7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

After receiving a particularly fear-mongering “Safe Schools” e-newsletter this morning…

And after thinking about how difficult it is to be me…

What a rough life I have…

How much of a victim I am…

And how few things are just handed to me…

I decided to post this very serious essay:

7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

By Peter Brown Hoffmeister

 

I didn’t particularly love high school. No one does, of course, except for that one really annoying popular rich kid who, when speaking at graduation, spews some garbage about the best four years of his life or how prom night changed his life forever.

But for the rest of us, for the normal people, the real people of the world, high school is something we suffer through so we can get on with our lives. On to better years, college years in which we choose what we want to study. Then come careers that we’re passionate about. Family life. Traveling. Maybe a few amazing outdoor adventures.

Most of us don’t choose to repeat high school. But for some reason, a few masochists decide to return to high school, not as students, but as teachers. None of us know why we do this. It’s probably some combination of the following equation:

 

Zero Talent + Social Activism + A College Degree In Absolutely Anything =

MAYBE I SHOULD BE A TEACHER!

 

I had all of the elements of this equation, and after thirteen years as a teacher (less than halfway to a 30-year pension), I’ve realized that teaching high school is actually sentencing myself to an eternity of high school. Other people graduate in 4 years, but I’ve been in high school for 17.

There are countless reasons I shouldn’t have been a teacher, but here are 7 reasons why no one should ever teach high school.

 

  1. School Shooters

High schools are dangerous. You don’t believe me? Watch a little Fox News. According to the diligent and honest reporters at that network, schools are shot up all the time. Going into a U.S. high school is like being a Jew in Syria, like challenging a warlord to a machete fight in Central Africa, or picking an armload of poppies in a field in Afghanistan.

Since Sandy Hook, something like 57,997 schools have been shot up in the United States.

Students bring weapons to school all the time, hide pistols and AR-15s in their lockers. Axes and knives and 9 millimeters and semi-automatic .22 long rifles.

Most boys in trench coats are hiding Mossberg shotguns underneath those coats.

And the average high school boy will kill a teacher given the right combination of autism and access to firearms. That’s a fact.

 

  1. No One Respects a Teacher

Be honest. Does any kid say, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up.” No. That’s stupid.

Kids want to be doctors or firemen or astronauts or soldiers. They want to be heroes, not jokes. Does any kid dream of standing in front of a bored class of 35 people so he can assign some homework? Is that an exciting future to aspire to?

And – be honest now – do you have a single teacher that’s cool enough to start a pop band or be the star of a reality television series on the Discovery Channel?

Clearly not. And speaking of TV, are teachers ever asked to be on the Today Show? Are their highlights ever shown on ESPN? Does the Discovery Channel have a show called Teachers Digging for Educational Gold?

Parents only email teachers to complain. Administrators hold meetings to assign more work for teachers. And students never say, “I really wish I could hang out with my teacher this weekend.”

Respect isn’t something granted to teachers. Respect isn’t something that’s going to happen if you choose this line of work.

 

  1. Teachers Work Too Much

It’s so hard to be middle class in America. And middle class means working.

Including grading papers and prep work, the average teacher works 50 to 60 hours a week during the school year. And it is a fact that teaching is the only profession that requires more than 40 hours of work during a workweek. Every other worker in the United States gets to the 40-hour limit on a Friday and just goes home. But not teachers.

Proponents of teaching might argue that teachers have 10 weeks off in the summer, or that they also have spring break and winter break as well. But that argument minimizes the stress of impending teaching. Most teachers spend their entire summers thinking and worrying about the next school year. Even in a hammock in July, a teacher never forgets the horrors of working with high school students. A teacher might be sipping a minty drink on a beach somewhere, but she’s spending every single second thinking about the next lecture she has to deliver.

 

  1. High School Kids Cuss Too Much

A recent study by Harvard University or somewhere else (I’m not really sure where I got this) proved that 100% of cuss-words are spoken by the 13-19 year-old demographic, and high school students are in the very middle of that age-group. As an adult, and having been around other adults, I can honestly say that adults don’t ever use swear words. So, clearly, swear words must only exist as linguistic vehicles for the physically immature.

Although I’ve heard many people argue that high school students can be articulate and witty and engaging and funny, I’ve seen quite a few teen movies (which are probably more accurate). Therefore, a teen is most likely to say something like this: “Fuck yeah. That’s, like, fuckin’ total shit. Just because he’s a douche-bag doesn’t mean I have to do whatever the fuck he wants. Ya know?”

My ears are sometimes literally bleeding when I get home from work.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Addicted To Technology

According to some great source, 96.7% of cell phone use is by high school students. Teens text and scroll and update and “like” all day long. They’re on Twitter and Facebook. Instagram and SnapChat. They don’t put their phones down. They can’t put their phones down.

According to another great source from the internet, most adults don’t even have phones, and only 1.4% of the adult population uses a phone on a daily basis. All Sprint and AT&T ads are geared toward teenagers, and it is scientifically proven that hell on earth is a line at a Verizon store. But where do we find teenagers waiting for new iphones?

Exactly.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Out Of Control

High school kids are physically incapable of listening. Okay, maybe not physically incapable, but they won’t listen. Trust me. They’re too busy drinking and using drugs, fornicating in the hallways and stairwells, planning the next rager at the quarterback’s house.

Some people believe that public displays of affection were developed by the Italians after World War I, but PDA was, in fact, first implemented by U.S. high school sophomores in New York City, and spread school-wide and nation-wide soon after.

Other signs that high school students are out of control:

They wear hip-hoppity shorts and listen to rap bands.

They speak in an ever-changing slew of slang.

They touch each other even if they’re not even dating.

And they won’t give you enough physical space. Ever.

 

  1. High School Students Are Too Demanding

My final point is this. If you teach high school, your students will want you to teach them something EVERY DAY.

They will want to learn something in your class.

High school students won’t just sit there and enjoy being bored.

They won’t take notes with smiles on their faces.

They won’t listen the entire time that you lecture for 70 minutes straight.

And after they’re out sick, they’ll ask you if they can make up quizzes and homework as if it is your job to educate them even though they are the ones who contracted viruses and missed school days.

Advertisements

On School Shooters – The Huffington Post Doesn’t Want You To Read This

After the Huffington Post signed me on as a blogger and allowed me to write op-ed pieces on any topic, for two years, ranging from books to sports to reviews to pop culture, something changed in our relationship. It was sudden.
I wrote this piece for Huff Po in late December, 2012.  For some reason, the editors wouldn’t print it. Like every other article I’d written, I submitted the piece on their backstage for signed bloggers, but nothing happened. It didn’t go up on their site. I waited, and it didn’t happen.
A few days went by. Then a week. I contacted the editors, and they didn’t respond.  Then I contacted again, and they let me know that they wouldn’t publish the piece.
I asked why.
No response.
I emailed again.
No response again.
And now they won’t let me write anything at all. I’m off the blogroll.
So I must have touched a nerve. And that made me ask, who’s paying salaries here?
Why is the Huffington Post’s Tech section so popular?
Who is advertising?
Who is vetting content?
What follows is an op-ed article on a piece of the school shooter puzzle. I don’t pretend that this covers everything, but here is a key component from my point of view. And as a current high school teacher and a former troubled teen, I have a strong opinion on the topic.
This is what the Huffington Post doesn’t want its readers to see.
My junior year in high school, I was caught with a loaded, stolen handgun on school property at my school in East Tennessee.  Since the owner of the pistol didn’t want to press charges, I simply forfeited the handgun to the local sheriff’s deputy, then was promptly expelled from the school.  No arrest.  No counseling.  No follow-up.  I was never required to see a psychologist or explain my intentions.  This was 1994, long before the famous shootings at Thurston High School, Columbine, Red Lake, Aurora, Clackamas, and Newtown.
Although I had some loner tendencies, I was also what psychologist call a “failed joiner.”  I tried to fit in at each school I attended.  I tried to be cool, but I usually failed.  I was gun obsessed.  I considered killing myself, but more often I thought about killing others.
I carried a loaded pistol my junior year in high school. I stuffed it in my belt, ready for use.
The next year, I carried a sawed-off shotgun in my backpack.  I liked guns and I had access to them.  But I also carried a sheath-knife.  I was obsessed with weapons of all kind. For a while, I carried a framing hammer.
Thankfully, I never shot or stabbed or bludgeoned anyone.  Although I got in many, many fights, and although I thought about seriously hurting people with the weapons that I carried, I never did. And eventually, with the support of some incredible adults in my life, plus some maturing experiences, I moved past my tendencies toward violence, matured, got back into school, and grew up.  After three high school expulsions, I have now – ironically – become a high school teacher.
As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.
It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters.  I don’t enjoy admitting that.  But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers.
But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.
As a child, my mother taught me that all video games were “evil.”  That’s the word she used.  And although that word might be a little extreme, I grew up thinking that there was something very, very wrong with pretending on a video screen.  My mother  also called playing video games “wasting your life” and “dumbing yourself down.”  I thought my mother was ridiculous, but her opinions stuck with me anyway.
Thus, when it came to high school, when I was a social failure and very, very angry, I had no practice with on-screen violence.  “Call of Duty” didn’t exist yet, but even if it had, I wouldn’t have played it.  I wouldn’t have practiced putting on body armor and I wouldn’t have shot thousands of people with an AR rifle. I have likewise never practiced “double-tapping” people. I have never walked into a room and killed everyone inside. My students tell me that it’s possible to “pistol whip a prostitute” in Grand Theft Auto, but I haven’t done it.
But Jeff Weise did.  He played thousands of first-person shooter hours before he shot and killed nine people at and near his Red Lake, Minn., school, before killing himself.
And according to neighbors and friends, Clackamas shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts played a lot of video games before he armed himself with a semi-automatic AR-15 and went on a rampage at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon last week.
Also, by now, it is common knowledge that Adam Lanza, who murdered 20 children and six women in video-game style, spent many, many hours playing “Call of Duty.”  In essence, Lanza – and all of these shooters – practiced on-screen to prepare for shooting in real-life.
Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson.  I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality.  But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice.  The military uses video games to train soldiers to kill, yet we don’t consider “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” training for addicted teenage players? A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?
I am not surprised that school shooters love violent video games.  As an angry, troubled teen, I would’ve probably loved to shoot hundreds of people on-screen. That might’ve felt nice.
But now, as a teacher, I worry about my most troubled male students playing games like “Halo 4” and “Assassin’s Creed 3,” bragging about violent actions that they’ve never done in the real world.  A scrawny, angry boy’s who’s failing socially is a scary video game addict.
I was walking behind two teenage boys in the hall at my high school the other day and I heard one talking about slitting someone’s throat.  He said, “I just came up behind him, pulled out my knife so quietly and cut his throat.”
The other boy said, “Yeah, then I killed everyone else in less than, like, 10 seconds. Just slaughtered them.”
I looked at these two boys: Tall and awkward.  Unathletic. I knew that they weren’t tied-in socially, that they both struggled in classes and with peers.  Yet they were capable of incredible and sudden violence on screen.  Together, they could slit throats and shoot everyone.  I asked one of them later, and he said that he played Call of Duty “an average of 40 hours per week, at least.”
Is this what we want angry, adolescent boys to do?  Do we want to give them this practice?  Do we want them to glorify violent actions, to brag about violence in the school’s hallways?  Or even worse, given the perfect equation of frustration + opportunity + practice, do we want them to do as Weise, Roberts, and Lanza did, and act out these fantasies in real life? Do we want them to yell, “I am the shooter” as they enter a crowded mall – as Roberts did? Or dress like video-game shooters – as Lanza and Roberts were – before heading into a murder spree?
Especially with teenage boys, we have to decide what we want them to do, what we want them to love, what we want them to emulate.  Even if they don’t end up shooting people in a school, if they’re practicing car-jackings, knifings, and putting on body-armor as first-person shooters, what are they preparing to do with the rest of their lives? Will these video-game practice sessions make them better husbands or fathers? Will these boys become patient and understanding friends? Better co-workers?
Please support the bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, directing the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively.  Please lobby with your local representatives as Rockefeller presses the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to expand their studies.
But I have another idea beyond important political action. Something positive to think about:
Get kids outside. Take them out and let them wander around in the woods. Let them canoe across a lake. Let them backpack  through a mountain range. Give them a map and compass assignment. Give frustrated youth an opportunity to challenge themselves in the natural world.
Have you ever heard of a school shooter who’s hobbies are kayaking, rock climbing, and fly-fishing? If that seems absurd – and it does seem absurd to me – we might be onto something.  I don’t think that those hobbies can create a school shooter. There’s just something abut the natural world that defuses anger.
I know this because the outdoors helped saved my life. An outdoor diversion program for troubled teens started the process when I was sixteen. Camping and hiking and climbing helped me mature further as a nineteen and twenty year old. And now, as the director of a high school outdoor program, one of my student leaders said recently that “the outdoor program saves lives.”
That’s not me. That’s nature. Kids need the outdoors.
Help the young people. Get them outside.