A day in the life of a high school teacher: Phil Wade
The Utah Statesman interviewed Phil Wade, who has been an AP English and journalism teacher at Logan High School for 15 years.
Utah Statesman: What got you into teaching?
Phil Wade: I'd mainly say my dad. My dad is a teacher at Weber State University and he would bring home his literature books, and I used to read them when I was younger so I fell in love with literature that way. My grandmother was also a teacher. She was an elementary school teacher and librarian. When I was growing up, I would go to her little library quite a bit and read books, and she was always buying books for me, and my grandfather was also an elementary teacher for 20 years before he retired and did other things. And there were other ancestors who were teachers as well, so it somewhat runs in the family. I didn't want to be a teacher, which is typical of a lot of people who are children of teachers who become teachers themselves. I went to Utah State University to be an aerospace engineer and got cranked out a teacher.
US: How many students do you have approximately?
PW: Usually around 180 to 200, depending on the load.
US: What's your biggest class right now?
PW: My biggest class right now is my modern novel class. There's close to 50 in that one, but that's a unique class.
US: What's the best part about teaching?
PW: The first answer usually is summer, just because I love it. I love that time with my family. The summer is my favorite part of teaching. The other favorite part I have is just the fact that I'm always learning. I never feel like I'm at the peak of my game. I never feel bored; a little bit with the papers. That's the opposite end of the spectrum. That's what I don't like about the job, is grading the papers.
US: How much time do you spend focused on school?
PW: It varies by the year, but this year I'd say probably 80 hours a week where I'm either worried about school or I'm doing school stuff. It is very intense teaching AP for the first time.
US: How is that going and what's been different about it from regular English?
PW: The difference is, it's great that the majority of the students care. They're really there to learn. And I would say that most high school students in general care enough to want to learn, but the AP kids are much more driven and it's always nice to basically expect something, and typically that expectation is met. That's rare in a regular high school class. You say, “We have this homework due tomorrow,” and maybe half the class will have it ready, if you're lucky, in a general class. In AP, you'll have a few who are not prepared, but that's the exception, not the rule. I enjoy that part of it.
US: What got you into English and journalism rather than something else?
PW: I used to fly. I considered flying for a career for a while, but one of the big things that turned me towards English, journalism and teaching was just the fact that I'd have more time with my family. That really is one of the main things for me honestly. Teaching, with all its headaches and heartaches, is a good job as far as a family job goes. (And) I fell in love with literature. My parents were divorced when I was a kid, and it's a pretty tough thing to deal with when it happens; so many different issues that you have to sort out in your own mind where the family around you is falling apart and you're trying to hold yourself together and your life together. But reading about other people's experiences in literature gave me a broader perspective because I think it's very easy, as individuals, to think, "Woe is me, my life is horrible," but through literature, I learned my life wasn't near as bad as I sometimes thought. I just enjoy the intellectual challenge also, and I love to write. I love to write, I love to read, so when I got up to the university, I decided I'd major in English. The more I looked at what a teacher does, I realized I loved learning. I've always loved to learn, which was the beautiful thing about journalism too.
US: What would you say to those considering a teaching career?
PW: Be prepared for it to be a lot harder than you could ever imagine, but also be prepared to love it. When you put your heart and souls into things, those are the things you end up loving. You hate it too, it's a love hate relationship. With teaching, it's a job that you could always be doing better, you could always be doing more. You'd want to be prepared for that. It's not easy to learn to balance, but you have to learn that.
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