Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ten Facts about Teaching English

Most of the time, being an English teacher is really great. I'm in year four, so some would still call me naive, but I've seen a lot and I still think it's really great nearly all of the time. Obviously, there's summer break to consider- a very, very necessary break for those of us who spend the year attempting to get dozens of unmotivated students through four major essays a year (a piece, you do the math) so that they can cross the stage and get a diploma someday. Then there's Christmas Break. And snow days. And the fact that a teacher's schedule is often family-friendly for working moms.

But none of these are really English Teacher specific benefits. You see, there are certain joys and certain pains that are reserved strictly for us teachers of the English Language/Communication Arts/Language Arts/Whatever they're calling it this year. Often stereotyped as glasses-wearing, high-pitched, mean and cranky ladies, we English teachers really have a lot more to us than other people may think. I mean, spend a few minutes in the Faculty Lounge during lunch and you will likely wonder if YOUR high school English teachers were like that. I think we're pretty awesome actually. 

So, in no particular order, here are ten things you may not know about why being an English Teacher is both really awesome and really hard. English teacher friends, this one's for you! Enjoy.

Sometimes, being an English teacher is really hard:
1.  ESSAYS. You dread writing them, we dread grading them.

Seriously, I literally spent ALL of yesterday with this stack of papers. They aren't so bad at first. But throw 75 papers in a pile, then try to stay awake on the couch while reading nearly the same thing (and writing the same comments) over and over again. What's worse is that you literally taught them all of this in class, but they STILL didn't get it. Oh, and did I mention that you don't get paid extra for giving up 10 hours of your life on the weekend to grade them? Major bummer.

2. We are perfectionists who are forced to majorly multi-task.
Do you check your grammar before sending every text or email? Do you spend hours searching the web to find the perfect photo for your powerpoint? Or do you read three novels at once while annotating great questions and working on discussion prompts for a student-led activity for tomorrow? We do. We don't want our kids to miss out on the education they deserve, especially when their speaking, listening, writing, reading, and grammar skills will forever reflect our high school. We don't try to be perfectionists when it comes to grammar, lesson-planning, or giving feedback, we just care so much that we can't help it. 

3. We get the lowest, most uninterested kids.
This is a bit of a struggle for all core teachers. Essentially, you have to take and pass our classes to graduate. Great job security, but it's not like every kid who enters your door is going to be singing your praises, even if you were the greatest English teacher ever (and I'm not). I have countless students tell me that English isn't their favorite subject, and I know they'll like me even less when I make them write four essays. This makes classroom management a fun treat sometimes, especially when little Bobby is more into watching Netflix on his computer than learning how to write a topic sentence when he doesn't even know what a verb is.

4. Enabling parents. Period.
Gosh I am learning a lot about how I won't choose to parent. Small rant here: enabling parents who put all the blame on the teacher and none on their kids are the worst!! Seriously, your kid has a bad grade because that is what they have earned. It doesn't mean I'm an awful teacher, and it doesn't mean your kid is being treated unfairly. Perhaps you should ask them to actually do their homework and turn it in on time. Then hold them accountable with consequences. Shocking, the life lessons that I'm attempting to teach your kid.

5. We hear the heart-wrenching stories of our kids' lives, and it tears us up inside.
One of the very worst parts of being an English teacher are all of the heart-breaking stories that we read, hear, and are told about what kids these days are dealing with. I can't legally say much, but I'll tell you, they aren't easy to hear. Today's kids are trying to handle things they shouldn't have to at this age. They're just kids. It's so, so sad, and it's shocking how much you can really care about kids that you see 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 9 months.

And sometimes, being an English teacher is really awesome: 
1. We get to read great books. 
I can read every Young Adult book on the shelf at the Library, and no one will ever judge me. It's almost like I'm doing classroom research, but it's research that I get to enjoy! In the last year alone I've read everything from Gone Girl to the Divergent Series to The Fault in Our Stars. And I've enjoyed them. Teaching English keeps me up on reading current books. While this isn't always a luxury in the classroom, I'm pretty blessed to teach gifted classes where I do get a decent say in what kids will be reading as part of the curriculum.

2. We have a special understanding and appreciation of each other that no one else really gets.
If you're an English teacher, there isn't much that shocks you anymore. Grading papers in a car, at sporting events, or on the weekend is normal to you. You don't flinch at awkward slips of the tongue during a lecture or unintentional inappropriate typos in a paper. You aren't even phased by the ridiculous expectations of students about putting in their late work, grading essays in one night, or bragging about whose Lexile score is lowest. Teaching English is a sisterhood/brotherhood that only the strongest thrust themselves into.

3. We know our kids on the deepest levels.
One of my favorite papers is the AutoBio paper that my kids write at the beginning of the school year. While they can be heart-wrenching (see number 5 above), their life stories truly help you see who these kids are and what they are dealing with. It can be kind of heart-warming and shocking all at once. The students really seem to appreciate having someone to share their story with, and I often feel honored that they are comfortable opening up to me about topics that they don't broadcast to others.

4. We spend our days talking, laughing, and being creative with awesome kids.
The sky is the limit for English teachers. I can find a great current event topic and incorporate it in my classroom the next day through a video or an article for discussion. I love being able to combine my creativity with our school's one to one technology to really provide engaging, authentic lessons for my students that actually help them learn life-long skills. Every year is different and there is always something new to do or revamp in the classroom. All in all, I've got some great kids!

5. We make a difference in kids' futures.
No matter what job or college a kid chooses to pursue after high school, one thing is sure: they are going to have to know how to read and write. Communication is key in all phases of life, and it is something that can make a huge difference between success and failure. While kids may not always like it, they will appreciate us some day when they know how to write papers, analyze claims, and summarize main ideas. They might even be happy that they remember the difference between your and you're. A select few will even come back to visit us some day, and tell us how much they learned and that we were their favorite teacher :) This is what makes it all worth it. And it is worth it.

Currently,
Kelsie


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