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Questions for teachers

noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
edited May 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey guys and gals,

I'm writing up a report for one of my public education class, and part of it requires getting some first hand accounts of teachers experience. I interviewed a teacher, but forgot to ask him something, so I'm hoping someone can come through here;

How much are you told what to teach and how much is up to you? If anyone is an High School English teacher, that would be swell, as that's what the guy I interviewed is(and what I want to be)

Also, if anyone wants to add any experiences or the like, that would be cool too. Basically I'll be talking in front of my class about it, and want to share as much info as possible.

noir_blood on

Posts

  • Judge-ZJudge-Z Teacher, for Great Justice Upstate NYRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Middle School Social Studies teacher here.

    I have a pretty good amount of academic freedom. There is a state curriculum (NY) I am expected to follow, but as long as my students perform well on the state exam (and they do - usually over 50% of my kids achieve the highest score on a scale of 0-4) nobody really is watching over my shoulder too much. Basically, I've earned the right to teach what I feel is best, the way I think works best. I do know that my colleagues in subject areas like English and Math, whose scores determine a school's NCLB status, receive much more pressure and interference in how and what they teach. Math for example, seems to have a new curriculum rammed down its throat every year or two.

    I am less free than I was pre-NCLB, however, for a couple of reasons. First, we have a newish administrator who loves testing, tests, data, and micromanagement. This person has forced through some good things (really evaluating our curriculum and weeding out some stuff that was there simply because it always has been) and some annoying (making moves to get everyone teaching the same stuff, at the same time, in the same way - which so far we've successfully resisted).

    Second, the amount of time devoted to administering and grading tests has caused me to lose a lot of valuable time in front of my kids. I lose about ten instructional days - that's two full school weeks - to the time kids are sitting and taking tests. Add to that 4 days I'm out of the classroom to grade various exams, so I need to leave behind relatively simple lessons for whatever sub I might draw. The result of this lost time is that I've had to drop some of my (and my kids') favorite lessons, lessons that enrich the curriculum but aren't necessary in terms of imparting the information required by said curriculum. I mean, that's nearly three weeks worth of lessons I've had to drop or dilute!

    TLDR; The state mandates a curriculum for me to teach, but it is up to me to decide the pacing and how I teach it. Annoying, mandated bullshit robs me of time to do some of the "fun" but meaningful stuff I used to do.

    Judge-Z on
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  • ShurakaiShurakai Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    I'm going to bump this thread because I am studying to become an english teacher and feedback like this is pretty interesting for me to read.

    One of my biggest fears is that I will have limited to no freedom in what I teach the class or the manner in which I teach it. Of course teaching conditions everywhere are different but it is interesting to hear that math and english are more controlled than say social studies.

    Shurakai on
  • Judge-ZJudge-Z Teacher, for Great Justice Upstate NYRegistered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Shurakai wrote: »
    I'm going to bump this thread because I am studying to become an english teacher and feedback like this is pretty interesting for me to read.

    One of my biggest fears is that I will have limited to no freedom in what I teach the class or the manner in which I teach it. Of course teaching conditions everywhere are different but it is interesting to hear that math and english are more controlled than say social studies.

    Wherever you teach, there will likely be stories/books/poems/skill (grammar, writing) units that your English department has decided need to be taught at your grade level. Most (not all) schools will give you leeway as to how you teach these topics, and you may even have some freedom in selecting specific works. For example, you may have to teach poetry in April, but you get to pick what poems outside of a handful that have been chosen by the department.

    Judge-Z on
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  • GoodOmensGoodOmens Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    My experience is unusual...I teach in a small private high school, and previously taught in a slightly larger private school. My current department consists of only 4 teachers, and we collaborate frequently. In general, there is very little oversight as to exactly what I'm teaching. I follow the textbook to a large extent, but if I decide to switch gears to a different topic, skip over sections or entire chapters, it's generally alright.

    Of course, I teach math, so the individual subjects are fairly standardized anyway. Every Algebra 2 class, for example, is more or less the same material. As long as I cover the expected material, there isn't any trouble. The exception is my AP Calculus class, which by necessity is more regimented in order to cover enough material before the exam (which is next Wednesday).

    This is my first year at my current school, and this degree of freedom has had some drawbacks as well. Previous math teachers have been...let's say less than competent. Therefore many of my current students lack background math knowledge that I would normally expect. For example, some of my Algebra 2 students had no idea how to graph a line, because the Algebra 1 teacher never did that in their freshman year. Similarly with solving equations with variables on both sides, both of which are topics I would expect in an Algebra 1 course. We're working on correcting that now, so it won't be an issue in later years.

    GoodOmens on
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  • jhunter46jhunter46 Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    I'm not in the classroom yet, but it has been my experience during my observations that in Arizona most districts have lesson plans already in place that are aligned with state standards. That being said, there seems to be a little flexibility with the methods you use to reach the learning objectives, but by in large you know what you're going to be teaching.

    jhunter46 on
  • snorepezsnorepez Registered User regular
    edited May 2009
    Judge-Z wrote: »
    Wherever you teach, there will likely be stories/books/poems/skill (grammar, writing) units that your English department has decided need to be taught at your grade level. Most (not all) schools will give you leeway as to how you teach these topics, and you may even have some freedom in selecting specific works. For example, you may have to teach poetry in April, but you get to pick what poems outside of a handful that have been chosen by the department.

    I'm going to second all of that ^
    During the summer, most departments will layout the skeleton of what needs to be taught in the school year. "Teach parts A, B, C of English and do it however you'd like," is what they'll say. They may specify which books to use, but what I've done is use the main novel throughout the semester and based lesson plans (grammar, writing styles, etc) on it, and then supplement that with short stories from the school-provided big book o' stories. - or if that isn't provided for you, internet is your friend, but paper and ink aren't.

    The experienced teachers will tell you that they have most if not all of their unit plans (maybe even individual lesson plans, as those are needed each day in case admin wants to poke around) designed before Fall semester even starts. (A, B, C = units of study.) The purpose of planning ahead is so that you can move around units/lessons during the summer to see where they are most effective, after having tested them throughout the school year. Or throw out the ineffective lesson plans, and replace them. It's a good route to take, but does put a lot of pressure on you during the year/summer when you create the meat of your teaching material.

    snorepez on
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