix as everyone has said some really great good sides I wholeheartedly agree with. My biggest challenge in high school is the intellectual diversity of my students within one classroom. I teach reg. biology (a required course for graduation in my area) and I have it all, students who are literally struggling with a 4th or 5th grade reading level to kids who are wicked smart but to lazy to venture into honors. It's hard to find the balance between slowing down too much for the strugglers and keeping things moving and on par for the other half. If I'm not careful some group is getting left behind, either I went to fast or I lost the other half to boredom.
    For classroom management, I can't say I suffer too much any longer (this is my 6th year) but every class has a personality and to me the key is following what you say. If you say in your rules no food or a detention will be given or that you are going call home, you better well do it! They all talk, and they all know the "rules" and they also know who broke them so if you don't follow them yourself you just gave them the power to keep doing it!
     
  33. newbie1234

    newbie1234 Companion

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    The two most challenging aspects for me are motivation and manners. Those teens are going through so many changes that school is often their last priority. They've also moved way beyond passing notes to text messaging constantly, so keeping them focused is a challenge.

    As someone else mentioned, kids are not as respectful as they used to be. I'm in my 30's, and I wasn't prepared for the rudeness.

    I love it, though. Everything is so new to high school students. It's a challenging job, but so worth it.
     
  34. TechnoMage

    TechnoMage Companion

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    Teaching

    Teaching is the hardest part.

    Showing them that they can learn is the BEST PART.

    TechnoMage
     

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