Five Relics From My Adventures As A High School English Teacher

I have an immense respect for people who have decided to make a career out of teaching.

I once was bold enough to jump through the Fiery Hoops of Bureaucracy to try to join their ranks. However, right after smoothly swinging my way across the Alligator Swamp Of Student Teaching (thanks to the help of some fantastic mentor teachers), I dove into the Shark Tank of Brand-New-Mid-Year-Replacement-Travelling-Teacherdom.

Fiery Hoops And A Dog

On past the alligators and sharks, my trusted companion!

Many of the students were voracious, but not for knowledge.

Even with some great mentor teachers, and some great students, I arrived on the Barren Shores of Finding A Job riddled with bruises and bite marks. As I went to find a boat to the next obstacle course, I found all the boats were full, or had been closed due to budget cuts and the Recession.

Sailors on a ship

Find your own boat. No room here. Now kids, lets use the accordian to teach about the quadratic formula.

I returned to the Jungle of Substitute Teacherdom, a jungle I had skirted on and off during my student teaching. I knew my way around the beasts lurking in the dark, and when to enjoy the broad vistas of a well run classroom. Limping along, I arrived at the Haven Of Long Term Substitute Teacherdom, and rested with a group of fine students. Not all were perfect, but I was reminded why I had begun the journey in the first place. My health was restored, and I was able to rest a moment.

However, at the end of the season, I once more stood on the Barren Shores of Finding A Job. Once more, all of the boats were full. Standing by some, I looked across the water and saw I might have to swim through another shark tank or two.

Exhausted and defeated, I crossed to the Harbor Of Other Careers and jumped onto the first boat that could carry me to the Island Of Self-Sufficiency. (Actually, I got there, and then had to swim back to The Island Of Mom And Dad’s Couch for a bit, and am now preparing to board the Gauntlet of Grad School, but that’s another story).

Sail boat

Sailing off to another career and another adventure.

Some students are fantastic. Some days some students are fantastic, other days… no. Some students need more love than others, and other students give so much love you don’t know what to do with it. All of them take a great teacher to help them as they develop into those strange beings known as ‘adults’, and I congratulate everyone who has the courage to give so much of themselves and their time to the work of building the next generation.


It has now been over four years since I last taught high school English, yet here are five relics I keep from that epic journey:

1. Thinking of Lesson Plans While Watching Or Reading

One of my lesson plans while teaching a Senior English class used “Almost Got ‘im From” Batman : The Animated Series to teach about the Canterbury Tales. In both, the characters sit around and tell stories which illustrate their personality and perspective. It was completely relevant…

2. Literary Memorabilia

What is a good English Teacher’s desk without something literary and ridiculous? Over the time of my student teaching and teaching, I received all of the following, except Miss Austen (I’ll have to correct that someday):


And though I am no longer teaching English, I know I would also make sure these were in my classroom as well:

Which, having read these out loud as a group at Nerd Night, might be part of a great Friday before a holiday lesson plan. (Have you ever seen students right before Halloween or Spring Break or Winter Break? It is a whole epic by itself.)

3. The Teacher Glare

Not my actual eyes. Since I’m not the Doctor… But, I would probably stop what I’m doing if a teacher glared at me like this.

This may not be the best thing to bring into other situations, but it can be useful. For example, when I’ve been teaching at church and there are side conversations – sometimes by good friends of mine – I’ll use a soft teacher glare. I also find myself using it on younger siblings without thinking… So, I apologize to my younger siblings who may not have deserved it.

I also use it on the dogs. This is often effective.

4. Graphic Organizers And Outlines

From McSweeney's

Click on image to check out just part of McSweeney’s Graphs of Charts and Charts of Graphs.

Graphic organizers are really just a fancy way of saying “Make a pro-con list”, “A t-chart”, “a brainstorm cloud,” and on and on. When I need to organize things for my writing, my default is to create some form of a worksheet or graphic organizer for myself. Sometimes this is handy. Sometimes this might be a little overzealous.

This is also why so many of these posts are numbered and organized with sub-headings – to make the information more easily discernible.

I suppose if I went back into teaching in the next few years, graphic organizers might be passe and be replaced by Visual Arrangers. (It allows you to arrange your thoughts visually!)

5. Writing sonnets at random times

Though I’ve not taught English for many years,

And memories do mix and lessons fade,

At times, poorly used words burn at my ears,

Sending rhyme and meter and form unbade.

An iambic meter beats in my mind,

The rhyme cries in first, second, first, second,

And so I write so silence I can find,

For who can but resist when so beckoned?

I’ve taught of proposals meant modestly,

Of Keats, Browning, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Donne.

Great structure and form lies in their poetry,

But, in my mind one form always does run.

So, when I put on my thinking bonnet,

My mind ever turns to Shakespeare’s Sonnet.

(If you’re not familiar with Shakespeare’s Sonnet form, check this out. I find Shakespeare’s more fun than Petrarch’s.)

(Oh, and I know Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal is prose, not poetry. I just liked how “modestly” was a nice near-rhyme to “poetry”.)


  • How about you? Do you have threads of relics from previous careers and employment?
  • If you were to choose your favorite poem form to express yourself, what would it be?
  • Have you ventured into the wild world of teaching? Once again, I salute you have stayed longer.
  • Would you be more cooperative if Peter Capaldi as the Doctor showed up as your English teacher and gave you his angry eyes (see picture under #3)?

Side Note 1: Speaking of the Doctor as a teacher… this is a few years old now, but still entertaining:

Side Note 2: And while we’re still hanging out in Britain, this French and Saunder’s skit may be a parallel universe to some days in my classroom.

Side Note 3: For more literary fun, check out Thug Notes – accurate literary analysis by a cool thug. (The earlier ones may be more PG-13 than the later ones)

Side Note 4 – A Bit Of A Disclaimer: I am experimenting with the Amazon Affiliates program to see if I can get this blog to be self-sufficient monetarily. This will help as I venture off to Grad School in a little less than a month, and will be living on savings and student loans. So, any products mentioned in this and future posts will be linked to the Amazon page. If someone buys it, I get a few pennies. Hopefully, those pennies will add up to enough dollars to cover my domain cost.

In other words, if you always wanted an Oscar Wilde action figure, click on the picture and it will take you to Amazon. If you buy it through the link, I get about 3 cents, which is much higher than 0 cents. If you don’t want to buy anything, that’s okay too.

22 thoughts on “Five Relics From My Adventures As A High School English Teacher

  1. Ah, old careers: I was a computer geek, which is to say an engineer and then a manager in a computer firm. To this day, I can program a PDP-8 in assembly code from memory.

    As for teaching, some phrases I’d love to ban at the college level:

    “I’m an ‘A’ student.” – typically said by a student who has just proved otherwise.

    “Is there extra credit in this course?” – You mean you didn’t read the “no extra credit” line in the syllabus? You did read the syllabus, didn’t you?

    “I’ve got so much else to do (family, job, amateur sky diving); do I have to do all this work?” – I’m sorry, I assigned all sorts of extra work that is completely irrelevant to the course design, and you’re the first person to notice. So if you can write me a paper explaining exactly which parts are irrelevant, I’ll let you skip them. (Try to say this seriously, without sarcasm entering your voice. It’s a challenge.)

    “My grandma died again.”

    • I work at the university, and I am sometimes entertained by the students who protest a B+ in a difficult class. I am very proud of some of my B- in college, in classes where I struggled with the content. That B- was a mark of honor.

  2. I taught high school English for five years and never got a Shakespeare action figure. Now I’m very jealous 😉

    A heads-up about the affiliate links: apparently we’re not allowed to link them to images, only to text. Just thought I’d warn you.

    • Well, now you can get your very own!
      As for the image links, is the ban from Worpress or Amazon?
      The images are posted using the direct html code provided by Amazon, and the caption is actually a link is well.
      Also, I think the legality is different because I own my domain, which allows me to do commercial enterprises, versus having a free wordpress site. (The domain costs $18 a year, and that’s the cost I’m trying to cover.)

      • Actually, no. Having your own domain makes no difference in the terms of service as you’re still hosted by You can use the images (and inserting the image via URL rather than uploading it to your library is okay if that’s what you did), but you can’t have the actual affiliate link going out from the image. Having the link in the caption is okay, as the caption is text. This is according a long-time volunteer in the forums who tends to know what she’s talking about.

        There’s a contact form on the affiliate links support doc which you can use to contact staff to make sure. If staff says it’s okay, then obviously there’s no problem, but they’re quite strict with blogs who violate the advertising policy, so rather check. I just don’t want you unwittingly getting into trouble.

  3. I love the sonnet. And thanks for telling us about using Amazon Affiliates! I hope it works out for you. I will click on things randomly.

    French and Saunders. So wonderful.

    My relics haven’t really had anything to do with my job as an Executive Assistant, per se, but I am given Star Wars things at each company. The only ones I’ve taken on to each job has been a Yoda stuffed animal that, when squeezed, emits Yoda sayings. He’s holding a lightsaber spoon that an ex-colleague gave to me when he moved on. It’s probably from a cereal box lol! And full of germs cuz it’s been used, I’m sure, so it’s really quite gross. But I keep it because I loved that colleague a lot as he was another huge Star Wars fan and it meant a he passed it onto me.

  4. Love that Catherine Tate clip. Geh, I pity anyone who teaches teenagers regularly. I do in my church and while the kids are not disrespectful like Catherine Tate’s skit or F&S’s skit, they don’t really care to be there and hardly pay attention. Even if you bribe them with donuts, you only get a 10% increase of attention span for 3 seconds. I have way more respect for high school teachers.

  5. I would love to see Will Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’m sure by the end of it, everyone will have died and we’d mourn of their demise until the next episode where a whole other cast of characters takes to the stage and kills each other, too! 🙂

    BTW, Laura, your imagery in the beginning was great. Especially that part with the boat. Well done!

  6. Anyone who goes into teaching, whether willingly or not, is quite brave in my opinion. It takes a lot of courage to try to teach or advise a single person, let alone an entire classroom. 🙂

    I do not have that courage, nor the patience unfortunately! All my relics come in the form of boring contracts and crusty laws saved on my hard disk; nowhere near as exciting as a Shakespeare action figure!

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