Job Description – The Organized and Professional Classroom

(continued from previous entry.)

Perfectly timed with my resolution to rewrite the teacher job description, I received this comment from a new fan on the Singing Pigs Facebook page: (which you can find here…http://www.facebook.com/pages/Singing-Pigs/153134431420908.  Now go like me.  I’m a shy and insecure soul in need of constant affirmation and validation.  Thank you.)

My wife and I are currently reading your blog. Out loud. This will be my first year teaching. I am leaving a massively well paid job with interesting foreign locales….in the US Army. To teach 8th grade science. Yeah…I think having people want to kill me may be easier than this.
Once I finished laughing, I thought I had better set this new buddy of mine straight on a couple of things: 

1.  You are correct.
2.  People will still want to kill you.  Perhaps, oddly enough, more people.  Evil African dictators with tanks and generals?  Bunny rabbits, compared to the Stepford Wife mother with stiletto heels and a grudge.

So while you, friend, can probably survive harsh geographical regions with nothing more than a pocketknife, piece of twine and a tic-tac, the landscape of the classroom is a whole different obstacle course.  And that is why one should never accept a position without careful examination of the…

JOB DESCRIPTION

Job Title: Teacher

Reports to: Principal

Summary:  Forget all the other crap, we’re just going to jump right into the nitty-gritty.

Duties and Responsibilities:

I. Responsible for conducting an organized and professional classroom.

Contrary to standard pedagogical theories, maintaining an organized and professional classroom requires a specific but infrequently mentioned skill set. 

     A.  Teacher will rate highly skilled in giving instructions. 
Think you’ve got that one down?  Alright, then.  Your students are working in small groups.  You need them to put the desks back in rows and go back to their normal seats.  Ready?  Go.

Did you say something along the lines of  “Students, I now need you to please put your desks back in rows, grab your things, and return to your normal seats?”  

Fail.

Complete Sample Job Description instructions for asking students to complete a task:
1.  Alight, kids, I’m going to need your attention in 5…4…3…2…1…
2.  I am going to give you a set of instructions.  
3.  Do not move until I complete the set of instructions.
4.  When I indicate you do so, you are going to pick up your things, put your desks in rows, and return to your normal seats.
5.  When I say “pick up your things, move your desks into rows, and return to your normal seats,” this is no way involves any of the following actions:
  • talking to your neighbor
  • hitting your neighbor (even affectionately)
  • otherwise touching or indicating the existence of your neighbor
  • taking someone else’s belongings
  • touching someone else’s belongings
  • throwing objects
  • using the movement as cover to bolt from the room.
6.  You have 10 seconds.
7.  Go.

And moving desks is a reasonably simple task…

     B.  Teacher will be highly skilled in applying above skills to new and unexpected situations.  Teacher will differentiate instructions as per appropriate age and/or maturity level.

Vomit.

Sorry, that wasn’t a command.  I actually met a second grade teacher who rated in the “highly skilled” category for dealing with barf.  (Perhaps this is a standard sort of thing for second grade teachers.  I don’t really know, as I make it my general duty to avoid that age group.  We frighten each other.)  Kids barf.  A lot.  So she had her first day of school speech down.

“Okay, guys,” she would say.  “If you feel like you are going to be sick, the first thing you do is try and make it to the sink.”  She would show kids where the little classroom hand-washing sink was located.  “If you think you’re not going to make it to the sink, then the next thing you do is look for a trash can.”  She would indicate the various trash cans scattered about the room.  “And, as a last resort, if you think you can’t make it to a trash can, you cup your hands together like this…”

No, seriously.  She really said that.  Makes sense, if you think about it.  More chunks in the hands equals less chunks on the carpet.  But naaaaasty…

In the interest of differentiation, I have simplified my vomiting instructions for the high school level with the logic that a) they have more experience with vomiting and thus b) they have a more developed immune system.  Still, even at the higher levels, instructions need to remain concise and clear.  

“Alright, kids,” I tell them sometime around the beginning of flu season. “I don’t do barf.  So if you’re feeling even the least bit ill, I don’t want you to raise your hand.  Do not ask me to go to the bathroom, do not tell me you don’t feel well.  Just hit the door running.  And take the trash can with you.”

Done.

     C.  Teacher will clarify behavioral expectations of students and be transparent in consequences for failure to meet said expectations.

Understand that all of these skills build off of one another.  So I will use first floor teachers as the classic example.

If you teach on the first floor of your school (at least at the secondary level) children will be possessed by an inexplicable yet overwhelming desire to climb out of classroom windows.  Perhaps it is the innate biological longing for the African savannah that still lingers in all of us, but on more than one occasion I have seen a student go rogue and bolt through the just-barely-large-enough opening.  Obviously, this is not on the list of Acceptable Classroom Behaviors, but by making one’s expectations clear and the consequences transparent, window-bolting (as so many unexpected classroom issues) can be easily resolved.

Take a colleague with whom I shared a room for a number of years.  In the middle of one of her German lessons, a student made for the window and headed for the hills.  Literally.  He went up the hill just outside of the classroom.  Being the master teacher that she is, my colleague went right out the window behind him. It’s difficult to give clear instructions if the student is unable to hear you.

“Bobby!”  she bellowed.  “In 3 seconds, I am going to turn around and start running for the school doors.  If you aren’t back in your seat before I walk back in that classroom door you are a DEAD MAN.”  


Note, if you will, the teaching finesse.  She gave clear instructions (including an expected time limit,) accurately applied her instructions to a new and unexpected situation, while simultaneously making clear her expectations as well as the intended consequences for failure to perform.

Knowing the importance of follow-through, my colleague then turned and ran for the main double doors, booked down the Foreign Language hallway and busted into her room to find Bobby sitting attentively in his seat, having returned in the same manner he left.

Problem solved.


As a note, so far we’ve covered:   the Army.  Ralphing.  Instructions.  Second grade, windows, the African savannah, German class, threatening students’ lives. 


Is that previous blog entry beginning to make a little more sense?

Still, teachers applying for employment must realize that Conducting an Organized and Professional Classroom is only one part of the job.  A successful teaching is much, much more.  Next up:  Developing a Cooperative Partnership with Parents and Students.  

Get excited.

Oh, and as for our new Army buddy – give him some props.  He left a dream job for barfy kids who go AWOL “…because of the Army.  I have spent the past few years trying to teach new soldiers medical laboratory science, and most of them were woefully ill equipped.  I figured I had better go to the source.”

Now, really.  How cool is that?

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One Response to Job Description – The Organized and Professional Classroom

  1. LibraLabRat says:

    To be fair, "high paying" is not really true. I mean, I could make 45-50K a year to start as a transfusion services specialist, but the stress and danger is really high, with very little real reward. When a patient's life gets saved, people always thank the doctor and nurses…never the folks in the lab, the pharmacy, and radiology who did the real work.I have been wanting to teach for the past few years, and my wife being a new teacher has only made that desire stronger. Honestly, I am more nervous now than I was before my first deployment.

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