View Full Version : Letter from a young teacher (a college classmate of my son's)

01-26-2008, 01:10 AM
It's been so long since I last wrote, I think I should reintroduce myself. My name is Xxxx Xxxx, I might be your son or your friend or someone you don't want emails from, but I am teaching an innovative 9th grade math program in rural North Carolina.

If you are happy to receive this email, thank the people who have harassed me into writing it. If you are sort of happy but get bored five sentences in, you are just like my students.

My "classroom management" is much better this semester, for two main reasons. One is that I decided that teaching is just like acting. You have to act indestructible and energetic. As two students have said to me on different occasions: "Us students are like dogs. We smell fear." No, I didn't correct their grammar. Anyways, if you like teaching, you might like acting. I think Teach for America should start recruiting actors instead of the "leaders" they love so much. Applicants should perform a dramatic monologue instead of a lesson plan on interview day. Maybe I will start a competitor, "Act for America."

The second reason my classroom management is good is that my students are pushovers. I switched students with Mr. Akins. My new classes are so grateful to get out of Mr. Akins's class that they don't cause any trouble at all, except when they complain about him during my class. My suspicions about this were confirmed on my first-day survey, when I asked for their least favorite subject. The lazy students wrote "Science." The meek students wrote "Science. I don't like the way it is taught." The outspoken students wrote "Science. Mr. Akins ruined it."

But I think Mr. Akins might do better this semester. First, because we're working out of the same textbook and I'm writing the schedule, so there won't be any more wacko projects on Chinese etiquette or booking airplane tickets. Second, because they shortened our classes from 2 hours to 1 hour 50 minutes. Third, because my principal decided to keep all the students with "special needs" in my class. She planned on keeping a few students in his class both semesters to balance this, but those students put up a fight on the first day, so she just increased my class size. Now I have 20 to his 17, which is fine with me. I have Josh again, even though his mother accused me of "picking on him because he has special needs." This also means I get to enjoy another semester with Justus, James, Terrance, and Oakley, who promise many entertaining answers I will dishonestly post on Facebook. Oakley finished off my science course in fine form:

Q: Name three sources of alternative energy.
A: Beef, pork, and chiken.

So how did my science class go in the end? We did more fun activities toward the end, even venturing outside. I had a student bang a pot with a wooden spoon 200 feet away to demonstrate the speeds of light and sound, and we rolled out a toilet paper roll to make a timeline of the Earth. These activities raised some eyebrows during my afternoon class, when the pot-banger broke the spoon and wind blew the toilet paper all over the field.

I was happy with how my students did on the final-- it wasn't that easy, and still I didn't have to curve it as much as the other tests. But I never figured out how to control some of the students. I finally got Rebekah to stop talking to N'cole, but every time I got her full attention, she would interject random comments into our discussions:

Teacher: So when we feed corn to cows, they build up more fat than grass-fed cows.
Student: My brother's fat!

It might not surprise you that today during class, Mr. Akins asked Rebekah if she has Tourette Syndrome. It also might not surprise you that JaQuan, loudmouth extraordinaire, declared that he is "giving Mr. Akins one more week."

Before I forget, I have to thank the late Amherst Juggling Club for sending juggling equipment. Once a week, I lead a juggling "activity group" that fittingly includes a number of class clowns. The first session was a lot of fun, and Justus and James successfully juggled one ball.

And how are things at the high school? Well, after much speculation that half of New Tech would quit and show up there for second semester, only two students left. I was angry because the principal basically forced these two out because they weren't respectful to her. Sure, their cumulative GPA was about a 0.3 (adding both students together), but students are supposed to leave by their own choice and these two kept asking if they could stay. Kierra may have failed everything, but Davale earned a C in my class! He also caused more computer damage than the rest of the class put together and he disrupted lessons like clockwork:

Oakley: (shouts across class) DA-VALE DID IT!
Davale: (shouts back) DA-VALE!
Rebekah: DA-VALE!
Teacher: Rebekah, do you have Tourette's?

Just kidding. Anyways, the regular high school is doing well. Their crazy principal sits in the hallways with a megaphone, suspending kids who look at her funny. My friends who teach there have been trading advice about students. ("Don't let Jaquille sit near the window because he will jump out when the cops come to put him in jail for refusing to pay $50 a month to the middle school principal for when he punched her.") But it seems like they had all the tough kids last semester, and this time around their students are much nicer. One teacher looked at the yearbook and noticed that she had had all three "class clowns" of the senior class in her fourth period. Another teacher had been blessed with a third period with 37 troublemakers, including the entire JV football team.

Well, that's enough for tonight. I'll update again in a few weeks, probably about when I lose control of this well-behaved math class. Send food and/or tapes in other languages.

Tom Robb
01-26-2008, 04:20 PM
My cousin, David, taught english at what's allegedly the best public high school in the local area. He quit some years ago. Too much baby-sitting disruptive students who were never socialized by permissive parents who, against all evidence to the contrary, claim that their little monster couldn't have done that.
Empire, bread, and games. That's our future - if not our present.
200 years or so...is that about the limit for a democracy/republic?