Career Story: Biology Teacher At A Vocational High School

Biology Teacher At A Vocational High School

Job Title: High School Biology Teacher

Type of Company: I work for the Connecticut technical high school system.

Education: BS, Biology, Eastern Connecticut State University •• MA, Secondary Education, Eastern Connecticut State University

Previous Experience: I worked as a waitress for eight years at a small family restaurant. I also waitressed at another restaurant that was more commercial and better organized in their approach to customer service. This is my first teaching position so my work experience is limited.

Job Tasks: My primary job is to teach students science content and how to think scientifically in a safe environment. It is important to keep in mind the students' feelings of safety because without a good learning environment, students will not achieve their potential. I focus much of my time on creating lessons that are hands-on because too much lecturing is dull. My students embrace this approach to teaching science and I try to incorporate the 5 E teaching style as much as possible. This means to Engage the students with an opening activity, Explain what actually happened, Elaborate on the material, Extend and Evaluate what was learned. For example, today we were going over evidence of evolution in class and instead of just giving straight notes, which is easy but boring for the students, I had them do a short activity to relate to one of the evidences, which was biochemical similarities. I was trying to get them to reach the conclusion that organisms with DNA sequences that come closest to matching are more closely related than those that have fewer DNA matches. Then I elaborated and gave them the fact that a chimpanzee's DNA is 96% like a human.

My duties include teaching the students and keeping them safe. I monitor the halls and watch out for students bullying other students and try to make sure students are where they should be. I monitor lunch and there are times when I have to cover other classrooms, when a teacher has a conflict or a meeting to attend. I have to contact parents when I am concerned with student performance or behavior. Most of all, I teach the students to think critically and scientifically while trying to keep it hands-on.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the relationships. I love the people I work with because they are so positive and if you have a hard day you can confide in them. They are teachers who have been through everything and know how to handle difficult situations or know how to lift your spirits. The people I work with want you to be successful because they want the kids to be successful and they help in any way they can; at least that has been my experience. Then there are the kids. Of course there are some bad apples, but the kids are great. When you get to know them you can joke with them and have fun in the class room. It's great to see them work hard and succeed. Some students even come back to visit you and that's a great feeling.

The worst part of the job is the paper work. There is a lot to grade and keep up with to meet deadlines (progress reports, report cards, lesson plans) and sometimes you bring work home with you. It is hard to separate home life and work life. I have to bring a lot of work home with me to grade because there is just not enough time. Another hard part is some kids can be negative and you can't let that get you down. Dealing with the teenage attitude can be draining. Also, it's hard to see a kid drop out of school when you have put so much energy into seeing him succeed.

Job Tips: First of all, you are not superman and can't do it all. Do what you can when you can and don't feel bad if the lesson didn't go well the first time out. Learn from your experiences and don't beat yourself up about the small things.

Second, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Be over-prepared. Have back up plans. If you plan to use technology for a lesson, plan for that technology to fail and have a plan B.

Third, ASK FOR HELP. It's okay to share ideas and share work. Steal worksheets, steal ideas from other teachers, use them and make them your own. DON'T reinvent the wheel.

Additional Thoughts: My biggest comment for your first year as a teacher is to simply survive. Just make it through the first year and the next year will be better. I almost quit after my first year. I was miserable and was crying every other day from the stress. I was overworked and the kids could tell I was weak and would draw their energy from that. I didn't have my own room yet and was floating from room to room around the building. Once the first year was over, I wasn't the new kid in town anymore. Like magic, it was all different. That first year just plain sucked and the second year was 150 times better.

If I had to go back to college I would take some more psychology courses and special education courses. I would also try to learn more about implementing reading strategies. One of the biggest challenges kids face is reading in our system.

For personal qualities, it is important as a teacher to be flexible. Not everything is going to be perfect and every day something is going to come up. Just go with the flow and treat lesson plans as guidelines to shoot for. Make sure you follow the curriculum for your school and dot the i's and cross the t's but be flexible in your approach. There are many ways that are all good to teach the same thing. Also, realize that you need to do things for yourself and you are not a machine. Do the best you can to separate work and your personal life so you can keep your sanity.

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