Teaching High School as viable career...

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Joined: 24 Sep 2006
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25 May 2009, 3:11 am

What kind of math do you like, Pugly? Applied or Theoretical? If you prefer applied math, I'd recommend going back to school and getting a degree in engineering or computer science. Those are both very lucrative, and don't require you to interact with (ugh) teenagers.
If you like math theory, then you should get your PhD and become a college professor. If you taught proofs classes, they'd be mostly populated by people who actually cared about it (for whatever reason). That would make teaching a lot easier.

But if you DO decide to go to high school teaching in the end, you'll probably be stuck teaching the lower levels at the beginning (which are the hardest to deal with). At the high school I went to, the higher level classes were usually reserved for the teachers who had been there the longest.


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Joined: 19 May 2009
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25 May 2009, 10:01 am

Teenagers can be really challenging. If you think maintaining discipline and motivation are weaknesses, you might think about teaching at community college, instead. High school students are there because they have to be -- community college students are there because they CHOOSE to be, so they have built-in motivation. Yet you would still be in a place where you're really needed.


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Joined: 9 Jan 2005
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25 May 2009, 10:14 am

ignisfatuus: I do have some experience dealing with students, by way of working as a Tutor. I work at a Sylvan and have to handle 3 students at a time. I thought I would get burned out of this, but I've grown to manage it. What exactly are good reasons to go into teaching?

I have no higher expectations, or expect this to be a 'calling'. It's just something that I think I can do, and based on personal preferences and circumstances is one of the best career options for me. I'm not going to try to change the world. And internally I'm jaded enough about the world to shrug off the barriers put in front of me.

Also, was your school particularly awful? Or is this how's it going all over? Also I could find some private school to teach at maybe...

Cyanide: I don't know which I like. I think Applied is easier for me to work with, I'm not very rigorous. But I like Theoretical and developing ideas from axioms too. I have a computer science minor, and I have recently been looking into a graduate program for Electrical Engineering to study DSP. I don't care so much about having a lucrative career, and I don't mind teenagers... that much. For some reason working for a company and selling myself is really unappealing to me. I like solving problems and coming up with clever solutions... but at any job you're basically working to make executives a ton of money... and something about that has really started to upset me.

I'd love to become a Professor and get a PhD. But towards the end of my undergraduate some theoretical classes gave me serious problems. If I got into the right program and studied under the right faculty, I could manage a PhD... but if not I would just crash and burn. Plus on top of that finding a faculty position is really difficult. So I'm opting out of doing that...

I could teach at smaller colleges with a masters and become a lecturer. I still wouldn't be working with people who care about math. I believe the pay is less too... and the work more sporadic. Plus this is still an option if High School proves too much.

I don't mind teaching the lower levels. I do that with tutoring, and it really doesn't get to me... teaching the same basic stuff over and over again. I'm actually wracking my brain to come up with better ways to explain the simple stuff. And I like providing intuitive insight into basic questions that aren't really explained. Like why multiplying two negative numbers produces a positive number. Or raising something to a 0 power is 1. I also like introducing the more fascinating points of calculus, without getting too rigorous... to younger students.

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Joined: 9 Mar 2007
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27 May 2009, 3:28 pm

Pugly wrote:
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.

. . .

I have no higher expectations, or expect this to be a 'calling'. It's just something that I think I can do, and based on personal preferences and circumstances is one of the best career options for me.

It sounds workable. You have some experience, and you have a plan. You sound realistic, including about your weak points, which are actually most likely things that study and application can overcome. And with a master's degree, you are opening a door that could lead to promotion to management (e.g. principal of a school) one day, or teaching in some kinds of colleges. (At least it would here in Canada.)

Good luck, and I wish you success.


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Joined: 5 Feb 2008
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27 May 2009, 7:07 pm

What exactly are good reasons to go into teaching?

To get paid ;) I'm in the same predicament as you are, except you have a much more sought after degree than I do.

You should seriously consider getting a volunteer placement of some sort, to see a classroom situation. Sylvan Learning is not quite the same because the students' parents are paying for it, so they are more likely to be attentive.

Nope, the school I attended wasn't particularly bad, it was located in a rural area and had a student population of around 430 (grades 8-12). I graduated in 1998 though, so this was a while back (getting old :( )

High school students are there because they have to be

I was going to mention this last time as it is so true. Most of them have a prison mentality of attending school, in that they are being coerced into doing something they don't want to do.

Anyways, none of this is meant to dissuade you, just throwing possible job realities out there so you're not caught surprised.

"The world is only as deep as we can see. This is why fools think themselves profound." - R. Scott Bakker, The Judging Eye