Interview With a Teacher #4: Mr. L

Thank you to Mr. L for taking the time to participate in my interviews! I love hearing from first-year teachers. Despite the fact that he’s facing some struggles, I can tell from his responses that he’s working his butt off and doing a great job. This is the second teacher to mention making a positive phone call home. Those positive parent interactions can make such a big difference, but they take time, and it’s obvious from these posts how little time teachers have in their day. BIG kudos to Mr. L for making the time to reach out with some good news. ❤️

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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 For confidentiality and privacy purposes, the name of the teacher’s school will not be published, and they may choose how they refer to themselves.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.

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Interview With Mr. L:

Mr. L must have a great teacher voice if his students keep asking him to sing.
  1. In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.

    defeated, hopeless, tired

  2. What is today’s date?

    September 20, 2022

  3. How old are you?

    24

  4. How many years (total) have you been teaching?

    0

  5. Have you ever taken a break from teaching? If so, why and for how long?

    no

  6. What is your current salary?

    $59,750

  7. Is there anything you would like to share about your personal life or family situation?

    I live alone in a 2 bedroom apartment, and my rent takes up nearly 40% of my monthly earnings.

  8. In what city and state do you teach?

    DFW, Texas

  9. What grade(s) and subject(s) do you currently teach?

    7th grade ELAR (English Language Arts & Reading)

  10. How many years have you been in your current teaching position?

    a month and a half

  11. How many conference periods do you have per day?

    2

  12. How many students do you teach total?

    68 for ELAR, 13 for Advisory (two of those have me for ELAR)

  13. If you teach multiple classes, how many students are in your smallest class and your largest class?

    9 kids in my Honors ELAR, 30 kids in my regular ELAR

  14. On average, how many meetings do you have per week?

    3

  15. 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.)

    I have hall duty once a day, and then I’ll have bus duty once this year in February.

  16. Are you compensated for any of your extra duties?

    Nope. However, when we get asked to cover another teacher’s class because we don’t have enough subs, we do get paid for covering. That said, teachers have been saying they aren’t seeing where they’re getting paid in their paychecks or pay stubs.

  17. When was the last time you took a day off?

    I haven’t yet, but I plan to for a camp I teach once a year.

  18. Describe the reason for your absence and the process you went through in order to take the day off.

    When I take off for the camp I teach, I’ll have three days off. I had to submit a personal leave request form, which required me to secure my own sub if I wanted to get the days off approved.

  19. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a student this year.

    I’m off last period, and one of my kids from my fourth period comes in during the transition before 8th period to help me stack chairs on the desk for the custodian (so it’s easier for them to sweep) instead of waiting outside her science class. This student asks me every day if they’re my favorite, and they’ve been begging me to sing for the class (because I tell them I should be a famous singer) and audition for the school play with them.

  20. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a student this year.

    I have a few kids who, when they’re not on their meds, physically cannot stop making noise or moving around the room. It’s not usually ill-intentioned, but it’s disruptive and distracts others. I’ve tried everything I can think of to give them the space and grace to get that energy out, but they abuse it because they like the attention they get from their friends in class. It’s been and will continue to be an ongoing struggle.

  21. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.

    I called a dad to tell him his kid did a great job raising his hand to speak (the class was so out-of-control that I had to get them to only speak when allowed to after raising their hand) when his kid is one of the kids who really struggled to stay quiet. The dad was so excited because he usually doesn’t get good calls home from teachers.

  22. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.

    One parent is at her wit’s end with her kid, and she is constantly bombarded by school personnel about her kid’s behavior. She was cooperative and looking to come up with solutions with me, but she needed to vent about her kid and stayed on the phone for half an hour with me after my contract hours had ended.

  23. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.

    I’m lucky to be somewhere where several veteran teachers reached out to me to offer their support, advice, guidance, etc. for whatever I need. I took them up on that, and now one stops by every day during our mutual conference to check in on how things are going and catch up on how we’re doing. She keeps our conversations short so as not to waste my time, but it’s nice to have someone regularly checking in on me without consuming the little time I have to grade, prepare lessons/materials, contact parents, etc.

  24. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.

    I’m basically making everything for our lessons from scratch because none of the other teacher pull their own weight when it comes to making materials, but they all want to use the stuff “we” have created. I wanted us to collaborate because I knew I couldn’t do everything myself as a new teacher, but now it feels like it’s just expected that if they don’t do their work, I will pick up their slack (and I will because if I don’t, I won’t have necessary material I need to teach my kids).

  25. What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s happened at school this year?

    I have a kid who signed all of their work “stan kpop” (if you don’t know what a stan is, look it up) so far this year, but today they signed their work “stan Mr. L.” I’ve never been prouder in my life.
    [Note: Ok, I admit, I had to look up the meaning of stan. Also, kpop is a music style, short for “Korean popular music” in case anyone needed to know.]

  26. What time did you arrive at work today?

    7:00 A.M.

  27. What time did you leave work today? If you are still at work, what time did you leave yesterday?

    5:45 P.M.

  28. Describe your lunch today. (Length, food, location, what you did while eating, etc.)

    We give lunch detentions, but there aren’t enough desks in the cafeteria to accommodate the amount of detentions that get given, so we have to track down kids in the cafeteria and bring them up to our rooms for lunch detention. I had to gather about 15 kids today and herd them up to their respective teacher’s room for the person who gave them detention before I could sit down to eat my lunch. My lunch is 30 minutes long, and I had about 18 minutes to eat my lunch. I ate my salad while responding to parent emails and trying to plan with a coworker. I didn’t get to finish lunch because I rushed out when the bell rang to try to make it to the bathroom and back before the start of class. On the way back, I overheard a teacher trying to get a missing backpack back to a kid in my class, so I had to stop and get that before heading back to my class. I was two minutes late to class.

  29. Describe one success you experienced today.

    My rowdy class entered the room quietly and gathered their materials quickly for the first time in weeks. (We’ve been practicing this for weeks. You’d think they’d know how to do this in middle school, but they don’t.)

  30. Describe one challenge you experienced today.

    My rowdy class was actually the best they’ve been all year, but by the end of our 90-minute block, they just couldn’t focus anymore. Our discussion where they got to move around the room devolved into chaos, especially since the kids started a stealthy version of tag today and were trying to play in my class.

  31. What time did you complete this survey?

    8:38 P.M.

  32. How satisfied are you with your current job? (1 = not at all satisfied, 5 = very satisfied)

    2

  33. As of right now, do you plan to continue teaching next year?

    Yes

  34. What’s the best thing about being a teacher?

    Seeing kids smile and say “hi” when they see me in the halls


    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.

  35. In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.

    better, supported, encouraged

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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!

Published by Carie Juettner

Carie Juettner is a former middle school teacher and the author of The Ghostly Tales of New England, The Ghostly Tales of Austin, and The Ghostly Tales of Burlington in the Spooky America series by Arcadia Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as The Twin Bill, Nature Futures, and Daily Science Fiction. Carie lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband and pets. She was born on Halloween, and her favorite color is purple.

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