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Teaching high school students for the first time

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello,


I have been accepted for a physics teacher position in a high school. This would be my first job ever. I taught "tutored" students before in my home university for two semesters, and I think I am a good teacher. But, I feel that teaching high school students is totally different.

I am not nervous about teaching as much as I am nervous about managing classes. Do you have any suggestions for me? Ways to manage high school classes? I have been a student before, and I know how miserable a chaotic class can be! I don't want to make my classes a clone of that and I don't want to be that kind of teachers.

I watched some videos on youtube and I read some articles. But I don't think I had enough overview on the problem. I would appreciate your personal advices.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
12,633
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Hello,


I have been accepted for a physics teacher position in a high school. This would be my first job ever. I taught "tutored" students before in my home university for two semesters, and I think I am a good teacher. But, I feel that teaching high school students is totally different.

I am not nervous about teaching as much as I am nervous about managing classes. Do you have any suggestions for me? Ways to manage high school classes? I have been a student before, and I know how miserable a chaotic class can be! I don't want to make my classes a clone of that and I don't want to be that kind of teachers.

I watched some videos on youtube and I read some articles. But I don't think I had enough overview on the problem. I would appreciate your personal advices.
I remember a teacher once told me, shortly after he had been in the same situation (I asked him in private how he managed to get the class under control so quickly; and I can still name the two wolves in the following answer):

During the first hour, they check you out, study your weaknesses and how serious you are. In the second hour, a beta wolf stands out and put you to the test. Beta, because he acts on the alpha's assumed behalf and wants to improve his own standing. That's the situation in which you should be strict and bite him back, so to say. Give him some infraction, but one which neither damages his standing in the group nor one that relates on others, like the principal or so - maybe some additional homework related to what he had done. After that, the order in the pack should be cleared.
 
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  • #3
Stephen Tashi
Science Advisor
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I am not nervous about teaching as much as I am nervous about managing classes.
Are you nervous about some sort of discipline problems? This is largely a matter of style. As @fresh_42 suggests, you can adopt an authoritarian style. I myself would not do this immediately unless you are teaching in a institution where both the other teachers and the inmates take that style for granted - perhaps a military school or a prison.

On a more positive note - one cannot do anything practical without considering Philosophy. Is your philosophy to reach out to each student or is your philosophy to present the material to those students who are interested and let the others rest in peace? The high school teachers I most respect have the former style. When I was a teacher, I tended to have the latter style because as I explained the material, I paid more attention to the content of the material in my own mind than to observing each student. (When you first teach a course, the content of what you are teaching may be foremost in your mind as you lecture because you are trying to master it yourself!)

Some style's of teaching keep the student's alert and in suspense by asking individual students questions during class. If you use that style, you can be diplomatic when students give wrong answers or you can be intimidating and demeaning. Some styles of teaching hold the student's attention by being dramatic and emphatic. Some styles of teaching drill things into the students minds by repetition. ( I think that repetition is the most effective form of emphasis, but to avoid monotony it helps to have some drama. )
 
  • #4
12,633
9,148
As @fresh_42 suggests, you can adopt an authoritarian style.
Just as an add-on: The teacher I was talking about wasn't authoritarian at all. This trick gave him a sort of natural respect and he became the most liked teacher of the class. It's only that the first fight will come, and the way you deal therein defines the way the students will see you. At the end when he had his exam in class, we all came dressed up, without him knowing - just to demonstrate our respect. I can't remember we ever would have done something similar to an authoritarian teacher.
 
  • #5
I remember a teacher once told me, shortly after he had been in the same situation (I asked him in private how he managed to get the class under control so quickly; and I can still name the two wolves in the following answer):

During the first hour, they check you out, study your weaknesses and how serious you are. In the second hour, a beta wolf stands out and put you to the test. Beta, because he acts on the alpha's assumed behalf and wants to improve his own standing. That's the situation in which you should be strict and bite him back, so to say. Give him some infraction, but one which neither damages his standing in the group nor one that relates on others, like the principal or so - maybe some additional homework related to what he had done. After that, the order in the pack should be cleared.
Thanks, I think I understand what you are saying. I heard that taking points from the students can help too "-2 points" for his bad behavior for example. What do you think?

Are you nervous about some sort of discipline problems? This is largely a matter of style. As @fresh_42 suggests, you can adopt an authoritarian style. I myself would not do this immediately unless you are teaching in a institution where both the other teachers and the inmates take that style for granted - perhaps a military school or a prison.

On a more positive note - one cannot do anything practical without considering Philosophy. Is your philosophy to reach out to each student or is your philosophy to present the material to those students who are interested and let the others rest in peace? The high school teachers I most respect have the former style. When I was a teacher, I tended to have the latter style because as I explained the material, I paid more attention to the content of the material in my own mind than to observing each student. (When you first teach a course, the content of what you are teaching may be foremost in your mind as you lecture because you are trying to master it yourself!)

Some style's of teaching keep the student's alert and in suspense by asking individual students questions during class. If you use that style, you can be diplomatic when students give wrong answers or you can be intimidating and demeaning. Some styles of teaching hold the student's attention by being dramatic and emphatic. Some styles of teaching drill things into the students minds by repetition. ( I think that repetition is the most effective form of emphasis, but to avoid monotony it helps to have some drama. )
What am I nervous of?

Well, students who are really not willing to study at all. No matter what points you subtract or homeworks you demand as punishment (fresh_42 answer), they do not really care.

When I was in school, I have seen students that do not respect their teachers, throw papers, talk dirty and hit students. Sometimes even in front of the teacher himself. The teacher sometimes responses with subtracting grades or something like that, yet sometimes they do not bend.

That was in middle school "7 to 9 grades", I didn't have this experience in high school. But I am afraid it could exist in the school I am going to teach in.
 
  • #6
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I heard that taking points from the students can help too "-2 points" for his bad behavior for example. What do you think?
I think a short essay hurts more as it costs time. It could be e.g. about the accuracy in measurements compared to the formulas, or about the usage of units within a calculation. The point is really comparable to a bite: it has to be you, not a principal or counselor, it has to hurt, but not so much that it affects the structure within the class. I'm a bit afraid some "points" will be too abstract. My suspicion is, that such an infraction hurts those students most which you won't have much trouble with anyway, and that the bad guys might even brag with their points. All in all I think the picture of a new wolf in the pack is pretty close to what happens: you won't bite the pups, or would challenge their hierarchy, but you would have to make sure you are willing to lead the pack.
 
  • #7
berkeman
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That was in middle school "7 to 9 grades", I didn't have this experience in high school. But I am afraid it could exist in the school I am going to teach in.
Can you say what country you are in? Will you be teaching all 4 years of high school students, or mostly one of the 4 years? Is this a public school or a private school? Does the school have an on-line system for parents to check on assignments and grades? Does your school have a back-to-school night where you can meet all of the parents of your students?

My daughter went to high school at Moreau Catholic High School in Northern California. As you would expect, the students were pretty motivated to act appropriately and work hard in a private school like that. For various reasons, my son went to high school at a public school, and the environment there was much worse. I attended one of his math classes one time (I forget why), and was pretty discouraged at the inattentiveness of the students.

If I were going to teach science or math in a public high school in the US, I think I would try to use the online system a lot to engage with the parents, and to make sure the students felt accountable to me and their parents. I'd prefer that they not have access to their cell phones during class, but I'd have to follow whatever the policy was for the school.

I would probably lead off each class (right on time) with a timed quiz covering the material that we had worked through so far, taking about 10 minutes. I'd have them hand in those quizzes along with their homework, and maybe have a poll at the bottom of the quiz about what experiment/demo they would like to see that day. Follow the quiz with the experiment/demo, and then use that demo to lead into the lecture and interactive discussion. Then give the homework assignment, and relate it to what was discussed that day.

Easy for me to say... :smile:
 
  • #8
Stephen Tashi
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Well, students who are really not willing to study at all. No matter what points you subtract or homeworks you demand as punishment (fresh_42 answer), they do not really care.
It won't be that simple. Yes, there will be students who don't study. The reasons why they don't study will vary. Perhpas some don't care. Others are distracted by non-academic problems, others lack the skill to learn from study. You are correct to worry about students who don't study. You will also have to worry about diagnosing the reasons they don't.

When I was in school, I have seen students that do not respect their teachers, throw papers, talk dirty and hit students. Sometimes even in front of the teacher himself. The teacher sometimes responses with subtracting grades or something like that, yet sometimes they do not bend.
I don't know what educational system you will teach in. Doing things that affect a student's grades is prominent in your thinking. You might be teaching in a culture where subtracting points from a student's grade is a significant punishment. In the USA, that would often be ineffective.

To enforce order, you have to figure out how the school system will support you. (In the schools of my youth, corporal punishement was administered freely.) Can you expel disrujptive students ? - send them "to the office"? Can you keep them after school? Is there a "demerit" system?

That was in middle school "7 to 9 grades",
Anyone who can figure out how to teach 7th graders is a genius - as were all my 7th grade teachers. But not a genius of the academic type. Serious academics are ill-suited to be middle school teachers.
 
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  • #9
mathwonk
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Have you watched the movies Stand and Deliver, and Dead Poets Society or even Sound of Music? Not that they will help much. but will give you some perspective. Actually their message agrees I think with the previous post, i.e. successful teachers at those levels are very committted individuals who care about their students above all else and refuse to give up on them.
 
  • #10
symbolipoint
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Hello,


I have been accepted for a physics teacher position in a high school. This would be my first job ever. I taught "tutored" students before in my home university for two semesters, and I think I am a good teacher. But, I feel that teaching high school students is totally different.

I am not nervous about teaching as much as I am nervous about managing classes. Do you have any suggestions for me? Ways to manage high school classes? I have been a student before, and I know how miserable a chaotic class can be! I don't want to make my classes a clone of that and I don't want to be that kind of teachers.

I watched some videos on youtube and I read some articles. But I don't think I had enough overview on the problem. I would appreciate your personal advices.
To teach in high school, your first time teaching a class:
How did your teaching INTERNSHIP go?

What? No internship as part of your preparation to become teacher? Now we may understand how desperate are some public schools/ (high schools) for science teachers. If you are actually teaching PHYSICS in high school and not the typical required high school courses, your situation in-class should be fine; otherwise....,....?
 
  • #11
Dr. Courtney
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  • #12
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I was told by my education professor that you must know their names ASAP, and one other thing I forgot
 
  • #13
Hello,


I have been accepted for a physics teacher position in a high school. This would be my first job ever. I taught "tutored" students before in my home university for two semesters, and I think I am a good teacher. But, I feel that teaching high school students is totally different.

I am not nervous about teaching as much as I am nervous about managing classes. Do you have any suggestions for me? Ways to manage high school classes? I have been a student before, and I know how miserable a chaotic class can be! I don't want to make my classes a clone of that and I don't want to be that kind of teachers.

I watched some videos on youtube and I read some articles. But I don't think I had enough overview on the problem. I would appreciate your personal advices.
Just be calm and enjoy your teaching jobs. Good Luck!
 
  • #14
vela
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I'm guessing by now the semester has already started. How is your class going?
 
  • #15
WWGD
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Or, how about following up now, a little more than a year down the road?
 
  • #16
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When I was in high school I had a history class and a math class consecutively. The history teacher joked around with the students but overall was unable to control the class. The math teacher was very serious, concentrated on the subject and had no trouble controlling the class. Some of the students in the history class that didn't pay attention were also in the math class where they were good students. For a while I pondered what caused the difference in behavior of the students in the two classes. Finally I decided it came down to the respect or lack of it they had for the teacher. The history teacher didn't seem to take the lessons seriously whereas the math teacher was very knowledgeable and well prepared.
 

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