My success as a teacher came from all that work I did before ever going into education. I had to be able to handle a multitude of projects and personalities on my previous jobs and that flowed into my teaching career. It was a matter of planning and assessing and readjusting, usually every day.
When my mother learned that I was returning to school to get my teaching credential, she was pleased and said I should have done that all along.
“No, sorry Mom, but I couldn’t have been a good teacher at 22.”
After dealing with hundreds of brokers and truck drivers every day, juggling the needs of the customers with the output of the plant, and making it all work, I knew I could do a good job in a classroom. Sure enough, with lots of planning, the classroom ran just about as efficiently as my previous workspace had done. It just changed every nine months.
I knew that I wanted to work in a tough school. I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives so I picked a low-achieving high school in a poor part of town to do my student teaching. My supervisor was not pleased; he had asked me to take a position in the ultra conservative, ultra white school district across town. No, that was not where I was needed. Those kids would succeed with or without me.
He visited me twice during my student teaching and told me, after the second visit, he could not come back as the classes were too disruptive for him to be comfortable. Huh? They really weren’t. The students were well mannered and polite to me (I would see, later in my career, just how great these classes had been) but they did tend to act out with one another. They were noisy when entering or leaving the room, and I did break up a fight or two right outside my door.
I learned to monitor the classroom to make sure work was being accomplished and equipment treated properly. That method of classroom management continued for the next 21 years. My students were always on task, and if they weren’t, I knew it.
I had been successful in school and I wanted my students to be likewise. I had been successful on all of my jobs, doing my work well, and I wanted my students to do that when they went to work. I planned lessons that brought the real world into the classroom and I took students out into the world so they could see what work looked like. Always planning, always preparing, always assessing. It became my life.
Come back and the next time I’ll tell you how I ended up at the inner city school where I spent those 21 years. I will give you a hint: I never applied for the job.