Diary of a High School Teacher

Thankless days spent catching cheaters, navigating disrespect, and trying to incite interest.

by Terri Friedlander • More.com Member { View Profile }

My teaching style is all about asking an essential question, discussing current events and then delving into the technology lesson, which is always posted on the board under the word "objective." The mindless daily questions from students sound like “What are we doing today?” (It’s always on the boar; read it!), “Why do I have to learn this?” (Because you’ll need it for the test.) and “Why can’t we ever have a free day in this class?” (Because we have so much great stuff to learn!). Besides those endless comments, there are the power struggles with students who would rather play addictinggames.com on the school’s internet than learn. I actually have discovered and reported students who learned to bypass the network filters and were watching porn on the computers in the school library! At the end of every week, I reflect on what techniques worked and what didn’t. There are well received lessons and good and interested students who leave me feeling like the goddess of education. Yet there always seem to be the muddled attempts at covering the material, and the students who refuse to cooperate, all of which leaves me feeling disappointed and letdown at the whole effort.

There are times of the year when the all important state testing begins, and the pressure is on for all teachers to get their students to show “adequate yearly progress” and to make a high enough test scores to graduate. Teachers must call parents to tell them that their student may be in danger of failing or not graduating. These emails and dreaded phone calls take time and often result in negativity and blame. The voice of a mother telling me to “get off her son’s back” was particularly memorable. (As a parent, I hope to never be on the other end of this type of call.) The sad part is the result of calling home is usually an angrier student for the teacher to deal with for the rest of the year.

The students strangely continue to love the lunchroom fights and occasional teacher meltdowns.  And the senior pranks (and other acts of vandalism) seem to be getting more expensive.  Somehow a group of students forced liquid cement into the locks of all the doors one weekend, leaving the school with a very big locksmith bill and a day of relocated classes. The kids today seem to enjoy throwing books on the roofs of the portables, lying about doing their work, smoking on the bus, smoking in the physics lab, drinking in the parking lot and cutting classes.

All the while these events happen on campus, there are others supporting the teachers efforts in the back office. The attendance clerk (who also fills in as the receptionist on Tuesday, serves as the extra chaperone on field trips when parents cancel, has lunch duty supervision on Thursdays and acts as the principal’s secretary when she is out sick) is very busy calling home to tell parents that their students are not in school. And the dean of students actually may have a more thankless job than any of us when it comes to the daily contacts with law enforcement officials and social workers.  

Parents, we need you. We need your kids to come to school and to be prepared and willing to learn. (It would also be great if they could be a little more respectful while they were here.) We were all teenagers once. I’m trying hard to teach my students how to be successful in school and in life. With some support, maybe I’ll last another year at this job. If not, the amazing true stories I’ve shared with my daughter at dinner will be replaced by the book tour of my next novel, Diary of a High School Teacher.

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