This is my first interview with a first year teacher, and I’m so excited to share it with you. Ms. B’s passion and voice shine through in her descriptions of interactions with her students and coworkers. I’m so glad that people like her are still choosing to be educators. The students need them.
* * *
A Note About These Interviews:
I taught seventh grade for almost twenty years and was constantly surprised at the difference between what friends, family, parents, neighbors, and community members imagined my job was like and what it actually was like. The few times I had the privilege of inviting a friend or family member to visit my classroom, they always left wide-eyed and exhausted. The purpose of these interviews is to allow the world a glimpse inside the lives of current educators. Now that I’ve quit teaching, I want to do what I can to support all the teachers still fighting the good fight, and I don’t want to forget what life is like inside a school.
All questions are optional. The teacher may write as much or as little as they want. If they don’t feel comfortable answering a question for any reason, they’re allowed to leave it blank or say “I prefer not to answer.” For confidentiality and privacy purposes, the name of the teacher’s school will not be published, and they may choose how they refer to themselves. (Full name, initials only, or even simply “Teacher.”) Participants have been asked to refrain from using student names or to change names. When describing student or parent interactions, they may be vague or change slight details to protect anonymity as long as the message/tone of the encounter stays the same.
* * *
Interview With Ms. B:
- In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.
Underqualified yet passionate.
- What is today’s date?
September 10, 2022
- How old are you?
- How many years (total) have you been teaching?
This is my first year.
- Have you ever taken a break from teaching? If so, why and for how long?
- What is your current salary?
60,500 (but I don’t get my first paycheck until the 15th… over a month after I started working Aug 5th).
- Is there anything you would like to share about your personal life or family situation?
I’m living with my older brother this year, which is amazing. He’s loaned me cash to pay our first two months of rent. I’m not sure I would even be able to be here if it weren’t for him. He’s a G.
- In what city and state do you teach?
Cypress, Texas. But the kids say they’re from Houston (and are not amused when I ask if it’s in their address).
- What grade(s) and subject(s) do you currently teach?
I teach Freshmen On-Level English I
- How many years have you been in your current teaching position?
This is my first year.
- How many conference periods do you have per day?
2, but one is dedicated for daily team planning
- How many students do you teach total?
Only 80… very bummed I don’t have more kids, but also not sure if I could handle it this year.
- If you teach multiple classes, how many students are in your smallest class and your largest class?
Smallest class has 15, biggest is 20. But there’s always at least one or more students absent. On the worst days I’ve got five kids missing in a class of 16.
- On average, how many meetings do you have per week?
- What other responsibilities do you have at school besides teaching your own classes? (For example: bus duty, cafeteria monitor, after school club, chaperone, committee member, team leader, coach, etc.)
There’s just a “tardy sweep” that the ELA team is required to do 5th period. Other than that, no outside the classroom requirements…. OH I did sign up to co-sponsor the Creative Writing club with another 1st year ELA teacher. It’ll start in October.
- Are you compensated for any of your extra duties?
- When was the last time you took a day off?
I haven’t taken a day off yet. I’m not comfortable enough in the classroom to leave it to another person yet. Plus, I don’t even make my official lesson plans til the morning of… I need to stop that but it’s been difficult to get ahead.
- Describe the reason for your absence and the process you went through in order to take the day off.
N/A and I also have no clue how to deal with the process for taking a day off… I think I have to put it in a database online and wait for my request to be accepted.
- Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a student this year.
I’ve got lots of kids with names I’ve never heard. The first day was almost entirely spent with me learning pronunciations. I’ve got one girl, Z, with a unique name that I absolutely butchered when I first tried to say it. I eventually got it (obviously), and she tested me the next day when she walked right up to me, posted up (when they put their shoulders back and chest out like they’re trynna fight), said “Miss!” then just stood there staring at me. I waited a bit, and said “What, Z?” but I pronounced her full name. She simply nodded, said, “that’s what I thought,” and walked into class. Now, Z is one of those kids that tells my other kids to “Shut the eff up,” when I need their attention. I honestly think she’s my favorite student.
- Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a student this year.
I’ve got one kid, we’ll call him Kyle, that just will not “get with my program” if you will. I’m talkin’ the kind of kid who, when I spoke with him and another student who let him copy off of him, laughed as if it was all a funny joke. I’m talkin’ the kind of kid who thinks he’s more important than anyone else in the room. The kind of kid who sends me a (honestly quite intimidating… this kid’s like 6’3”) death glare that I have to respond with a big grin and say, “Why, Kyle, I know you are just as happy to be in my classroom as I am to have you here. Go ahead and please take your seat.” Kyle is on the football A team (I finally got to watch one of their games, and his attitude made so much more sense when I saw that he’s not only the quarterback, but is also very, very good at football). When I told him how proud I was to have one of my kids absolutely crushing it on the field- he laughed in my face as if it was a huge inside joke that an English teacher went to his football game. Kyle did not say thank you. I’m not upset with the way he’s reacting to my genuine care, because I understand where he’s coming from. I know he’s wary of me. I know he thinks I’m full of shit, and that’s why he’s acting like it’s funny to him. Regardless of how difficult he tries to make it to love him fully, I’m excited to spend this school year refusing allow my smile to waver even a little bit when it comes to Kyle. I know he’s weirded out by the quirky white lady who is (he thinks) pretending to care about these poor black and hispanic kids for a paycheck (which is hilarious since I haven’t even been paid yet). Kyle thinks I don’t belong in their school. On the days where I feel like I’m in way over my head; it’s difficult to remind myself not to believe him. (can you tell he’s actually one of my favorite kids, regardless…)
- Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.
It was actually with Kyle’s parent. One day he answered his phone literally in the middle of class saying, “Hol’ up my momma’s calling,” and just walked out. I emailed his mom and all but accused her of disrespecting Kyle’s class time. She emailed back that she never called him, and gave me her phone number so we could talk about it. She was so lovely, and said that if I ever have any problems with Kyle’s behavior I just need to mention his father. It worked literally the next time I asked them to put their phones up. The interaction went like this- Me: “Alright. Class time’s started. Phones up and if I see it out I’ll ask you to put it in the phone pocket. Y’all know the drill.” Kyle: “Miss, my momma said I can’t give my phone to anyone so you can’t take it.” Me: “Wow that’s crazy ’cause your momma told me that if I ever have a problem getting you to turn in your phone I just need to call your father and he’ll help sort things out.” (This felt very, very good to say especially when the whole class went “damnnnnnn” like I just dished out the sickest burn of the 21st century. I wished I had a mic so I could drop it). Kyle (obviously) tried to disagree with me but I didn’t see him on his phone once during class. This was my first “win” with him and it was all thanks to his sweet, sweet momma.
- Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.
I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t had a difficult interaction with a parent solely because I have been avoiding phone calls with parent’s I assume will be challenging… It’s not a good look on my part, but I can’t bring myself to take that leap. I’m still not sure what to do about it.
- Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.
Oh. My. God. My English I team is amazing. There’s eight of us, and we all get along so well. There’s three new hires on the team including me, all first year teachers. The veteran teachers and my mentor are all so understanding, and willing to share materials and knowledge freely. On the days where I wonder if I even belong in the classroom, they’ll show me exactly how much I’m needed there without them even knowing it. I know how rare it is to find a team that clicks this well, and I am so blessed to have only positive interactions with ELA teams throughout my teaching experience.
- Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.
Uhhhhhh, yeah. I got one of these. My classroom has two collapsable walls (don’t know a better way to describe it). I share one with an English teacher on my team, and the other with a math teacher I met during PD. This math teacher knows I’m a first year teacher, and upon us meeting exclaimed how happy she would be to help if I ever had any classroom “problems” that I couldn’t handle myself (you already know I laughed inside at this comment). Anyway, one day I’m sitting at my desk when I look up to see her side of the wall completely caving into mine (it looked like the wall was breathing). My kid that was over there stood up to move away and the rest went like this- Me: “What’s going on over there?” Kid: “I don’t know miss, I leaned on the wall a little on accident and the people over there like.. kicked it or something?” Me: “Huh, weird. Oh well, just don’t sit next to it for the rest of reading, I don’t wanna cause any problems.” Kid: (already moving away and giving me a look that says, ‘yeah, no shit lady’) Wall: (opens) Math Teacher: (poking her head into my classroom) “Heyyy, could you just remind your kids that these walls are not brick walls, and so they can’t lean on it or it bends and disrupts my class, okay? Also, don’t be letting them putting their hands under the wall… or pencils… or notes… or try to interact with my kids, as it disrupts both our learning environments, okay? Thank you so much!” Wall : (closes) The whole time this woman was (in her mind) helping a poor first year manage her unruly classroom, (my class was silent this entire interaction, while I heard her kids getting more and more rowdy… not that it matters or anything) I was smiling at her with a face that said, ‘wow, thank you so much for coming in and saying something… couldn’t have done it without you!’ As soon as she left I let my facade fall, and replaced it with my genuine face that said ‘did that… really just effing happen?’ My kids noticed the change, and I heard nervous laughter spread throughout the class as they waited for how I’d react. One of my kids beat me to speaking first, though- Kid: “Miss, this your first year here, right?” Me: “Yeah, Z, this is my first year at this school.” Z: “I can tell because she acting like you don’t know what you doin’ or somethin.” Me: “Yeahhhh, I kinda got that vibe. But all’s well. Y’all just keep reading and forget about it.” Class resumed as if it had never happened (thanks to my, dareisay, solid classroom management skills) but it still very much irked me that I was belittled in my own classroom in front of my kids. However, what irked me the most was this teacher treating my kids like they were the problem. Kids are not treated like problems in my classroom. They are human beings. I’m ashamed that I just stood there while this teacher disrespected my students.
- What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s happened at school this year?
Holy crap. I’ve got this one tiny kid that just moved from Chicago. He has a problem with cursing in class. Like, I’m talking so bad I had to call his mom (he threw a fit by not speaking in class for a solid three days after the call… it was adorable). Anyway, after he was done sulking he came into class one day exclaiming how he has a new word to replace curse words- Kid: “Miss, my math teacher say that if I wanna cuss I jus’ needa say ‘undefined’ instead of the word. So, instead of going, ‘WHAT THE FUCK’ I just say ‘WHAT THE… undefined.’ (smirking and nodding enthusiastically) Good, huh?” Me: “Yes, you’ve almost got the idea. I’m proud of you.” Now, when this kid ‘accidentally’ curses and I give him a look, he immediately apologizes and repeats the sentence with a huge grin, but this time uses “undefined” in place of the curse… I can’t even begin to explain how hilarius it actually is. It makes it very, very difficult to be upset with his language. Especially since, as a person, I could give two effs if the kids are cursing.
- What time did you arrive at work today?
I get to work at 6am every day.
- What time did you leave work today? If you are still at work, what time did you leave yesterday?
I leave work around 3:30 daily.
- Describe your lunch today. (Length, food, location, what you did while eating, etc.)
Since I’m currently more broke than I’ve been in a solid minute, my lunch consists of a poptart I eat throughout the day whenever I have time. I am 100% not taking care of myself right now. Lunch is around 35 minutes, and I usually sit with my ELA team and we all complain about various things. It’s nice.
- Describe one success you experienced today.
I had the kids do a partnered assignment for a quiz grade, and almost everyone actually turned it in. I saw it as a super duper win in my book.
- Describe one challenge you experienced today.
Same quiz-assignment. I had two girls who said they wanted to work alone, which I let them do. One girl was working the whole time, while the other sat staring at the ceiling. Later on, I saw the girl who was done with her work standing over the girl not working, her assignment open on the table and ceiling girl quickly copying her answers. I was like, “woah woah, no. You can’t just sit there and expect me to be okay with you copying work that’s not yours. If you wanted to be partners y’all could have, but you both said you wanted to work alone. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept this. Naomi, turn your assignment in now before I have to give you both zeros for cheating.” The copying girl resumed doing nothing, and did not turn in her quiz at the end of class and instead took it home with her. This is a chronically absent girl who I’ve only seen twice this year. I have to give her a zero because I have no work from her, but it is still difficult to bring myself to do.
- What time did you complete this survey?
11:08 am on a Saturday.
- How satisfied are you with your current job? (1 = not at all satisfied, 5 = very satisfied)
- As of right now, do you plan to continue teaching next year?
Duh, I can’t quit on these damn kids just yet.
- What’s the best thing about being a teacher?
The friggin kids. I love them so much it’s difficult to explain. They all have big personalities that are starting to come out the more comfortable they are in my classroom. I am so excited for what the rest of the year has in store.
Teacher, I want to tell you something, and I want you to listen. You are amazing. You are creative and smart and hardworking and beautiful. You are valued by those who are paying attention, and you deserve so much more than you receive from society. You are a superhero, and the world is a better place with you in it. Thank you for everything you do for your students, your community, and your fellow teachers. I appreciate you. Now, close your eyes and take three long, deep breaths, then open your eyes.
- In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.
Humbled, content, seeking.
* * *
If you are a current teacher and would like to be interviewed for my blog or if you know a current teacher I should interview, contact me!
One thought on “Interview With a Teacher #3: Ms. B”