Talk To Me Like I’m Stupid: Teacher Edition


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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76 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    Teacher certification requirements and a specialization that doesn’t lend itself to K-12 general subjects.

    My father has a masters in economics. He could get a job teaching at a juco, but couldn’t teach high school without going back to school. He looked into it after retiring.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

      Offhand, I’d say that’s because college students learn more like adults. (That is to say, they can supplement an expert’s lack of teaching skills by teaching themselves. K-12? Not so much. In fact, early college not so much…)

      Just because you’re an expert doesn’t mean you can convey knowledge (as anyone who has dealt with experts can attest). And it certainly doesn’t give you the ability to handle a classroom of students who AREN’T paying to be there.

      That’s one thing that gets my goat about the push for ‘subject masters’ to teach high school classes. (Often STEM). Your expertise is, frankly, mostly wasted. Your Master’s in Mathematics is great, and you can do more math than those kids you’re teaching can DREAM of. But in the end, you’re teaching them Freshman Calculus at best (and probably pre-college algebra and geometry instead), and what’s really useful is your ability to….teach.

      Even for specialized electives (like Computer Science — C++ classes or basic web development or such) your teacher only really needs the equivalent of a college class or two on the subject — a hobbyist’s understanding, really — to teach it. Their teaching methods will have more to do with the kids learning than years of expertise that will never come up. I’m a fantastic coder and designer. I’m not teaching 12th graders complicated concepts in “C++ for 18 year olds”. I’m teaching “What’s an object” and “What’s the difference between a variable and an address”)Report

  2. Rose Woodhouse says:

    Works well if your subject is taught at k-12. I’d consider it. But mine isn’t (unfortunately).Report

    • Kim in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      I know I’ve seen schools where philosophy is a high school subject.
      (my school had psych and sociology).Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Kim says:

        If philosophy is ever taught in high schools, it’s a one-off elective, not something they’d hire a full-time staff person for.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Kim says:


        You would have to pair it with a social studies certificate.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Kim says:

        Given that I do not know enough to teach most social studies classes, this shows how untranslatable certain academic subjects are.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kim says:

        Rose, my public high school taught philosophy as a full and repeated course for seniors.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Kim says:

        @leeesq But I bet it was taught not by a full-time staff member, but by someone who taught something else.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kim says:


        You are correct. The course was the honors level social studies course in Senior year and taught by one of the American History teachers.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Kim says:

        More than academic studies.
        I was offered a position as an adjunct almost ten years ago.
        I had three classes; instrumentation theory, control systems (which is a combination of electrical control & pressure switches), and some other class.
        I turned it down because I had relocation in mind (went to be with my sweetheart).
        I think I could probably teach instrumentation theory to high school kids, but I would probably have to have some type of cert to do so.
        Something along the lines of a “Have Socialism, Will March” card. (Just kidding– not like I’m in Boston or something . . .)
        They want to get all STEMmy right until the STEM gets right up in their face.
        Then it’s “Where’s your card?”Report

  3. ScarletNumber says:

    1) They are different skill sets. One doesn’t get tenure at a university because of teaching ability.

    2) I don’t think there is a “dearth” of K-12 teachers. In certain subjects where they are, I see more people with advanced subject degrees teaching middle and high school.

    3) Public schools have to deal with all comers. Someone with a PhD doesn’t necessarily have the temperment to teach special education.Report

  4. Burt Likko says:

    From time to time, I think that I’d like to stop doing this lawyer thing and maybe do something else, something less stressful but still intellectually engaging and that would support the middle-class lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed. Teaching seems like a nice way to go when I’m in those moods — I’m in front of people talking, which I enjoy; in California at least, the pay is pretty decent especially after benefits are considered; I’m already pretty well-educated and could probably pass the certification tests with relatively little study; the schedule, while not accurately described as “relaxed,” would nevertheless be less stressful than litigation.

    I’ve enjoyed interacting with high school kids in the mock trial program where I volunteer, although that’s a bit of a filtered experience since the disinterested and not-really-very-bright kids don’t show up for the extracurricular in which I coach. I have to imagine that, especially with some experience under my belt, I’d probably be a pretty good teacher.

    I see a lot of bureaucracy, though; and I see that there is an abundance of teachers who want to teach liberal arts stuff like history and civics and government, which is precisely where my experience would come in to play. Interacting with parents seems like a source of as much stress for my teacher friends as dealing with the troublesome kids. My teacher friends also complain about having to “teach to the tests,” and stressing out about the measurements of their performance based on the results of standardized student testing. And as I’ve noted as an adjunct teacher at the postgraduate level, it’s not so much the teaching that’s unpleasant to do as the grading — and at the secondary level, there is a lot of grading.Report

  5. Michael Cain says:

    One of the issues is how class assignments are made. A former colleague of mine with an MS in applied math signed on to teach high school math part-time at her kids’ charter school when a company merger eliminated her previous job. She lasted one school year, and her complaint was along the lines of, “The calculus section is always taught by the teacher with the most seniority, even though she’s clueless about calculus other than as a cookbook of rules. The adjuncts who actually know calculus and have real-world experience with it are always relegated to Algebra I and Geometry sections filled with kids who are there only because those classes are required for graduation.” I saw similar things at the local community college: the permanent faculty fought over who got to teach calculus or the one semester of differential equations, adjuncts were relegated mostly to pre-algebra unless they hung on for years.

    I don’t know if math is unique in that or not. But straight math majors do have a tendency to think in terms of “math starts with calculus and goes on from there.” Or as is at least partially true in my case, have gone off into things that most people don’t think of as math at all.Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      My high school math teacher taught as an adjuct at the local community college, teaching calculus (not business calc). So this may not be universal.

      Math starts getting really fun with geometry and calculus, in my experience (well, that and probability. But any child likes games). Algebra is often enough taught so rigidly that the kids don’t get to think about different rulesets, just focus on learning the one in front of them.Report

    • ScarletNumber in reply to Michael Cain says:

      One of the issues is how class assignments are made.

      This is a feature, not a bug.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Michael Cain says:

      But that happens in every profession, doesn’t it? The person with the most seniority tends to land the prize assignment.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky says:

        I guess I was just lucky. Essentially all of my working life was in organizations with flat structure, where everyone was overloaded, where most of the problems/projects that came in were interesting, and assignments were handed out based on some combination of who had a particular skill set and who could fit the work in.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    I’m going to re-iterate certification requirements. Then re-iterate desire, and also that people with professional degrees can more easily adjunct teach that suject (the way I think Mr Likko, Esq, has done from time to time) than more general knowledge ‘core’ subjects.

    Also, the market for elementary through high school teachers is over three times the size as that college level teachers, so we’d need to see three times the number of ‘hey, why don’t I try teaching’ impulses at that level to match the perception of the magnitude of what’s happening in higher education.

    And there is a term for people that dip their toe into the K-12 teaching pool to see how the water is, they’re called ‘substitutes’. There’s also stuff like this, and for that matter, Teach for America (the latter my professional elementary school teacher fiancée hates)Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:


      As I understand it, teachers hate Teach for America because it does not really create teachers. Rather it is aimed at people who well do it for a year or two and have something nice and prestigious on their resumes. Kind of like Top law grads who might do Legal Aid for a year or two before going Corporate.

      Also Teach for America tends to send teachers to areas that need long-timers.Report

    • ScarletNumber in reply to Kolohe says:

      Teach for America (the latter my professional elementary school teacher fiancée hates)

      Your fiancée is correct to feel this way.Report

      • morat20 in reply to ScarletNumber says:

        Teach for America is based entirely on the notion that, with a few weeks of training, anyone can teach anyone anything!

        Which is flatly contradicted by everyone’s personal experience, ever.

        Attended college? You’ve had at least one class with an undoubted expert who couldn’t convey understanding if you held a gun to his head. Had a job? You’ve worked with someone who, while they could do the job, couldn’t explain it or teach you how to do it with a gun to their head.

        In any case, Teach for America is a recipe for burnout anyways. undertrained, underprepared, and often lacking much life experience to even help — and get tossed to the sharks, meaning an experienced teacher has to spend time bailing them out. It’s killer, because if you’re passionate you’re keenly aware your screw-ups are hurting kids.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to ScarletNumber says:


        Exactly right. NYC had a similar program calling Teaching Fellows which was like Teach for America. They used to have ads all over the subway with inspirational slogans like “Take your next business trip on a big yellow bus…” or “You remember your third grade teachers name. Who will remember yours?”

        What the ads did not say is that Teaching Fellows were sent to the most chaotic and underfunded schools in the NYC School System. The luckiest Teaching Fellows were dealing with children with very limited English. The unluckiest ones were sent to the most crime and problem filled schools. They were not sent to the public elementary schools in Park Slope or Carrol Gardens or to Stuy or Bronx Science. So lots of burnout among idealistic but probably sheltered 22 year olds who were undertrained and placed in situations over their head.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to ScarletNumber says:


        Teach for America is based entirely on the notion that, with a few weeks of training, anyone can teach anyone anything!

        I disagree with the word that I bolded. TFA is VERY picky. They think that everyone they accept is up to the challenge, but someone who went to Directional State wouldn’t get a second look.Report

  7. Troublesome Frog says:

    Personally, I enjoy teaching people who are engaged and interested. I don’t really enjoy teaching when a large percentage of my effort goes to keeping people who don’t want to be there on the rails. Teaching kids calculus sounds like a blast. Teaching kids how to be adults is probably an even more important part of the “teaching kids calculus” job, but it’s not nearly as interesting to me.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

      I was a substitute teacher for a few years. You get to specialize a little bit, but not much. I mostly did high school and jr. high, but could end up with pretty much any subject. The exception was that a teacher could request a specific sub, so I could get a good reputation with subjects I liked. The upshot was that I was practically the only substitute teacher who could actually handle calculus. Once I get established with that niche, I got a lot of repeat work. The kids in that sort of class are usually pretty motivated. The routine was that the first time I was in a class, the kids would assume it was essentially a free day, because why wouldn’t they assume this? Then I would dive into the material. The second time in the class the kids pretty much accepted me, and even used me as a resource since I might explain something differently from the regular teacher. And yes, I really enjoyed those classes. But I also lack the knack for motivating kids who are unengaged. This can be OK as a substitute, where if we end the day with no damage to life or property then I have performed the basic requirements of the job, but it doesn’t work as the regular guy.Report

  8. Chris says:

    In addition to the things that others have said, with which I agree, it’s probably worth noting that while some academics are very passionate about teaching, most people do not go into academia to teach. An academic career affords, in fact promotes, the sorts of intellectual work that few other careers, likely including primary and secondary education, make possible, and it’s generally this sort of intellectual work that draws people to academia.Report

    • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Chris says:

      This is true. Which is sad in many ways for post-secondary pedagogy. But I’d say the majority (not the vast majority, though) of people I knew in academia would have chosen a job that allowed them research primarily, and teaching only secondarily. So a job with all teaching, no research isn’t so fun.

      This echoes what some of the others said, but I’ll throw it in anyway. Classroom behavior problem management is a pretty small part of my job as a college instructor, and it’s by far my least favorite. My second least favorite is dealing with unmotivated students. Not that I despise these, they are just unpleasant parts of the job. If I went to most high schools, these would increase.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

      I think one of the reasons I choose to go to a small liberal arts college is because the classes would be taught by actual professors who wanted to teach undergraduates. My professors still published books and did research but they also had to teach undergrads including 18 year old freshmen.Report

  9. Damon says:

    I have a friend who’s a elementary school teacher in a large urban city on the east coast. She’s Russian and the public schools HEAVILY recruited in Russia for these jobs. Then in the Philippines. American teachers didn’t want the jobs. Why? I can only assume it was a combo of low pay/environment/students. I’m sure teachers would much prefer teaching elementary kids in, say this list…

    Below is Forbes’ 2014 list of the richest counties in America:
    Falls Church City, Va.
    Loudoun County, Va.
    Los Alamos County, N.M.
    Howard County, Md.
    Fairfax County, Va.
    Hunterdon County, N.J.
    Arlington County, Va.
    Douglas County, Colo.Report

    • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Damon says:

      Well, jeez, I’m within commuting distance of half of those. Maybe I should reconsider.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Damon says:

      Los Alamos has the highest rate of Phd’s per capita in the nation, and likely a few other nations as well, due to it being a fairly small town with a huge gov’t installation there.
      Seems like two parents with Phd’s translates into fewer unmotivated students, by these lights.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Will H. says:

        Roger Ebert grew up in Urbana, Illinois. Not only were a good number of his classmates the children of professors, but many of his teachers were spouses of professors, since UI had a strict anti-nepotism policy.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Damon says:

      The Douglas County school district has been entertaining for the last few years. The school board has successfully broken the teachers’ union, and currently has a case before the state supreme court to decide if they can use public funds to pay students’ tuition at private schools, including religiously-oriented private schools.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:

    My public high school had a few teachers with PhDs. One in the history department, one in English (he later had his PhD rescinded because they discovered he plagarized his thesis decades after he wrote it), one in the art department (she also did an elective in Art History), and I think my bio teacher had a PhD.

    My thoughts are along these lines:

    1. High School is really the only place where a Masters or PhD level of education can be applied along with the university and grad school level. Do you really need a PhD to teach middle school Latin or French? The desire to teach 18-22 year olds is much different than the desire to teach 5-17 year olds because it is the desire to continue with research and teach specialized knowledge. The courses I took in college had titles like “Paris and London: 1500-1800”, “Problems of Philosophy”, “Jerusalem Above, Jerusalem Below”, “Modern Japan”, “Athenian Tragedy and Democracy”, etc. Even the more general courses like Intro to the American Experience and Renaissance Europe and Sources of World Drama used primary sources and were not surveys. In high school, I had European History which covered everything from the Ancient Greeks to the 20th Century. Only the most exclusive (and very mini-College) of private high schools can have courses like Renaissance Europe.

    2. The Certification thing. This would not apply to private schools but private schools only teach around 10 percent of American K-12 students.

    3. College professors are often very free to design their own courses and syllabuses in ways that K-12 teachers are not. This is especially true in the age of Common Core and standardized testing. Maybe you could entice more PhDs if you let them design an elective or two a semester.Report

  11. j r says:

    Seems that we can have this conversation across two different dimensions.

    We can ask if it is within the capability of every person currently employed or seeking academic employment to identify a corresponding subject, gain the necessary accreditation, and find employment as a K-12 teacher.

    And we can ask, if the first question holds to be true, can we reasonably expect that people who are unsuccessful at finding suitable employment at the post-secondary level ought to go K-12 as opposed to continuing to gripe about the mismatches in the academic job market.

    My uneducated guess for the first question is a yes, in most cases. The second question is more difficult.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


      The griping is what first made me think about this. “I CAN’T FIND A JOB TEACHING!”

      Ummm… ya sure about that?

      I’m trying to figure out why there is such disparate interest for such a large group. People have offered some very informative answers.Report

      • gingergene in reply to Kazzy says:

        As other people have said, I think you misunderstand the complaint- it’s not “I can’t find a job in teaching!”, it’s “I can’t find a job in academia”, and to the people making the complaint, the differences are not trivial.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Indeed. Hence why I needed it dumbed down for me!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:


        The more I think about it, I really think the research is a large part of it. PhD types want to write books and research. The research can be the type of stuff that is really only doable with the resources and time of a college or university. Even at my SALC, the professors got noticed and publicity for their research and publications.

        University professors also have way more academic freedom despite some recent stories than high school teachers. A University Drama Department can do difficult and/or controversial plays by people like Caryl Churchill, Tony Kushner, Suzan-Lori Parks, etc. A HS can generally not. Literature and history professors can also discuss works in ways which are more controversial and/or about the not so great side of humanity.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

        +1 and -1. Absolutely on the controversy; the school district where I live and where my kids did K-12 is one of the ones that’s had a big public spat over the AP American History class. OTOH, at least in this district, there are substantial pay bumps for acquiring an advanced degree after you’re already in the system, and a PhD in education is pretty much a requirement for senior administrative positions.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I buy the research angle, but I’m not sure I buy the controversy angle. With the former, we’re not really comparing like jobs. With the latter, we are, albeit one is preferable to the other. But if you can’t land a university gig teaching controversial plays, why not take the HS gig teaching “Porgie and Bess” (that’s a play, right?).

        I am afforded a great deal of freedom in my independent school. But if I couldn’t get an IS gig, I’d take a public school gig and sacrifice the autonomy before I’d simply go unemployed.Report

      • ScarletNumber in reply to Kazzy says:

        Strictly speaking it is an opera.

        And it is Porgy.Report

  12. Tod Kelly says:

    I think most of what I have read by others here is true, but I think this needs to be added:

    I think amongst the universe of people who were on some track to teach/research/write in higher ed there is a stigma attached to people who choose to go into elementary and secondary education with which they do not wish to be tarnished.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      Re: Point #2

      That is the sense I’m getting from the comments here. Which is interesting. Obviously, I’m biased, but I couldn’t help but read some of them as saying, “That work is too darn hard for someone as smart as me.” Huh? They see it as below them, in part, because they couldn’t cut it.

      More broadly, it stands out to me that people recognize the myriad challenges that K-12 teachers are faced with. And yet we still so often find it so easy to shit on them.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Also, @tod-kelly , did I use TTMLIS properly???Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:


        “That work is too darn hard for someone as smart as me.” Huh? They see it as below them, in part, because they couldn’t cut it.

        That’s part of it, certainly. In my (limited) experience, getting an advanced degree to pursue a career in academia is motivated by some cultural stuff (wanting a job the commands respect and cultural status), some famili-arity stuff (as the years went on I noticed more and more of our tenured profs were children of tenured profs!), some “don’t want to actually work for a living (I mean, let’s be honest here!), and some personal goal/lifestyle/life of the mind stuff (some people are just suited for, good at, and desirous of an intellectually-based work environment). Teaching, as most folks have mentioned (I think) is more-or-less viewed as a requirement and not the goal of an academic career.

        Those different motivations combine in each individual pursuing an advanced degree in various ways, undoubtedly. But a job in academia (the spring conference is in Maui? Yeah!) is very different than a job teaching 6th graders how to write in cursive.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Kazzy says:

        “That work is too darn hard for someone as smart as me.” I don’t think this is 100% fair. Maybe some people think that. I don’t. I fervently believe it doesn’t take more smarts in academia, it takes a lot of practicing a certain kind of work. Reading and writing and research – not teaching. The work in teaching high school would be harder for me because it isn’t the work I trained for. I never once studied pedagogy or trained other another teacher. Not because I’m smarter. I just haven’t practiced it, and I find the differences between high school and college teaching less pleasant – so I’m not hugely motivated to practice it.

        As I said, I would teach high school if they had full-time positions. I wouldn’t be as good at it as some more of the devoted teachers I know. My friends who are secondary teachers have no less smarts (fewer smarts?) than me. They just practiced something different.

        I couldn’t agree more that professors have too much social status and high school teachers have too little.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        I have to mention the flip side of that tho, one which Chris can probably back me up on. One of the things I noticed when I was dabbling in graduate-level neuroscience as an undergrad (and informed my views about that discipline) was the incredibly long hours the profs, the post-docs and the grad students pulled in the lab. Lots of these folks were very ambitious and very much in love with their discipline and weren’t reluctant to put in 70-80+ hour weeks in windowless basements plugging wires into rat brains.Report

      • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        In regards to Still’s question, at least as far as science doctoral level folks, they work super long hours. To get ahead in any hard science doc program and then after you almost have to a bit of workaholic at least for your first few years after your doc. Many post doc’s go from one fellowship or post doc placement to another before getting a semi-permanent job at a uni.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to Kazzy says:

        Humanities folks don’t consistently put in those hours, but it’s clear that they are necessary for continued success. Those who don’t do it can’t publish enough. I think that would be, though, 70-80 hours including teaching responsibilities.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:


        I didn’t see any less drive in newly minted/still ambitious humanities profs, or in ambitious humanities grad students. The thing that killed my interest in pursuing neuroscience wasn’t the time commitments, it was the windowless basements! (Well, that and having to muck with then kill all those rats.. Yrrch.)Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Empirical research is definitely time-consuming.Report

  13. Patrick says:

    Most to reiterate everything everyone else already said, but a side note:

    In my unprofessional observation, what differentiates a good university level instructor from a bad university level instructor is the ability to offer very complicated topics in a variety of ways, so as to enable the highest number of brains to capture said complicated topics. Other skills are important, but this is the gold star one.

    What differentiates a good elementary school teacher from a bad elementary school teacher is classroom management. Again, the other skills are important, but this is the gold star one. High school straddles both.

    Classroom management is freakin’ hard. I can coach 8-10 kids okay, and keep them on task. Give me 12-14 and there’s two daisy pickers in there somewhere and it’s hard to keep two daisy pickers from picking daisies… which subtly encourages daisy picking among the others.

    Give me 20 and I’d have four daisy pickers and the wheels would be off the wagon. Give me 30 and forget it, it would be like Kindergarten Cop.

    This is not *as* big of a problem in private school because the population is presorted to have a preponderance of students who are highly engaged. Learning disabilities are sorted out. Poverty is sorted out. Most language disparities are sorted out.

    In public school, if you can’t keep 28 kids on task when half of them are non-native English speakers, a quarter of them need an IEP for one reason or another, and a fifth of them didn’t have breakfast… you’re not going to be successful.Report

    • zic in reply to Patrick says:

      good comment, @patrick

      My only complaint is your take on IEPs.

      Every kid needs an individual education plan; and starting at a very young age, that child should have some say and involvement in that plan. First, all kids learn in different ways. Second, it helps children become aware of their learning goals and helps them learn to advocate for themselves when their needs aren’t met in the classroom. It teaches them the process of the school, not just of an individual teacher. And it makes the school focus on the needs of each student as an individual, not just as an average student in Grade X.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to zic says:

        @zic I agree that would be ideal, but it just doesn’t seem practicable. I have my son’s IEP meeting next week. I have received the draft IEP, which clearly took several hours to prepare. Then there will be a meeting with seven people, and it’s one to two hours long. That’s assuming I don’t refuse to sign and make them go back to the drawing board, or reschedule with an advocate. (I won’t, but I could, and some parents do.) An IEP can also be rewritten at any point a parent demands, which would involve all this work again. I feel like my other kids’ needs are more or less met by having regular meetings with their teachers and keeping it informal. At least, so far.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:


        You’re son’s is a difficult IEP; he’s got a lot going on. For most kids, this is a far simpler task.

        (This idea is not original to me, but from an interview I did about a decade ago with two retiring heads-of-schools, one private, one public. Of all the things things about the future of education they could/might have spoken about, this was the single thing they both stressed as most important — every child should have an individually tailored education plan.)Report

      • Patrick in reply to zic says:

        Granted, in a perfect world every kid would have an IEP. In practice, most districts don’t have the legal requirement… California mandates IEPs for all SPED kids, but not all kids.Report

      • Rose Woodhouse in reply to zic says:

        @zic I suppose if it were a simpler thing, then it would be a good idea to formalize certain goals.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

      What differentiates a good elementary school teacher from a bad elementary school teacher is classroom management.

      Bingo. At least in my opinion. An entirely different skill set/talent.Report

  14. krogerfoot says:

    My impression is that looking for work in post-secondary ed is a job in itself. Taking a job in K-12 functionally precludes searching for a job in academia, doesn’t it? Considering the demands of a schoolteacher’s job and the level of commitment it requires, I think you’d need to be superhuman to have any time or mental space left over to hang on to any hope of pursuing a university gig.Report

    • Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

      It’s not ideal, but it’s better than some other options I would think. Some of my best friends are schoolteachers and they work plenty hard, but they still have most weekends/evenings off, plus a good chunk of the summer (old friend of ours is visiting town for a month soon – a MONTH!), which is a lot more free time than you get in many other jobs.

      Of course, the pay reflects this downtime. My teacher friends generally have money problems, not free time ones. Said friend will be couchsurfing while here.Report

      • krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

        I think the U.S. school year for both K-12 and post- overlaps, no? I don’t know what that means for our hypothetical public schoolteacher eying a move into teaching at a college or university. Is the summertime a big time for job-hunting for teachers?

        My brother teaches at a U.S. public high school, and he seems to be a kind of star teacher, judging from the accolades he gets. His salary is appalling. He loves his students, to which I say I should hope so—downtime, for him, seems to be exhaustedly scrambling to pick up second jobs just to pay the bills. It’s depressing.Report

  15. zic says:

    Certification, as some have pointed out, is an issue. While it varies by state, in many (most?) you have to have earned a number of credits in classes that focus on the age groupings you hope to teach, not to mention student-teaching requirements.

    Private schools can hire without having a teacher meet those requirements, but public schools require them. A degree in history or math does not mean that you’ll be able to go in to a public k-12 school and teach history or math without doing some extra work. That said; many schools will hire a promising teacher without all necessary certifications if they work on achieving those certifications as they teach; the details of what and how that will work will also vary by state.

    But a degree from a college =/= meeting requirements to teach that subject in k-12 systems; and landing school teaching jobs in grades k-12 is highly competitive already.Report

  16. morat20 says:

    The Texas Senate offers another reason:

    They voted today to tie teacher raises heavily to STAAR (standardized test, still not fully calibrated last I heard. Always a fun period when a new standardized test has ridiculous failure rates or pass rates) AND to change the minimum teacher salary to 27,000 dollars AND eliminate step-wise raises for seniority. (Which, given wage inflation and the tiny steps, basically ensures a 20 year veteran teacher is actually making slightly more than a new hire).

    Who wouldn’t want to take their advanced degree and teach for 27,000 dollars a year? Secure in the knowledge that the only thing that’ll get them a raise is pass rates on STAAR? (Extra degrees? Better hope the school district you apply for pays more. The local one offers 2k for a Master’s and 2k for a PhD, so you can bump up to 31k on that minimum scale!)

    And the benefits — no tenure, a pension system routinely raided by the State Legislature, health care benefits so bad that teachers with children have quit to become secretaries because they ended up with higher pay and better healthcare (this was BEFORE the rate change!)?

    It just sounds like a wonderful place to teach!

    (And for the kicker: My wife was assigned a classroom of seniors who had not passed STAAR in her field. Ever in their high school career. Which meant they had to pass one or even two STAAR tests just to graduate. She got more than 80% of them to pass it on their first try in the fall. 80% pass rate? No raise for YOU. State doesn’t CARE that you were given the ones that flunked it under other teachers. Law doesn’t care that you took hopeless, written off, not gonna graduate seniors and hammered two or three YEARS of education into them in months — and made them competent enough to demonstrate it and get a diploma. NO RAISE FOR YOU).

    Somehow, I don’t see a flock of subject matter experts heading to Texas to get kicked in the face like that, hmm?Report

    • Patrick in reply to morat20 says:

      They voted today to tie teacher raises heavily to STAAR (standardized test, still not fully calibrated last I heard. Always a fun period when a new standardized test has ridiculous failure rates or pass rates) AND to change the minimum teacher salary to 27,000 dollars AND eliminate step-wise raises for seniority. (Which, given wage inflation and the tiny steps, basically ensures a 20 year veteran teacher is actually making slightly more than a new hire).

      That’s truly remarkable. I suppose they really want their best teachers to move, en masse, to neighboring states?Report

      • Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        As in many things, Texas is hoping that since you have to drive pretty much forever to get somewhere that’s not Texas will prevent teachers from leaving the state.

        Seriously, though, Texas has tended to have trouble getting teachers as it is. This will not help. Nor will the fact that the same bill (or one passed the same day) sets minimum teacher pay at $27k.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Patrick says:

        Do the neighboring states have openings? Do the neighboring states pay enough more, after mandatory deductions (Texas has no income tax; different states handle things like pension contributions differently), to justify the expenses of relocation?Report

      • Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        Michael, the neighboring state thing isn’t really a threat. The real threat is teachers leaving the profession altogether. I haven’t the slightest idea what Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico pay their teachers, but the teaching profession loses a lot of teachers as is, and when a state makes it more difficult to keep them, it’s not doing itself any favors.Report

  17. Vikram Bath says:

    What everyone else said.

    I am luckily in the position where I don’t have to take an adjunct teaching job. I’ve had people from two local universities ask me about it, and I shut down the idea immediately. That said, I’d take an adjunct job over a K-12 one any day of the week. Yes, I know living as an adjunct is hard, but K-12 teachers don’t invest any less time into their jobs that I can see.

    The only exception I might make would be some sort of private school that no kid goes to unless they are genuinely interested in learning. Actually, that might apply to some magnet schools too.

    A lot of college students are in class just because that is what was socially expected of them, but that is a far better situation than K-12 where the students are there because it’s literally illegal for them not to be there.Report