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Career Story: Fourth Grade Teacher

Fourth Grade Teacher

Job Title: Teacher, Writer, Therapist

Education: BA in Communications, Winthrop University •• MA in English, Winthrop University •• MA in Education, National University •• MA in Counseling Psychology, Santa Clara University

Previous Experience: When I shifted careers to teaching, I first taught in an evening class which gave me experience, coupled with my coursework.

Job Tasks: From about 7 AM to 4 PM and some days much later, I work in a public classroom. Should you decide to teach it is critical that you understand in order to teach, you must first understand classroom management. Without classroom management, no teaching occurs. The year is one great big struggle. To obtain classroom management, I recommend Fred Jones' program. Without it, I would never have returned to teach a second year. It is also critical to understand the attention span of your students. Craft lessons that capture their attention, that engage them, teach them, model and then let them practice, practice, practice.

For persons just beginning in teaching, I think it is very important to obtain a mentor. To find out if teaching is for you, perhaps you can arrange a class project where you work with a teacher and get to teach a class or teach for a day. I teach fourth grade. One my first students came back as a senior in high school, observed and assisted for three days, then taught for an entire day and found the experience exhilarating. Like most jobs, you want to spend 80 percent of your time doing what you love and 20 percent on the part that is mindless work. I was initially reluctant to use volunteers, but they have enriched my program immensely and they have helped my students boost their test scores. Teaching, to me, is really about orchestration, helping each of the instrument players perform their best.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: As with any job, it is challenging to deal with people who are difficult, uncooperative and/or who are blind to the issues. In a profession where you give so much of yourself, you must find a way to provide self care, so that you renew/rejuvenate yourself. For example, in a crisis on an airplane, your job is to first get your own air mask on, then help others. The same in teaching. You need to come to the classroom with your best mindset, believing that it is possible for children to succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Give them the best you have to give and trust the process. You may not see it in a year, but the seeds are sown for a young person to prosper.

Job Tips:
1. Find an outstanding mentor.

2. Subscribe to ASCD.

3. Read Marzano.

4. Mentally rehearse.

5. Find quicker ways to grade multiple choice tests. For example, stand up, lay 10 papers out next to each other on the table, and zoom through the spelling tests, grading all the first three questions at a time on 10 papers, then resume.

6. Get to know students through their writing.

7. Look for what's beautiful in students, encourage what you want. Rather than attend to the negative, let the negative atrophy. How you treat your worst student is observed by all students and it impacts how students see and treat you.

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