“So, You Think You Can Teach?”

An annual challenge to my senior-level A.P. European History students.

NYSUT cover, May 2017

“What will we do after the test?”

“Yeah, what do we do after we are done, Mrs. Brown?”

 Ah! The perennial question: what meaningful task can I give a group of hardworking seniors who have finished their Advanced Placement European History requirements, but are still stuck in the purgatory that is the final quarter of a high school that continues for an additional six weeks after the exam?

For the past five school years, I have answered my students’ inquiry with a challenge: “So, you think you can teach?”

This year, my small, but mighty group of thirteen students lets out a collective groan as I unveiled my plan. There were many raised hands, with the following questions:

“Will our grade be tied to the grade the student earns on the Regents exam?”

“What if the student is resistant? What if they act like a punk?”

“What materials we will have? Will you give us review tools?

These were insightful questions. These were telling questions. I laughed sarcastically and told them, no, their grade, unlike my APPR score, would not be tied to how well their students performed on the Regents exam. I assured them that I would help discipline any unruly students, and I reduced their anxiety by showing them the many review materials that they would have at their disposal.

The four-week challenge commenced.

Each senior was assigned two sophomores: one motivated and another, let’s say, less eager for the tutoring experience. The sophomores earned extra credit, the seniors completed their final exam project. Every available academic advisement period was utilized for four weeks. (Academic advisement is a forty minute block of time when the entire high school stops, every day.) There were constant hurdles: sophomores did not always show up for the forty-minute block of time, the seniors had fun senior activities to attend during that time period, academic advisement was canceled due to scheduling conflicts, and both the sophomores and seniors had other academic obligations to meet. My room was chaos — loud, messy, and disorganized. Some tutors successfully convinced their students to meet at alternative times and places, often the incentive of food was offered.

Slowly, I began to notice cohesion. The sophomores began to claim the seniors as “their” tutors, proclaiming in class that: “Oh, I went over that topic with my tutor.” As the seniors helped me grade review assessments, they became deeply invested in the success of their sophomores. Rapport and trust were established. The tutoring sessions were more frequent, the previous hurdles were trampled.

And then, I looked up from the pile of grading on my desk and saw this:

The students were engaged. The seniors were telling the sophomores useful test taking strategies. The sophomores were organizing essay details. The seniors were discussing historical events and figures with mastery. The room was filled with the music of teaching and learning. It was all fleeting, and I was exhausted, but as a public school teacher, I will always embrace what positives I can get!

On the last day of class, the seniors handed in their reflections. I passed out candy as we sat in a circle. We chatted about the positives, the challenges, and their takeaways from the previous month.

The Positives:

One young man smiled as he recalled how his student began with a defeated attitude, but by the end of the four weeks was actually trying to complete his work and was willing to participate. Another senior stated that he was happy that he could explain the historical events in a manner that the sophomore could more easily comprehend. I commented that the seniors showed the sophomores that there was light at the end of the tunnel; the seniors modeled for the sophomores that they too would survive Mrs. Brown and global history class!

The Challenges:

Most of the seniors cited time and motivation as their biggest challenges. One female student lamented her frustration over being asked to explain content repeatedly. Another female student commented that the many interruptions to the schedule broke the “flow” of the process. Overall, the students all agreed that teaching takes considerable knowledge, patience, and skill.

The Takeaways:

I asked the students to reflect on what they learned about public school teachers from this experience. One male student said that he felt it was very difficult to teach such diverse learners. He had learned that teachers need to meet the needs of many types of people. Another female student said: “I realized how important public school teachers are. Without you all, we might as well go back to living in caves.” We all chuckled at that image of suburban caves, but I told her that I sensed that she meant that public school teachers provide structure and guidance in an uncertain world during an often confusing time in a person’s life: childhood. Many of the students expressed that they felt proud of their school. They commented on how they have been nurtured, supported and well educated by our public school system.

To conclude the class and the year, I polled each student as to their future career plans. One student emphatically said he would never teach. He found it very boring. Three of the thirteen said they planned on being social studies teachers. The rest were a mix of business, communication, and undecided majors. All, however, will be taxpayers. Many of them will have children of their own.

Hopefully, this challenge will help them appreciate the value of public education. 


The March for Public Education on July 22, 2017, is critical. Please consider following the March For Education Blog Publication, following on Twitter, liking the page on Facebook, participating in the march, and donating to the march. You can also buy a t-shirt to support public education by clicking here.


One thought on ““So, You Think You Can Teach?”

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Up ↑


Destroying education, one student at a time.

Filling the pail

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - As W. B. Yeats never said


Parenting with FAITH and FUN!

ELA Brave and True

It's Language Arts, Not Language Science.

I Love You but You're Going to Hell

Awkward Conversations about School and Society

little word studio

arts + entertainment blog

The Educators Room

Empowering Teachers as the Experts

The Conversation Room

Ideas worth exploring

From Mage Mind

When a mage is sharing what's on his mind. Business, Motivation, Positive life, Success, Marketing and Good Ideas.

Emeka Ofili

Inspiration and gospels

Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

Supporting public schools and the children they serve

radical eyes for equity

Confronting "our rigid refusal to look at ourselves" (James Baldwin)

Urban Education Mixtape

... A Strong Rhyme to Step To


Learning, Teaching, and Leading in a Changing World

Education Rickshaw

International Teaching in Motion

Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey.

Cloaking Inequity

A blog focused on education and social justice

Growing Children

A teacher’s blog about the art of helping children grow--at home, at school and in the garden.


A Magazine That Delves Into All Things LIFE.


A fine WordPress.com site

In Dianes Kitchen

Recipes showing step by step directions with pictures and gadget reviews

My Best Laid Plans

Where Brokenness and Grace Collide

By: Jamaal A. Bowman

Public Schools Rule!

Corey R. Payne



Two Literacy Teachers Learning and Sharing in the Blended Learning Classroom


Telling all sides of the parenting story

Diary of a Deelexia Mom

Blog about life with amazing kids.


Dedicated to truth-telling for democracy.

Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

An insider's look at education, teaching, parenting and coming of age.

Teacher as guide

Rethinking the purpose of school and the role of the teacher


What's happening with public education in Indianapolis.

Jonathan Camac

Student of Life. Advocate for serious joy in Christ.

Holy and Chic Mama

A motherhood and lifestyle blog

The happy Quitter!

It started when I gave up smoking and went from there!


"To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."


Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

What's for Dinner Moms?

Creativity for my life.

Ellie on the AT

A Baby's Trek on the Appalachian Trail

A Drop of Mocha

A Teacher of Color's Perspective on Education, Teaching, and Life

The Insatiable Traveler

Embrace Adventure. World Travel | Award-winning Photography| Inspiration | Tips

Butterfly Mind

Creative Nonfiction by Andrea Badgley


A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

The Nothing Expert

The Nothing Expert's Guide to School

Life 101

What They Didn't Teach You in High School

Two Fat Americans

Eating & Drinking Our Way Around The World (While doing some other fun things too)

%d bloggers like this: