Lessons from the Field: Interview with Andrew Taylor

This post is part of the The Teachers Certification Map’s “lessons from the field”, a series of posts featuring passionate, inspiring educators from across the country discussing some of the lessons that they have learned over the years that would help young teachers as they embark on their careers.

Andrew Taylor teaches middle school social studies in Floresville, Texas, and has been teaching for six years.  Andrew describes Floresville as a small community of 8,000 approximately 30 miles Southeast of San Antonio, TX.  He sponsors the Student Council at his school.

Below is our interview with Andrew:

Q: What inspired you to teach?

I always say that ‘teaching’ reached out and grabbed me.  I lost a job in early 2001.  During that summer, I began working for a textbook company on a part-time basis.  In September, my wife who is a Kindergarten teacher suggested I work as a substitute teacher.  My first assignment was at Anson Jones Middle School.  I still remember walking in that day.  The feeling of community was almost palpable.  You could reach out and touch the spirit of the community.  It was just an exciting place.  It didn’t hurt that the classroom I was in was one of the most organized places on the planet.

So, I went home and started looking into my options for becoming a teacher.  I ended up entering an alternative certification program.  It took me 2 years to get my first job, but it was worth it.  While I waited for the right job to come along, I continued my substitute teaching, working for the textbook company, and whatever else we needed to survive.

While I am certified to teach Social Studies from grades 4-12, it was that first day at Jones where I realized I wanted to be around middle school students in a school where the community is an exciting place for everyone taking part.

Q: What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?

I over-communicate expectations to my students.  Middle schoolers are not robots.  They forget stuff as soon as you can get it out of your mouth.  Establish common procedures for your classes, then tweak per each class.  For example, I have a small class of 8.  Assigned seating isn’t necessary for them, but extremely so for my class of 26.  But be willing to repeat yourself.

In this,  our 3rd week of school, I have already been in touch with many parents.  Get them involved with the daily life of their children.  Even a simple phone call to compliment a student goes a long way to garnering trust in the classroom.

Make sure your classroom is a safe place.  Kids need safety.  When they have that, they will let you into their world.  News flash:  middle schoolers test boundaries.  So do I.  You have to put aside your wants and needs from your students and look at this big, scary world through their eyes.  A teacher may be the only person in any given day to offer an encouraging word.  I can’t think of one human on our planet that doesn’t like to hear something good about themselves.

Q: What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?

The time consuming paperwork will blow you away.  Some embrace it, others complain about it constantly.

Q: What skills could more developed if you were to enroll in a teacher training program?

Classroom management and discipline.  Some teachers just do it naturally.  Others, like me, take 5 years to establish daily procedures that maintain discipline and ease the burden of the paperwork.  Preparation is your friend.  Commit a reasonable amount of time your first few years to mastering content plans, and you’ll be much happier at work and at home.

Do you know someone with great insights to share with young teachers, or do you want to be considered for an interview? If so, please email us at hello@certificationmap.com.

This is a guest post from our journalist Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog hereand follow him on Twitter here.

Interested in becoming a teacher in Texas? Check out our page on Texas teacher certification and salary and alternative teacher certification in Texas for more information.