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« on: November 26, 2008, 03:20:45 AM »

I've noticed that a number of OC.net's posters are public school teachers. Given that, I'm wondering what their experiences have been. I'm currently a doctoral student studying history who has been tutoring in a private boarding school for the past six years. Because I realize the academic job market is pretty ridiculous (i.e. I could probably get a job teaching western civ to a class of 120 at the university of southeastern north dakota), I've decided to do a year long teacher training program (at a college with a fantastic mission, I might add)  to certify me to teach high school. Besides that, I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching high school kids...even when they do aggravate me beyond belief.  So, what would you say I'm up against? What have been your joys and sorrows in the public school system?
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2008, 07:50:26 AM »

I've noticed that a number of OC.net's posters are public school teachers. Given that, I'm wondering what their experiences have been. I'm currently a doctoral student studying history who has been tutoring in a private boarding school for the past six years. Because I realize the academic job market is pretty ridiculous (i.e. I could probably get a job teaching western civ to a class of 120 at the university of southeastern north dakota), I've decided to do a year long teacher training program (at a college with a fantastic mission, I might add)  to certify me to teach high school. Besides that, I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching high school kids...even when they do aggravate me beyond belief.  So, what would you say I'm up against? What have been your joys and sorrows in the public school system?

Depends a lot on what system you are in.  In Chicago the biggest nightmare is the bureaucracy.

Since you are in the same boat as I was (PhD in History) another thing to know is that you may be overqualified, but, as one administrator put it "not have the bureaucratic qualifications."  In my case I got bumped from permanent teacher to cadre substitute over the paperwork, which is being delayed by my never ending battles with the ex and our "judge" in court (please pray for the boys and me, next court date Dec. 5).  But it seems you college will be taking care of that for you.  Do make sure what bureacrat you will be dealing with.

Another thing might be getting used to spending out of pocket.  Even getting pencils you have to do in Chicago.  But you do what you can for the students.

Another thing is that you may have a lot of things (textbooks, etc.) decided for you, which may or may not be a problem. Two years we had a textbook for World Studies that we all hated, but downtown had decided on it.  They had changed their mind (it was a fad), but then, because of cost, you are stuck with the books for quite a while.

Under the joy and sorrow category is dealing with students whose parents don't care, but you demonstrate that you do.

Joys?  Well, there's that moment when you see that they "get it."  And when, years later, some student sees you out on the street somewhere and goes out of their way to chase you down just to say hello.

Btw, I think I've mentioned it before here somewhere, but I had the bizarre experience of spending the summer in Cook County Jail (contempt of court) and finding respect for teachers that I haven't seen in all my years teaching elementary to University.  One inmate told me "you tryin' to uplift our youth."
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2008, 12:01:43 PM »

Bogo,

Where do I begin?  First off, so much depends on the school district you work for and also what area you plan on teaching. 

I'll start off first with the negatives:
1)  You will have a wide range of students, from very high learners to very low, from very appreciative students to very rude, from very disciplined to very, very undisciplined, those from good families and those from very poor, struggling families.  In sum, you can get the whole spectrum.  And you find that you spend a very good portion of your time dealing with those students who are disrupting class for whatever the reason and, as a result, less gets done in the 45-50 minutes of class you have each day.  And that adds up over teh course of a 180 day year.

2)  You may not have the autonomy you desire. I'm fortunate that I'm the only teacher of my discipline in the district (I teach Latin and Greek) so I can set up the curriculum to what works and to what I want and what the students often want.  Most teachers don't have that and must follow a pre-set curriculum that perhaps has been unchanged for the past 10 years!

3)  Politics.  It's always there, sorry.

4)  Paperwork.  So much time goes into bureaucratic, redundant paperwork.  This includes referral forms (tardy, absences, behavioiur), SPED sheets (we call them rainbow sheets), SAP (student assistant team) referrals, etc.  This can really add up.

5)  Contact with parents because of a bad incident.  Most of the time parents are very appreciative and thankful that you let them know about such things, but then there are those for whom their kid can do no wrong and then assume you're out to get them.

6)  You realize just how dumbed down society has become by observing students' behaviour in the halls.  You want to do something about it, but, in the end, it becomes a losing battle.

7)  No matter how good a job you do, there are always mediocre colleagues that always seem to get the accolades that you deserve.  It gets frustrating.

Cool  Depending on the school district, you may or may not have access to basic technological needs.

9)  Depending on the school district, you may have to comply with a grading protocol that doesn't assign 0s or gives students an exorbitant number of chances to make up work, missed tests and quizzes, etc.

Positives:

1)  As corny as it sounds, at the end of the day, you know you did something worthwhile.

2)  I've developed long-lasting relationships with any number of my students and their families.

3)  You get to do far more than teach your subject but mentor these students about life and general.

4)  The hours are great.

5) I'm fortunate to have a good pension plan and benefits plan.

6)  It gives you a chance to be creative and try new things.

If this is something you wish to do, let me give you one lasting piece of advice:  Never take your work home with you.  That includes papers and also any emotional baggage.  Home is not school, ever!

Hope this helps and good luck to you.
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« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2008, 01:56:48 PM »

Quote
So, what would you say I'm up against?

NCLB.
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2008, 02:37:00 PM »

Quote
So, what would you say I'm up against?

NCLB.

What is NCLB? 
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« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2008, 02:39:27 PM »

Quote
So, what would you say I'm up against?

NCLB.

What is NCLB? 

No Child Left Behind.
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2008, 03:24:39 PM »

If your question is not only for those who are in secondary education but also for college teachers, I might add a $0.02. Smiley

I teach at a small state-run university in the Deep South of the USA. My biggest problem in the classroom is very low level of preparation of students. Sorry if it sounds rogh, but I can second what one of my colleagues once said, at a moment of despair: "Sometimes I have a feeling that I am teaching cows." Between one-third and one half of my freshmen-sophomore non-majors are completely unteachable, and many of them not because they are lazy or wanton, but because they never learned anything in secondary school and they have absolutely no idea about how to study (I mean not as much "study skills" as just the "intellectual pursuit" as such). It seems that this proportion keeps increasing.

This may have to do with the fact that our university does not have very strict admission criteria - admission rules are so fuzzy that, essentially, anyone who has a high school diploma can get in. Also, we charge relatively small tuition fees, compared with other universities, so we always get a rather high proportion of kids from poor families where reading, learning, studying are "terra incognita."

On the positive side, there are ALWAYS good, bright students, the ones who really learn and change in front of your very eyes. Even in my worst classes, there were always 3-4-5 kids per lecture class of 55-60 or 1-2 kids per lab class of 15-18 who were incredibly interesting and who truly brightened my days.

One positive thing about schools like ours, compared to high-ranking, rich private schools may be that in a university like mine, a professor has the option of failing a student if the student does badly. In some "posh" private schools there is no such option if a student has wealthy parents who donate a lot of money to the school. One very good professor from a private university in the Southeast (not quite Ivy League but close) told me that virtually every semester, when he enters an "F" grade into the grade sheet, he receives a note from the school authorities that this or that student must be re-evaluated, because that student's financial value for the university is outstanding. And it's not a suggestion but, rather, a command. I never experienced this in my poor shabby state college.Smiley I don't even know how I would handle this, because I find it extremely humiliating for a teacher.
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2008, 04:04:15 PM »

Thanks all for you replies!

Heorhij,

I've experienced a similar situation at the large state university where I am currently a TA. My classes have ranged from 60 to 130 students and on the average a maximum of 10% of the students do work that could be considered good to excellent. In the 100 level class I TA for now, I'd say that percentage is much lower owing to the fact that the professor demands little and offers less in terms of academic rigour. It seems most of the students come to university lacking a basic knowledge of essay composition, general writing skills, or how to prepare for a test. Those are the types of things I work on, along with content knowledge in English and history,  with the kids I tutor at a very posh boarding school. I'd say the majority of my high school students are better essayists and have better study skills than the students in the 100 level university class I TA for now. I suppose those are the types of skills parents expect their kids to acquire at a high school that charges 43k a year.
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2008, 05:00:11 PM »

One very good professor from a private university in the Southeast (not quite Ivy League but close) told me that virtually every semester, when he enters an "F" grade into the grade sheet, he receives a note from the school authorities that this or that student must be re-evaluated, because that student's financial value for the university is outstanding. And it's not a suggestion but, rather, a command. I never experienced this in my poor shabby state college.Smiley I don't even know how I would handle this, because I find it extremely humiliating for a teacher.

I would have thought the "F" stood for "Financially Fabulous".
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« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2008, 06:17:19 PM »

Heorhij, whenever you're having a bad day, tell me and I'll bug you about this or that Microbiology concept, since I have to take it all over again come ISU! Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2008, 06:50:30 PM »

Good question, and good answers. I am contemplating completing my M.S. in Education (I have 21 hours completed) with alternative cerification program and doing library science (I'm a total bookworm!). In many ways I wonder if this would yield me a better career path than what I am doing now.
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« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2008, 10:17:11 AM »

Librarians are always in demand, mainly because the position doesn't pay as well as other certified positions. You can generally expect to make about $2000-5000 less than the starting teacher's salary your first year as a librarian. After all, we're just paying you to read all day. Oh, and make sure the books come back. And work the register during lunch. And supervise a class if a teacher has an emergency. Or the secretary--you might have to do her job occasionally. Ah, yes, and there's the matter of keeping records; all the teachers will give you their grade books at the end of the year. And you'll have to fill in for our ISS teacher also. And teach art. Art this year will be fifth period every day in the library.

Welcome to your new job. Grin
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« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2008, 03:38:47 PM »

Good question, and good answers. I am contemplating completing my M.S. in Education (I have 21 hours completed) with alternative cerification program and doing library science (I'm a total bookworm!). In many ways I wonder if this would yield me a better career path than what I am doing now.

As a librarian, you could always wake up homeless people who fall asleep in a public library or help out students at a college library.   Wink
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2008, 03:47:28 PM »

You could also try specialized libraries.  I'm a librarian in a large law firm.  It's a very different animal than a public library or even an academic one.  We do alot of legal research and with the ever changing legal world, you have to stay on your toes and in the loop in order to have the most up-to-date (and cost effective!) resources in your collection.  It's a fantastic career if you're cut out for it Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2008, 03:54:47 PM »

You could also try specialized libraries.  I'm a librarian in a large law firm.  It's a very different animal than a public library or even an academic one.  We do alot of legal research and with the ever changing legal world, you have to stay on your toes and in the loop in order to have the most up-to-date (and cost effective!) resources in your collection.  It's a fantastic career if you're cut out for it Smiley

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« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2008, 02:32:27 AM »

Librarians are always in demand, mainly because the position doesn't pay as well as other certified positions. You can generally expect to make about $2000-5000 less than the starting teacher's salary your first year as a librarian.

It has to be better than the pay for social work. I have a bachelor's degree and 21 hours of master's degree and make around $24k a year--every year that I work here since there is no such thing as a raise.

After all, we're just paying you to read all day.
If only this were true. . .

Oh, and make sure the books come back. And work the register during lunch.
I can do this. . . I managed a coffeehouse and snackbar when I was in college.

And supervise a class if a teacher has an emergency. Or the secretary--you might have to do her job occasionally. Ah, yes, and there's the matter of keeping records; all the teachers will give you their grade books at the end of the year.
Right after college I spent three years as an office manager at university psychology department. If I can keep everything in order for 9 professors, 200+ majors, and balance the department budget evey year in between making exams, grading homework, managing 7 workers, and advising/counseling the students, I think I can handle this. 

And you'll have to fill in for our ISS teacher also.
I work with mentally ill people. . . and I've been a substitute teacher. . . not too much scares me.
And teach art. Art this year will be fifth period every day in the library.
I'm good at art. This part sounds fun. Wink

Welcome to your new job. Grin
Thanks. . . Cheesy

You could also try specialized libraries.  I'm a librarian in a large law firm.  It's a very different animal than a public library or even an academic one.  We do alot of legal research and with the ever changing legal world, you have to stay on your toes and in the loop in order to have the most up-to-date (and cost effective!) resources in your collection.  It's a fantastic career if you're cut out for it Smiley
That does sound interesting. . . I like research. Mostly I'm just looking to minimize any schooling required to change careers. I can't afford to quit working while I attend school. If I could afford to not work, I'd probably take a few years and become a radiology tech. The cost of the program is between ten to fifteen thousand (at a local hospital) and the average pay is something like twenty thousand above what I make now.
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« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2008, 07:24:29 AM »

Well hey, if that didn't scare you, by all means, go for it.

By the way, the art class thing was real. Last year one of our students who couldn't behave himself in art class was permanently reassigned to an independent study in the library reading about art history and writing essays based on his research. I thought it was a creative and effective solution. We still joke with our librarian about it, but hey, whatever it takes to get these kids to fulfill our standards and graduate.
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« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2008, 11:00:39 AM »

Good question, and good answers. I am contemplating completing my M.S. in Education (I have 21 hours completed) with alternative cerification program and doing library science (I'm a total bookworm!). In many ways I wonder if this would yield me a better career path than what I am doing now.

I've thought of that myself.  It would be worth it to finish the MS and if you end up getting a library science degree in addition, you can always apply for the county libraries.  They typically want someone with a Master's and they typically pay better than schools. 
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« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2008, 06:22:15 PM »

I've thought of that myself.  It would be worth it to finish the MS and if you end up getting a library science degree in addition, you can always apply for the county libraries.  They typically want someone with a Master's and they typically pay better than schools. 

And just think. . . it would be books, books, books. . . and RESEARCH!!! What could be better?  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2008, 09:03:29 PM »

I've thought of that myself.  It would be worth it to finish the MS and if you end up getting a library science degree in addition, you can always apply for the county libraries.  They typically want someone with a Master's and they typically pay better than schools. 

And just think. . . it would be books, books, books. . . and RESEARCH!!! What could be better?  Grin
Well, that's basically my job, so you won't get any argument here. Grin
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« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2008, 09:08:13 PM »

It is interesting to read the posts here and can relate.  I am public school teacher in
an economically-challenged ethnically-diverse high school.   I like it a lot, but it
is not so easy.  Some advice:

1) Assume the student has no interest in your subject (mine is history).  I had a
friend who left the public schools because the kids were not interested in learning
his subject.   Therefore, assume the student does not want to be there, and if he
is interested, it's a bonus!

2) Don't be scared to use a persona.  I am not too good at this one myself, but
be prepared to act mean at the beginning and then ease up.  Your life will be much
easier.

3)  The pressure to pass students is strong, due to funding issues.
Don't blame the administration, it is way beyond that.  It is much more of
an ethical challenge than I ever thought.   Other posters addressed that well here.
I havn't taught long enough to give any good advice to this one.  

4) Stand up for your students.   A temptation is agree with the teachers and complain
about the students.  Instead, advocate for your students, even ones you don't like.
When Jesus said to love your enemies, he wasn't kidding.

5) Don't worry about your personal witness.  Your beliefs will come out without you
trying to.  Class is not a place to prostelytize, but don't be too scared of the ACLU.  
I have an small icon on my desk.    I've showed kids wearing rosaries what they were.
I ask Muslim kids about their faith.  Be yourself, except with a persona (If that makes any
sense; believe it or not, it does.)

6) Teaching is life as it is supposed to be lived.  Wait, an important caveat:  Teaching
the downtrodden is life as it is supposed to be lived.  The Christian life is not supposed
to be easy.  It is exhausting in many ways, frustrating, and challenging to your values.  Rather than
try to imitate Christ or the saints, most Americans want, firstly, comfort.  My friend who
left teaching was looking for a disciplined group of students intently listening and interacting
with a mentor.  Even if he had found such a group, he would have done a job.  Teaching the challenged kids is service.  But . . .

7) Certain colleagues are worse off than you.  The people I admire most are those who deal with
the really challenging kids.  These include vice principals, guidance counselors, and even health
workers.   They usually cut my class, and are a pain when they are present.  I see them at most
an hour a day.  These people have to deal with them extensively.  

If you are up to the challenge, teach.  It is anything but boring.

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« Reply #21 on: December 05, 2008, 07:45:35 PM »


6) Teaching is life as it is supposed to be lived.  Wait, an important caveat:  Teaching
the downtrodden is life as it is supposed to be lived.  The Christian life is not supposed
to be easy.  It is exhausting in many ways, frustrating, and challenging to your values.  Rather than
try to imitate Christ or the saints, most Americans want, firstly, comfort.  My friend who
left teaching was looking for a disciplined group of students intently listening and interacting
with a mentor.  Even if he had found such a group, he would have done a job. Teaching the challenged kids is service.  But . . .
7) Certain colleagues are worse off than you.  The people I admire most are those who deal with
the really challenging kids.  These include vice principals, guidance counselors, and even health
workers.   They usually cut my class, and are a pain when they are present.  I see them at most
an hour a day.  These people have to deal with them extensively.  

If you are up to the challenge, teach.  It is anything but boring.

Good post! Cheesy

Right now I work with mentally ill adults, and my priest told me that what I do is a type of alms-giving. Of course, that doesn't excuse me from further alms-giving. Wink
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