As a high school teacher, I received much unsolicited advice and many opinions from my students, ranging from how easy my job must be to how unfair I was. Here are some things I tried to get them to understand. Maybe putting it out in blog world will help get the message across. . .
1. What you see me doing in class is only about 25% of what I actually do in this job.
You don’t see the hours of preparation, setting up a lab or presentation, grading papers, recording grades, checking individual student records, meeting with administrators, other teachers, and parents, and coordinating changing classes from one subject to the next. It’s not easy to switch from biology to environmental science with the technology and equipment and be in the hallway between passing periods all in five minutes (and a mad dash to the bathroom?) Fuhgeddaboutit…
2. I also had a hard time getting here this morning. Not only did I have to get myself up and dressed and out the door, I had to get my children up, feed them, make sure they were dressed appropriately–no, you can’t wear your pajamas today–and make sure they had all their paraphernalia for the day. Then there’s the morning commute with all the traffic headaches.
3. I may not like the rules, either, but I have to follow them, too. Do you really think I mind that you chew gum or eat your breakfast in my class? I don’t even care what you wear or how long your hair is or how many tattoos and body piercings you have. But I am paid by the school district and they expect me to uphold district policy. You will be expected to do the same thing for your place of employment.
4. Manners and people skills will get you farther in life than education will. I don’t care how smart you are, if you don’t know how to treat your classmates and teachers with respect and consideration, you won’t get very far in the “real world.” Employers don’t promote or even hire people who can’t get along with their coworkers or clients. It pays to be polite.
5. No, you may not use this particular lesson in “real life,” but the concepts will carry you throughout life. You may never have to factor a binomial or diagram a sentence in your chosen career path, but the discipline and mind stretching you are using to do those things will help you solve real life problems later on. Plus, they might help you help your own children someday.
6. I do remember what it was like to be your age and in high school. I know you think I am ancient because I thought all my teachers were ancient. I also thought they couldn’t possibly know what it was like to be a teenager. But they were teens once, and so was I. I remember the tremendous emotional upheavals, the uncertainty, the frustrations, the preoccupation with what others might think, and the all-consuming thoughts of the one I thought I loved. I know you have many things pulling at you from all directions. I am here to help you focus on one subject during one piece of your day so that you can have the tools you need for your future.
7. I do realize that the challenges you face today are different and often more difficult than those I faced. When I was in high school my biggest worry was whether someone else might be wearing the same outfit or if the boy I liked would be in the hall between classes. It never entered my mind that someone might bring a gun to school or that I would have to pass a state test to graduate. I get that today’s world is different, but I am here to protect you and help you to succeed in it.
8. I cannot afford to supply you with school supplies. As much as I would like to hand every one of my students a new pencil and notebook everyday, it just isn’t possible. I don’t have the time or money to keep you supplied for my class. You are not the only student who doesn’t have a pencil and paper, and you hold up the rest of the class asking. PLEASE do us all a favor and bring your tools!
9. I expect you to do what you say you will do. This is a very important life skill. Nothing kills respect and trust like making promises you don’t keep. It can be as simple as telling someone you will call them later. If you say you will do something, do it. If you can’t follow through, don’t make the promise.
10. I am the adult in the room. Enough said. The buck stops here. I am responsible for your education and there is often more to the situation than you know. Please do not try to argue with me, especially in front of the class. If you wish to speak with me, let’s make a time to talk together. I will honor your concerns if you will honor mine.
I probably didn’t cover all their questions, so please let me hear from you! A high school education is important, but the student is even more important. I’d love to hear your thoughts!