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Career Story: Twelfth Grade English Teacher At A Small Suburban School

Twelfth Grade English Teacher At A Small Suburban School

Job Title: Teacher

Type of Company: I work as a high school English teacher in a small suburban setting.

Education: BA, Goucher College (Towson, MD) •• M.Ed., SUNY-Buffalo

Previous Experience: I've done both teaching and non-profit work.

Job Tasks: I teach high school seniors with all levels of ability and I have to differentiate curriculum so all of them learn. I love teaching "Hamlet" to the brightest students who actually memorize lines and deeply debate Hamlet's mental status. But I also love teaching "Hamlet" to less motivated students who are surprised and sometimes shocked to find that Hamlet's adolescent feelings resemble their own. Our curriculum for seniors is world literature, so I try to expose students to Buddhist ideas (via Siddhartha), existential ideas (via The Stranger) and Greek ideas (via Oedipus Rex). The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima is a recent favorite for all students because the ideas are so traditional and the Shinto customs are fascinating.

Seniors in high school have split personalities depending on what time of year it is -- before college transcripts are sent or after! I have to front-load the academic work, assigning heavy essays, research papers and finely developed presentations for the first semester. For the second semester, I'm more likely to ask kids to debate, perform skits or write a personal response. If I can keep kids engaged during the second semester, I feel accomplished, but I know it's doubtful they'll perform at their best academic level.

Still, it's hard to see the seniors leave each year. I hear from a few, but for most, it's a fond farewell.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is seeing kids feel successful -- feel that they are expanding both their thinking and their skills. The worst part of my job involves disciplining poorly behaved and poorly motivated students. I know many kids hate English: hate reading and hate writing.

Job Tips: Try to understand the student's point of view but remember, the teacher is an adult role model, not a friend.

Many kids have issues, so don't always assume it's not your teaching.

Additional Thoughts: You must enjoy the kids. They make teaching worthwhile. You need to love what you teach to engage the kids, but you need to consider what interests them as the stimulus!

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