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The ABC's Of Teaching

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A is for Ancient. Even if you're only 22, your students will think you're old. What's worse, your class stays the same age year after year while you get older.

B is for Books. Which are still being widely censored in schools. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was the book most frequently censored by schools between 1982 and 1989, followed by J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to People For The American Way.

C is for Computers. Which experts agree have the potential to transform the educational process. Ninety-five percent of the nation's schools own at least one, and more and more schools are making them standard equipment for teachers and students.

D is for Dumb. Which is how your students will be struck the first time they bump into you outside of school and see you wearing jeans with holes in the knees and a paint-splattered sweatshirt. Yes, they really think you live at school.

E is for Epiphany. Which is that sudden flash of understanding you see in a student's eyes when you finally get through. It may not happen often enough, but when it does you know exactly why you became a teacher.

F is for Field trip. Pray you don't lose any of your students on your first one.

G is for Grants. Which are available to teachers in surprising numbers if you know where to look. They help pay for professional development, travel, research, and teaching materials. (Find out if there's a public education fund in your community, and see page 92.)

H is for Honorific, e.g., Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. Which everybody will call you. Be prepared for the day when your students discover your first name; whether it is as exotic as "Wooten" or as simple as "John," they'll think it is hysterically funny.

I is for Infection (of the bladder). Which, according to some medical experts, teachers suffer from more than others because they are not able to leave their classrooms to go to the bathroom when the need arises.

J is for Janitors. Who are sometimes known as custodians. Befriend them. They often hold the keys to storage and supplies, literally and figuratively. When your bookcase is beyond repair or you desperately need an extra desk for your learning center, they can probably scrounge something up for you.

K is for Kinetic. Which is a perfect adjective to describe your students, who can seem inherently incapable of sitting still for a whole class period.

L is for Latchkey. Which is the adjective used to describe the children who return to an empty home after school. This phenomena is not surprising since in a vast majority of two-parent families with children under age 18, both parents work outside the home.

M is for Money. Of which there is never enough, either in your bank account or the school budget. A recent international comparison shows that the United States ranks 14th out of 16 countries in the percentage of its gross domestic product spent on precollegiate education.

N is for Nintendo. Which, along with television, is your chief competition for the minds of the young these days. To gain a slight edge, you might recommend to parents a new software program-- "Homework First"--which locks out Nintendo and costs only $22.

O is for Optimism. Which seems to be a natural state of mind for teachers; it helps them to succeed at one of the most difficult and important jobs in the universe.

P is for Puberty. A personality disorder among junior-high school-age children for which there is no known cure.

Q is for Quick-witted. Which is what you'll need to be to stay ahead of your students--especially the wise guy, of which there is at least one in every class.

R is for Retirement. Which eventually happens to all of us and is what is in store for a majority of today's teaching force during the 1990's.

S is for Site-based management. Which is the latest trend in school reform and means giving teachers and principals a greater say in how their school is run. It is still more rhetoric than reality, but support for it seems to be growing; it could significantly change the way you'll spend your time.

T is for Testing. Which is almost as common in schools these days as teaching. Teachers used to give the tests; now they also take them: 40 states have minimum-competency tests for beginning teachers.

Unions. To which some 85 percent of America's teachers belong. (See page 46.)

V is for Values. Which is what politicians think you should be teaching your students if anybody could ever agree on what they are, and as long as the ones you teach don't offend any politicians.

W is for Weekend. Which is two days for everybody but teachers. Beginning teachers quickly learn to adore Saturdays and dread Sundays. Saturday is a day to forget the past week and relax. But Sunday is a day of growing apprehension. No matter how hard you try, you can't keep from worrying about the week ahead.

X is for Xerox. Which is what you'll long for if all you've got is the ditto machine and purple fingers.

Y is for You. The essence of teaching is giving, but hold a little back for yourself so you don't run out along the way.

Z is for Zoo. Which, on occasion, is where you'll think you're working. But then, doesn't everybody?

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