interview from teacher of underprivileged by Melissa Leigh King
April.21.2009, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Education

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How long (on average) do the teachers last at your school? I am not sure. This is only my fourth year at Kishwaukee, but I think that I have only seen one teacher leave voluntarily. Any others were laid off, and usually tried to get back at Kishwaukee the following year. I think we have a very positive, friendly staff and a very good principal. I guess that keeps us together. We have quite a few new teachers because our student population keeps growing and we keep adding hew classrooms.

Are they mostly young and energetic? I would say about half and half. There are quite a few older teachers that have been there for a long time. I think this is because we have a very supportive principal that helps us with discipline problems. However, we do have some turn over with teachers too because we receive no money for our classrooms so teachers end up having to spend a lot of money on their students. We also have no PTO (Parent-Teacher organization) so the teachers have to plan and fund every after-school function. (like the fun fair and other social events that we invite parents to come to). I think the main reason teachers end up leaving is because the kids are hard to discipline with very little support from their parents, and the student and parent population can be very emotionally and physically draining.

Mostly male or female? mostly female, but I work in a Kindergarten through 5th grade school. I don’t think there are a lot of men teaching in early elementary positions anywhere.

How do you discipline the children? We have time-out rooms with cooperating teachers that are on the same floor as us. When students get so bad that we can’t handle them anymore, we can send them to another room so that the student (and the teacher) can calm down. Often we have joked as a staff that the time-outs are really to benefit the teachers. I sort of think this is true. The students can get so disrespectful and defiant at times that it is best they leave our classrooms for a while so that they don’t drive us to say or do things we shouldn’t. Also, when these out of control kids stay in our rooms, we can do very little teaching with the other kids. We also have behavior plans. These are write-ups that go home with the students that their parents have to sign. However, these are pretty ineffective on the kids that are hard core behavior problems. Their parents just sign them and return them. My principal will give in school suspensions and out of school suspensions to severely misbehaving students. This year I have probably only had four or five of my students get out of school suspensions. There was one year where nearly half of my class got suspended at some point during the school year, and some students had it happen frequently. It is crazy to think that 7 & 8 year old second graders are getting suspended, but if you witnessed some of the things they say and do, you would agree with the discipline.

How many children do you have in your class? This year I have 24 students. I started with 26, but two kids moved. The maximum number of students I can have in my room is 26. If they give me more than that, they have to pay me more.

 What age group would you consider to be the worst and best behaved? (k-5) It is hard to say, but I would say the 4th and 5th grade students can be pretty hard. The students that are disrespectful and defiant with me as second graders have taken that bad behavior to a whole new level by the time they get to 4th and 5th grade. I think that first grade might be the best behaved because they have been trained how to behave in school in Kindergarten already and they still have some innocence left. Sadly, I feel like so many of my 2nd grade students are already far from innocent. I can not believe the things they say to each other and the conversations that they have.

Typical starting salary of a teacher? A teacher in the Rockford School district, where I work, starts out at $31,649. Including their benefits from TRS (Teachers Retirement system) they get $34,933 in their first year of teaching. The top of our pay scale in Rockford is Masters plus an additional 40 hours of graduate credit. Besides a yearly raise, you get a raise with every 10 more hours of schooling you acquire beyond your bachelor’s. They do not limit how fast you move up the pay scale, which is nice, because some districts do. I am finishing my 6th year of teaching and I am at masters plus 30. I am making about $11,000 dollars more a year because I have furthered my education than I would be if I still was just at my bachelor’s degree. By the beginning of next year (my 7th year of teaching) I will be making about $60,000. Teachers can move up on the pay scale pretty quickly, if they choose to. They definitely give good incentives for teacher to become highly educated. I think that I make pretty good money as I teacher. I also only work about 8 months out of the year when you consider all of the extra breaks and days I get off.

What subjects do the kids tend to pay attention more in? I think it depends on the kids, but my students always really seem to like science. They really like to learn about the life cycles of different animals. Many of them totally space out in math. I think it is because so many of them find it hard. They also will pay attention in reading if they are interested in the story or topic we are reading about.

What subjects do they tend to misbehave the most in? Probably math, but I think that this has the most to do with the time of day. Math is in the afternoon after they get done with recess so they are loud and boisterous. They also sometimes get into fights on the playground and they bring them back into the building for me to deal with during math.

Do you find the kids to behave better before or after lunch? They definitely behave better before lunch. At lunch and recess, it is less-structured and more chaotic so the children just lose their calmness. They also just get more worn-down as the day goes on and it is harder for them to pay attention and work hard on their assignments.

Do you have a snack time? If yes what time and how does this affect the kids? No, but the students are served breakfast before school starts.

What time is recess and how do the kids behave before and after? Recess, for my class is at about 12:00 or whenever they finish their lunch. They only get about 10 minutes for recess. They do not have a morning recess, only one after lunch. They behave better before. Recess causes a lot of fights so they usually come in yelling and mad at each other. There are not very many adults to supervise them on the playground so problems that should be handled outside are not handled outside. We also do not have a lot for playground equipment and the area for them to run around in is very small.

Are the kids happy when the school day is over or do you think they dread going home? Some of them are happy when it is over because we have a lot of low-functioning kids so school is very hard for them. Others are sad to go home and wish we had school on the weekends because it is better than the life they have at home.

How many kids in your class, would you estimate, have a rough home life? About 98% of our students are living in poverty. Many of our students have one parent in prison. A lot of our kids live in small apartments or houses with one parent, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and brothers and sisters. When you ask them how many people live in their house with them, it is not uncommon for them to say a number between 10 and 15. I think it is hard for them to get attention from their parents with so many people in their house. Also, I have had quite a few students’ parents so low-functioning themselves that they could not help their child with his/her second grade homework.

Are many of the kids absent frequently? How many days on average is a student absent? Honestly, I do not really know an average. However, it is really common for our kids to get to school late and it is always the lowest functioning students that need to be in school the most that miss the most school. This year, my lowest functioning student has already missed 19 days of school. I guess that seems like a lot to me since I probably missed an average of two school days per year when I was in grade school.

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