Career Story: Eighth Grade Math Teacher In A Suburban Public School

Eighth Grade Math Teacher In A Suburban Public School

Job Title: Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a small school district 25 miles north of Boston.

Education: BS, Athletic Training and Exercise Physiology •• M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction

Previous Experience: I worked as an athletic trainer at the high school and semi-pro levels for 15 years. Then I went back to get my Masters so I could teach. I have taught 2nd grade, 4th grade, 6th grade, and currently teach 8th grade math.

Job Tasks: I teach approximately 95 eighth graders every day. I have them split into four separate math classes at two levels grouped by ability. Two of my eighth grade math classes are actually ninth grade level Algebra 1 courses. The other two classes are considered grade level pre-Algebra classes. One of these classes is made up of students who need more support to learn and apply mathematical concepts. For that class I have a teacher's assistant who helps me to be sure that all the students are learning and succeeding.

I start my day preparing my room and setting up the materials I will need that day. I arrive at about 6:30AM and the students arrive around 7:15. We have six period a day that are approximately 45 minutes long with only two minute breaks in between. I also teach an extra 20 minute math class four times a week for students who have failed to test "proficient" on our state mathematics exams. I get 20 minutes for my lunch, and a period per day when I am obligated to meet with a variety of groups, depending on the day. Some days I have to meet with the other eighth grade math teacher so we can plan our lessons, timing and schedules, create assessments, compare assessment results, and make changes we find necessary. I also have one period a day for myself, so I can plan, correct homework and tests and make calls or write e-mails to parents.

A great deal of what I do is look at math curriculum information and decide how to teach the students in each class more effectively. With so many students to teach, I have to make sure I am using a variety of methods to get the information across. Many students have special needs and I have to constantly be aware of their Individual Education Plans -- legal documents that I am obligated to fulfill. I love my job, but the task of covering all the necessary curriculum, and addressing each individual student's needs is daunting, and I find myself forgetting sometimes to just talk and listen to the students, and have fun with them. And that, after all, that is why I went into teaching.

I need to be able to work with my subject partner, the other math teachers in sixth and seventh grade, the other eighth grade teachers, many teaching assistants, a vice-principal, a principal, the specialists and other specialized teachers and staff people, guidance counselors, the school resource officer, and parents. This all requires a good deal of flexibility, tact, and the ability to be a team member.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with the students. I enjoy teens and their quirky nature. Middle School is a very rough time for most people, and I think is is very important to have teachers in Middle School who care about the students and are ready to listen to them. My students are not children anymore, but they are not yet ready either for the responsibilities of adulthood. They are caught in the middle, wanting respect and independence, but also wanting to be able to get a great deal of support from the adults in their lives.

The worst part of my job is always feeling like I do not have enough time -- no time to talk to every student, no time to make the lesson/quiz/test/project better, no time to correct all the work, no time to be sure every student is proficient, no time to do everything I try to get done every day.

Job Tips: Teaching is also a political career. You must be a politician and interact effectively with students. Get experience in communicating effectively, and work on how to be tactful when you disagree with someone. Parents react quite strongly, especially if their child is not doing well in school. It is important to keep this in mind and to not let their frustration or anger feel like a personal attack.

I also highly recommend if you are thinking about going into teaching that you spend some time substituting at every grade level. It is the best way I know to find out what age group you will truly feel most comfortable working with.

Additional Thoughts: Teaching has rewards beyond the financial that ought to be your true motivation. If you think you want to teach because the schedule is short and the summers are vacations, you will never last very long. Teaching is far too intense and overwhelming (when it is done correctly) to be sustained by anything short of complete dedication.

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