What’s it Like to Teach in Private School?

It’s hard to believe that we’re hurtling toward the end of the first quarter already. Sure, we started August 24 but wow, it feels fast.

I was asked recently what it is like to teach in private school compared with public. First of all, no two private schools are identical so I can only speak about where I am. I adore the freedom to teach as I chose. Upon being hired, I was handed a stack of books and a curriculum map which contains essential questions and skills to be learned during each unit. How I teach is left up to me.

While I can repurpose most of my English 11 lessons for my sophomores, the British Lit classes are fresh. As a result, I am building things unit by unit, using the map as a guide but changing the order a little to suit my own beliefs.

It’s great that my students are required to have their own books and devices, which allows me to be flexible in how I wish to teach. It also makes them more responsible for their work although I have been having issues with high percentages of students arrived unprepared, a universal issue.

One of my goals this year is to get everyone to do more writing, including drafting and revisions, forcing them to think about what they say and how they say it rather than just dash it off to get on to the next assignment. A junior goal is get them to do various styles of writing so I have them journaling as they currently read Beowulf along with a narrative.

Given the demands, I wish our Wi-Fi was more robust but we get by. I also wish the tech in the classroom was a little better but again, I get by.

What I find as a big adjustment is the actual schedule. It wasn’t until the last week of September before I had five straight days without a special schedule for a mass or an assembly of some sort. I sat down the school calendar and once we subtract out mid-terms and finals, I have 167 teaching days, with at least twenty classes compromised by shortened schedules. It makes lesson planning trickier than I feel it needs to be, trying to work around which days are short and how much I can reasonably expect to accomplish.

For the Brit Lit classes, I know I have an average of 15 classes per book so can’t go too long on one without having to trim another. I’ll probably go long on Macbeth since I want them to read it aloud in class, work with, then see a production and examine that. I’d love to take a few classes to show them the 1931 Frankenstein but we’ll see.

I have a lot more flexibility with American Lit since I can add or subtract stories and poems as needed. This week, for example, I have three days to teach (PSATs on Wednesday and a vocabulary quiz during my 20 minute class on Friday since it’s Spirit Day). We’ll focus on one poem and a sermon and keep on moving.

The above is more explanation than complaint. I really enjoy working with my fellow English faculty and adore my Honors kids. I feel fully supported by the Administration when problems occur and look forward to their formal observation visits. It’s a special place where we actually emphasize the learning over other matters.

4 comments

  • I’d like to know more about when you teach Macbeth.

  • Linda Deneroff

    You’re a great teacher. I remember when I was in high school and we acted out one of Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet, I think) stead of just reading it. Made it much more interesting. I also remember the idiot English teacher who made me furious when she gave us an abridged Romeo and Juliet. I bought my own copy and read it “in the original”.

  • John Vengrouskie

    Over the decades I have found FRANKENSTEIN invloving and a bit slippery… Do you have a take on say, comparing Shelley’s book with Whale’s 31 (alongside his BRIDE to be fair to his full take on the thing) and Brannagh’s shot at it? I know you can barely squeeze ONE of those in but what’s your short take?

    • Bob Greenberger

      I actually need to rewatch the Whale version. I intend on showing it after we read the novel and let the students do some of the comparison work. As I recall, none of the movies accurately reflect the novel.

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