I hope things are better now than they were in 1966 — my second year of teaching. I was 22 and was often questioned about my being in the teachers' lounge. I was teaching mostly sophomore ESEA classes (unmotivated but mentally capable students) and one class of seniors. The students were bigger than I was. No college class prepared me for what I would face. The special workshop I took for ESEA teachers gave exactly the wrong advice. Be nice. Be welcoming and approachable. So I was. And they took advantage of it. I was in a bungalow that year with no office connection. I taught English.
I had some good experiences where I hope I made a difference to a couple of students. There was no one to mentor me. I once asked the social studies teacher in the bungalow behind me who had the same students I did how he kept order. He told me he took the trouble makers to the porch of the bungalow and cussed them out. That wasn’t my style. It was a rough year and drove me out of public school. The only administrator that was helpful had threats to his life. And this was 1966! (The city was Long Beach, California.)
I have often wondered why the most experienced teachers are given the “cream of the crop” in their classes. They have tenure and are better equipped to handle the problem students than new teachers, fresh out of school. It seems new teachers should have an experienced teacher to mentor them.
When I was student teaching it was wonderful to have a master teacher available. Mine was promoted to ESEA leadership. I inherited his classes in the last half of that first year of teaching, and he was always in an office next door. That year I had a couple of college prep classes as well as ESEA classes, and I’m still in touch with some of those students. All the students were seniors who actually wanted to graduate. It was a more successful year.
It takes a special gift to be a successful teacher in today’s environment — especially in urban environments. I didn't have it.