Teaching Discernment Advice Needed


#1

I was going to put this into the discernment sub-forum, but since it does not directly relate with my discernment of religious life, I didn’t think it appropriate there, given the guidelines.

About three months ago, I began teaching at a Catholic high school. I have a degree in the field in which I am teaching, but this is my first year actually teaching in a classroom. To be quite honest, I never wanted to teach high school. I want to teach, yes, quite much so, but at the college (not high school) level. Many of the students at the school I teach are simply vicious and vulgar. Many students hardly act like Catholics. Every day I dread going to work, knowing how exhausted I will be at the end of the day, and then knowing that I also will have to work in the evening–no escape from the job.

Through detentions and speaking with several students, I have maintained a fair degree of control of the classroom, but the students are still quite intractable, even after giving them multiple detentions. I’ve spoken with several parents on the phone, but the kids still misbehave. I

I noticed on one of the threads in the vocations sub-forum the issue of Social Anxiety. I in fact have this problem and have had it for much of my life. It’s been a great struggle for me to teach, as I become naturally uncomfortable speaking in front of groups. I’ve been on several SSRI’s in the past to address this problem, in addition to counseling, but none of these has significantly helped. The problem wouldn’t be so bad, except that the students pick up on this and think of it as an opportunity to misbehave. I can now handle speaking in front of groups, but the students and how they act makes me frustrated.

In any case, this has been the most stressful job I’ve ever had. Usually I do quite well at jobs, but here I’m finding the job completely miserable. Do you think I should volunteer to decline to renew my contract? I’ve been criticized by several persons, and I’m not one who usually is criticized. I just wonder if my personality is really what is needed for a high school teacher, and I think, all said, that I would be much happier in a college setting. The one problem: I only have an M.A. and I have some loans to pay back for the M.A. I do very much want to work towards a Ph.D. in Systematic or Historical Theology, and I feel confident that I would be much better situated in a college setting where the focus is much more on learning and much less on being a baby sitter.

What do you think, given all I have written?


#2

I’d say go for the PhD. Is there a way you could painlessly afford it, such as through a scholarship or by teaching at the university you’ll be attending?


#3

It sounds like you should find a new job. The high school teachers that I know don’t dread teaching like you say that you do.

It is standard practice for most PhD programs to support their students with a research or teaching assistant position. You should not have to pay for your PhD. However, be advised that humanities PhD programs are VERY competitive, and getting a faculty position can be even harder.

I would not pursue an unsupported PhD in the humanities, because it’s unlikely that it would lead to a position that would allow you to pay your loans back. In most humanities disciplines, you really need to be a top student to get a faculty position.


#4

MY dh also teaches high school. He doesn’t dread it, but it certainly is very draining. Fortunately, half his classes are AP classes, so the kids are much more motivated. Are you teaching a core subject or an elective? You will probably find teaching an elective to be much easier because of the motivational level of the students. Can you change the courses you teach next year? Or perhaps move to another school where you can teach an elective or an AP type class? Besides your subject matter training, have you taken any education courses? Perhaps the school can send you to a seminar or two. Classroom management is an art of it’s own.

As for the PhD, persue it if that is what you really want, but just realize that you will likely only be deferring your loans and not have the ability to pay on them while you are in school.


#5

hug

I teach high school as well. The first year is usually the most stressful for new teachers, especially if they have never been through a formal certification program. What you are doing is really trial by fire.

That’s a sign, right there. Even people who start off wanting to teach high school can get burned out pretty quickly, usually within the first 3-5 years.

Every day I dread going to work, knowing how exhausted I will be at the end of the day, and then knowing that I also will have to work in the evening–no escape from the job.

Yep, that sounds like the first year, alright.

Through detentions and speaking with several students, I have maintained a fair degree of control of the classroom, but the students are still quite intractable, even after giving them multiple detentions. I’ve spoken with several parents on the phone, but the kids still misbehave.

When detention isn’t working, send them to the office. No fear, no apologies. Just tell them to go (and check to make sure they get there). Establish a limit for yourself–like after the third time an offense occurs, they’re out.

If the kids are still rotten after you call home, then you know you are on your own. It’s between you and the kids–and the school administration. The benefit of being in a private school setting is that the school gets to pick and choose who gets to stick around.

It’s been a great struggle for me to teach, as I become naturally uncomfortable speaking in front of groups. I’ve been on several SSRI’s in the past to address this problem, in addition to counseling, but none of these has significantly helped. The problem wouldn’t be so bad, except that the students pick up on this and think of it as an opportunity to misbehave. I can now handle speaking in front of groups, but the students and how they act makes me frustrated.

It took me awhile to get used to my own authority in the classroom as well. The first time I really ordered a student to do as I said, in a firm “teacher voice” I almost scared myself! I wasn’t used to hearing that at all. Of couse, it’s hard to recover once they decide not to take us seriously, but it can be done.

There’s a book out there called “The First Days of School” (I can’t recall the author’s name), which has some tips for starting the year off well, classroom management-wise. You don’t have to wait till next year to turn over a new leaf with your class. You can walk in one day, inform them there are going to be some changes, and implement them. If you are strong and consistent–and don’t take any lip, they’ll get the idea.

I’ve been criticized by several persons, and I’m not one who usually is criticized.

As far as I know this is normal, no matter who you are or how long you have been teaching. There will always be somebody who disagrees with the way you do your job. I have found that every instance in which someone criticizes me–or even goes so far as to try to sabotage my career–is a chance to learn. In some cases the criticism is valid. In others, the value is only in learning more about how to deal with unreasonable people.

The one problem: I only have an M.A. and I have some loans to pay back for the M.A. I do very much want to work towards a Ph.D. in Systematic or Historical Theology, and I feel confident that I would be much better situated in a college setting

Before you quit your current position, see if any of the community colleges around where you live have any openings. Some community colleges hire teachers with Master’s degrees.

Ultimately, do whatever is best for your soul and your sanity. )

Oh, yes, and watch Stand and Deliver or Dead Poets Society (or both) at least once a year. For you, I think Stand and Deliver would be the best choice. :slight_smile:


#6

Sometimes this is true. Sometimes kids think that electives are classes that don’t require any work. Ha! Who’d have thought that fun and work can exist in the same space?


#7

I have been teaching for four years, and my first year was terrible. I dreaded going to work. I came home every night exhausted. I gained weight from the stress and the unhappiness. I made all the wrong lifestyle choices due to my job - I slept in in the mornings because I didn’t want to face the day. I didn’t want to deal with cooking, so I ate fast food. I couldn’t handle the thought of taking on new projects, so I didn’t exercise.

My reasons were the same as yours - I hated the age group I was teaching. I was teaching kids, and I couldn’t handle it. I don’t think it’s a show of weakness to get out of a job that makes you unhappy. If I’d stayed, I would have gotten better at teaching, but I don’t think I would have been a better person.

I’m a lecturer at a university now. I’m not a full-fledged professor, but I’m taking an online degree, and I hope to be able to call myself a professor in a few years. I absolutely love my job.

However, my personal situation allows me to do that. I’m an English language teacher, so my students rely on my fluency, not my degree. It’s harder to be a lecturer in a different field. I don’t have any dependents; if you are married, especially with children, you may not be able to take a pay cut (as I did) to get a job as a lecturer. Also, if you have people depending on you, it’ll be doubly difficult to find the time and the money for post-graduate studies. I was able to move far away from home for a job I liked. If you have a lot of ties to your area, you may not be able to get a college position.

I’d say if you’re single, research your options in depth and do what you need to do now, before you have a family’s well-being to consider. If you have a family, you could certainly change jobs, but you may have to change to a different high school, or teach a different subject if possible, rather than trying to find a job at a college. Either way, good luck!


#8

The pressure to discipline will be less in a college setting (though it will still exist if you teach remedial classes), but you may still have too much social pressure on account of being in front of people. You will still make mistakes in front of the class from time to time and have confrontational students who dislike your policies. You will be the complaint department. I’d want to be confident that this will work for me before I spend all the money on the Ph.D. Have you ever taught a class at your local community college? That might let you know.


#9

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