Rob Dent, Career and Technical Education Teacher, Jack Jouett Middle School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
My biggest current challenge is maintaining organization. This semester I have over 250 students in 12 classes. At any given time I will have dozens of student projects in progress, in addition to all of the tools and supplies that need to be stored, set up, and maintained. My classes are only 39 minutes long, and I have to confess that I do not always allow enough time to clean up and put everything away at the end of a rushed class period!
What is the most common misconception about your job?
I cannot count the number of times people have said how difficult it must be to teach middle school students. I remember that when I was applying for a job, a pair of recruiters from Atlanta were incredulous that I was actually looking for a job in middle school rather than high school. Adolescence can certainly be a difficult time, but the reality is that middle schoolers have the same basic emotional needs and desires as everyone else: they want to feel successful, they want to have fun, and they want to know that we really care about them. When you keep this in mind, they become easier to understand, easier to work with, and easier to reach. And you will see that they are not such a difficult bunch after all.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
Many things in education change from year to year and from decade to decade—learning standards, popular methodologies and pedagogical approaches, educational technology, schedules—but a few things remain constant. Good teaching begins with building good relationships, and good instruction is built on a passion for the content and for the work. Regardless of whatever does change, these things will be just as important in five years and in 55 years as they are today.
What outside experience best prepared you to become an educator?
When I was a teenager, I did a lot of work with and for my father. He taught me countless practical skills—from carpentry and plumbing to roofing and landscaping. The skills I learned through these jobs were valuable, but the most important thing I learned was that, with good instruction and the right mindset, anyone can learn and master just about anything. This is one reason that I moved into career and technical education. I love showing young people how to learn new skills and learn about topics that interest them. If I help a student to realize the pleasure of learning and developing skills and to have the confidence to try new things, I will have done my job.