“What are still you doing here? It’s 6 pm.”
And so began most of my conversations with Jerry, the janitor at my previous school, in the first three years of my teaching.
Hunched over my keyboard, my red eyes peering into my computer screen, like a shipwrecked tourist searching for a chunk of floating wood, I googled endless combinations of words in search for the perfect worksheet, the lesson, the video, that would allow me a bit of rest and keep a group of teens pacified– and, I dared to hope– interested.
Back then, planning a unit or even one lesson was a burden.
Today, with the sites I’ve discovered, the planning is much easier. Here are the 13 websites for English teachers I can’t live without.
Would you put an “X” for “yes” beside your own English class if you were a student with a course enrollment sheet in hand?
If you were a student today, would you choose to sign up to your own class?
The answer to that question may well be the million-dollar question.
As a teacher, you pine for summer vacation like a fat kid pines for ice cream and a Big Mac. Don’t pretend for a second that isn’t true. I don’t mean to say you and I don’t love children, or that we don’t love what we do. But the teaching grind–it grinds you down. And when the summer comes, all you want to do is put your ground up self in a hot tub and soak and become coffee.
You, teacher, want to be fully alive again.
In a post earlier this month, I went over the research showing that a teacher’s high academic standards and expectations result in student success.
I always knew high standards work intuitively. My best teachers—the strict-as-nothing English, music, and karate teachers—all pushed me to new heights. They expected and demanded new heights, and I jumped up to deliver.
Now that I’m a teacher, I teach the same way.
Through observation and the reading of research, I’ve found the five secrets of high expectations teachers that any teacher can follow.
At my father’s funeral on a rainy day twelve years ago, the church was nearly empty and only two people cried.
My mom and I cried, and everyone else present stood dry-eyed, unperturbed, that a man who had lived 42 years on this Earth would be buried under mud.
But I don’t blame them. I know why they didn’t cry.
My dad was a man of integrity. But when he died in an accident, he was a shadow of his former self.
Everybody and his pet rabbit wants to become a teacher. Around this time of year, at least three students tell me they want to become teachers. Later in the year, I often discover, more future teachers pop out of the woodwork.
With eyes that seem to look towards a utopia, these students tell me they want to teach. They tell me they want to share their love of Shakespeare. Biochemistry. The finer points of geography. And they want to inspire. They want to, through their gentle lovingness, spark the latent fire of intelligence and humanity in teenagers obsessed with spinners and dabs.
Do you feel like you’re drowning in marking?
Do you look at a pile of multiple choice tests and groan at the thought of marking each one of them—A, B, C, or D?
These tests, book reports, essays, and paragraphs all pile up on your desk until it’s a fire hazard and your own life is all but swallowed.
If you’re like me, marking overload happens throughout the year, but especially around report card time.
Back in high school, Sandra and I would hang out at lunch and swap our homework and our essays. And then we would edit in red ink on them for the fun of it.
It’s the little things that chip away at your sense of self-respect as a teacher. The parent that screams at you over the phone at the end of the day because you disciplined his child. The parent who, across the table at a parent-teacher interview, tells you how to teach writing. Another parent who has a gripe with you, and instead of talking with you, emails your principal. The child who says, “My mom said that those who can’t do, teach.” The strangers who call your job “glorified babysitting.” Or the child you tutor who tells you that in his home country, he had two teachers who he called servants.
Yes, all of this has happened to me.
I can imagine you have experienced these moments too. You have been treated by adults and children alike like a dirty rag to be pushed around. I know other teachers have been treated with disrespect because their words and actions are telling. All of it may have even made you reconsider teaching and made you say things like this:
“I’m just a teacher.”
I have to stop you there. You’re not just a teacher. You are a teacher. You direct, guide, scold, and embolden the future. You encourage the gutless in the gutters. You set high standards your students cannot even envision. You rile kids up and take bullies down. You make speeches and promises and you deliver. You analyze novels and poems so deeply that these poems and novels—and even parts of life—become understood.
You are a teacher. That is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is nothing to hide.
To develop self-respect as a teacher, teach louder.
Don’t let anyone treat you like a dirty rag. Dress like a modern-day queen or king. Every day, prepare yourself for school. Iron your button-up shirt so firmly that the iron lines show on the arms. Starch your pants and brush the kinks out of your hair. Shine your shoes and look down in them to see your precious teacher face.
You are a teacher.
Respect yourself, and the rest will follow.