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 }

“Any bad kids today?” my 10-year-old daughter would ask me as we sat down to dinner. She had always been the teacher’s pet — showed respect, followed the class rules, completed the homework, raised her hand and tried her best. But the real reason my daughter Vanessa was the perfect fourth grader was that she loved school. Vanessa loved getting up in the morning and getting on the big bus to go to HER school. She had lots of friends, loved to read and her only roadblock thus far was memorizing the times tables. Maybe that was why she was obsessed with my daily stories about “the bad kids.” The kids who utterly hated school, who acted out around the campus and who, unknowingly, gave me a story to tell my daughter every night.

I’m a teacher in a Florida high school, and I taught in a Long Island high school. I'm still amazed at the differences today compared to when we were students and afraid of the consequences of talking back to an authority figure. The idea of leaving work at the office and not taking it home is impossible when teachers have papers to grade, lesson plans to write and professional growth plans (the new term for evaluations) to master. Teaching is all consuming. It’s a career that leaves one feeling frustrated, insecure, unappreciated yet occasionally fulfilled that some student in the class actually did learn something useful for their future life. 

My first career in information technology was awesome in terms of how much has changed so quickly in the world of computers, email, networking and software applications. After 17 years, I left that corporate world (and its two-hour commute) and chose to teach the next generation how to write code, how to fix a personal computer, and how to use word processing, Excel and PowerPoint. These are skills that every college student needs and are now offered in business education at most high schools. So why is there so much drama everyday? No one could have prepared me for the attitudes and the disrespect that is part of today’s high school culture.

I hate cheating. Today there are so many ways to cheat. In the old days, it may have been writing on your arm and pulling the sleeve up for a complex formula. Today, the biggest enemy is the technology itself in my classroom of 30 state-of-the-art computers. Put your file on a USB, hand the USB to your neighbor, who opens the test document or spreadsheet and changes the name on the document to theirs. Piece of cake. Some have slipped by me because it takes time to prove, but I hate cheating and give all parties a zero. That’s the policy. It’s more incredibly baffling that students continue to do this even after the first guilty party is caught?!

And of course there are the smart phones and texting for answers  Parents, please put a block on your student’s cell phones so they can’t text in class or make calls from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  If every teacher took away every phone during the day, we would not get anything accomplished.  Students are so easily bored and so insanely addicted to their phones. Electronic devices and iPads simply cause more problems at school with the result being Facebook posts during the day about fights, bullying, cheating, and on and on. The interruption in class time and learning is beyond measure.

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