This week The Broke and the Bookish us leave with a pretty open-ended prompt: the top ten reasons I love x. Given the end of the school year and whatnot, I thought I'd go with the reasons I love my job (besides the part about having a summer break). For those that are just stopping by, I teach high school English as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program in Southern California (I also teach AP Language, but won't be next year). I have three credentials- one to teach elementary school, one for high school biology, and then the one I use currently. I have used them all at one time or another, although bio was only for a summer, and English is definitely my preference, specifically the IB classes I currently teach. Obviously the kids are the best part, for me, but I've talked about them a lot lately, so here are ten OTHER reasons why:
1. A variety of literature: During the two years the program consists of we do everything from Antigone to Catcher in the Rye to Macbeth to Their Eyes Were Watching God.
2. A variety of kids: Because our program is labeled as Open Access (anyone can take the class, despite it being advanced, if they want to), I have a very diverse group of kids in my class. It's great!
3. Forced rereading: I think there's a lot of good in rereading texts, I just never have the time. Teaching the same books every other year makes me reread them, which allows me to obviously know them better. This fall will be my third time teaching Catcher in the Rye, after reading it myself for high school and once in between. That's five times with Holden. FIVE.
4. Outside reading: Our department has an outside reading policy that requires (well, supposedly) the kids to read outside of the curriculum. Because my students are taking college-level classes I'm pretty picky about what they read- basically they need to read things that will prepare them for their undergrad classes in terms of complexity and content. It's always interesting to see what they choose, to talk to them about it, and hear what they end up liking/not liking. I also admittedly get a kick out of watching the ones that obviously didn't read try to fool me (and I know they do on occasion, so A+ for BSing).
5. Seeing improvement: Since I have the kids for 2-3 years I am able to see a great deal of improvement in their reading comprehension and writing skills. Maturity plays a big roll, too, since there's a lot of growing up that happens from the beginning of tenth grade to the end of twelfth.
6. Socratic Seminars: I try to have the students participate in a class-long Socratic Seminar discussion once for every book I read. The debates are lively, the conversations interesting, and the knowledge I get about their understanding of the text (or lack there of) is important.
7. Opportunities for creativity: I know that I'm not the most creative teacher of all time, but I do try to have the students do one sort of project for each book we read (a soundtrack for Heart of Darkness, a psychiatrist's write up for Holden Caulfied, a map of the city where A Chronicle of a Death Foretold took place, a model of the bug in The Metamorphosis etc...). It's fun to grade something besides essays and I enjoy seeing the kids' interpretations of different concepts.
8. Colleagues: I won't try to say that I'm best friends with everyone in the English department (I don't even seen some of them other than at meetings), but I can confidently say that I respect them all and don't hate any of them. And I think it's the same for my colleagues; our department meetings are relaxed, there is rarely ever tension, and every one is pretty helpful. This, believe it or not, is somewhat rare on high school campuses. High school teachers sometimes turn into high school students themselves, in a way, and I've heard horror stories about other places. I am lucky that I work with a pretty level-headed, kind, group of people.
9. Book club- While I'm on the topic of my fellow teachers, I have to say that the book club my friend and I started three years ago has been a lot of fun. We read 4-5 books a year that we vote on and then meet for lunch to discuss. It would probably be hard for me to be a part of a group outside of the workday right now, so this is perfect.
10. Longevity: I know a lot of people in the math and science sometimes snub English because they think we sit around and analyze sonnets all day. Not so much. If you want to understand what you read and be able to write adequately about it, you better believe those foundational skills came from your time in language arts classes. That's actually a huge issue that we are seeing with Common Core right now; other content areas are expected to write a lot more and the teachers are struggling to teach the kids how to for their specific content area, so they're turning to- you guessed it!- English teachers for help.