Person: “So, what do you do?”
Me: “I’m a teacher.”
Person: “Which year level?”
Me: “Actually, I’m a high school teacher”
… Cue comment AND facial expression that clearly shows either sympathy for my predicament, or distress for what I must have to put up with.
What really gets to me, is that people seem to have this opinion about high school that is not at all accurate. Yes, there are challenges and yes, some students can bring with them some serious problems, but overall teaching high school is a very rewarding experience! I think it has something to do with people’s memories of their own high school experiences and how they remembered feeling as they grew up – you know, the awkward years of being a teenager. In any case, people tend to get even more uncomfortable when I go on to tell them that my favourite year levels are year 9 and 10…
“But, aren’t they really moody and self-centred?”
Well, yes, because they are going through all sorts of hormonal changes and are trying to figure out who they are. Throw in some academic pressure, add some friendship issues for good measure and problems with mum and dad “just not getting me” and you’ve got a pretty potent mix of trouble for these students.
I’ve had a range of teaching experiences, so I think I’m justified in my statement that, for me, year 9 and 10 are where I want to dedicate a lot of my time. I have taught prep all the way through to year 12. I’ve spent 3 terms teaching primary music and half a year as a year 5 core teacher, and while I loved both of those experiences I knew that primary just wasn’t for me. On the flip side, while I love year 7, 8, 11 and 12, year 9 and 10 are where it really matters for me. It’s where I feel I can make the most difference.
I love working with students and helping them to develop a range of skills. I love challenging them to think beyond themselves and to consider other points of view. I love being able to passionately debate current issues with my students and discovering that they are keeping up with what’s going on in the world. However, the thing I love most about working with high school students is being constantly surprised by their ability to understand situations, gather information, and empathise with those involved. Yes, you read that right, my students do empathise. It might be where I’m currently working; I know that my students, my girls, are caring and kind, but they are also hardworking and committed. They surprise me daily and I’m so grateful to be working at Mount Alvernia College. However, I know that other high school students have been known to show these same traits and if I were to move on to another school, I would expect the same from my new students.
Anyway, my point is, should someone tell you that they work in a high school, perhaps stop and consider your response. That person was obviously called to work in a high school, they wouldn’t have made that decision lightly. Therefore, it stands to reason that that person, no matter their age or gender, is driven to make a difference in young people’s lives and you should not, in any way make their chosen profession seem like a bad thing.
I choose to work as a high school teacher because I love working with young adults and its where I feel I can make the most difference.