The Classroom

Given that I’m going to be teaching at a very small rural school starting in August, I thought I would post an excerpt from a guest post (although you should read the whole thing) over at So You Want to Teach?:

To summarize, I love rural schools because…

  1. They’re small and you get to know the students and their families.
  2. You see students outside the school context.
  3. You get to teach a wide selection of courses.
  4. The culture is that education is opportunity.
  5. There is lots of room out here to breathe!
  6. Classroom management is easier.
  7. Students and their parents (mostly) recognize the value of hard work.
  8. I’m quite conservative, so I’m comfortable in this conservative culture.
  9. I have quite a lot of freedom to teach as I see fit.
  10. My students are ready and willing to be pushed to their potential.

There are plenty of things on that list that I’m looking forward to, I can assure you.


This morning, I got to do some more preparation for my upcoming teaching position. Because of some scheduling rearranging at my summer job, I had the morning off, so my wife and I made the 40-minute trek over to my new school to get keys and some materials that weren’t available when I picked up the new literature textbooks (because school was still in session and the previous teacher was still using them).

I knew that there would probably be some work ahead of me, but I don’t think I really, fully understood just what kind of a situation I’ve stepped into.


As an educator, I try my best to keep up with my professional reading: I treasure my subscription to NCTE’s English Journal (which I’m reminded is coming up for renewal in August along with my NCTE membership), and I attempt to read through each issue as I receive them. I’ve been mostly successful; I think a previous issue got lost in the mix, and I’m in the midst of reading the current issue on real-world teaching (a topic I’m very much in favor of). I also like to respond to articles that I particularly like or issues that I think need to be brought into the professional conversation, and that I haven’t done so great a job about.

I recently finished an issue of EJ (Vol. 98, No. 4) that was on an interesting subject for me: sexual orientation and gender variance. (‘Sexual orientation’ is probably a fairly self-explanatory term, but ‘gender variance’ may not be; the latter is essentially the variance in gender expression from the ‘norm,’ which could range from simple deviations from normal gender expression such as girls who are “tomboys” or boys who “act girly” or “effeminate” all the way to transexuality. The issue of ‘intersexuality’ also comes up, which is related to these two ideas.) I have been thinking about many of the articles that have been included in the issue, trying to think about them as I consider my curriculum as a first-year teacher.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking, “Are you nuts?!”


A few days ago, I wrote about the stress of the job hunt, which has frustrated me greatly thus far (and I’m not even that far in!). Well, things are looking up: I received an E-mail today from one of the six schools I’ve applied to in the past week, asking me if I could interview tomorrow. So I have an interview at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, which I’m going to ready myself for tonight by researching the district, the school, administration, and anything else I can find.

This is of course an encouraging sign – I was worried that I would be looked over entirely because I’m a new teacher. Now I get a chance to demonstrate my love of learning, education, and helping students in person, where I think I make the best impression (I hope). Better yet, this is a high school English position in a very small rural district, which is actually what I was looking for, in part because I went to school in a small rural district (although not quite this small) and in part because I’m hoping to find a district that is low income so that I can possibly apply for teacher loan forgiveness (and this district does qualify). That’s of course not a selling point for me, but it would be nice. The position is also for sophomore, junior, and senior English, which I would absolutely love teaching (and which is the age range I’m most qualified to teach, having taught juniors and seniors this semester).

I don’t want to get my hopes up, of course; I could potentially bomb the interview or simply not be the candidate that the district wants. But I am first and foremost hopeful, and I will do whatever I can to bridge the gap.

Here’s to first impressions.

Since I have largely completed the work for my education degree at this stage, I thought I would make a rotation back: before student teaching, I wrote a lot about theory, and during student teaching, I wrote almost exclusively about practice, but now I’ll return to theory, relating it to practice (now that I have really had some of it!) where possible. In order to focus my thoughts, I’m returning to a book that a professor and I used to teach freshman composition, Considering Literacy: Reading and Writing the Educational Experience, edited by Linda Adler-Kassner. (Here is an entry on a composition instruction blog on this text as a textbook for a first-year university writing course.) I have previously blogged about essays contained in this collection, specifically Mike Rose’s literacy history entitled “‘I Just Wanna Be Average‘” and Mark Edmundson’s essay “On the Uses of a Liberal Education: I. As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students“; however, there are a number of other works in this collection that deserve attention as well.

One such of these essays is “Engaged Pedagogy” by bell hooks, the nom de plume of Gloria Watkins.


Student teaching, that is. (I thought the title would be appropriate given the day.)

Yesterday was my final day at my school, a half-day before the beginning of Easter break. All of my classes had parties scheduled, and it was a very enjoyable day. Some highlights:

Here I am, sitting at my computer at this interface again, and I can hardly believe that it has been over two weeks since I last wrote in this space. I would be lying if I didn’t consider this somewhat of a failure, but I’m finding out that I’m coming to terms with failure – as long as it doesn’t become a matter of habit.

As I write this, a lot has taken place: I have finished my unit on 1984 (had I even started it when I last posted? I think so…), I have had a few serious instances where students did things to severely undermine my teaching (both of which were taken care of but unfortunately not really by me), I have had some more success but only nominally, and I have gotten to the point where I almost had a nervous breakdown because of my own failures. There is part of me that is grateful that this experience only lasts four more weeks, yet I’m very much aware that I will miss it immensely once it is over, and I still have a lot of work ahead.


Another mixed bag today, of which I am most frustrated with my continued delaying of the inevitable.


This will be brief: I’m trying to play catch-up from a day I would like to strike from the record.

Yesterday was a little chaotic for me. My co-op was gone on a trip, and so I was teaching under a very capable substitute teacher. It went better than it could have but not as well as I would have liked.


Until now, I thought I had given all of my students an adequate glimpse into my life. I had given pamphlets out to my juniors at the beginning of my teaching this semester, which gives information about me, and I’ve been in the classroom for almost five weeks now. You’d think that they would have a decent idea of who I am and have picked up a few details.

Apparently not.


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