Teacher Interview #3

Click the links to read my first teacher interview and my second teacher interview. Deb is a veteran teacher of 33 years. She currently works as a Special Education math teacher for grades five to twelve at the ACGC (Atwater/Cosmos/Grove City) Public Schools in MN. She gave the following answers to my 10 questions about teaching:

Question 1: What do you as a teacher to engage students who are bored by the subject you are teaching, or even disinterested in learning altogether?

Change up the activities.  Present it in another way.  Remind them that they need this for graduation.  Have them stand up and move around a bit to wake them up and get their blood moving.  Try to find activities that go along with your lessons, so it is not just lecturing all the time.  I found great success when I fed the students food at the beginning of class and told them that if they did not engage in the work that I had that the food would disappear.  If you find something that motivates, use it!!!

Question 2: How would you respond if a loud argument or fight broke out among some students in your classroom and no one would respond when you commanded them to stop?

You continue to repeat yourself saying very loudly “Stop now.”  You need to be loud so others will hear you and call on a student you trust to follow your directions to run and get help from another staff person.

Question 3: How would you as a teacher deal with a student who seems to decidedly break the rules as a means of open rebellion to your authority?

I attempt to deal with it myself by talking to the student, but usually if there is open rebellion it is not going to change in the near future, so I call in the Principal or the Dean of Students for help to deal with the situation.  For Senior High Students who need the credit they are earning for graduation, you can always let them know that there are other ways to earn this credit that don’t include being in your room.  I have told students that we can have a Parent-Teacher Conference to deal with the behavior.

Question 4: Is there a time and a place for the use of punishment (detention, time out, removal of privileges, etc.) as a means of classroom management, or is the use of logical consequences (e.g. if student does damage, they must repair/replace it) more effective?

Logical consequences do work at times, but sometimes the natural consequences for a behavior do not happen right away, so just waiting for that to happen is not very effective.  Or the natural consequences are not that bad, so the student doesn’t care that there are going to be some.  Sometimes a removal from class is needed just so the teacher has a separation time from the student to allow them to regroup and look at the situation with new eyes.  I like detention because it steps on the toes of the family and sometimes that in itself is effective.  However nowadays if students don’t want to do detention, they just skip school that day.  I am very clear at the beginning of the school year what my expectations are and how I am expecting them to behave in my presence.  I make sure they know that I do not have a problem with them going to the office and talking to the Principal or the Dean of Students.  If there is misbehavior, I even ask them out loud in front of the class if they want to have a conversation with me in the office.  Deal with the behavior right away and usually you will not need to deal with it repeatedly.  The natural consequences of not listening to me in my classroom are a trip to the office.  I tell the kids that when I am talking/teaching, I am the most important person in the room and I expect that anything they are doing will stop and I will have their attention.  Very rarely do I need to send kids to the office.  You need to remember that you are being paid to impart knowledge to these students.  If someone or something gets in the way of that, it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, so learning can continue to take place.

Question 5: What are you doing as a teacher to actively prevent and address bullying in your school and classroom?

When we see it happen to someone, we address it right away and we don’t wait or let it slip by pretending we don’t notice it.  I take time to talk to the kids when someone comes to me to say that someone is bothering them.  We have lyceums that the whole building goes to and staff are also encouraged to attend and they talk about it from a different perspective depending on the grade level they are talking to. We have posters up talking about avoiding bullying.  I reinforce and talk about this with my students after the presentations. Every year we have something on the prevention of bullying.  At our in-service this year we were once again talked to about the school’s responsibility when there is bullying happening.

Question 6: Which teaching strategy (direct instruction, lecture-discussion, guided discovery, or cooperative learning) do you tend to use the most and why?

I use mostly direct instruction in my classroom.  When dealing with students that have learning disabilities or other health disabilities, or are challenged in math, I find that you can’t do cooperative learning because you do not have any students strong in the subject and that is why I don’t do guided discovery because they don’t “discover” things very well.  I teach math usually, so just lecture-discussion is not very effective.  That is why direct instruction with lots of practice works for me.

Question 7: Can you give an example (or two) of concrete visual aids (pictures, objects, charts, etc.) that helped you to teach abstract concepts to your students, and what resources did you use to find inspiration for such aids?

I most recently have used Foldables to teach and help the students to remember my math concepts.  The kids could go back and consult the foldable while they are completing their assignment.  I have also used Hands on Equations and Algeblocks to teach Algebra Concepts.  I went to workshops to learn about all 3 of these things. 

Question 8: What was your worst experience as a teacher, and what do you wish you had done differently?

I have had a lot of angry, stressful and depressing days in my teaching career, but fortunately God seems to always wipe them from my memory, so I can go back to school the next day starting over again like the day before never happened.  I do remember the day when a student hit me and I had to call the police and report the assault.  I felt very sad that day.  I do not know what I would do differently.  I was not pleased that day with the policeman that came to do the report either because he told me that because I was a special education teacher and licensed to teach “those types of kids” that I should expect to be hit every once in a while.  I don’t think anyone needs to expect to get assaulted if you are any kind of teacher.  Perhaps if I were to live that day over again I would have reported the policeman.

Question 9: What is your favorite memory from your teaching experience?

I feel so special when I attend the graduation ceremonies and I see students receive a diploma and I know that I had a part in teaching them to be the person they are today.  Last year I had a former student come back to my classroom who had graduated the year before and he apologized to me for how he behaved in my classroom his junior year of school.  Wow!  That has never happened before.

Question 10: What is it that keeps you going every day and makes you glad you chose the teaching field?

Because no matter how bad it gets with some students, there is always a student out there that lights up like a light bulb when they have mastered a difficult concept and that is the blessing that over rides all the bad experiences you may have had.  Some days just sail by so smoothly that teaching is fun! (and it doesn’t seem like a job) I hope for a lot of those types of days where I can make an impact in a student’s life.  Who wouldn’t want to keep on coming back to do that?

Deb teaches the adult Bible lesson at the church we often attend, so I know first-hand what a good teacher is. If she can keep us adults in line and on track so well–not to mention formulating an extremely interesting lesson on top of that–I can imagine what wonders she works with these kids! What shines out to me the most about Deb is her extreme confidence mixed with her humble attitude. She is able to give clear instructions boldly, firmly, but kindly, and at the same time she is willing to learn and easy to talk with. I once asked her what her best teaching advice was, and she said, “Have someone, friend or family member, praying for you every day. It will carry you through!” Perhaps that’s what makes Deb such an extraordinary teacher. Instead of relying on her own strengths and abilities, she gets assistance from the greatest Teacher of all.

What did you find to be the most interesting piece of advice from this interview?

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