Next in the series, collecting conversations, I spoke with a teacher who not only has advice for twenty-something prospective teachers, but also isn’t afraid to participate in a 30-second Adele dance party.
Joan (pronounced Jo-Anne) is a science teacher who has the patience to work with seventh and eighth grade students daily. I would say that in itself is an accomplishment.
Joan has been teaching for 20 years. She spent the first nine years as a fifth grade teacher and next 11 in middle school science. She decided to go in to teaching when she was 26 years old and finished her degree when she was 31 years old.
“I was working in a dead end job as a secretary for a psychiatrist,” she said. “The therapists were loonier than the patients and I knew I wanted a degree and thought teaching would be interesting.”
Fast forward, Joan is in her early 50s and has experienced several ups and downs in the classroom. She has witnessed the change that comes with teaching.
“Even in just 20 years of teaching I have witnessed how much requirements are changing,” she said. “The system is standardized, rigid and students are now required to do so much testing.”
She said the best part of her job is the atmosphere of a school and the people she works with. The worst part of her job is dealing with parents who doesn’t believe their children can do wrong.
And as for her classroom, she said middle school students will always be middle school students.
“I’m haunted by a child who has been eating boogers in my classroom this year,” she said.
Joan clarified seventh and eighth graders do, in fact, still exchange notes. She said she confiscates a lot but one that stuck out last year was a series of 80 questions between two individuals and one of the questions was “who invented masturbation?”
“I can’t make this stuff up,” she said.
Joan said advice she would give to twenty-something teachers is to investigate requirements such as continuing education that will be required in the coming years and make sure it’s what he/she wants to do. She said she would also tell prospective teachers to be accountable and document curriculum covered in the classroom.
When asked if she thought new teachers knew what they were getting in to, she replied, “probably not, but I think that’s true of any job when you’re first starting out.”
The coolest lab (laboratory experiment) Joan has ever had in her class is an annual hot air balloon lab where students are required to make 6-feet tall hot air balloons out of tissue paper and launch them, with the help of faculty, using a gas grill.
Joan said the once piece of advice she says throughout each school years to students is that life is all about the choices you make.
In the future, Joan sees teaching becoming strictly computer, technology based. She said she wonders if teachers will become more like facilitators and students will do more online.
A look at a few of the questions
If someone asked you to participate in a thirty-second Adele dance party would you do it? Absolutely. (We then had a 30 second dance party to Rolling in the Deep)
What is something people don’t know about teaching?
I don’t think people truly know how much time we put in or how much of our own money we spend, especially grade-school teachers
How do you decide what age to focus on as a teacher?
Age is personal preference because some people can work better with younger kids more than older kids or vice versa. I did elementary education with a junior high endorsement in science. I have been happy with the age. I don’t like teaching high school students because they think they know everything.
Giving birth to my kids (She has two children in their twenties)
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Giving birth to my kids
Favorite genre, author, and book? Favorite movie you’ve seen lately?
Mystery/thriller, Harlan Coben and To Kill a Mocking Bird. Silver Linings Playbook.