T Nation

Question for Teachers

What do you like about your profession? What is it about your profession that might make you wish you hadn’t gone into teaching? And lastly, what advice would you give to someone looking to go back to school and enter the field?

I’ve been a Firefighter for fifteen years now, and I’m starting to plan ahead for what I’d like to do next. Being a firefighter is great, and I love the job, but I don’t want to do it forever and I’m not interested in jumping off of a truck past the age of 50 or 55 at the latest. What I did learn in the fire service though, is that I love to teach. I’ve taught both lectures and practicals at our fire academy each year, as well as teaching fire safety and prevention in the schools to elementary kids.

I’m 37 years old, and I just enrolled at my local community college to get the ball rolling. Any advice from people already in the profession would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

Is it the ‘teaching’ you like, or working with kids? If it’s just teaching, maybe you could go into corporate training. Teaching classes to adults that want to learn is a lot more fun/easier than to kids that think you’re a tool.

You could possibly even use your firefighting knowledge and skills to teach others that…I’m not sure…just brainstorming here, but you could teach CPR to group classes, etc…

I’m not a teacher. My brother and sister taught for 10 years each and I heard lots from them. I’ve volunteered with kids for 12 years no in area sports programs. There is no way I would work with kids for longer than 10 weeks without losing my mind. Then again, I have a short attention span.

Come to Cali, you start making $70k BEFORE benefits, free healthcare for you and your family FOR LIFE, and you cannot be fired no matter how incompetent or inept you might be.

Case in point, last year, a teacher here was arrested for putting his kids in bondage, videotaping them, and then feeding those kids cookies covered in his own semen. Still not fired.

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

[/quote]

You mean to tell me the maker of RAPEAXE! is molding the young minds that are the future of America???

I have been teaching at the undergrad level for nearly 20 years now and I love it. There is no greater satisfaction then knowing that you are helping to spread knowledge to the next generation and help guide young men and women, or kids if you are thinking about high school, on their way to fulfill their dreams. I agree completely with what DB said: the students come first. Always. You have to set aside your personal feelings and often what others want in order to best serve your students. Always remember what your role is: to teach a certain subject. If you are teaching a subject that will have your students possibly dealing with controversial topics, like a writing class or a social science class, remember that you are not grading your students on whether or not they agree with you. For example, say you are having your students write a research paper and two students write about religion: one pro and one con. As long as they both use proper grammar and sentence structure and research the topic well and provide evidence to back up their theses, then they both deserve an A despite your personal views on religion.

That being said, I am leaving my job as a professor for a job in a research facility, private or public. My reasoning for this is that I am tired of the administrators trying to dictate how classes are taught. I, and the rest of my department, have been under a lot of pressure from the administration to lower our standards in our classes to help increase the number of students who get their degree in physics. In a standard freshmen class, we generally have about 150-200 students declare physics as their major, but only about 20-30 of them ever actually get their degree in physics. The main reason for this is that physics is a very hard degree to get, even just an undergrad degree, which leads a lot of students to pursue less rigorous degrees that often lead to better salaries then they would be looking at with a physics degree. The problem is that we have already watered down the curriculum more then we should, to the point where most incoming grad students have to retake undergrad courses in math and physics before they start working on graduate level courses. That is why I will be leaving my university, and the country most likely. There is not a lot of money in the US for physicists right now, for salaries or research, which is why Fermilab has had to shut down it’s particle accelerator, and I am just plain getting better offers for positions at labs overseas. Right now it is looking like either Switzerland, China, Japan, or Australia will be my new home.

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

[/quote]

You mean to tell me the maker of RAPEAXE! is molding the young minds that are the future of America???[/quote]
Where do you think the Research and Development wing of RAPEAXE!!! is?

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

[quote]super saiyan wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

[/quote]

You mean to tell me the maker of RAPEAXE! is molding the young minds that are the future of America???[/quote]
Where do you think the Research and Development wing of RAPEAXE!!! is?[/quote]

TROLOLOLOLOLOL

8 years ago I left the business world to become a public school teacher. I have spent all 8 of my years teaching math and science to 4th and 5th graders at a low income, high-risk school.

What do I like? I love the subject. I am passionate about math and science. For me it is the subject material that gets me excited. I’m not a big lover of children. If I wasn’t teaching math and science I wouldn’t be working with kids. I very much enjoy the theories and practice of learning. I love taking a concept and creating a lesson that results in someone understanding something they didn’t understand before. I enjoy looking back on an activity or lesson and figuring out ways to tweak it so that the concept is better understood by the students. And there is something noble about the profession. Or, rather, the profession has the potential to be nobly.

What do I dislike? Get ready. This list can go on forever. I have worked in huge corporations and for small businesses. When I was in college I even spent some time working for the Federal Government, and I make the following statement without hesitation: Education is the most messed up, bass-ackwards institution I have ever experienced in my life. There are at least 8 levels of people above me, all of which are telling me what to do. Most of the time their instructions and directives clash with each other, and a good portion of the people directing my actions have never actually been teachers. The American education system is fucked up right now…and I mean that seriously. The people in charge are either ignorant of the facts, or lack the political courage to say them out loud. 80% of your job as a teacher is frustration. The trick is to enjoy the other 20% enough to make up for it. I don’t get frustrated with my students because…after all, they are kids. I expect 4th and 5th graders to posses a certain amount of irresponsibility and selfishness. But the parents…holy, fucking shitballs! Before I started teaching I had no idea there was an entire sub-culture in America that had, as its fundamental values, things like excuse-making, playing the victim, and entitlement. We all know irresponsible people, but it has blown my mind just how wide spread it is. A case in point: Last year a 4th grader walked into my classroom, I said “Good morning,” he gave me the finger, said, “Fuck you,” shoved the computer off of the desk then ran over and decked a kid in the face. I had multiple witnesses and the first part of the incident was on video tape since there are cameras in the hallway. I explained all of this to the father and his first words to me were, “Well…what did you do to piss him off?” Now you make take this as an isolated incident, but I assure you it is not. This is a normal experience in our more struggling schools. At meet the teacher night this year a parent introduced herself to me by saying, “Now my son gets his food for free, so you make sure that happens.” I’ll save my rants about the unprofessionalism of my fellow educators for later.

Please spend time in the classrooms before committing to the profession. Find out what it is really like. Find some friends that are teachers and ask them for the inside scoop. It is nothing like the movies. Depending on where you are at, you will have varying levels of freedom in your classroom. Right now I am told exactly what to do every day in my classroom from my district curriculum department. As demands and accountability systems increase, districts are reacting with more control and micromanagement over their teachers, rather than respecting them as professionals that know what is best for their students.

Good luck.

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

[/quote]

DAMN! Well said. I wish more of my high school teachers had had this attitude. In four years of highschool only 2 teachers had that attitude.

[quote]andrew_live wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I teach high school history. I love it. The pay isn’t great and the job security isn’t great either. But I make a difference and when I go to work each day I know I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and I’m contributing to the next generation of Americans that this country is either going to sink or swim with.

One thing you have to understand as a teacher is that your ultimate responsibility is not to the school administrators or the state or even the students’ parents. It’s to the students themselves, so you really need to be dedicated to empowering youths through education to get any real satisfaction out of it.

[/quote]

DAMN! Well said. I wish more of my high school teachers had had this attitude. In four years of highschool only 2 teachers had that attitude.[/quote]
This was really driven home for me by the experience I had while earning my teaching credential. The history teacher I was assigned to shadow around was absolutely fucking horrendous. First of all, his subject matter proficiency was lacking to say the least. But the worst part was his attitude toward the students. He talked down to them, it was clear he didn’t put a lot of effort into his lectures, he didn’t really respect their opinions, and he was downright rude.

The students at that age are more than smart enough to know when they’re getting a raw deal. I think pretty much every kid wants to get to class and dick around all day, but they don’t want a teacher who lets them get away with it. This guy didn’t even give a shit if students cheated on their tests.

I think the lesson to be learned for any and all prospective teachers is to understand that the students, for the most part, DO want to be challenged and they DO have a large concern for the quality of education they get. They don’t want to SAY this to anyone because that sort of attitude isn’t very “cool” when you’re in high school, even though I think most students feel this way. The teacher should create an environment where this sort of attitude is encouraged and expected.

[quote]JSMaxwell wrote:

A case in point: Last year a 4th grader walked into my classroom, I said “Good morning,” he gave me the finger, said, “Fuck you,” shoved the computer off of the desk then ran over and decked a kid in the face. I had multiple witnesses and the first part of the incident was on video tape since there are cameras in the hallway. I explained all of this to the father and his first words to me were, “Well…what did you do to piss him off?” [/quote]

wow! more stories! I think that is terrible but I couldn’t help but laugh. I feel bad for so many kids with bad parents who are setting their kids up to live long, hard lives.

Another story. This isn’t funny, its sad and really got to me. A couple of years ago one of our third graders had the worst thing in the world happen. His stepfather strangled his mother to death in front of the student, dropped the kid off at school, then the stepfather went and hung himself in a garage. Kid had to go live with grandmother. Needles to say this kid was messed up and understandably so. Violent outbursts, throwing things, the whole nine yards. When he got to 4th grade he was in a class and the teacher couldn’t handle him.

I asked to have him moved into my morning class because that group was pretty well balanced, calm, and I knew they could handle it. Plus there is something to be said for bringing someone in to a well balanced “pack” for lack of a better term. We had our problems, but I was able to build a relationship with him. Whenever he had problems I could, usually, get him to calm down. When he moved to fifth grade he would still come by my room every morning to check in with me. He is in middle school now and I haven’t heard how he is doing. He can be whatever he wants to be if he is able to separate what happened in his life from who he is as a person.

[quote]JSMaxwell wrote:
Another story. This isn’t funny, its sad and really got to me. A couple of years ago one of our third graders had the worst thing in the world happen. His stepfather strangled his mother to death in front of the student, dropped the kid off at school, then the stepfather went and hung himself in a garage. Kid had to go live with grandmother. Needles to say this kid was messed up and understandably so. Violent outbursts, throwing things, the whole nine yards. When he got to 4th grade he was in a class and the teacher couldn’t handle him.

I asked to have him moved into my morning class because that group was pretty well balanced, calm, and I knew they could handle it. Plus there is something to be said for bringing someone in to a well balanced “pack” for lack of a better term. We had our problems, but I was able to build a relationship with him. Whenever he had problems I could, usually, get him to calm down. When he moved to fifth grade he would still come by my room every morning to check in with me. He is in middle school now and I haven’t heard how he is doing. He can be whatever he wants to be if he is able to separate what happened in his life from who he is as a person.[/quote]

jesus christ! that is sad.

[quote]Dr.Matt581 wrote:
I have been teaching at the undergrad level for nearly 20 years now and I love it. There is no greater satisfaction then knowing that you are helping to spread knowledge to the next generation and help guide young men and women, or kids if you are thinking about high school, on their way to fulfill their dreams. I agree completely with what DB said: the students come first. Always. You have to set aside your personal feelings and often what others want in order to best serve your students. Always remember what your role is: to teach a certain subject. If you are teaching a subject that will have your students possibly dealing with controversial topics, like a writing class or a social science class, remember that you are not grading your students on whether or not they agree with you. For example, say you are having your students write a research paper and two students write about religion: one pro and one con. As long as they both use proper grammar and sentence structure and research the topic well and provide evidence to back up their theses, then they both deserve an A despite your personal views on religion.

That being said, I am leaving my job as a professor for a job in a research facility, private or public. My reasoning for this is that I am tired of the administrators trying to dictate how classes are taught. I, and the rest of my department, have been under a lot of pressure from the administration to lower our standards in our classes to help increase the number of students who get their degree in physics. In a standard freshmen class, we generally have about 150-200 students declare physics as their major, but only about 20-30 of them ever actually get their degree in physics. The main reason for this is that physics is a very hard degree to get, even just an undergrad degree, which leads a lot of students to pursue less rigorous degrees that often lead to better salaries then they would be looking at with a physics degree. The problem is that we have already watered down the curriculum more then we should, to the point where most incoming grad students have to retake undergrad courses in math and physics before they start working on graduate level courses. That is why I will be leaving my university, and the country most likely. There is not a lot of money in the US for physicists right now, for salaries or research, which is why Fermilab has had to shut down it’s particle accelerator, and I am just plain getting better offers for positions at labs overseas. Right now it is looking like either Switzerland, China, Japan, or Australia will be my new home.[/quote]

Damn, I’m sorry to hear that. We need more smart and productive people around here, not some generic diploma factory cranking out McGraduates.

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

JS,

thank you for sharing your story. I also work in a high risk low income district (except I pay the bills). What you are saying is directly applicable to this place too. I have had friends leave teaching because of the micro management of curriculum. Not to mention, how much cash I have dropped for a new curriculum. Public education really is the most ass backwards of all government entities. It is unfortunate.

The guy that does our safety training classes and handles our emergency preparedness is an ex firefighter/EMT. He also is in charge of public safety concerning fire suppression ect… for Eastern Michigan University.

This seems like a perfect profession for someone like you and he seems to enjoy it aside from dealing with smartass’es like me. I could ask him how he got his start if you like.

[quote]StevenF wrote:

[quote]JSMaxwell wrote:

A case in point: Last year a 4th grader walked into my classroom, I said “Good morning,” he gave me the finger, said, “Fuck you,” shoved the computer off of the desk then ran over and decked a kid in the face. I had multiple witnesses and the first part of the incident was on video tape since there are cameras in the hallway. I explained all of this to the father and his first words to me were, “Well…what did you do to piss him off?” [/quote]

wow! more stories! I think that is terrible but I couldn’t help but laugh. I feel bad for so many kids with bad parents who are setting their kids up to live long, hard lives. [/quote]

At first I misread this as, "Last year a 4th grader walked into my classroom, I said “Good morning,” he gave me the finger, I said, “Fuck you,” shoved the computer off of the desk then ran over and decked a kid in the face.

I was like damnnnnnnnn…

When my brother worked as a teacher he’d bring the kids tests to family dinners. Was great. Can’t remember all the gems, but he’d give a State test where he would provide the abbreviation for the state and the kids would have to write in the state. Examples: LA = Los Angeles, FL = Filly. He was teaching 11th grade History. I know some of the kids were just writing in something so they didn’t have blanks on their tests, but I’m believing some kids out there honestly thought Los Angeles was a state.