I work as a teacher in North Carolina, in a county that has a per capita income that is less than $15,000. The school has an 87% free or reduced lunch rate for the students who attend.

Comments: 1155 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

anhydrous_echinoderm339 karma

Not a question, but more of a bit of encouragement. Keep it up, man.

dicedece190 karma

Thank you, I really don't think I can teach until retirement, but I'll try to do what I can. Like I said, at some point, I'd really like to be in a position where I could really make some further reaching changes and help more kids.

IhaveSomeQuestions56156 karma


dicedece325 karma

  1. The blame for the failure of the educational system here in America I believe falls with the lawmakers, unfortunately. NCLB was a terrible idea in the first place, and even now, they are just perpetuating helplessness. Teachers are really handcuffed by the laws of people who have never stepped into a classroom. There is some blame to be spread to teachers, also...especially older teachers who refuse to change, and those that got in based on who they know and are awful teachers (intelligence =/= good teacher)

  2. The school board folk are a bit absurd, for instance, the curriculum change this year had me teaching about the enlightenment. The children I teach didn't even know about the different political and economic systems that exist, even on a basic level. I spent 90% of my time on that unit resolving that. I do things my way, the way that I feel is right. I get in trouble quite a bit for being outspoken and following my heart, but if I get fired for that, oh well.

  3. I think that good administrators deserve great pay and bad ones need to be axed. Unfortunately, bad administrators are just recycled.

  4. I don't think private schools are always better, but in many times, they are. If you pay more money to teachers, you'll get better teachers (or in the case of "religious" based schools, people who feel very strongly about religious ideals and really want to be there regardless of pay). Most teachers I meet feel under-appreciated and overworked, many times because of the laws that public schools have to follow, but private ones don't. It probably allows more time for lesson planning and such.

  5. Well that depends on the administrator. Last year a kid could yell and scream in class all year long and wouldn't be punished (which displays to others that it's ok and leads to more problems). Fortunately this year we have an administrator who helps us out a bit more, so if they need to be suspended, they usually are. I try to deal with it in the classroom or after class myself. It really helps my credibility instead of just "writing them up." Students know I am strict, but they know I am fair and respect me. They know I will try to help them out if they're willing to meet me halfway.

  6. Yes, I had a former administrator who basically said she would make my life hell if I didn't change failing grades. I still kept them. Passing kids who don't deserve it hurts more than it helps (come to think of it, I've been in several situations where I have been asked to change grades by someone in a position of power, all times I have refused...fingers crossed that I can continue to do the right thing by me and still keep my job).

  7. I know that some staff members smoke pot, I'm not included in that. I used to drink heavily, but I lost a lot of weight and am now a health nut (personal trainer/tennis instructor on the side), so I keep my drinking occasional. But when teachers do drink, they go wild. Teachers are known boozers. Sex - I have sex with my girlfriend, but I Know teachers who have sex with kids' parents.

  8. A student in my class told another girl not to come to school tomorrow because he was going to blow it up. The principal wasn't even going to suspend him for it, but the POLICE officer called said that he needed suspended. She gave him one day, and then he was back in my class. I got no paperwork for it and freaked out when I saw him stroll in the next day, and told all my kids to leave the room. This same kid also fashioned a shiv out of a wooden ruler with the intention of stabbing another, he only got one day for that too. He has psychological problems, and it's only a matter of time before something happens (see: newtown?)

  9. $30,800 before taxes. I made twice as much bartending.

10). 90%

yoalaska50 karma

Hello. This is related to number 8: at my school on Tuesday, there were threats from two idiots who decided they wanted to do a school shooting on that Friday. I'm appalled that the principal at your school wasn't even going to suspend the kid; the two kids at my school that were "planning" it were arrested and expelled. Over 200 people were absent last Friday because they were still scared that someone would bring a gun on Friday.
I'm ashamed to go to an American school for the fact that most of them just suck so badly, and I hate shitty teachers who hate kids and are just waiting to retire, so thank you for being a good teacher.

dicedece76 karma

I don't know that I'm a "good" teacher to be honest, I will admit that sometimes I get really run down (and I'm only 26). But if I can't help them, who will? That's kind of how I see it. Unfortunately the whole system is broken, it needs redone instead of "fixed." I'd like to be in a position to make a bigger splash, I just feel like in my current position, I can't target enough kids; I can't help enough. I'd like to be in some facet of decision making on at least the state, if not federal level. If I wasn't so far in student debt, I'd be back in school right now to reach that goal. Unfortunately I can't make that a reality at this point

EddieHazelsGuitar120 karma

As a teacher in rural China, I see a lot of kids who are simply unprepared for school. They don't know how to use a book, etc.

How do you feel about the children in your area? Are they capable of catching up to higher-income kids, ever?

dicedece186 karma

They really have to be instilled with the desire to learn. I think at any point if they get that, then they can achieve whatever they want. Unfortunately, many kids only get that from maybe one or two teachers, and the person at home doesn't care one way or another. I've seen parents "coaching" their kids to be terrible so that they can get their "Crazy Checks" and such. It's sickening.

tl'dr; mostly, no, I don't see them able to catch up.

hungrierdave106 karma

Do teachers at your school help kids cheat on standardized tests to get better funding? I'm not trying to be accusatory -- I'm just curious!

dicedece122 karma

Well, I have suspicions that a few teachers have been giving "extra help" to kids on regular tests and such (kids with IEPs that go for "extra help" or those with "language barriers"), but we take standardized testing very seriously. I probably take it more seriously than most, as my first gig as a student teacher was a PSSA standardized test proctor (which we had to be certified for at the time). I wouldn't let anyone leave the room, and I collected every single piece of scrap paper that they had within 5 feet of their desk to ensure that nobody cheated. I put the fear of God in them that if I got a misadministration, that I would fail every one of them.

stooge4ever78 karma

Hey Dicedece, thanks for this AMA. I'm very interested in this, with many friends planning to be teachers. A few questions:

  • Was teaching there your choice?

  • How do the students perform academically?

  • Which subject(s) do you teach?

  • How many students go to college?

dicedece105 karma

  1. Teaching there was not really my choice. I'm originally from Pittsburgh, PA, and my girlfriend and I both were trying to find teaching jobs. I had done substitute teaching and odd jobs for 2 years before I decided that I would expand my horizons past PA (the job market in PA for teachers is dreadful, and very political). I found this school in NC and kind of put it to them that I'd probably only come down if they hired my girlfriend too, and luckily they had an opening for her as well.

  2. The students are very low (compared to what I think they should be able to do from my personal experience in other schools, and my own experience from when I was in school). They usually don't ask good questions, very mundane things, or simple things that they should know from 1st or 2nd grade.

  3. I teach 7th Grade World History right now because of the way the curriculum shifted this year.

  4. I don't understand this. If you mean how many students do I teach, I have 4 classes of about 25 kids, give or take a few, every day.

stooge4ever41 karma

How do you deal with those gaps in knowledge? Are you teaching them writing skills in addition to history?

What I meant by question four was how many students in the district pursue education past high school?

dicedece65 karma

When you change a curriculum, you're supposed to have a "gap year" to cover things that you will miss. They did not plan for this well (for instance, I know that Social Studies will be tested this year by the state, yet they haven't told us what the test will be on yet). They did not provide us with the gap year, I just try to do double the work the best I can.

I teach them writing skills from the very first day, and reading/research skills. I just do it in a historical context. I'd say 90% of what I do is reading/writing education.

I don't know how many go to college since I work middle school, but I'd say less than 20% if I had to guess.

ElMangosto64 karma

Yo! Mr. Prezbo!

If you haven't seen the 3rd 4th season of The Wire, you really should. I think you can pretty much hop in there and get the gist of what's happening.

I don't know if you'd enjoy it but it changed how I see teaching.

dicedece34 karma

I'm not sure that I understand, but ok, I will check out "The Wire"

SixteenVolt59 karma

Teacher, here. Just wanted to say thank you for your hard work. Also, what are you doing over winter break?

dicedece45 karma

Visiting Pittsburgh for my family and enjoying the colder weather. I've went to the ice rink every day except yesterday since I"ve been home.. I'm going to play hockey tomorrow morning. These are things you can't do in NC that I love.

The_Great_Shazaam42 karma

This is the thread I have been waiting for, I am originally from Germany and came to America in high school and was completely taken for a loop by how horrible the school system is. I have a few questions

  1. Without pumping in a lot of money into the school/ school system what can be done to make a difference in your opinion?

  2. What do you feel the biggest differences are between underprivileged schools and "standard" schools?

  3. I tutor kids in math, programming, and science and I have noticed that the only people that really get tutored are middle to upper middle class people. Why do you think that is? Also, are there other methods available to help children from impoverished homes?

And I want to end with a comment. Thank you for all you do. Make a difference in their lives if you can and they will cherish it and you forever. You are awesome for teaching.

dicedece72 karma

  1. Honestly, the amount of money is not the problem, how it is spent is the problem. For instance, our school provides a free breakfast to all students. EVERY SINGLE ONE, FOR FREE. Long lines in the morning = a free pass to be late for class. So kids mingle in the cafeteria (packed to twice capacity), get food that is terrible for them (see increased healthcare costs induced by terrible food), and throw entire meals/drinks away, unopened. It is literally throwing money away. There are many things like this going on.

I think that the biggest difference that would help is keeping a close eye on spending, consulting teachers with your spending (they ask us nothing), and making sure administrators/teachers are competent, or get rid of them (get the best person for the job, not someone you know.)

  1. Technology and parent involvement. Both of those things make a huge difference.

  2. Because tutoring requires money or someone that is really a great person, and those things generally don't make themselves available to the impoverished.

I try to help kids most I can, although I don't make a lot of money. Really I try to motivate kids (I grew up poor, didn't know my dad until later in life), so I tell them that although many people say "I know how you feel", I actually do. My big rule that is posted on my board is "No Excuses" and I follow it each day. I tell some of the at risk kids about how I grew up poor and was the first person in my family to go to college, and tell them that they can make something of themselves, and I will help them any way I can. Monetarily, I can't help much, but me and my girlfriend bought a few impoverished kids Christmas Gifts that they really needed (mostly coats/bookbags and such, but also some toys, because kids need to have fun, too).

Side comment: our school doesn't even provide us pencil and paper, and most teachers have no textbooks. Teachers generally spend their own money for that stuff. If I didn't provide these things, parents don't care enough, and wouldn't, and basically would let their kids fail instead of spending $10 on school supplies. This hurdle along with our low pay makes it difficult and stressful on us, sometimes. I spend a ton on the kids, and I don't have a lot (student loans forbearance, etc.).

I guess this goes back to question one, make the free breakfast a small fee, so it will get rid of the kids who just throw the entire thing away, use some of that money to buy my class some books and pencils at least.

Jedcaj21 karma

The schools I substitute at have a sharing table for their free breakfast. Anything unopened goes back to the cafeteria to be returned for credit or for other students to have. No money is lost from the free breakfast program.

dicedece18 karma

I've tried to help this in several ways, either to have students "donate" food they don't want, or to catch students who throw away entire meals and don't allow them to come in for a few days or something.

SixteenVolt20 karma

I've had a few students where all they had to eat each day were the free school breakfasts and lunches. That would be a tough thing to cut, but I definitely think they should cut the chocolate milk and french fries.

dicedece24 karma

I think the kids that get free lunch should qualify for the free breakfast, but not all kids. I agree that some kids only eat at school, hell, some kids only come to school to eat. During breaks, they provide food to kids and families that need it if the money is available. School lunches are terrible, though, that's my next battle.

IvyGold19 karma

Schools vary in quality way too much in the USA.

There are public schools in the wealthier or even more metropolitan areas that are just as good as the best private schools.

Do you mind identifying where you went?

dicedece16 karma

The school I went to was about 30 minutes outside the city of Pittsburgh. It was a fairly good school district, very different social statuses went there (3 different towns went to the one school, one town was middle to middle high class, one town was low class, one town was middle class but rural.) I lived in the "lower class" town. I was definitely seen differently going to school because of it, it was a small school (95 graduating class), and everyone knew everyone's business. Everyone knew I lived in a small duplex right by the river, and that we had to eat by going to the Food Bank for donations.

illithid6637 karma

What is the best way non-educational personnel can do to help students from such schools?

dicedece80 karma

My gut instinct rang hard with this one, with the word "reading" coming to mind. The kids I teach can't read very well (7th graders on a 2-4th grade level in a good scenario), and they certainly can't write. However, I think the most important thing that parents can do (I know this may not be what you meant by "non-educational personnel") is just to be involved. If parents hold students accountable, then students MAY start to hold themselves accountable and to a higher standard. But I get kids in 7th grade that are already counting down the days until they can drop out (actually, more than not are in that boat). Instilling the "want" to learn in them is the most important thing, I think.

jeepdave33 karma

This may sound cruel, but are there some kids you simply wish were not there taking resources and time from the ones that may make something of themselves?

dicedece50 karma

At times, yes. There are some really incredibly "lost" students that I have, that unfortunately, I don't think that any amount of interference would help. I really try hardest with them, but it's like running on a treadmill. One case in particular is last year we had a kid who got kicked out of another school for gang involvement. He came to me, I tried all year to make a difference, I thought that I got through to him at the end of the year. As soon as he came back this year, he just told me he couldn't wait until he was 17 so that he could drop out and "hustle"

jeepdave13 karma

Thanks for the honest reply! It seems that kids who don't care to learn ruin it for the rest, how to fix that short of simply removing them I wish I knew.

dicedece35 karma

I can be quite honest and say that some kids are "unreachable." I wish it wasn't like that, but I've seen it first hand, and it is. Usually something in their life causes these feelings of uselessness, and the damage is already done. Some of these kids have told me about things that have happened to them or that they've witnessed that I can't even imagine having to go through as a 12-14 year old.

fishforbrains7 karma

like what?

Iggyhopper3 karma

Abuse, shootings, etc... I'm guessing.

dicedece4 karma

Yeah, this, rape, prostitution at age 12 even...breaks my heart

antoniusmagnus16 karma

Have you heard about the school-to-prison pipeline some schools are using and what do you think of it?

dicedece10 karma

I have not heard of this, or maybe just not in that title. Could you elaborate?

GeoGoddess12 karma

Thanks for being there, and being a stand for high educational standards, and caring and appropriate behavior. As a former teacher in an urban barrio high school, I can relate to much of what you're sharing here. I remember how painful it felt to be more committed to my students' education than almost everyone else involved (the students, their families, the administrators and staff, the community). And often, we teachers are the only caring, appropriate adult in our students' lives, which can be a huge challenge. Take good care of yourself (sounds like you've already started on this!) and focus on doing whatever's next. I appreciate you!

dicedece9 karma

Thank you so much! It's good to hear that someone made it past 40 being a teacher in this type of situation.

mr_paradox12 karma


dicedece30 karma

I don't feel that there is a problem of violence in my school. There are fights, but most of the vicious ones are girl fights (when you tell boys to stop fighting in a strong tone, they stop immediately and sometimes even cry...girls fight differently).

There is no real problem with "race relations" in our school, it's about 25% White, 40% black, 35% hispanic. I've had a few kids that were non-white make comments about me being white and treating them differently, but really, I'm just more strict than most any other teacher at the school, so kids are always trying to find something.

Yes, the curriculum leaves out controversial things, but I do what is necessary to cover the curriculum, and then I go into the things that I feel they should know (or as I tell them, things that they have been lied to about). I always tell them that I won't lie to them no matter what, good or bad, and that I will tell them things that will help them realize what the world is really like. Sometimes they don't like what I have to say, especially about many controversial issues, but they respect me for being able to treat them as an individual and being honest with them no matter what.

And yes, US history is very black and white, I have spoken a lot to the similarities between the US vs. Britain in the revolutionary war (we were oppressed!) and how it is now with our involvement in the Middle East (no wonder they aren't happy with us, we won't leave their countries!)

mr_paradox6 karma


dicedece4 karma

Thank you, I haven't seen it, but I definitely will now.

Jayhawker0711 karma

I personally love math (over winter break I am condensing a year of math into about a week so I can skip a year ahead) and so I guess my two questions are: 1. What approach does your school take to teaching math? Is it more of a thing that only some students care about, so they are the only ones you teach to? Or do you teach to the lowest intelligence in the classroom? 2. What would you (as a school) do if someone clearly had a gift for math, and was losing interest in it due to the lack of rigor?

dicedece16 karma

Math has to be taught on a very basic level, unfortunately. They are a bit better with math than reading/writing, though. And no, we teach everybody (at least I do and the other 7th grade teachers try to reach ALL kids no matter if they want to be reached or not).

If I'm done early, I let the kids who are advanced in math get on my computer and do IXL math, and work on advanced coursework. Even though I don't teach math, I support higher learning in all subjects the best I can (I really focus on writing, which is about 80% of what I do...I just do it in a historical context so i cover my curriculum.)

peachfuzztesties3 karma

Was the school district always in poverty or was there a time when it was ok? And you should realize the difference your making in the kids young minds too, thanks for being a teacher

dicedece3 karma

Everyone keeps telling me that it is really worth it when someone comes back and tells you "thanks." I had a kid I taught last year who I tried to motivate, he's actually gifted and I told him he's destined for big things. As far as I know the school was always impoverished.

string_zyzz3 karma

Have you read Napoleon Hill's "Outwitting the Devil"?

dicedece5 karma

No, I really need to catch up on stuff that people in this thread tell me are "interesting"