Teaching: What’s easy, What’s hard

There were several difficulties I expected as a new teacher. A smaller paycheck, less time all together and a more demanding job. But here are the things I didn’t expect:

  • The sheer amount of curriculum planning needed. I’m teaching three different subjects and planning an hour and a half lesson every other day is really wearing me out. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still the biggest drain on my time. Some teachers worry about a student or stress about grades, but for me it’s the lesson planning that consumes me. It’s probably the biggest burden of teaching for me, since I cannot stand not being prepared for my classroom. I’m hoping it improves next school year when I can reuse all my plans from last.
  • Discipline in the classroom. I remember the first time I asked a student into the hall. He wasn’t causing any physical harm, but he was definitely a distraction to class. When we arrived into the hall, I realize that he’s about 5 inches taller than me yet I’m the one lecturing him. It was a funny feeling. I’ve been getting better about being firm with the students, now that I know what to expect and have a clearer definition of the school rules, but learning how to effectively discipline is a long journey and being consistent is extremely difficult.
  • Student missing class. Whether they’re absent or visiting ISS (In School Suspension), nothing ruins a perfect lesson plan like a student asking five minutes before the class starts, “Did I miss anything from last class?”. It’s extremely difficult to summarize what took me an hour and a half to teach into a five minute lesson before the beginning of class. It’s also difficult to give the students take home work when everything is done on the computer. Please, if you have a student in your family and they miss a day of school, have them come in early to make up for their absence. I know it won’t be possible for every class that student missed, but the teachers the student makes it to will remember his extra effort.
  • How to grade work. Out of all things I’ve learned from my certification classes, I’m surprised we haven’t at all covered how to grade student work. My first set of six weeks grades were due last Tuesday and it was a rush to get them in. Several of the students were missing work (remember that absences thing  ) and I had to rush grade a lot of work. I’ve learned to plan ahead this time, but I’m still having difficulty figuring out what a fair grading policy is. Several times I’ve given tests and quizzes and the students end up doing terribly on it. I know I’m making mistakes in my teaching methods but how much is it my fault and how much is it the students just not applying themselves. For the most part I’ve given the students the benefit of the doubt, but it would be nice to know if I’m on the right track.

Well, that’s my short list of difficulties. Here are the easy parts of teaching.

  • The actual teaching. Because I’m (mostly) teaching subjects that I know by heart, when I’m in front of the class instructing the students, it really comes naturally. Yes there are times when I confuse myself and the students, or when I struggle to find another way to demonstrate an idea, but for the most part I feel I have the instructional part down. Obviously I have things to learn and can always improve, but I’m never really afraid of the teaching part of teaching.
  • Falling asleep at night. Sure, I’m definitely not getting my full 8 hours of sleep every night, but I tell you I have never fallen asleep as fast as often then since I’ve started teaching. Within minutes of hitting the sack I’m fast asleep whereas a few months ago it might take me an hour to start dreaming. I don’t know if that’s technically part of teaching, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Speaking of sleeping, it’s now bedtime and my eyes are blurring up. Thanksgiving is a week away and I’m looking more forward to it then most of my students.