Thursday, August 14, 2008

One Room School

This picture was taken in West Virginia in 1921 and shows a one room school house. I find it interesting that several of the students are bare foot.

I appreciate all the insightful comments yesterday on my thoughts of becoming a school teacher. I found them both useful and interesting. After reading over the comments, I made the decision, yes, I will be a teacher. I took a position yesterday, and the job starts this coming Monday. I am now in the midst of a major panic attack, wondering if I can do this. They have me teaching 3 different classes . . . Algebra II, Business, and Computers, and will be teaching 7 periods per day. The major fears I have are:

1) I dont have a teacher certificate, so I will have to be working on certification training and testing while teaching what looks like a pretty full load
2) I have never taught before, and it has been 27 years since I was in high school
3) I have good math skills, but it has been a long time since I worked Algebra problems.
4) The computer class is based on Office 2007. When I bought my last laptop, I downgraded to office 2003 because I found 2007 peculiar and hard to use.

Things I am encouraged about:

1) They tell me they will hand pick the students in my classes and give me students who are smart, motivated, and want to learn.
2) This school system still uses the paddle, and the principal assures me that discipline is maintained in the school.
3) The superintendent and principal have assured me that they will support me and help me to be successful
4) I think that the Computer and Business classes could be tailored to teach kids not just how to use a computer, but how to communicate, and how to build a successful career (with the computer being a useful tool).
Anyway, this will be a new adventure. My main fear is simply a time issue . . . I am willing to dedicate 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM to this job, but is there enough hours to both teach, prepare for class, grade papers, take my own teacher certification training, and testing. We will see . . .


  1. In our lives we have but one or two teachers that teach us not only the Algebra and Grammar but the wonders in life. These are the teachers that I hold dear, and think of them often. I think sharing your worldly knowledge and spinning your grand stories will fill your students with more then just A's and B's ( If you can tell them about the pony in the kitchen first day, it should break the ice, I still giggle thinking about it). I am not a teacher but I work in the High school, I think you will find most all kids are amazing and will be very open to a new Teacher with the heart of an artist. Then the A's will come flooding in.

  2. It seems to me that you landed the right job at the right time for you. The hand picked kids and the strong (and painful) dicipline will allow you the time to really intrest and challenge your students. Do not worry, algebra is like riding a bicycle, you never really forget how to ride and it only takes a short time to stop wobbling around.

    You will be particularly busy until you get certified, but I think you will be a real happy camper after you get that out of the way and settle into the routine. And just wait until you see the light in the eyes of a student who finally understands a particularly dufficult concept you have been working on with him/her.

    Congratulations, Paul! I see a great career ahead of you. We will,of course, expect updates periodically.

  3. Many years (40) ago, when I was teaching students algebra in senior high school I took a graduate course in education. I still remember the first day in class. The instructor asked each person (we were all teachers) what we taught. Some said English, I said Math, etc. He then said that we were all incorrect. He stated that we each taught children. That's the one thing I remember from that class and it's really one of the most important things that any teacher should remember.

  4. Congratulations! it sounds like everything just fell into place for you. I think that means that it was meant to be :)
    If you really love what you are doing, the time dedicated won't even be noticed. Hopefully you will be able to spare a few minutes a day for your faithful public (us). If not, you might have to change the web site to Old Picture of the weekend! LOL!
    I liked the comment about telling the story about the pony in the kitchen to your students. I agree!! I still think of that story and laugh to myself.
    Good luck!

  5. That's very exciting knews! Have fun.

  6. Sorry, but I don't understand how you could get a job teaching just by deciding one day that, "Yes, I want to be a teacher", et voila!

    Where I come from, Alberta, Canada, a person needs to not only have a Bachelor's degree, but also needs to have a minimum of TWO YEARS studies in an Education degree. This is where they teach you how to teach.

    ? Is this so different in the United States ? Do you have a massive shortage of teachers at present?

    (I know that you are brilliant and will make a wonderful teacher, that is not what I'm questioning... Just inquiring about the process is all.)

  7. I was wondering the same thing as LT. Is this why the US education system is performing so badly?

  8. You will be a tremendous teacher. All your coments in Old Picture of the Day teaches me something new every day and I look forward to going to your website.

  9. State laws differ...some allow "probationary" teachers, as long as they receive a certificate or license within a short time.

    Some quick tips that made a positive difference in my teaching experience:

    1. Plan the first day of class down to the minute, and plan for more activities than you think you actually have time for.

    2. Have only a very few ground rules for the class, but enforce them consistently and fairly. I suggest no more than five absolute "must do's", with clear consequences for disobedience.

    3. Plan for a "tiered" approach to discipline consequences, something like: first time offense is a warning, second time is more serious, third time is most serious.

    4. Plan for positive incentives, perhaps a "fun-day" Friday? Game-like activities that reinforce the week's hard work?

    5. Create a blend of activities, ranging from:
    --Lecture or presentation by teacher;
    --Small groups working together to solve a problem or complete an assignment, projects
    --Individual assignments, projects

    6. Review key concepts frequently, many time during the each class, orally, calling on individual students. Most of your questions of the class should be in the form of "question, student". Asking the question first, and then calling on a specific student can help keep the entire class attentive. If you call a student's name first, everyone can momentarily relax, often indulging in a little daydreaming.

    7. Carry a small stack of index cards, each card bearing the name of one of your students. Shuffle the cards frequently, and draw a card to determine who to call on. Too many teachers tend to focus on just a few students, allowing many to "slip through the cracks" and never be given (or required to take) the chance to answer in class.

    8. Finally, work as late as you need to Monday through Friday, keep up on grading and correcting, but DO NOT TAKE WORK HOME ON THE WEEKEND! I guarantee you'll burn out quick unless you attend to personal needs and joys.

    Good luck!

  10. Thanks to all for the encouraging words, and wise advise. Today is my first day. It is new teacher orientation day. We will keep you posted.

  11. WHAT! I can't believe that someone who hasn't worked an algebra problem in YEARS is teaching algebra II. How desperate could they be?

    Teaching algebra takes not only a strong command of the subject but intuition and creativity to make the subject beautiful.

    I'm sorry to not be supportive but that just is more infuriating than I can possibly tolerate. PLEASE get the books out and start working problems furiously. If you don't have time to dedicate to them, quit. It's their future you are risking.

    Yeah, no wonder our country can't do math.

  12. Comment on the comment above . . . humility precludes the blogger from posting his resume, but he has extremely strong math background. His comments of not having done algebra recently is reflective of the fact his work has required much higher levels of math.

  13. To the negative anonymous - one of the reasons why the US school system is a complete disaster is because a college degree called "Education" was developed. Are you aware that at most colleges and universities, an Education degree is one of the easiest ones to get, requiring the fewest semester hours and the lowest grades to guarantee a pass?

    This might be something for you to look into. It is a truly appalling fact. There are people out there teaching who cannot write a grammatically correct sentence, who squeaked through in some regional or community college with their much vaunted "Education" degree. Much of the Education degree consists of make-work courses about child psychology and making up lesson plans. One college I attended allowed one to acquire an Education degree with absolutely no math semester hours at all and a D average. There were retarded people, complete with their aides, taking Education degrees at that institution (Mansfield University in Pennsylvania).

    An Education degree does not make a person a good teacher. When I think of all the "coaches" who taught history in the high schools of my home state, because they only had to have an Education degree (in their case in Phys Ed) and THREE semester hours of history to do so - well, let's just say that history was the last thing taught in those classrooms. Instead, the smart kids sat there bored to tears while "Coach" and the jocks talked about "da game".

    Oh, but those coaches had Education degrees, so that must mean, according to thee, that they were GREAT teachers!

    Much better to get someone who actually knows his subject and has some real world experience, eh? Our blogger might just breathe some life into the wasteland created by Education degrees and all the accompanying bull like self-esteem and invented writing. Look on any forum on the Internet and pick out the Americans by the way they don't know a possessive from a plural and have never heard of homonyms being spelled differently. Oh, but it's okay, isn't it, because they tried soooo harrrd, even if they are illiterate and ignorant!

    Good luck to the new teacher!

  14. After having two successful careers, I retired to "the life of Riley". That lasted a few months and I found I still had the fire in me so here I am in my fourth year of teaching high school science and physics. Like pjm, I had no certification but that came in a flash. You are in for a big ride, you're gonna love it. I plan to work until the day I keel over. DD