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Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:51 PM

Teaching in 2012 - Teachers...Is It Worth It?

Greetings, my first time participating in this group.

I'd like to address the question in the title to teachers at any level who'd care to respond. My situation is this - I'm 38 years old and will be returning to school full time in Spring to pursue a BS degree in Biology. For the past 10 years, I've worked pretty successfully as a technical IT trainer (mostly software, some hardware). For the most part, it's been enjoyable but I'm losing interest in it and have hit a ceiling in terms of advancement.

Luckily I'm in a position thanks to having a wife that makes good money and GI bill benefits to return to school full time and finish my degree (I have about 30 hours of courses done before I joined the military). I've always been interested in the sciences and decided that if I were going to go back, it would be to get a degree in a field I'm interested in. My longer term goal is to finish my masters with a focus on botany or environmental conservation. After I finish my undergrad, I had considered teaching at a high school level while I finish my masters and have heard through friends that my city (Baltimore) has a shortage of qualified science teachers.

So that's that.

All that being said, I have few friends in the K-12 education field and most of them seem to hate their jobs, most commonly citing fights with school management over issues like actual education over being forced to teach for standardized testing and things like that. Baltimore is also a (maybe?) strange cosmos where our public schools are fairly horrible and anyone who can afford to do so sends their children to private schools - as a teacher, is there a notable difference in the quality of the job in a public vs private capacity?

I guess the bottom line question for me to those of your who are currently teach is -
A) Is it worth it
and
B) Would you enter the K-12 teaching field again if you got a do-over?

21 replies, 1634 views

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Teaching in 2012 - Teachers...Is It Worth It? (Original post)
NeedleCast Dec 2012 OP
Smarmie Doofus Dec 2012 #1
erinlough Dec 2012 #2
Smarmie Doofus Dec 2012 #13
duffyduff Dec 2012 #16
NeedleCast Dec 2012 #17
NeedleCast Dec 2012 #3
narnian60 Dec 2012 #4
4_TN_TITANS Dec 2012 #5
mbperrin Dec 2012 #6
montanto Dec 2012 #7
duffyduff Dec 2012 #8
MichiganVote Dec 2012 #9
kwassa Dec 2012 #10
roody Dec 2012 #11
noamnety Dec 2012 #12
duffyduff Dec 2012 #14
noamnety Dec 2012 #15
NeedleCast Dec 2012 #18
PasadenaTrudy Dec 2012 #19
LWolf Dec 2012 #20
proud2BlibKansan Dec 2012 #21

Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:28 PM

1. Welcome. I retired this year so I'm technically not supposed to answer.

But that's never stopped me before.

A. Your friends in the field seem to be a representative sample. Most teachers now hate teaching; my guess is because it isn't "teaching" anymore, but rather.... pretty much what you described. Or more specifically, what THEY described to you.
We're speaking of PS teaching here. The schools that are being eeerhhh, uhhhmmmmm.... eeeehhhhhhh..... *reformed*. By the Obama administration.

I really have no idea what its like in private school and I imagine they ( the working/teaching/learning environments) vary widely.

Typically, private school teachers are not permitted to join unions, which means you serve at the pleasure of your administrator. Some folks are comfy with that. I could NEVER be.

Is it worth it? Not to me.

B. No. I miss the kids and some co-workers but not the "work" . Again, it's no longer teaching. It's "complying"; meaning, trying to satisfy a byzantine maze of bureaucratic regulations and mandates so one doesn't get in trouble. This is the Obama administration's idea of public education. A brave new world, indeed.

C. You didn't specifically ask for advice, but I'll give it anyway: don't do it.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:38 PM

2. Smarminess, we are in exactly the same place and your post is right on the mark.

For the first time in my life I have advised friends to discourage their children from going into education. There is not much of a future in my opinion and who wants to go into arofession where
you start off being the bad guy?

That is what has happened in education and one of the reasons I left it. It is a hard enough job without being criticized for it constantly.

By the way I loved teaching for 30 of my 38 years in it and still love the kids, it s just impossible to do what is being asked of teachers now. On top of that my passion was Special Education, and I was good at it. Those kids are now not wanted in classes by anyone, when the teachers job depends on test scores. I couldn't watch it happen anymore.

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Response to erinlough (Reply #2)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:56 PM

13. One of the absolutely most brain-dead features of the "reform" movement...

... is its insistence that all kids are the same. It's the sort of bogus piety an idiot politician finds easy to mouth but it has implications for lots of kids... especially sp ed kids.... that are absolutely *criminal*.

All kids are NOT the same and the educational needs of a Down Syndrome 15 year old with an IQ of say , 40, ARE NOT THE SAME as the educational needs of a typical gen ed 9th grader.

Yet the Common Core makes no distinctions. The Down Syndrome kid must be taught Algebra because that's what 15 year olds are supposed to do.

In spite of the fact that he/she can't tell time or count change. Or even count to ten.

I'm not kidding. I'm not making it up. That's what's being done in NYC right now. Kids who can't count to ten must be taught Algebra. Or the teacher must go thru the motions of teaching him/her Algebra. Because that's what the CC says.

Teachers are actually being required to do this.... and then they are required to *DOCUMENT* it.

The insulation (i.e. absolute willful, obdurate ignorance) of the people who are making these judgements from the *consequences* of them ensures a never-ending nightmare scenario for school "reform".

The OP wants to deal w. this mentality? I think not.



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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #13)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:06 AM

16. "Common Core" is Bill Gates-style hogwash

and designed to "weed" kids out as early as kindergarten so that only a few will be college bound while the rest are "tracked" into the low-paid jobs of the future.

It's quite literally a tool to create a caste system in the United States.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #13)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 12:00 PM

17. Wow, very interesting

As I mentioned, I've worked as a technical trainer for over a decade now and one of the things any good trainer comes to realize very quickly is that people learn differently. We see people who learn best in lab situations, people who can read and retain documentation-only training, etc. etc.

Again, thanks for the information. This sounds less and less like something I'd be able to do.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 01:56 PM

3. Thanks very much for your candid answers

I'll definitely take them into consideration. Thanks again!

Your B. is particularly troubling and doesn't sound a good fit for me.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 03:24 PM

4. Texas teacher here-3 yrs. retired.

A) No B) No (if things would go back to the way they were in the early 80s-then yes!)

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 04:02 PM

5. Husband of a 20 yr. Tennessee K-8 music teacher.

It might be different for other subjects, but my wife has spent many years in fear of budget cuts and the day they decide music is no longer a worthwhile subject. It's not for everyone, but to that percentage of kids who will eventually pursue if further, it means everything. At least it's a subject that can be made to be 'fun'.

I think like the other teachers here, she would not recommend it as a new career choice these days, but if that's what you are born to do, what do you do?

It can be very rewarding but comes with tremendously under-appreciated responsibility.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 04:36 PM

6. I would definitely recommend it, with the following provisos:

1. There will be some bad days, as in any job.
2. If you will ask yourself this: How will this help kids? and if there is no answer, don't do that.
3. In those cycles like now, which are a generally down cycle, work to the contract for management and do what you need to do for kids.
4. I'm in my third decade, teach in the neighborhood I live in, and get my day made every day by bumping into former students who thank me for one thing or another, rarely related to course content.

So ignore or circumvent the bad, pretend to do what they want if it's bad for kids, always do what's good for kids, and enjoy yourself. I worked in banks, the oilfield and insurance before teaching, and this is the only satisfying job I ever had.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 04:45 PM

7. 15 year current teacher here.

Inner city LA. My advice is that it depends on your constitution. Your friends nail the main problem for most of us. The struggle between management (Admins, testing, unfunded mandates) and serving kids. If somehow you don't feel any heat from those forces then maybe you would be ok. Things have changed a great deal even during my time on the job. We have become more and more personally responsible for failures that are largely caused by poverty. The press is down on us, the citizens hate us, more and more high stakes tests that threaten to impact our wages and our ongoing employment, less and less control of curriculum and delivery (unless you are brave and defiant). On the other hand, the kids need us and we provide for them. Some of us defy when and where we can, to deliver what kids really need, not just what the state says. Some of us become so attached to helping that it is hard to give up. That said, if I could do it over, and knowing what I know now, I wouldn't. It isn't worth it. The gains are too small even with heroic effort, and one person's ill considered change can undo months of careful (unpaid for) work. I work 12 hours a day, I get paid for 7 of them. I generally work all but 2 weeks of my vacation time (unpaid). I pay for all kinds of supplies out of pocket. I know what I produce in and for kids, but am told that I am a failure on a regular basis. In fact, though I am only mid career (and BTW I returned to teaching at 35), I am looking for an exit strategy. The kids need me, which makes it a tough decision, but the stresses are too high, the rewards virtually non-existent.

I came with the thought that being smart, motivated, and concerned was enough. I've learned a lot: the problem is all of us, and without solving the problems that kids arrive at school with (poverty, two parents working four jobs, no parents at all, very little guidance, street life, etc.), we won't make much of a dent in academic deficiency.

Here in LA, private school is easier, classes much smaller with much greater support in every way, but they pay a lot less.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 05:38 PM

8. The answer is "no" to both

The kids are not the problem and the parents for the most part are not the problem. The biggest problem is with administrators who are not held accountable for their actions.

The longer you are in the field, the harder it is to avoid the sociopaths in charge. Age discrimination is rampant in the field.

You are treated better in private school, but the pay stinks. Teachers work in these schools because they can't get jobs in public schools. The same is true with charters, which are nothing more than private schools ripping off taxpayer money. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric charters are public schools. They are not.

BTW, there are NO shortages in any field in education; there is still a massive glut of applicants per job nationally. If somehow a school district is hiring, that is a school district to avoid.

Save your money and go into a field that has a future.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 05:55 PM

9. Since you include that you are lucky-better stick with your luck

There is nothing lucky about working for the public schools today, even in more affluent areas. The hours, pay and benefits have always been low. However, there is a deep layer of cynicism, distrust and outright hatred for public employees in schools today. And of course, there is always the possibility of getting shot.

If you have not dealt with at risk youth, you will find it a steep learning curve no matter what you are teaching.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 09:35 PM

10. I mostly love my job.

I teach in Montgomery County, MD, public schools, not that far away.

I am well-supported in my job by my school system, principal, union, and PTA. I would like to earn more money , but...

this has been good for me.

I also teach in an fairly affluent area, though there are kids brought into our schools from poorer neighborhoods. MCPS is big, 140,000 students, 11,000 teachers, which allows them to offer many specialized services. The teacher's union is politically powerful here, and their endorsement critical at election time, so we work in a very pro-education environment. We also rank #1 for narrowing the achievement gap between whites and Hispanic and black students in the entire country.

Maryland as a state is rated number one in the country for public schools. The top-rated county is Howard, and we are right behind them. Baltimore city schools will be a entirely different situation, and I agree with previous posters that great teaching alone is completely inadequate to overcoming poverty. I think as a science teacher it would be relatively easy to find a job in any school system in Maryland. It depends on what you want to do.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:04 PM

11. I'm in year 16 of public elementary

school teaching. We have a good union and a union shop. The reward is spending the day with children.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 10:47 PM

12. I'm in year 12 of teaching high school

and I also come from a military background (used to be an army sgt). I switched to teaching in my mid 30's. I took a massive pay cut to do this and have no regrets. I plan on being here another 7 years, then retiring. If I were the sole bread winner in my family I'd be stressed about budget stuff, but my husband's still in the defense industry so he has job security. I can afford to weather the swings from full time to part time to full time plus an extra class.

As for the actual job conditions - I think in some ways it's easier to appreciate the work coming from the military. It's easier to keep things in perspective.

I don't teach a core academic subject so the testing isn't affecting me directly. I love working with the kids, and especially appreciate seeing the differences between when I was in school and nowadays. For instance today kids got off topic on a short gender role discussion, and one of the kids announced to the class that she self-identifies as "gender queer." The fact that she's comfortable announcing that to a room of peers/teens is amazing and awesome.

I teach in a public charter (not a corporate owned or managed one). We're a title one school, with a slightly higher special ed population than the local city schools. Teachers who left our school for other traditional public schools have sometimes tried to come back. The size of the schools was a contributing factor - the larger the staff, the less like a family they become, and support from coworkers is hugely important.

If you have a chance to sub in a few schools, I would recommend that. We've hired some permanent teachers from long term subs, it's a good networking opportunity. But more importantly, it lets you test out the waters and get a sense of what different local schools are like before making a long term commitment to one of them. Subbing sucks, you can't judge the teaching job by that, I hate subbing during my prep hours in my own school. But you can get a feel for the overall climate, especially if you can get into different schools to see differences in how staff and students interact, if classes are so overcrowded that teaching is impossible, etc.

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Response to noamnety (Reply #12)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 12:46 AM

14. Not to pick a fight,

but there is no such thing as a "public charter school." They don't have to be corporate run to qualify as a private school that is set up to get public money.

Charter schools are NOT public schools. There is a LOT more to being a public school than taking taxpayer money.

"Reformers" used to come up with that junk of calling charter schools "public schools," but nowadays the reformers don't pretend these schools to be anything other than private schools that are set up to get public money.

As far as I am concerned, charter schools should have all taxpayer money cut off. If any are any good, let them operate as the private schools they truly are and charge tuition.

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Response to duffyduff (Reply #14)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 07:13 AM

15. Just to clarify

we're chartered by the county public schools, payroll and finances and auditing are handled by the same ISD employees that do all the other public schools in the area, we're unionized, all our employees are state employees like every other school, we do the same testing, we do the same auditing, and all our assets belong to the county school system. There are no private people profiting off the school, and if we closed our doors tomorrow, the building and equipment would be state assets.

The difference between us and neighborhood schools is that we operate like an open enrollment magnet (for kids with an interest in the arts, and they don't need to live within a specific district to attend). So many schools have cut their arts in favor of keeping sports. We have no sports and instead keep the arts.

And ... I'll let you have the last word if you want it because I don't want to derail this topic any further.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 12:14 PM

18. Thanks All

Some great information from your posts. Giving me a lot of perspectives and a lot to think about. Thanks again!

Are there any public/private school administrators who participate on this group regularly?

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:47 PM

19. My boyfriend

teaches art at a private HS. He loves it. Pay isn't the greatest, no benefits, but he loves his work, which is most important.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:39 AM

20. No.

Simple answer.

I still love students. I still love teaching, when I'm allowed to teach instead of drill and kill for tests.

The rest? If I had seen what teaching would become, I would have run as fast as I could in the other direction.

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Response to NeedleCast (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:30 PM

21. 33 years in urban schools. Still love the kids. The rest of it blows.

I work for idiots. Add stupid state and federal policies and it doesn't always seem worth it. But I get up every day and go to school for the kids. They make all the bad parts tolerable.

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