My First Year As A Teacher: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

School's... out... for... summer!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen... I survived my first year as a high school 9th grade English teacher! It's been one crazy year... almost everything going wrong and/or against me (with a few notable exceptions). So I want to look back on this past year, what was essentially one of the worst years of my life (and they actually tell you that when you're getting into teaching--that your first year will be the worst year of your life. Great pep talk, huh?). Let's check out the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY.


- My students, for the most part, loved me and constantly told me how I was one of the greatest teachers they've ever had (Respect me? Not quite. But like me they did). I did get letters and whatnot from students, though, telling me how they like and/or appreciate me.

- I only had, I believe, 5 people fail the Reading TAKS test (TAKS is the statewide test they have to take. Every state calls it something different, but they have to take it thanks to the stupid "No Child Left Behind" Act). But 5 is a pretty good number, and the majority of those 5 aren't gonna pass anything they did this year in any class anyway.

- On a similar note, I had 18 students make Commended on their TAKS test (Commended means they did super well and/or close to perfect). This was more than even a teacher who has been teaching for many a year.

- I talked a student out of dropping out of school. Here's the story: This kid was refusing to do his work. I was finally sick of having to get on him to do his work, so I asked him why he wasn't doing anything. He started giving me attitude, so I took him out into the hall to talk to him alone. He was failing everything and had basically given up on school/life/whatever. Him and I had gotten along pretty well all year (despite some of his classmates not liking him too well). So he was able to open up to me. I could tell during our talk he was trying so hard not to cry, so I not only had to give him a pep talk, but try to make him laugh and whatnot at the same time. After about 10-15 minutes of solo talk, he went back in and did his work. He worked hard on that paper, too. And not only that, but I got him to bump up his grade in 2 other classes so that by the end of the year, he was passing at least 3 of his classes that he wouldn't have to retake next year. This was probably my favorite moment of the year.

- I did what was probably the coolest project idea ever and made two 30-minute(-ish) films with my students--The Odyssey and Romeo & Juliet. I probably ended up spending between 700 bucks between the two films, but hey... it was cool. And I actually had a kid who never does anything for anybody volunteer to stay after school to work on a project dealing with Shakespeare? How epic is that?

- I only had about 6 students fail the class this year, and practically all of them failed everything anyway, so it wasn't because of me.

- A girl had a baby and still passed my class... she worked so hard to get her work done despite being gone a lot, and she ended up passing. I think that's pretty cool.

- I actually had a girl cry--twice--in saying goodbye to me. I was like "Um... alright."


- I had literally THE WORST students this year. Seriously, I had a councilor actually apologize to me on multiple occasions for giving me the students I had. Every teacher might have 2 or 3 of the "worst students" in the school... yeah, I had all of them. I could hardly ever get a word in when I had to talk/teach because they never shut up. There were issues with climbing things; leaving the classroom without permission; throwing things (whether it be paper planes, paper balls, books and/or dictionaries); dumping out other students' backpacks; ripping other students papers up; yelling out the window; spraying a horrid Fart Spray; hiding under my desk; writing/drawing on desks, walls, bookshelves, or other furniture (these could be anything from gang signs to names to penises); constantly opening the door to look outside or talk to somebody outside the classroom; stapling their own skin; stapling other people's skin; tattooing other people without their permission with a make-shift tattoo pen; doing drugs (yes, I did hear drug stories, primarily when there were subs, but I smelled weed a few times in the vicinity of the window once or twice); sexually harassing each other; sexually harassing me; stealing from me or other students (because, hey, it was there, they were there... so why not? But really, you have no idea how much got stolen or taken without permission over the course of the year. It's ridiculous); setting fire to themselves; stripping off their clothes; throwing their clothes across the classroom (I never thought I'd ever have to say "stop throwing your pants across the room and put them back on"... and I had to do that more than once, and in more than one class); destroying classroom materials or furniture; squirting each other with copious amounts of water; fights and/or near-fights (had a few near-fights and one actual fight); random and endless conversations about sex and sexual things; and not to mention just the basic rule breaking such as cussing, rudeness, disrespect, horseplay, having electronic devices (phones, ipods/mp3s, PSPs, etc.), and whatever the hell else there is. If you can think of it, my classes probably did it.

- You have no idea how lazy these kids were. Let me give you an example. I had kids who refused to write anything... at all... because it hurt their hand. At the beginning of the year, I had one student (the aforementioned student who volunteered for the movie) refuse to even give personal opinion and have a teacher's aide write it down for them because that was too much work. And you'd be surprised on how much more difficult writing personal opinion is than writing facts for these kids. They tell us their opinions frequently, whether we want them or not, but get them to write those opinions down? Nope. It's too confusing and/or difficult.

- I had a student whose brother lives in the same apartment complex as me, so he knows where I live (and has already spontaneously dropped by twice... both times having just come from the swimming pool, so he's all shirtless and dripping wet, making it an even more uncomfortable situation). Of course, I never let him in and we only talk for about 2 minutes before I make him leave.

- A student who was essentially a former student even before the year ended (she moved at the end of the year, almost disappearing without a trace there for a while) somehow got my cell number, so she randomly texts me. I actually warned her to stop, as I could get in a lot of trouble, and she did. But just the other day, she texted me again to accuse me of going around saying she was lying about being pregnant (which is not true... I said I wasn't sure whether or not I believed her considering all the other times she lied about being pregnant). It was then I found out she moved and broke up with her psycho boyfriend who tried to kill her earlier in the year (and almost cut off her finger). But she's stopping again.

- I can't go anywhere without seeing a student... literally. Even my own apartment now, apparently. It's really annoying.

- I had multiple students in multiple classes ask me (or tell me, really... and more than once) that we needed to hang out over summer and get high and/or wasted. I was like "Um... no thanks."

- I somehow lost (or they were stolen, more than likely) a textbook and a couple dictionaries... doubt anything will happen about it, but still. Figured it was worth mentioning.

- My students were constantly trying to hook me up with the female teacher across the hall (who is single, good looking, and is only one year older than me). But it got to the point of embarrassing and ridiculous the lengths they would go to. So... yeah.

- My mentor teacher really didn't mentor all that much. She observed one of my classes once, and there was a 2-week period when she asked me for lesson plans (not really lesson plans as much as objectives). And when she did talk to me, it was mostly negative... even when I came to her with something positive, it was shifted into something negative. But besides those things... she pretty much ignored me. Luckily, the teacher right next to me was awesome. He and I got along great, and I wouldn't have survived this year without him. He was also my friend's mentor teacher during her student teaching last year.

- I was given papers to pass out to my students who were going to be taking AP (Advanced Placement) English classes next year which tells them all the summer reading/work they have to do... and they got lost in the shuffle of the end of the year chaos (they were given to me like, right before Finals) and I forgot to hand them out. I got a few of them signed, but a good handful not... this could have been disastrous on my already thin layer of ice. Luckily, one of the councilors I grew friendly with took them and said she'd make calls to their homes and see if they can come and get them (I don't think I would have survived the year without her, either).

- I had some crazy substitutes. I had a sub once that forwent everything I left for my students only to show them a video about some Jesus play she was going to be in as she danced around in the corner. I had another sub who told all my students they were never going to amount to anything and they were just gonna work at Burger King or as sanitation workers for the rest of their lives. I had a sub who let them break off a piece of the desk and play baseball with it and some paper balls... among other subs.


- It seemed like there was this specific Assistant Principal that was always out to get me, if only for always showing up at the absolute worst moment. He walked in during the last minutes of class once where everybody was finished with their work and we weren't really doing much of anything (in fact, I was playing a game of chess with one of my students). That was the first time he ever came into my classroom. He showed up to search another class for the aforementioned make-shift tattoo pen, right when we were in the middle of an awesome class debate where everybody was kinda loud and crazy, but it was a fun crazy (whether or not he knew that is up in the air). There were a couple other random instances with him, too, but I can't think of them all at the moment.

- I did get one parent cuss me out via phone because her son, who is all innocent and perfect (as we know)--actually, to be fair, he was a moderately good student. But about a month ago, he got sent into ISS (In School Suspension) for 4 days for walking out of my class about 5 minutes before the bell. Well, because of this, he lost his Final exemption for my class period... and on top of that, she didn't find out about his ISS until pretty much last week, as the A.P. who called didn't get a hold of her and, of course, he never told her. And his baseball coach let him continue to play despite having ISS, so she never found out that way, either. So, yeah... that wasn't a happy (couple) phone call(s).

- I suppose the biggest "ugly" is that I ended up on what's called a "Growth Plan." This is essentially for those teachers who are struggling (mine being with classroom management) but they don't want to fire. I have to follow all sorts of specific guidelines (and have to read a book) for next year. It's better than being fired, though. But I suppose when you look at everything I listed in my "Good" section, if they would have fired me despite all of that stuff, I would have been upset.


All in all, though... this was a really bad year. You have no idea. The lack of respect, the laziness, the horrid behavior... it all culminated into a mess of terrible. It's like they all have a PhD in Horribleness... but without Neil Patrick Harris. And there's probably a HUGE amount of things I forgot to put in this post. But it's over! And next year? I'm gonna be hardcore with them at the beginning of the year. That was my biggest issue. I can't put all the blame on the students. I was too lax at the beginning of the year, and when they say that you have to be mean at the start and then get nice, because it's almost impossible to do it the other way around... that's insanely true. They also say your second year is infinitely better than your first. So... here's to hoping.

Though with my luck, I'll end up teaching sophomores and have all my students all over again...

But until next year, it's summertime!


  1. Wow, that was, to use the word of the week, epic!

    Yea, it seems like the whole "like you but don't respect you" is the biggest problem and avalanched from there. Do you have what it takes to get mean and bitter? Being another year older than your students helps as well.

    I know you live in a small town and this could be difficult, but given that you're in an apartment and not a home (read: no mortgage), have you given any thought to moving around your first few years? Is that possible? I sure wouldn't want all my students (or any, but it sounds as though that's pretty difficult) to know where I lived.

    Did you ever see The Class (Entre le murs), that French pseudo-doc? I imagine your classes went a lot like that guys. Time to bust out the rulers...

  2. Haha... yeah, I say "epic" all the time. Probably too much.

    I think the issue wasn't meanness as much as it was strictness. I let way too much slide through most of the year, mostly because I'm too laid back of a person and it didn't bother me. But by the end of the year... well, it started bothering me. And I'm almost certain that I can be what I need to be next year.

    As for moving around... it was tough enough finding *this* apartment. But it's really inevitable that at least one student will know where you live.

    Never saw The Class, and not sure I want to :P . But yeah, I'll probably end up checking it out. I have seen another movie called "Chalk," which was written by actual teachers and chronicled the lives of a few semi-first year educators in Texas.

  3. Congrats on surviving! Hopefully next year won't suck so badly.

  4. This is what I have to look forward to?

    Well, luckily for me I will have the younger students - before they go crazy.

    Glad you made it through and it sounds like you have noticed the mistakes you made (huge) and can fix them.

    Sort of relevant story- came home from work last week and saw a student I had taught playing with my next door neighbor. I hid myself from him to get inside, didn't want to open up a can of worms.

    By the sounds of it you actually had a pretty productive year in terms of students doing well and understanding what you were teaching. I am sure that is why your administrator is keeping you around - you have what it takes to be a great teacher.

    Good luck next year and enjoy the summer.


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