“Undergraduate training prepares you for teaching a little bit, but nothing prepares you for teaching like teaching,” Central Michigan University alum and former elementary and middle school teacher Scott Bitely said.
In his recently published book, “Simmer Down, Mr. C,” Bitely tells the story of first year teacher Ted Carter. The new educator might feel prepared to teach a classroom of students, but realizes it’s not like anything he sees on television.
“TV just doesn’t give a very accurate picture of what teaching is,” Bitely said in an interview. “… And it is a stressful job for six or seven hours a day, you have to make sure things are in order and kids have things to do and you’re being productive … If you’re not prepared and ready for the day, the kids can sniff that out and it will easily end up being a long day.”
Bitely said one of his top priorities was to make the story funny.
“I want people to laugh and enjoy the book so much that they don’t even realize there’s a lesson or two I snuck in there somewhere,” Bitely said.
Reflecting on his own first year experience, Bitely said he had more trials than triumphs his first year of teaching and had a lot to learn.
“One of the things I really needed to learn was to be sensitive,” Bitely said. “I taught third grade and I wasn’t the most sensitive person and that kind of comes through in the book.”
The book is fiction rather than a memoir or autobiography. However, Bitely said a lot of the book is based on the experiences he’s had in the education field.
“There are a lot of similarities,” Bitely said. “Over 15 years of teaching, I had hundreds and hundreds of kids and you see a lot of the same personalities; so, picking material from the students in the book was not hard to do, especially being an elementary teacher. You got nose-pickers and tattletales … Even with … the staff members that are in the book, I certainly pulled form my own experience with people I taught alongside.”
Bitely said the issue of parents and getting along with faculty could help or hurt the way a person feels about their job. Bitely said he knows a lot of other teachers struggle with this at times.
“Parents and principles and things can make a job either much more enjoyable or much more difficult,” Bitely said. “And fortunately, I worked for people that made my job much more enjoyable.”
To grow as a teacher and learn from his mistakes, Bitely would take notes.
“I would write stuff down my first year of teaching,” Bitely said. “I had a thick yellow notepad of paper in my desk as a first year teacher. And every time I thought of something it would make my life easier … I would always write it out.”
Besides having a good laugh, Bitely hopes this book helps aspiring teachers. He said for those who get through their first year of teaching, things will generally get better.
“One thing I would hope for someone who is going into teaching is just to give them a little more of an accurate picture of what the first year is going to be like, especially those first couple of months of teaching,” Bitely said.
You can purchase Bitely’s novel online on his website scottbitely.com or through Amazon.