Steven Foxworth is a certified middle and high school social studies teacher. He has the most expertise in economics, having spent three years working at a financial institution as a branch manager. Foxworth graduated from the University of Mobile with his bachelors of science in social sciences, including history, psychology, sociology, and economics. After a few years of teaching, he pursued his Masters in Educational Leadership from Concordia University-Portland while working full-time and taking a full course load. Currently teaching in Polk County, Florida, Foxworth has a decade of experience teaching in both public and private school sectors in every grade from 6th to 12th.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I come from a long line of teachers in my family. My grandmother was an educator for many years, back well before I can even remember, and my mother has been a teacher for over thirty years. She also drove a bus back when there were no automatic transmissions. My father was a teacher and in the military. These are the first examples I had from a childhood of what it is like to work hard to serve others and the community no matter the level of recognition.
I also had many great teachers and coaches throughout my school years to help guide me and impact my life. I remember a band director that was always funny even when he had to be strict. I had a P.E. coach that actually cared about what was going on with me whether it was a relationship in middle school or trouble at home. These teachers helped young people navigate their way through the crazy world of middle school and high school and I think that had a huge impact on my decision to pursue a career in education.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Each day is a bustle to get to school on time or early, as it probably is for most families no matter the career. Many times, there are mini-meetings in the morning when passing a colleague, guidance counselor, or administrator asks about day-to-day procedures or is looking to be proactive about certain issues.
Then the fun begins.
Most school days are a blur for the teachers as well as the kids. Going over the previous day’s work, trying to catch students up who were absent, and then proceeding with the day’s lesson. The lesson often includes a few minutes of instruction followed by constant monitoring and providing help in whatever way necessary. Also, during the instruction time, directions are usually needed to be repeated many times using different verbiage to get students to fully comprehend the tasks required. Before you know it the class is over. Then it is time to provide a few minutes of wrap up and pack up before the students transition to their next class. During this transition time it is an expectation that teachers help to monitor the halls as a deterrent for disciplinary infractions. Although we are teachers and not in charge of discipline, this (in one way or another) falls into our list of daily tasks.
If lesson plans are created properly, students are given an appropriate amount of work for the time period it should take them to complete it. Lunch is often the first break of the day (yes, the first bathroom break since the beginning of the day). In the less than thirty-minute lunch break, teachers at most schools also must walk their students to and from lunch. Once you heat your food and sit down it is time to go back to class with your students. For almost every district there is a planning period built in there, which is not an hour break to relax like I have heard from other people who do not teach, but instead is one hour to take care of business such as grading hundreds of papers, planning the next few days lessons, or going to meetings. Any of these by themselves is much more than an hour’s worth of time.
Finally, when school lets out and the children are safely sent home, it is time to turn your attention away from being a mentor and role model for the students and turn your attention toward your own family. If you have kids, the rest of your days includes going to get them, spending some time with them at home such as preparing a meal, and then cutting family time short to do more school work from home. As I mentioned, planning and grading usually cannot be completed in an hour’s worth of time. This means sacrificing home/family time to dedicate to work (right when you thought you were done with being in school and you are now the teacher, you do more homework than the students).
Better wrap it up because if you don’t get to bed at a decent hour then you’ll fall asleep in class before the kids do!
What part of teaching do you find most challenging?
The most challenging thing for me is teaching discipline and life skills.
I say teaching discipline instead of handing out discipline because I have taught many students that really do not understand the expectations that are put on them and they misbehave because they were not taught to behave in the way we want. Keeping in mind that a middle/high school teacher encounters somewhere between 120 to 160 students under their care daily, it should be no surprise that they were all raised with different understandings of right and wrong and different thresholds for discipline. While some students don’t understand why they get in trouble for cursing, others don’t say anything because they do not want to say something wrong to offend anyone. This disparity makes it difficult in class to set expectations.
School/classroom rules help but it is still difficult to reteach or re-train a young person that you only have for 50 minutes a day. Every night, that student will essentially go home to the family that raised the student to act of behavior the way they do. The important thing to teach in this situation is that there are home expectations and school expectations. At home I might be required to take out the trash, but at school I do not. Similarly, at home a student may use curse words without punishment, but at school, with other students who deserve a high-quality education, there is no place for malfeasance.
Life skills are also difficult to teach. Things like getting along with others or tolerance can cause problems instead of solving them. If certain social skills are not taught at home, then they can be rejected when taught at school. For instance, to apologize when a person is wrong may make sense, but if a student never encounters that type of behavior outside of the classroom, it is extremely difficult for them to accept and then exhibit that behavior. Another example would be how to dress for a job interview. For a family who works from home, the student never witnesses their mom or dad getting ready and then rushing off to work. They may have a different view of how to dress depending on the type of job they are attempting to acquire.
The students who are the most teachable when it comes to learning from their disciplinary mistakes, or learning social skills for those who have experience, have far greater success and happiness in their school aged years.
What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
Teaching is a calling – not a job. To become a teacher, one needs a passion for sharing knowledge, a wiliness to try even when students don’t, and a little divine patience. All of these and more comprise the typical educator.
Robert Frost once said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” This is a rare trait to have and a tough skill to learn. There is a saying that goes “you learn patience in traffic.” This isn’t to say that patient people love traffic, but if you get mad when you are caught in traffic, it will not make things any better. The same goes with students. If you as a teacher cannot set aside your temper when a child gets on your nerves or keep your confidence even when you do not see the improvement you expect in certain students, you are like a person that gets road rage in traffic which does not help you move any faster.
A teacher’s on the job training is how to have classroom management with students when come from different backgrounds and upbringings. Every family teaches respect and behavior expectations differently and as the manager of the classroom, one must try to help each student cope with others. This can daunting task for one person who may be responsible for twenty-five or more children in one room.
According to a recent article by Shane McFeely: Gallup analytics show that 46% of K-12 teachers report high daily stress during the school year. This daily stress accounts for much of the turnover that districts face each year with teachers leaving the profession. Though McFeely cites that many leave for personal reasons like moving locations, many more feel disconnected with their job or lack support and development. After all, the teacher is the authority in the classroom and since they are qualified and certified in their field, they are not
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I have always loved to play sports. Everything from basketball to pickleball, from golf to bowling. Competition can be very good for the soul. It helps a person to learn to set goals, work hard, and see things out to the end even when times are tough (resilience). I also like to work on do-it-yourself projects or small home renovations. Just like a teacher tries to mold or shape young minds, I like to take things that might not be quite right or things that are good and make them into something great.
Finally, the great outdoors and nature. I like to hike, go camping, and even hunt without hunting just to sit in a tree and watch/listen to nature. Humans can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget to stop and take a breath.
Name a few books that you think everyone should read
A Framework for Understanding Poverty – Dr. Ruby Payne
This book explores not only the world of impoverished students in America but also makes a connection between what middle class and upper class think about poverty and reality of poverty. It does mention that there are divisions of class and explains if it is possible to actually move up or down in class system. It also gives a framework for helping all people, especially educators to understand some of the things that people living in poverty in America experience.
Strengths Based Leadership and StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
These two books are used together. They outline who you are as a leader and how to get the most out of the leadership you possess in order to impact the most people. After you identify your strengths, you can then both work on the ones you lack, and better implement the ones you naturally exhibit.
Quiet Strength – Tony Dungy
This book written by an incredible NFL coach explains how he came to be a household name even though he coach with faith based leadership which may not always be the norm for the NFL.
A Passion to Lead – Jim Calhoun
Outlines motivation, success, leadership, and passion that are pillars to the secret to success.
The Duck Commander Family – Willie & Korie Robertson
The husband and wife writers tell a story of how they went from two small town young people to owning a massively successful business and even ended up with a TV show.
The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
Beginning with a test, the book explains five ways that people experience relationships. The test shows what areas you most enjoy from others and not just in a romantic way. Even as a leader or an employee, after reading this book you can start to identify the ways that you are best motivated or they you can better motivate others if you recognize their verbal or non-verbal language.
Lost at School – Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.
The author begins with a story of a young boy in a school where things escalate out of control quickly when the boy does not comply with a rule in class. The author uses this story to point to a larger issue occurring in school, what do you do with difficult students? Dr. Greene gives examples when interacting in these situations and tools to identify the problems.
How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens – Benedict Carey
This book dives into the intriguing area of the mind and how learning and retention works through memory and retention of that memory. It was not only interesting to think of as an adult but also as a teacher to enlighten one to the experience of a student and their classroom performance. Spoiler alert: memory is linked to the connection in learning. Basically the more engaged the student, the better the connection and therefore the easier it is to recall the information.
What do you think it the most vital subject to teach and why?
Each subject has its place.
I think English Language Arts is very important. These days we are losing the ability to communicate with social media. We have lost the rhetoric that once allowed people to share information and ways of thinking.
I think Math is vital. If for no other reason, an adult must be ready to be self-sufficient. To keep a budget and pay one’s bills you have to have more than a job that pays a certain number. It is a lot of balancing and problem solving that sees money not as paper but as numbers.
I think Science is crucial. Understanding how we as humans or we as the planet Earth fit into our ecosystem or solar system is fascinating. Furthermore, how the body works and what to know or ask when you get sick or need to see a doctor. Doctors are only able to treat you because of the beautiful world of science. (good thing they don’t just always guess).
And without going into all of the important non-core subjects, Social Studies is of the utmost importance. I believe that by studying history, politics, sociology, economics and government, you can see patterns, previous outcomes and what events may repeat themselves in the future. While this is not like Marty McFly having an almanac from the future like in Back To The Future, it sure is a way to make pretty astute predictions.