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Career Story: Math Teacher At A Vocational High School

Math Teacher At A Vocational High School

Job Title: High School Math Teacher

Type of Company: I work in a vocational technical high school. Our students follow a regular but condensed academic program, spending ten days in class and ten days entirely in shop.

Education: BA, Mathematics, Annhurst College •• MS, Secondary Education, Central Connecticut State University •• Diplomate Degree, Education with a specialization in Remedial Mathematics, Central Connecticut State University

Previous Experience: I did not have paying jobs that led to my career. However, I always knew that I wanted to teach and found ways of doing it before I was certified. While in high school, I tutored students with special needs. I also coached two of my cousins so that they could pass the New York Regents exam. While in college, I worked as an unpaid teacher's aid for a math teacher who had gone blind. It was amazing to watch him teach geometry! He would put his finger on the board and then draw a pretty awesome figure to illustrate whatever geometry concept he was teaching that day.

Job Tasks: I currently split my duties between teaching algebra to students who have already failed the course and monitoring school-wide attendance and work-based learning.

A typical algebra class consists of introducing a topic, assessing students' understanding of it and discussing everyday experiences or vocabulary that make the topic easier to grasp. I use notes and examples, and hand out work and assignments for further study.

Since our students are hands-on learners, it is most important to focus on practical applications. These help visual learners to grasp the concept faster. They also helps students "unlearn" some of their previous misconceptions and add an element of fun and puzzle solving. This type of learning involves some discovery as well as cooperative experiences. I also teach trouble shooting skills and emphasize the importance of perfecting their crafts.

I spend a portion of the day analyzing student attendance records, looking at individual attendance as well as trends for the school as a whole, and calling parents to discuss policies and procedures. I work with guidance counselors, assistant principals and the nurse to help set up interventions for at-risk students and special educational programs for students who are out for extended periods of time due to illness.

The remainder of my day is devoted to working with the students in their shops, and with their instructors and local businesses who are interested in employing entry-level tradespeople. All of this is done in conjunction with the state Department of Labor.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The worst part of teaching is being unable to reach a student because of factors beyond my control: things like home problems, addiction or mental health issues.

The best part of teaching is the personal interaction. An immediate reward is "seeing the light come on". Long-term rewards come in many different forms: continued contact after graduation and the student who comes back to say that he/she is successful because I was their teacher.

Job Tips: For anyone who wishes to teach high school math, know your subject cold and know how to explain it in a variety of ways. Foster patience in yourself and in your students. Don't count the number of times you've presented the same thing. There is no magic number of times before it "clicks" for everyone. Most importantly, remember that you are teaching students and not a subject. Let the lesson plan take a back seat to their needs.

Additional Thoughts: In order to be a teacher, you must possess subject knowledge and strong ethics and be able to multi-task , analyze and adjust on the spot. You should be dedicated to your students as well as your subject matter, be open-minded and willing to admit your mistakes. And it helps to have a great sense of humor.

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