Teacher Interview #5

Can you tell us about your experiences as a student?

In retrospect, seems uneventful. At this point, don’t have any lasting memories. Things seem very similar. Buildings were similar. Didn’t have same kind of technology. Without it, it was a slower process. Way more labor intensive to write a paper for example. History has changed as time has passed. Graphing calculators have made math so different. Before, the only way to create graphs was by hand. Didn’t have the same opportunities for using applications that are available to you now. Grading is pretty much the same. Except grades were not online. Parents couldn’t get access to them online and keep up to date with them. I think this made students more independent because parents couldn’t be involved in everything. There was also less attention on security and urgency to know where everyone was at every moment.

Same types of activities and clubs. It was still pretty similar while also being pretty different.


Did you enjoy school as a student?

Yes and no. It was okay. Didn’t dislike it. Wouldn’t say I loved it.


Did you have any favorite parts of school?

Participated in a lot of school activities. We had lots of dances.


Was Math your favorite subject?

No, don’t think I had a favorite or least favorite. When student, didn;t think I would be a teacher. Lots of teachers in my family, didn’t want to be a teacher. Didn’t go to college for teaching, went for business. Worked in business for awhile.


Why did you want to become a teacher?

Wanted something different than business. As a favor, had done some preschool teaching and realized enjoyed teaching. Thought I had a lot to offer that in end would be personally fulfilling.


Did you have any favorite teachers? Why?

Thought about this a lot as a teacher. As a student, I always valued teachers who knew their content area (obviously). I liked teachers who were approachable. I especially liked teachers who were consistent. Inconsistency still drives me crazy today. If someone was inconsistent, it really bothered me. I like some variety in approaches to things. I liked how dissecting in biology gave us a hands on approach to what we were learning about. Doing physics labs were enjoyable because it’s something that you’re doing to help create understanding. I think science kind of lends itself to that.


Tell us a little about your first day of teaching.

First day and year is really a blur. Always working so hard to be literally just one step ahead. This is dependent on content area. Takes a while. You have ideas on fairness and equity but it’s a different story when you’re thrown into it and there’s all this individual special cases that you have to figure out how to handle. It so much harder.


How have your teaching methods evolved?

Technology, especially in math, has played a big role. Right now, there’s a lot of talk about common core. Mathwise, that’s more about being a critical thinker and problem solver. Ten years ago, yes there were graphing calculators. But, I think education, the focus of it, is always a bit behind what just takes awhile to filter through to education. It takes a while for technology to filter through to education. Now, there a focus between “you need to understand how to do these problems and know these concepts” and “the ability to use these skills for critical thinking and problem solving”. Knowing these concepts and problems in everyday life exists for very few people any more because technology does so much of that. You need to know how to use it and apply it. There’s no real way for us to know what skills you’re actually going to need in your career 20 or 25 years from now. There’s no way we can predict that. There’s no individual skill that I can teach you where you can say “Oh, this is it. This is what I need to know for my career”. What you really need to know is how to critically think and problem solve and when the time comes you’ll hopefully be able to figure out whatever it is you need to figure out.

We’re trying to work with our curriculum to reflect this idea to think critically and problems solve. We try to tie together all of these different pieces to connect these ideas together to help students make connections. Part of the struggle we find is that some times education decides “okay, we gotta quick change our focus here to be very centered on being critical thinkers and problem solvers and applying and stuff like that. Thats fine, we can head there, but that’s asking us to expect something out of students that they have never had experience doing before. It’s like saying to students “I know you were expected to do this, this, and this in past  courses, but now do this. It may not be what got you here, but we want you to change and do this now”. Sometimes I say to my peers “I can’t wait for the next 5 to 7 years because those students will be comfortable with that type of learning then”.


What made you want to become a math teacher?

I’m certified in business  and ino technology. When I went back to school to get my teacher certification, there were graphing calculators. I thought that was very intriguing in changing education as far as math goes. Math fits my personality well in that it is much more objective and less subjective. In the end there is a finite set of correct answers. I like things to have a ight and a wrong and that sort of works out well in math. It was also in line with my business background.


Can you tell us about your favorite part of your day?

Varies from year to year. Don’t have a favorite class during the day. There are days where a class goes better than another one or a section goes better than another one. I like variety. This year I teach several different sections and levels of math. Some people don’t like teaching many different kinds, but I do. When teachers have to teach the same class all day, it can be hard. By the end of the day I feel like the last classes are not getting all that they could. When I do have years where I teach almost all of the same type of math classes, by the end of the day I feel like I’m rushing through the class. It’s not like its deliberate. Its more that I already know all of the questions I got earlier, so now I’m answering them before they’re asked. I feel that doesn’t serve the students best. They don’t get to process the material the same way and formaulte questions.


Can you tell us about your least favorite part of you day?

Homeroom or if I have to cover somebody else’s class. It depends on the situation in regards to covering. I hate extended homeroom days. It so hard and often futile in trying to get students to participate in the video discussions they have over the announcements. It tortures us all.

There are times when I get bogged down with grading. The end of the marking period is more of a burden. I don’t feel it takes so much time that it feels like the negatives outweigh the positives of the job.


Sometimes it seems that there are unknowns in teaching. You might be prepared for a lesson,but you don’t know how kids will react to it. Is that something that’s scary, or is it something you enjoy because you’re working through problems with students?

You get more comfortable with it over time because you gain more experience. The problems that give me the most angst are problems involving technology because it ends up being such a waste of time. It could have been a great time saver and tool, btu if it doesn’t work you end up actually wasting time and accomplishing nothing. But, i do think it’s just the way it happens, you can’t help it. For example, from time to time, the light bulb on the projector breaks. This can be a huge inconvenience, but you just have to find another way to do it. It can be hard to recover from quickly.


What’s held you in this profession?

I enjoy the day to day. I enjoy being in the classroom. I enjoy working with this age group in particular. Your developing into your own people. You’re not just how your parents expect you to be. Not that you know where your going either, but you’re growing. It fun to see how students grow over time. Its nice on a day to day basis to see what teens are capable of because they are going to be the next generations of adults. It’s fun to work with kids. Things out of my control, like administration and government decisions that end up affecting education can cause a lot of burnout and frustration. But these day to day things keep me here.


We were talking with a social studies teacher who mentioned that social studies is not a subject that is tested on state standardized tests. He said that he thinks this takes some pressure and stress off of him and his students and allows him to teach material and allow students to explore and wonder about it more without having to worry about just doing well on a standardized exam, like the keystone.

I don’t teach any math classes that are tested on the keystone or PSSAs. But those are high pressure situations. They tie the students scores to whoever taught that year. My most recent experience with that is teaching AP classes. But that can be different because AP students have an invested interest and benefit to getting a high grade on the exam. Its different that with keystones everyone has to take them. However, I think we should have…well my thing is, especially after this last election, regardless of the outcome, I feel like there was a lot of the population that wasn’t understanding things that were untrue statements, only because there were statements made that were contrary to how the government works. It makes me think “Hmmm, maybe as educators we are failing in this part of education”. There’s been so much focus on reading, writing, and math, that maybe subjects like that (government) are skipped over. That’s important. Everyone has the right to vote. I realize that social studies does not have a standardized test, but I think if there’s hould be testing, it should be in a government course that is something that applies to everyone who lives here so  that people understand more.


What do you feel your responsibilities are as a teacher?

(Pause) I don’t know.


Is there anything you feel like you need to do as a teacher?

Make sure that students can become better critical thinkers and problem solvers. Obviously I need to insure students are in a safe environment.


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