In 1974, after filling out fifty applications, going through four interviews, and winning one offer, I took what I could get -- a teaching job at what I considered a distant wild area: western New Jersey. My characteristic optimism was alive only when I reminded myself that I would be doing what I had wanted to do since I was fourteen teaching English.
School started, but I felt more and more as if I were in a foreign country. Was this rural area really New Jersey? My students took a week off when hunting season began. I was told they were also frequently absent in late October to help their fathers make hay on the farms. I was a young woman from New York City, who thought that “Make hay while the sun shines” just meant to have a good time.
But, still, I was teaching English. I worked hard, taking time off only to eat and sleep. And then there was my sixth-grade class ---- seventeen boys and five girls who were only six years younger than me. I had a problem long before I knew it. I was struggling in my work as a young idealistic teacher. I wanted to make literature come alive and to promote a love of the written word. The students wanted to throw spitballs and whisper dirty words in the back of the room.
In college I had been taught that a successful educator should ignore bad behavior. So I did, confident that, as the textbook had said, the bad behavior would disappear as I gave my students positive attention. It sounds reasonable, but the text evidently ignored the fact that humans, particularly teenagers, rarely seems reasonable. By the time my boss, who was also my taskmaster, known to be the strictest, most demanding, most quick to fire inexperienced teachers, came into the classroom to observe me, the students exhibited very little good behavior to praise.
My boss sat in the back of the room. The boys in the class were making animal noises, hitting each other while the girls filed their nails or read magazines. I just pretended it all wasn’t happening, and went on lecturing and tried to ask some inspiring questions. My boss, sitting in the back of the classroom, seemed to be growing bigger and bigger. After twenty minutes he left, silently. Visions of unemployment marched before my eyes.
I felt mildly victorious that I got through the rest of class without crying, but at my next free period I had to face him. I wondered if he would let me finish out the day. I walked to his office, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
He was sitting in his chair, and he looked at me long and hard. I said nothing. All I could think of was that I was not an English teacher; I had been lying to myself, pretending that everything was fine.
When he spoke, he said simply, without accusation, “You had nothing to say to them.”
“You had nothing to say to them”. he repeated.” No wonder they are bored. Why not get to the meat of literature and stop talking about symbolism. Talk with them, not at them. And more important, why do you ignore their bad behavior”? We talked. He named my problems and offered solutions. We role-played. He was the bad student, and I was the forceful, yet, warm, teacher.
As the year progressed, we spent many hours discussing literature and ideas about human beings and their motivations. He helped me identify my weaknesses and strengths. In short, he made a teacher of me by teaching me the reality of Emerson’s words: “The secret to education lies in respecting the pupil.”
Fifteen years later I still drive that same winding road to the same school. Thanks to the help I received that difficult first year, the school is my home now.
1. It can be inferred from the story that in 1974
A. the writer became an optimistic person
B. the writer was very happy about her new job
C. it was rather difficult to get a job in the USA
D. it was easy to get a teaching job in New Jersey
2. According to the passage, which of the following is most probably the writer’s problem as a new teacher?
A. She had blind trust in what she learnt at college.
B. She didn’t ask experienced teachers for advice.
C. She took too much time off to eat and sleep.
D. She didn’t like teaching English literature.
3. What is the writer’s biggest worry after her taskmaster’s observation of her class?
A. She might lose her teaching job.
B. She might lose her students ‘respect.
C. She couldn’t teach the same class any more.
D. She couldn’t ignore her students’ bad behavior any more.
4. Which of the following gives the writer a sense of mild victory?
A. Her talk about symbolism sounded convincing.
B. Her students behaved a little better than usual.
C. She managed to finish the class without crying.
D. She was invited for a talk by her boss after class.
5. The students behaved badly in the writer’s classes because .
A. They were eager to embarrass her.
B. She didn’t really understand them.
C. They didn’t regard her as a good teacher.
D. She didn’t have a good command of English.
6. The taskmaster’s attitude towards the writer after his observation of her class can be described as .
A. cruel but encouraging
B. fierce but forgiving
C. sincere and supportive
D. angry and aggressive