What it Takes to Teach High School

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by britgirl88, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. britgirl88

    britgirl88 New Member

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    Mar 5, 2008

    Hey everyone, I'm currently in college working on becoming a teacher. I'm having difficulties deciding what grade to teach. I'm really interested in teaching high school, but I don't want to get in over my head. What qualities would you say a person needs in order to successfully teach high school? Also, as I'm making my decision, people in my family keep reminding me of the violence in high school and the past high school shootings. Is there anything you can tell me concerning that? Thank you for your help!
     
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  3. Budaka

    Budaka Cohort

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    Mar 6, 2008

    Well, they keep reminding us in our teacher meetings that there are thousands of schools in the US and the shootings are actually very rare. However, it doesn't feel that way!

    I am reminded of a saying about the difference between an elementary school teacher and a high school teacher. You should be an elementary school teacher if you want to grade 150 papers on five different subjects. You should be a high school teacher if you want to grade 150 papers on the same subject. :) Although since I teach five different subjects at the high school level it doesn't really work for me.

    I think any teacher needs patience. A lot of patience.
     
  4. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Mar 6, 2008

    I am a middle school person, so take this for what it's worth. I think the best way to figure out where you fit is to get into schools - lots of schools and observe, or if possible, shadow a student. If you have any friends who teach or if your parents have friends who teach, see if they can take you to school for a day.
    I thought I wanted to teach elementary school until I did my practicum hours in a junior high. I found out that that's where I belong. I love seventh grade, and I wouldn't want to teach anything else!
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Mar 6, 2008

    School violence is a very real thing, but it's also fairly rare in a lot of places. While it can happen anywhere, it usually happens in urban schools where there's a lot of gang activity, or in schools where bullying is permitted to persist. My school is in an urban area and our zoning lines pull from three or four huge rival gang areas. We do have some problems with violence on campus, but all of it happens outside my classroom and most of it happens after school hours.

    To be a happy and effective high school teacher, I think you need to be patient and assertive and hold students accountable for their own actions and attitudes. High school teachers I know who let students walk all over them or who allow students to make excuses for bad behaviors are not effective teachers, and most of them are not happy people.

    You need to also remember that while high school students might look like adults, they aren't. For that reason, you don't need to be their best friend or to desire their approval like you might do with a peer. Instead, you need to guide them towards a successful path while maintaining appropriate boundaries. Some teachers I know have questionable boundaries with students, and I think it's because they see them as peers and not as children.

    I recommend sitting in on a few classes at different levels to see which ones feel right to you. Some won't, and others will. That will help lead you towards choosing the right grade level.
     
  6. teacheratheart

    teacheratheart Companion

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    Mar 6, 2008

    Most high school teachers have a passion for the subject they teach. I don't have a burning passion for any one subject so I teach resource. It's like teaching at the elementary level because you teach so many different subjects but the kids are all bigger than you.

    As someone who is young, it was hard for me to establish my boundaries. Most days there is some student that I have to remind, I am a teacher and not one of their friends. It's especially hard here because I teach in a very small school and there is a closer relationship between all teachers and the students than you would see in a bigger school.

    But I love teaching in the high school. I love the kids, I love the atmosphere, I love being able to go out to their games and cheer them on. I love seeing them excited about something, such as a scholarship offer or college credits they earned. I don't love standardized testing though and you will do a lot of that in high school.

    As for school violence, think about how many high schools there are in the country and how many shootings there really are. I can't imagine letting a fear as abstract as that be the determining factor in my decisioin. And the violence isn't limited to high schools either. Last year I taught elementary and we had a lock down because there was some guy running around the neighborhood with a gun. At the high school this year, we had a lock down because some student threatened to blow up the school and insinuated he had a bomb. The bigger high schools around us have 3 or 4 lockdowns a year. Even the middle schools do. And remember, violence happens everywhere. You just hear more about it when it happens at a school because it's so shocking to see someone so young commit such a catastrophic crime.
     
  7. Historyteaching

    Historyteaching Cohort

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    Mar 7, 2008

    Patience..You need patience.

    And that's to be any teacher! As the others have said, you have to really work at making sure they understand you are teacher, not friend. Not that you can't laugh and joke with them, and be friendly, but set the boundary lines as what is friendly and "nice" under the teacher-student rule and then when it because more of a chummy non teacher-student rule. I know of a few teachers who were let go because they crossed that line a little.
    These kids are mini adults and you are able to talk to them as you would most adults (minus a few big words). You must remember that these kids are many times taller and bigger than you could be and they know it. Attitudes are abound in high school-if you can't handle sometimes total disrespect or being able to come back at them and handle blatant defiance..then its not for you.

    now after saying all that-I LOVE IT! I teach 9th/10th graders and I LOVE IT! They drive me crazy, i've been cussed out, i get attitude daily many many times a day-but those are MY kids and I would do whatever I could within the boundaries to help them succeed. I HATE to fail a kid..but I will if they don't do the work. I hate to give zeros on tests..but I will. It can be so fun, you will try something that you will think they will say is baby-ish..they will jump on it! Even if they think its corny-they secretly love the idea of reverting back to elementary..just today I walked into a Junior AP History class, they had a sub..and I saw Disney characters coloring pages out on some desks and they were coloring them! They make me laugh, they make me scream, they make me wanna shake them. But I wouldn' trade it for the world. :2up:

    Go to the different levels and job shadow..hit all the grade levels in elementary..one year at that age makes a HUGE difference. You'll know what you like-it will just fit. Good Luck!
     
  8. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Mar 10, 2008

    I wouldn't let your family dissuade you if your passion is high school. If you love teaching and want your students to learn, you'll figure out the discipline and lesson planning etc.

    Random violence can happen anywhere. You'd have to live as a hermit to eliminate the risk of random violence from your life. The chances of a school shooting at your school are statistically insignificant, and even if one did happen, the chances that you would be killed are still miniscule. I hate to put it that way, but it's true. I take prudent precautions but I don't think anyone should obsess over unpredictable "What ifs." And this is from somebody who sets her house alarm every night when she goes to sleep!
     
  9. BeckyPie7

    BeckyPie7 Companion

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    Mar 11, 2008

    I teach high school and I love it. Granted, we've had our fair share of violence at my school and it can be a bit unnerving, however, I can't see myself anywhere else.
     
  10. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Mar 11, 2008

    So, have you had a chance to shadow some teachers and decide? or are you still working on it? :)
     
  11. britgirl88

    britgirl88 New Member

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    Mar 12, 2008

    I got the chance to shadow an elementary school teacher and I liked it, but something didn't exactly feel right to me. I haven't had the chance to shadow in a high school. Apparently I have to get permission from my college and the board of education, which is strange since I didn't have to do either to shadow in the elementary school. Anyway, I found myself leaning even more towards high school after shadowing the 5th grade class and I'm very excited about it! I've also been thinking about what types of things I'd like to implement in my future classroom and I've noticed that I've only been able to come up with things for a high school class. It just comes more naturally to me. I'm really excited that I've been able to make my decision. You have all been a great help, and your advice has been outstanding! Thank you all so much for taking time out of your schedules to help me with this. You were able to make me think of things I might not have thought of otherwise. Even though I've made my decision, if any of you think of any other advice, it's still greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

    Brittany
     
  12. ecteacher

    ecteacher Rookie

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    Mar 12, 2008

    I believe any teacher, regardless of grade level, should be firm (not overly aggressive and intimidating) and consistent about discipline, and should be patient.
    I am an intern at a high school right now, and personally I LOVE high school in comparison to elementary school. The kids generally know routines better, and (for the most part) are more consistent about good/appropriate behavior. Granted you have issues with kids on a case-by-case basis, but I don't think it's that bad overall.
    In elementary school, I personally thought behavior was harder to control...kids can get super violent even under the age of ten. You'd be shocked. I really think cases of violence are rare (but obviously they are unfortunate)...I've seen smaller children become way more violent than older students. That is just my experience though, not an overall assessment of schools...
     
  13. am elisheva

    am elisheva Rookie

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    Mar 13, 2008

    not to be repetitive but...

    patience is absolutely key!! I'm a first year teacher at a 9th grade center (kinda fell into that job). you also can't take ANYTHING personally, esp. stuff a student might say when they get aggravated. staying calm will kill any disruption almost immediately.

    so far, I'm so-so with the profession. there are up days and down days...today was just boring but towards the end, I got to pull out a couple of my previous students who requested tutoring; taught them the math in a different way and they excelled at it, so that made me feel good. things like that will make your time worthwhile.

    as for level, there's no way I could ever do elementary; i simply expect too much and can't relate to them. high school is awesome; sure there are problems but you have the opportunity to have a much bigger impact on the kids. i have several who have come a long way maturity wise and i tell them all the time.

    regarding student relationships, i look young, younger than some of my own students. but dressing and acting like a professional will help immensely to set you apart. sometimes i have to remind myself of the 10+ year age gap between me and them; it's easy to want to be their friend, but do that and your classroom management is out the window for the most part.
     
  14. MrU82

    MrU82 Rookie

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    Mar 25, 2008

    Guts.
     
  15. Calliope

    Calliope Companion

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    The key I see to successful new HS teachers vs. unsuccessful ones -- come in being a grown up. That means dress like one, carry yourself like one, talk like one, act like one. If you're young, especially if you look young, you almost have to overdo it. You have to differentiate yourself from the students. You have to sound like an authority figure.

    Last year we lost 4-5 new teachers in the middle of the year. Two of them just walked out. All of them had started out so excited & hopeful, but those high school kids just chewed them up & spit them out. I felt sorry for those new teachers, & I know that aging a few years would've really helped them.
     
  16. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    For me, I have a greater opportunity to make an impact on their lives. They do know the routines better, and yep, there will still be some management issues at times, be firm and you'll be fine. Dressing like the grown up is important too. Relationships are key too...mentor relationship.
     
  17. sancynicole

    sancynicole Rookie

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    Apr 3, 2008

    Britgirl88:
    I am also in college and really need to decide which grade level to teach. I love young kids! I think I am very patient, fun-loving, and skilled in working with elementary age children. However, like you, when I think of things I can do when I become a Teacher or ideas thay are all aimed at High School English!! I am thinking about getting my Bachelors in English with licensure to teach 6th-12th grade, and then working on my Masters in Elem Education (PK-6)/Licensure part-time. Where I go to school, Elementary licensure is not offered at the undergrad level so if I wanted to teach Elementary, I would have to get my Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies: Elementary Teacher Prep and then my Elementary license or Masters. So either way I would have to go beyond the Bachelors level so I guess I might as well do the English degree so that I am qualified to teach 6-12 and then after my Masters I will be able to teach K-6.
     
  18. chase164

    chase164 New Member

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    Apr 3, 2008

    britgirl88-
    when I started teaching I could imagine teaching high school, too intimidating. I taught middle school for 7 years and then was transferred. I had a stereo type in my head of high schoolers. If anything they are passive aggressive and lazy. But they can be amazing and enlightening as well. I learn from them everyday. Now I have been at the high school for 7 years and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. You need to follow your passion and where you feel you belong, that is why you have to shadow and student teach so you can get a feel for where you belong. Good luck!!!
     
  19. teachntexas

    teachntexas Rookie

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    I would say you need a love for your subject, a love for your students, a herculean work ethic, a high IQ, extremely excellent social skills, an ability to not judge kids based on what you see and how they act--to still care about their little spirits even when they're being horse's patoots, and exquisite organizational skills. Also, the sense of humor of a really good stand-up comedian and an ability to organize and decorate your classroom pleasantly.

    Not that I possess any of that. That's probably why I think you need it.

    Oh, also, a natural ability to set clear boundaries and uniformly enforce classroom rules.
     

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