“A Year in the Salt Mines”


So many things were wrong about that year teaching in middle school that it gives me a headache just remembering it. This was the first middle school in Portland and it took kids who were used to having one teacher all year and plunked them into a schedule where they had new teachers every 50 minutes. And as far as I could tell, with no preparation. So essentially no one teacher had responsibility for any one student. It took the kids about five minutes to figure this out and act out accordingly.

We were expected to handle almost all discipline issues on our own. I had one very disturbed boy who literally picked up his desk over his head and threatened to break the window of the classroom door. He had “problems” that I was supposed to know how to handle. My most difficult student met with me, his father and the principal to figure out how to handle his behavior. His helpful father said, “When Mike acts like that I throw him against the wall. He will never listen to words.” And the meeting came to an end with no further advice for me.

I made it through the year but decided to quit teaching. That vow lasted through several more jobs.


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