Teaching in High Schools

After completing fifth or sixth grade, children in the United States enter secondary school, which usually consists of seven years through to the twelfth grade.

High school in most cases refers to the 9th through 12th grades of secondary education.

The U.S. high school system differs from that in many other countries as there is a small degree of national standardization with respect to the curriculum.

Individual states have a significant say over the coursework and the requirements that students should fulfill in order to get a high school diploma. Therefore courses and subjects taught vary from state to state.

The coursework also depends on whether the school is public or private. Although private high schools are outside the control of government agencies, their students are still required to meet minimum graduation standards determined by the state.

Teachers in high schools usually instruct students on a single advanced subject. They should have a bachelor's degree in their subject and those who want to work in a public school must obtain a license.

Being the culmination of the K-12 public education system, high schools are a critical transition between being a student and becoming a member of adult society. In order to graduate from high school, pupils must complete a core curriculum that encompasses English, mathematics, science, social studies and health/physical education. The guidelines for high school requirements are determined by the board of education or legislature in the majority of states. After that, local school districts adapt their policies to comply with community standards.

It is important for secondary school teachers to use an array of teaching methods to accommodate the different learning levels and styles of students. Those include adequate classroom management, a curriculum and activities addressing a wide range of learning styles, motivation and a favorable classroom environment.

The atmosphere in the classroom should foster equality, which helps students feel more secure and consequently become more involved in learning activities. The classroom environment should also promote diversity, making students acquainted with various cultures without prejudices.

Further, the classroom should encourage independent learning. This stimulates the students' desire to learn as it allows them to feel proud of their achievements.

Teachers in secondary schools should incorporate into their lessons the techniques appropriate for the three major learning styles: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Catering for the learning styles of all students engages them in the learning process and improves memory retention. This could also be an effective strategy to curb the energy of an active class.

Classroom management is aimed at ensuring that the teacher remains in control of the process and that students continue to pay attention. Successful classroom management allows the teacher to concentrate on learning without being distracted by discipline problems. Suggested techniques include picking students randomly, so that there is no feeling that someone is being picked on, using humor to diffuse a problematic situation, or using a classroom seating chart.

Secondary school teachers should create student-centered classrooms. Their lesson plans should focus on student-directed instead of teacher-directed instruction. Students in secondary schools require innovative and motivational strategies to prompt them to take responsibility for their learning. Teachers are advised to make use of active learning, or stimulating students to take part in the learning process through class discussions, case studies and role playing, for example. Teachers should also use technology in their presentations.

With the wide adoption of computers, productivity tools like word processing programs, databases and telecommunications are starting to make their way into the classrooms of secondary schools. The process is positive for teachers and students in a number of ways.

Telecommunication productivity tools allow students to stay in touch with their classmates and teachers when not in the classroom, while teachers are able to provide material as well as individual and group assistance online.

Word processing systems with track editing software, meanwhile, give students the opportunity to submit their school assignments electronically. Teachers then can edit the paper within the system and send the edited version to the student to correct. This program can be useful for students in need of additional assistance.

Productivity tools also help get students ready for employment as they have come to play a significant role in the workplace.

Online programs also help teachers provide feedback. With them students can receive their marks right after finishing a task, or see their right and wrong answers along with an explanation.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Essential Career Guide to Becoming a Middle and High School Teacher
Robert W. Maloy; Irving Seidman.
Bergin & Garvey, 1999
Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach: A Handbook for Secondary School Teachers
Alan J. Singer.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Teaching
Justin Dillon; Meg Maguire.
Open University Press, 2001
Teaching in a Secondary School
Robert Griffin.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Learning to Teach in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience
Susan Capel; Marilyn Leask; Tony Turner.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2001 (3rd edition)
The Learner Centered High School: Prescription for Adolescents' Success
Reilly, David H.
Education, Vol. 121, No. 2, Winter 2000
Teaching Secondary Mathematics
Douglas K. Brumbaugh; Jerry L. Ashe; David Rock; Donna E. Ashe.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Teaching Secondary English: Readings and Applications
Daniel Sheridan.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Social Studies for Secondary Schools: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach
Alan J. Singer.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1997
Experiencing School Mathematics: Traditional and Reform Approaches to Teaching and Their Impact on Student Learning
Jo Boaler.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002 (Revised edition)
Teaching Adolescents in Secondary Schools: The Principles of Effective Teaching in Junior and Senior High Schools
Harry N. Rivlin.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1961 (2nd edition)
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