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Post Thoughts on Undergraduate Language Majors
Created by John Eipper on 12/19/13 7:21 PM

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Thoughts on Undergraduate Language Majors (Randy Black, USA, 12/19/13 7:21 pm)

Charles Ridley wrote an interesting post on 19 December about the best languages to take as undergraduates pertaining to secondary teaching careers.

At least from my perspective as a substitute teacher in one of Texas's largest high schools, I would agree that Spanish and French are useful is one is planning to teach a high school language. In Texas, teachers earn a stipend additional to their salary for teaching languages, math, science and a few other hard-to-recruit-for subjects. I assume the same applies in other states. Ditto for those teachers with Masters and PhDs. I worked for a physics teacher last week who even has a JD diploma, having retired from the legal profession but who had a Masters in the sciences dating back decades. Borrowing from the Dos Equis commercials, he is one of the most interesting men in the world of people I've met in my travels.

The language specialty trend seems to be towards Mandarin as I survey other area schools. My nephew is taking Mandarin at Highland Park High School, a wealthy, inner-city Dallas suburb. HPHS is the area's premier high school and has been since the 1930s, at least among public schools in Dallas. I also graduated from HPSH about a thousand years ago, and while my grades were not stellar, I can attest that they prepared me well for college.

At Allen HS where I work about 100 days each year, it is rumored that the district is attempting to recruit a Mandarin-certified teacher for the coming school year. I know one thing for certain. In our district, the days of a substitute being simply a "warm body" to take roll and sit in the back of the room reading a paperback novel are over. A large percentage of our subs are state certified teachers, with no experience, trying to get their foot in the door to a permanent job. A few of us are professional subs who are semi-retired and simply want a part-time job that gets us out of the house and offers interesting work. Personally, if I did not truly enjoy the joy of teaching motivated kids, I'd be on a plane to a beach destination a lot more often. Life is too short.

My motto: I am motivated to help kids learn. When I occasionally run across one who is not motivated, I try to find out what motivates them and play to that motivation.

I tell people that as a Social Security recipient, I only have three jobs to keep me busy. While my wife would prefer me to get a "real" job as a full-time teacher, I've made it clear that I really enjoy the ability to pick and choose the days I'll work at the high school and for whom. For instance, If I'd had a full-time teaching or any other real job, I'd probably not have had the opportunity to attend our recent WAIS conference in Adrian.

Plus, as a full-time teacher, I'd be limited to teaching within my certification and heck, that would be no fun. As such, I work for a very limited cadre of about 12 upper level master teachers in French, Spanish, US History and Government, English Lit and even AP Physics. Sometimes I have to go to staff meetings, but they are few and far between.

From my experience, if there is anything that "real" teachers detest, it's staff meetings where some administrator drones on for an hour about politically correct ways to treat their diverse student body.

JE comments: Bravo to Randy Black for his motivation as an educator.  And yes, meetings are the bane of the academic's existence, although "assessment" reports are even worse.

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