Teaching High School as viable career...

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Pugly
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22 May 2009, 3:14 am

So it's been downright impossible for me to pick a course of action after graduating last spring... and while I'm extremely hesitant to do it... the more I think about it... teaching high school math is probably my best option for employment.

I keep on flip flopping between different things, but teaching has always remained as a constant. I've been hesitant due to many obvious and more subtle factors, but when I paint it in a certain light... that high schools really need a person like me with a strong understanding of mathematics.... combined with a patient/understanding style... no matter all the crap involved... it's still a great career choice for me.

I'll list here the many pros I've considered for teaching.
-Extremely strong understanding of basic math. When someone asks me why, I can provide a quality answer.
-High demand especially in Math, so I'll possibly be able to avoid the troublesome schools.
-Lots of time off, so I get to enjoy my side projects... music production, stand up comedy, philosophy, general research... and anything else my brain wants to do
-I really don't care about money, and the thought of busting my butt so that the people above me can make more money is really upsetting to me.
-I have experience tutoring, and really enjoy it.
-Despite my social problems, I'm in general a very likable guy. I'm odd, but in a delightful, goofy approachable way.

There's a ton of cons though.
-Being able to enforce discipline. I'm very much a pushover. In tutoring young kids, it's already reached a point of no return... I could not get them to do any work.
-The flip side, my approach to kids and people in general is kind of apathetic. I don't have motivation skills... yet. If the kids a particularly horrible, I get sarcastic and indifferent. I don't care that much about teaching...
-A sense that I could be doing more with my innate ability. It seems like I have a grasp of higher level concepts that goes beyond what is demanded of a high school math teacher.
-Organization/planning. I'm pretty horrible at this, and you need some of it to be a teacher. The best teachers I've ever had didn't seem that organized... but it will still be an issue.
-Dealing with parents. Kids seem easy, especially high school level... and since they will get to know me.. Parents who don't know me... and have much more developed social expectations of me... they'll be trickier to deal with.

Anyways, as much as I try to find the perfect career... I think teaching is for me. Do any people here have advice/experience teaching? Should I avoid it completely? Does a relatively high functioning Aspie have a chance at teaching?


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chawieman
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22 May 2009, 4:43 am

I don't know, this could be really bad. What if the kids don't respect you? Then you'll hate your life and your job.
What if you never get hired on permanently or get let go a lot because you are not normal and social like the other teachers and you don't fit in with the staff? You may end up being a substitute teacher forever.
I think there may be better things you could do with math skills than teach high school where your talents will be much more appreciated, even the most advanced high school math class is less about the math (for the teacher) and more about motivating the students, helping them understand when many of them don't care or are very thick in the skulls, making assignments and homework, teaching them in an NT manner since most of them are NTs and will not relate to aspie thinking style, and parent teacher interviews, as well as running the odd extra-cirricular activity and staff meetings.
I would not recommend this at all really, unless your heart really points to it as being the right course of action for you to take in your life.



amazon_television
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22 May 2009, 4:56 am

Well, my high school math teacher was a rip roaring drunk. He had the classic alcoholic red nose and always had an Aquafina bottle that he kept behind the file cabinets that obviously had liquor in it. He clearly hated his job and was boring as hell, but when all was said and done he actually was a decent teacher.

If he could do it that well in his state of mind, I believe you could do better than that by leaps and bounds, especially if your heart is truly in it.



Pugly
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22 May 2009, 6:37 am

chawieman wrote:
I don't know, this could be really bad. What if the kids don't respect you? Then you'll hate your life and your job.
What if you never get hired on permanently or get let go a lot because you are not normal and social like the other teachers and you don't fit in with the staff? You may end up being a substitute teacher forever.
I think there may be better things you could do with math skills than teach high school where your talents will be much more appreciated, even the most advanced high school math class is less about the math (for the teacher) and more about motivating the students, helping them understand when many of them don't care or are very thick in the skulls, making assignments and homework, teaching them in an NT manner since most of them are NTs and will not relate to aspie thinking style, and parent teacher interviews, as well as running the odd extra-cirricular activity and staff meetings.
I would not recommend this at all really, unless your heart really points to it as being the right course of action for you to take in your life.


I don't really know what it means for my 'heart' to be in it... if I spend time waiting to figure that out I'll never do anything...

I currently tutor math and have to explain it to many NT students, and my patience and deep understanding of the subject really helps. I can approach ideas from different angels because I know the different sides of the subjects.

Also all my coworkers seem to think I'd be great at teaching. And they are surprised that I'm not a teacher right now.

NT stuff is going to be a problem in whatever job I have. But I think the issues will manageable with long term experience. I can manage social situations eventually, I'm just slow at first.

Some kids disrespect me now while tutoring, but I can be either oblivious or sarcastic, funny and or clever enough to counter it for the most part. And it's mostly with really young kids that it's been a problem.

Also I think of all the kids with AS, ADHD and whatever that I have a connection with that I could help. That's happened a little with the tutoring, and I think I could help some kids on a larger scale as a full on teacher.

Ideally I'd like to teach college level, but the job security, availablility and added perks of high school teaching is pushing me in that direction.


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Ladarzak
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22 May 2009, 9:42 am

> my patience and deep understanding of the subject really helps. I can approach ideas from different angels because I know the different sides of the subjects.

I thought the same way about language, and so I was very good at teaching English as a second language. This was to young adults, though, and some teens. The teens could be a real pain. Understanding and explaining well are very valuable, particularly in math where most people who understand it are very lousy at explaining it to non-math people.

Dealing with the parents is a serious concern.

I don't know what teaching qualification you will need, but a good teaching program will teach you about motivating students and classroom management. The latter is critical to success. You have to make it something you will master. Why not do some teacher assisting volunteering? Then you will get a taste of the classroom and have access to a teacher to ask questions.



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22 May 2009, 11:06 am

It sounds like you could be a really good teacher if that is what you want to do. Another option could be doing a phd or something and becoming a lecturer, that would take a fair while though. On the bright side you'd then be teaching people who actually enjoy the subject, and knowing in my subject anyway how many researchers have completely no idea how to actually teach the information...



zeichner
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22 May 2009, 1:18 pm

I have my degree in education (K-12 instrumental music) - and if I hadn't gotten sidetracked (mostly by my time in the Army), I would most likely be teaching today. I still find time to work with kids on a volunteer basis (teaching a local drum & bugle corps.)

You didn't specify whether you have an education degree. I know that a number of states now make exceptions for math & science teachers - but I would strongly suggest that if you don't have a teacher's certificate, you should pick up the extra classes & get one. That will go a long way toward establishing your credibility with parents.

Classroom discipline is a skill - there are plenty of books & workshops that go into great detail on successful techniques. It's something that's best to start on the very first day - set your rules & don't make any exceptions.

Most importantly - do you like working with kids?

Assuming you've got the certificate, have decided on a firm classroom discipline policy & want to work with kids - you very likely would make an excellent teacher.

One strength a lot of us with AS have, is the tendency to see things from a unique perspective. This can make the difference between a good teacher & a great teacher. You can potentially use this ability to get kids to think critically & approach problems from a variety of directions.

From my personal experience, I would not recommend substitute teaching. I did that for a couple years after graduation - and that's why I decided to take a break & join the Army. Kids just don't respect substitute teachers.

Also from personal experience (and seeing that you are in Wisconsin, the state where I grew up) - look for a job in a small town, with a high percentage of rural kids. Farm kids generally have a better work ethic & are much better behaved. I did my student teaching in a small school (combined between 2 towns - total population of under 1000) & did a fair amount of subbing in similar schools - and found the kids not only to be better behaved, but they also seemed to be more mature.


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MrKnott
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22 May 2009, 1:31 pm

I have been an English teacher for 14 years. I'm not bad at it--the kids generally find my odd behavior entertaining--especially my facial expressions. It is difficult, but I probably couldn't do anything else. I have to think a lot about how students will react to my lessons, indeed, about almost everything I say or do. I should say that my AS doesn't affect my ability to speak in front of a group; it's the one-on-one stuff that kills me. My students generally like me, but I'm not the guy they develop any kind of close relationship with. (I'm not very troubled by this; I pretty sure they know I like them. It's just that I seem to emit "Go away" signals when they come to close.) On the negative side I recently posted something under the heading of "Fellow Aspies at Work" about two of our tribe that got fired from my school. I suppose my advice is to understand that your teaching personality is really more important than anything else. It's all an act. So is everything, I guess. I am reminded of a famous sideshow performer's (Zippy the Pinhead?--not the comic character) supposed last words to his manager: "We fooled 'em for a long time, didn't we?" That will be my epitaph, I think.



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22 May 2009, 1:42 pm

I taught music as an instructor, clinician and private teacher at the high school level for over ten years. As a music teacher, my eccentricities were largely forgiven - it wasn't seen as strange that I taught barefoot, used strange analogies or comparisons, reacted strongly to things, or launched into four whiteboards of music theory in the middle of a rehearsal in order to make my point. But being an effective teacher is about more than knowledge. It is careful and subtle manipulation towards motivation, finding keys, leaving doors open, having a passion for the art of teaching. Admittedly, I mocked and loathed those who came to teach who only picked up the degree as a backup, a failsafe in which they were safe but failed to take care of the children who were their responsibility. If you love to teach, you can find non-traditional means to reach the students and be an effective and wonderful teacher. Being in a more academic setting, I imagine your confines to be somewhat more restrictive - but it is up to you to find your niche therein.


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22 May 2009, 3:33 pm

I have a friend with AS who's going into high school teaching. While he has some great and clever methods to keep the students in line, I'm concerned that he will come off as too intimidating and dislikable to many of his students.

As for me if I end up having to take the teaching route, I think I would rather take on a special education classroom as opposed to a regular classroom. Less students to deal with a year.



Moonbean
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22 May 2009, 7:25 pm

This is exactly the issue I am dealing with right now. I have a BA in playwriting, and all my credits completed for my 8-12 teaching certificate in Language Arts, but I haven't done the student teaching required of me to get my certificate. I've been putting it off one, because I basically have to work 9-5 for free for an entire semester, and two, I've been avoiding teaching because I'm afraid of all the scheduling and paperwork and TAKS test BS we have to put up with in Texas. I've been a Jr High and High School substitute teacher for about 4 years, and I love it. All the working with kids, none of the paperwork or responsility. The only problem is it only pays about $10/hour and there is no work during the summers and holidays. So, I have been juggling different 2nd jobs for the last 4 years, because I cannot seem to keep a normal job. I am also a fairly successful local stand-up comic, but that doesn't pay the bills. I am trying to decide if I should bite the bullet and do the student teaching and get on with my life, as I have basically been living as a recent college grad for the last 4 years, or if I should get into something more lucrative like computer programming.

You sound like you would probably be a great teacher. If you are worried about discipline problems the 3 biggest things I can tell you are: keep a sense of humor, try to imagine everything from their point of view, and don't let them ever know they've ruffled you even if they have.

If you are not worried about money, are good at math and explaining math, and are good natured, I think this is probably a good choice for you. And there is such a high demand for math teachers right now that I would NOT suggest getting your cert first, but getting a job first and then they will help you with your cert. Good luck, and I welcome any suggestions from anyone else!



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23 May 2009, 1:59 am

Thank you all for your responses.

Ladarzak: I already have an BS in Math. I'm looking into graduate programs that'll get me a teachers certification along with a Masters. Some of these programs fast-track you into teaching, but I think I'd rather take a longer approach. I currently tutor at a Sylvan, so I have to manage 3 kids at a time... which seems like a teaching on a micro scale. In ways it's a bit trickier since I have to jump between different math topics quickly... and I can't exactly prepare a lesson plan.

Gremmie: I've thought about this, and it's what I was looking into for a long time. But the tight job market combined with the hard core demands of getting a PHd... push me away. I'd like teaching college level math, but with a masters and teaching community colleges and such... it wouldn't be much removed from teaching high school. And high school would be better pay and benefits and such.

Zeichner: I like kids well enough. I like people in general... I'm not a social butterfly... but I get along with many.... kids included. I'm interested in more of the small town teaching, which is another thing I'm considering. Leaving this area isn't that appealing to me, so teaching would give me opportunities in this area. And I think small quirky town living is probably the best for me...

MrKnott: I don't get too nervous speaking in front of people. Especially if I'm talking about something I'm interested in. I'm not exactly a performer, but I like to be dry and subtly crazy. Some kids have gotten it when I'm tutoring, some don't. I get good responses when I'm being silly combined with my heavy duty math skills.

Makuranososhi: There are probably different expectations of what a Math teacher should be than what a english or history or music teacher. Any one who is so into math that they want to teach it, is probably going to be odd on some levels. You usually don't get strong math ability without a couple eccentricities thrown in.

raisedbyignorance: I don't think I'm intimidating. I'm not 'warm' and emotive, but I'm also even keeled, understanding and patient. I'm probably more patient than many others who have great ability in math. I'm not warm, but I really try to understand other peoples perspectives. In fact I'm probably too neutral in this regard.

Moonbeam: Funny that you mention stand up, this is something I've tried recently. And I got a good response from my comedy, and I think I could definitely use this going into teaching. Those three things you mentioned... I got the first two down.... I do those all the time.

My career pendulum has swung fully back into the teaching realm. I'm really going to pursue this... I think.

Thanks again everyone...


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MrKnott
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23 May 2009, 8:20 am

I think you are going to be all right if you decide to go into the teaching game. I am sure you know this, but it's always good to remember that many (many, many) NT people who become "successful" teachers have no business being around kids. Among your qualifications, I think the most important is that you a decent guy. I also think more subdued humor will serve you better than clowning. I wish you the all the best; let us know how things are going.



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23 May 2009, 10:33 am

I loved math in school, was part of the competitions... and the math and music teachers are the ones I remember most. I think you're right there - you've got some good and fun leeway.


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ignisfatuus
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25 May 2009, 1:20 am

Obviously there is a demand for math teachers, but I would re-evaluate your motives if you are going into it for idealistic reasons.

You should definitely try to get some volunteer work before you go that route. Teenagers will pry and test for inadequacies the moment you step into that class. If they catch you embarrassed even once, it doesn't matter if you try to play the hard ass later, you're finished. I saw at least five teachers leave this way when I was in high school, one of whom was a math teacher with a master's degree. My grade 8 math class had him fired within 3 months. My old man was a math teacher for three years before he quit because he couldn't put up with it as well.


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