Friday, January 28, 2011


Hey CMers,

One of my grad students is up for a job teaching high school. It's what she wants to do, and if one of my students is getting hired, that's fine, great, even if high school isn't really what I prepared her for or pushed her for.

She's asking me for advice on her campus interview, and I have no idea what the comprehension level difference is between a Freshman in high school and a frosh in college. I know some of you have dabbled in subbing, and we've had posts on this site from some high school teachers fighting the good fight to prep kids for college.

I get the impression that you can treat teenagers the way you treat first-day-of-class fresh-flakes and you'll have it in the bag. Be entertaining, be very basic, but build to a larger idea by the end of the lesson. Am I wrong? Right? Any tips?



  1. Unlike Mubarak in Egypt, you can't use a water cannon and rubber bullets for crowd control in high school. You can use The Dozens, however.

    (Long Live the Egyptian People's Struggle Against Our Goon Mubarak!)

  2. It would help to know the type of school. Public or private/parochial? Boarding?

  3. Yeah, a high-end private school with small classes is going to be full of kids who can run circles around the majority of first-years at a public institution. The difference isn't IQ, of course; it's access to educational resources.

  4. Yeah, it's a pretty nice private school. I heart Huckabees type. Honestly, anyone I know in their early teens seem to master my material better than my actual students, so I suspected ability isn't tied as much to age.

  5. I teach at such a place. When we bring candidates to campus, we're looking to see how they interact with kids in the classroom. We already know they are competent in their fields. She should not worry about "dumbing down" her lesson. The kids as a whole are going to be far more engaged and academically capable than the average State Uni. freshman.

    Nor should she try overly hard to make the lesson "entertaining" in any way that smacks of superficiality. The school is college prep in mission, and the parents aren't paying for puppet shows. It's perfectly ok to teach a modified lecture-style class, just make sure that there are opportunities for give-and-take with the students. In a humanities class, a short reading that they can respond to and discuss, for example, would accomplish this. Try to remember the names of kids who participate.

    The teaching demo is awkward by nature, but she should try to relax and be prepared for students to take the discussion or lesson in any number of directions. One of those directions might be silence, since they don't know her, and may be quite fond of the teacher who is leaving. Don't sweat it. Be prepared but flexible.

    She should also be ready to express great and sincere enthusiasm for extracurricular responsibilities such as coaching and advising student clubs, as this is an expectation. As she writes, in fact, Surly is preparing to take a final night-time hotel-room attendance for 30 kids currently attending a mock legislature conference.

    Good luck to your grad student. If teaching, rather than research, is one's passion, then working at a good college preparatory school can be a tremendously rewarding career.

  6. @Surly

    This was exactly the reply I was hoping to receive. I've passed it on. Many thanks!!

  7. Requirements to be a teacher, as opposed to a professor, are quite different. You knowing your material is one thing, but knowing how to teach - and having a certificate and some actual practice - are just as if not more important. Private schools have their own set of issues as compared with public schools, so some inside information will be critical.


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