It’s 11:10 A.M., and the bell has rung to signal the start of fifth period in my high school. Once one enters the room, they’re instantly greeted by the vibrant posters plastered on the walls. Along the top of both sides of the room are inspirational quotes by prominent women authors. Near the teacher’s desk, one gets a glimpse of our teacher’s personality through a poster of the classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, and a movie poster of her favorite series, The Lord of the Rings. As the door closes behind her, a cheerful voice exclaims, “Happy Hump Day!” As the chattering died down, all heads swivel to the front of the classroom. Standing at the center of the room was our English teacher, Ms. Angie Yi, always eager to start the day.
Last year was my first year in high school, and I was fortunate enough to have Ms. Yi as my English teacher in ninth grade. She was one of the two new teachers at our school, and all of us were wondering what she, and her class, would be like. We instantly learned that she absolutely loved literature. Ms. Yi was extremely enthusiastic when it came to things like symbolism and imagery. Her love for English was infectious, and for students, it made learning the subject all the more enjoyable. She became one of my favorite teachers, and was well-liked by my other friends as well.
For parents, high school can bring back fond memories of first dances, wild antics, and lifelong friends that stuck by you through thick and thin. Yet at this moment, you may be worried about your own teenager who is currently attending high school. They may be struggling with their classes, and you wonder what’s going on in the classroom. You ask yourself, “Why is my child failing their classes? What can I do to help them improve?” Most parents think to arrange a conference with their teen’s teacher, but some parents are unable to make an appointment due to their own, and the teacher’s, busy schedule. In order to obtain some ideas of how to help students in school, I thought, “Who better to ask than a high school teacher?” So last October, I met with Ms. Yi to discuss the teacher’s perspective of the classroom and how to help students improve their grades.
The first thing we talked about was her teaching style. She explained to me that she diversified her teaching style according to the needs of the students. Ms. Yi actively engaged us by bringing in YouTube clips, sports analogies, or music that pertained to the novel or theme we were currently analyzing. She also emphasized the importance of discussions in class, when students are allowed to voice their thoughts and able to hear the opinions of their peers. Discussions help students appreciate and respect what others have to say without judgment.
When asked about her stance on group projects, she replied, “I don’t assign a lot of group projects, at most two a year. But I do believe that they are necessary to work with each other and learn how to communicate with one another. I do want to teach students the value of group projects and to learn to respect other group members’ input” She went on to specify that group projects help students delegate responsibilities and trust each other. In addition, they will learn to communicate effectively and have everyone’s wishes respected. She admits that group projects are difficult to grade because one student could do all the work while the other members merely “skate by.” Overall, it is up to the students to do the best they can while working in groups.
I then went on to ask, “If a student were struggling in your class, what would you recommend to the student and their parents in order to help him/her to raise their grade?” First of all, Ms. Yi made it positively clear that if a student were struggling in class to never call out the student in front of the whole class. It only embarrasses the student and makes them feel under attack. One way to assist the student is to have a meeting at lunch, where the teacher and student can set up tangible goals. This is something to let the student know that the teacher cares about their academic goals. It is also imperative for the teacher to communicate their concerns to the student’s parents. It is essential to not lose the struggling student early on, for if one does, then there will be dire consequences. Overall, the point that Ms. Yi wanted to get across was that teachers are the biggest resource in the classroom for both students and parents. The teacher is the one grading the student’s work, so it is logical to come for the teacher for help if the student is falling behind. In order to make sure the student is improving, parents should make sure the student speaks with the teacher individually for at least ten minutes a week to check up on their progress. Open communication between the parents, students, and teacher, along with the expectation that the student is going to improve, are both keys to the student’s academic success.
These past few years, we have heard on the news numerous amounts of teachers being laid off across the nation. With budget cuts slashing teachers’ salaries, and the daunting pink slip, teachers are becoming underappreciated more than ever. So I asked my former English teacher, “What first inspired you to become a teacher and what motivates you to continue teaching?” Ms. Yi replied, “My parents instilled in me a sense to give back to the community, do volunteer work, help those in need. They taught me that life is most fulfilling when you’re able to be a part of people’s lives for the better. Having that kind of mindset inspired me to be a teacher.” Ms. Yi takes her job very seriously, and strong believes that teaching is a noble profession. She wants students to become someone who is confident and inquisitive about the world. She attempts to foster that through the array of novels read in class, and other materials relevant to the subject at hand. While Ms. Yi was my English teacher, I remember she consistently reminded us all that we have the potential and power to make positive changes in our society. Having been laid off every year since she started her career, Ms. Yi described it as, “emotionally draining and traumatic.” However, she feels the rewards of being a teacher are worth it. Ms. Yi enjoys watching her students’ little successes throughout the year. Ms. Yi said, “Teaching has taught me the value of each individual life, that every year is a gift.” Yet one day she hopes she will be able to remain at a high school where she can have a class as freshman, and see them graduate as seniors.
Hopefully, these tips will help your teen improve in high school. Knowing the teacher’s teaching style may help your child by knowing what to expect in the classroom, and how to prepare for upcoming homework, projects, and tests. Also, having weekly teacher-student meetings will help with maintaining your student’s progress. Lastly, remember that the teacher is the most valuable resource in the classroom. If you notice any signs of your child struggling in school, make sure you contact the teacher immediately before the problem gets any worse. Good luck and happy studying!