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FortKnox's Journal: To Go Backward in Your Lifestyle?? 13

Journal by FortKnox
I have a bit of a middle-of-the-beginning-of-my-career-crisis-thingy.

When I decided on my school, my family saw the decision of "he's picking between a really good music school and music career vs a pretty good engineering school and computer career." Well, they only had part of it. My other decision was to teach high school math/science (physics preferred). My father called up some of my relatives that were teachers and they talked me out of it.

Now, I like my job, don't get me wrong, but I keep going back to that decision. Deep in my heart, I really want to teach. I try to keep my job and substituting in something like doing seminars and training classes for programming and technology, but its not the same.

The major issue, though, is if I even started to change to get into teaching, it requires that I go back to school, get licensed to teach, take the piraxisII test to ensure that I'm knowledgable enough to teach math and science, and get a ton of student-teaching hours. That doesn't fit well into the schedule of a person with a salaried 40-hour job (not to mention the wife and kid).

The biggest issue of all, though, is a teachers salary. A starting teacher (without a masters or PhD) gets less than half I make currently. Now, it would of been a lot easier if I started off in a teaching career, instead of getting used to living off my current salary. Its not just me sacrificing my lifestyle, but I'd have to force my wife and my son to make sacrifices for me to change.

The best shot I have is to wait until a major education reform comes around (lets face it, folks. Teachers are highly underpaid and everyone knows it; its just that people aren't willing to pay extra taxes to solve this problem), or wait until I retire and take a teaching job as a retirement job.

I just hate driving home everyday (like a 45-90 minute commute) wishing I was in front of a classroom getting kids excited (well, trying to get kids exceited) about math and science...

I don't suppose any of you know of a teaching job open for $40-45k a year for a starting highschool math/physics teacher?

Addendum: Perhaps I'll reword this and submit it to askslashdot? Like, "How do geeks scratch a teaching-itch"? Maybe there are alternatives that allow you to teach a classroom of high school kids, and keep your job?

Also, before its suggested, I've done tutoring, but I'd prefer a classroom. I'd rather have a group of kids that can learn from one another than a straight one-on-one session.
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To Go Backward in Your Lifestyle??

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  • by daoine (123140) <.moruadh1013. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday August 13, 2002 @11:41AM (#4061826)
    1. The salary problem:
    This can often be avoided in a private school setting -- it's possible that they will pay more. In addition, school in a city (or a rich white suburb) will generally pay more than average.

    2. Certification:
    look into some of the 'Teach America' type programs, where teaching 2 years in an inner city school basically waives the need for credentials - you automatically earn them. It's tough - I have had many friends start it and quit - but it's cheaper than going back to school.

    Nothing is going to change the fact that teachers are underpaid and you'll be taking a pay cut - but poke around. I was seriously considering heading over to the Boston public schools if I got hit with a layoff, because the salary difference wasn't *too* bad...

    • Nothing is going to change the fact that teachers are underpaid and you'll be taking a pay cut

      Yeah, I don't mind the paycut, but I just don't want such a HUGE one. I'd eventually like to have a house for my family and stuff.

      A guess the advantage of my situation is that I can pick and choose until I get exactly what I want, cause my job gives me security.
  • Teach some JC classes. Yeah, I know, not even in the same ballpark. I was _this_close_ to being a teacher. But I thought the 'teaching classes' were serious BS. You probably will as well.

    Most private schools do not pay as well as public schools. Those that do will require you to up your education level. Another caveat is job security. Since the private school has to break even... You may start out with great pay at a private school (I don't know, but I doubt it) but what kind of bennies do you get? Public school teachers get insane benefits. True, no stock options, but who would want 'em:) (Partial list: continuing ed. reimbursement, license fee reimbursement, days off in addition to summer vacation, life ins., health ins., retirement, tenure)

    AFAIK, there are no first year, bachelor's degree teaching jobs in the $40-$50K realm. In 1999, Angie was working in PG County as a special ed. teacher (which just about maxes out, as far as pay differential goes. In MD, there is a base pay based on years in and education. Certain fields, like special ed., get a pay differential.) It was only worth $31k. That was/is one of the highest in the state. I'd imagine that even today, there would only be about $34k for first year teachers in that situation.

    There are some states (back in 1999 I heard Texas was one) where they will pay extra money for living in some desolate area, particularly for math and science. And most states with these programs will waive the teacher's certificate requirements for a year or more. The problem is that the schools and districts that have these programs are less than desirable. (Think "Lean on Me" without the inspired and dedicated administration.)

    Don't forget the burnout factor. Most people who get into teaching do it because they are really jazzed about it. That lasts about 5 years. Something like a 50% dropout rate amongst new teachers. There's a reason for that.

    Another thing I've noticed is that school districts and schools in general are very hit and miss regarding their open positions. Some have full listings, updated weekly. Others have a snail-mail address to their HR dept (that's right, no phone number) and the address is for someone who retired during the Clinton impeachment.

    • Public school teachers get insane benefits. ~(Partial list: continuing ed. reimbursement, license fee reimbursement, days off in addition to summer vacation, life ins., health ins., retirement, tenure)
      My Pater was a teacher; the bene for summer vacation was vaporware--at least in Los Angeles Unified: either you didn't get paid during the summer, or you took a lower salary during the year and got paid "year-round."

      The sweetest thing is that once you get past your probationary period you can run amok and they can't fire you unless you do something illegal. Bwah hahahah! Well, it sucks if you are a student or the princical, 'cause then you are stuck with the dregs...

      • I think the 'summer vacation' thing is a bit... misconstrued. In PG Co. MD, at least, salaries quoted were for 9 months. If you worked in the summer you got extra. You could also have your pay sent in 26 installments instead of 19, so you would get a check even during the summer.

        But it is something to pay attention to. It would not be difficult to say "$45,000 per year" and then only get paid 9/12 of that (yes, I know that fraction will reduce).

        My point is that you do not have to work from middle June to middle August (+/-). Just make sure to compare apples to apples.

  • My father called up some of my relatives that were teachers and they talked me out of it.

    Grr. People should not meddle with the dreams of others. My uncle (who is a statistics professor at a state college) insisted that his sons were both going to go to private colleges and become engineers. Any other profession is worthless in his eyes. One of my cousins is doing okay- he doesn't actualy like engineering that much, so he's going to get an MBA, but the other cousin is absolutely miserable. He was always an artist, and his childhood dream was to be a cartoonist. I think, left to his own devices, he would have majored in graphic design. As it is, he is working as a web designer/developer for a pittance. He never even looked at jobs in "his" field, because he knew he would hate them.

    As long as you have security in your current job, you can shop around to see if there are certain school districts that pay higher than others. I think urban schools generally pay better, but they have their drawbacks as well. It will probably be easier to find a teaching job in a public school- they're always desparate for science teachers. I've also known quite a few people who go into Teach for America, which, as another person pointed out, is a good way to bypass many of the tedious "learn to teach" classes.

    Downsizing your lifestyle might be easier while your son is still too young to know the difference, but this is probably a very hectic time in your life.
    • ...so he's going to get an MBA

      Yeah, that was I am going to do next fall (2003) unless I get couragous enough to go into teaching. I'm finding I'm more of a people-person, and am good at explaining complex problems in simple terms (my thoughts: great for project management, even better for teaching).
  • Addendum: Perhaps I'll reword this and submit it to askslashdot? Like, "How do geeks scratch a teaching-itch"? Maybe there are alternatives that allow you to teach a classroom of high school kids, and keep your job?


    I have a similar "itch" to teach, but not at the HS level (I'd rather teach 1st year level computer classes at college). However, I can understand why you would want to do HS. Anyway,s here is some of the stuff I have started doing:

    1. Getting my masters degree. Yeah, it's painfuly easy and brainless (an MBA) but that is what I will need in order to teach at an accredited university. The tuition is crazy (about 3 grand per semester) but funding is not a problem because of a scholarship and my work also will give me a loan in the case that I need it. I wouldn't recommend doing an MBA unless someone else is paying for it. It's also a good way to network and meet other people (some even may be teachers).

    In the interim, I may also consider teaching some 101 classes at the community college down the street where my wife works, but I have so much else going on that wouldn't be practical right now.

    2. Started a .NET user group. I've been able to speak at the ASM groups at the local colleges which helps with my other career goals, and gets my name out there. This also ties into the area universities (BG, UT, Univ. Findlay, UofM)). Right now we have about half students and half professionals at our meetings. The nice thing about doing a user group is that it is all volunteer, and you can focus it on any audience. In fact, you could probably get connected with a local high school and find out if any of the teachers there would be interested in connecting students with a UG- say a J2EE/.NET group. You could get some sponsors for stuff like LAN parties (supervised of course, kind of like our old "Leach Fests") and really be a big hit in the community. Find a boy scout who is looking to do a service project that goes to that school and see if he'd like to help get it going... Of course this will be a lot of volunteer time, but it will really look good when you want to move into teaching.

    The nice about doing the volunteer stuff is that it will help you reinforce if that is what you actually want to do full time.

  • hey, I know exactly what you feel. I had to choose between education and psychology as my major. i picked education after having spent 2 years teaching beginning strings. i love interacting with the kids and seeing the look of wonder on their faces when you play a simple tune. it's a very rewarding experience :)
    sacrifices are the sucky part. some schools (in cities usually) have sign on bonuses because they have a shortage of teachers. That suggestion about working in a very rich suburb (it doesnt have to be white) would also be a good idea. They generally pay higher taxes. If you were in New Jersey, I would suggest working in the NYC suburbs or the philly suburbs. Whatever you do though, make sure it leaves you happy... otherwise you'll regret every moment of it.
  • One of the chemistry teachers in the Seattle school district started his own company, got rich, retired, and became a teacher.

    Honestly, that is about the only way to go.

    Either that or you can rise high enough up in the ranks of your company so as to be able to start some sort of school connection program that allows for active involvement with local area schools, going into classrooms once a week or so to help students out hands on gives you the interaction with the students and lets you keep your current salary.

    OBTW: IMMUNEX OWNS!!! YAAHOO!!! ;-D

    Great way to ensure good public relations, hehe, I mean immunex would have to like start up some sorta death farm or something to even have a chance of isolating any of the past students from any of the biology/genetics classes they have sponsered. Rearranging genes in a H.S. classroom all on your own kicks ass :)
  • Okay, it's hell. You'll be doing a lot of work to take a job that pays crap.

    The thing is, it's what you want to do. My mother was a paraprofessional in the New York City Board of Education about 10 years ago. Do you know what I remember of my childhood? My mom was always home, she was able to take me to school, and she was even there to pick me up from the bus stop. Summer came along, and I wasn't stuck with some halfassed babysitter because both of my parents needed to work.

    Go about it the long way, you've got a new kid, and the financial shock will be a lot less once he's got all his shots and can handle such things as running about like a maniac and speaking somewhat intelligibly. You'll be sacrificing some income, but your kid will never know that you're at work, since you'll be home at all the right times.

    Sure it'll be tough. Tech's an addictive field once you're employed. The pay's great, the hours don't always suck (okay, sometimes there's a deadline, and that's hell for anyone) and the benefits are excellent. If you've got a tech job right now, it probably seems crazy to give it all up, since it'll be hell to find a new one. The thing is, you're better off crunching some numbers, seeing what you can and can't afford to do on a theoretical teacher's salary, and start weaning yourself down to that point over the next couple of years. You'll save a ton of cash in the process, and you'll know where your limits are. I'm not looking to change careers, but I've certainly learned a lot about living on less than half of what I'm used to, since my workplace shut down a few months ago. It's affordable. I'm just a single guy, but I'm a single guy in New York with massive rent and other living expenses. If I can make it on unemployment without resorting to eating cat food, I'm sure you'll be fine on a teacher's salary.
  • I read an interesting article about this lately (can't remember where) but they had an interesting observation: apparently it's a well-established psychological finding that the pain of losing something is far greater than the pleasure of gaining it. e.g. Going from your salary to the teacher's salary causes a bigger decrease in your self-reported happiness than the increase you'd have the other way around. The one example I remember is sorta goofy but it makes the point: In a study, half of the interview subjects were shown a mug and asked what they would pay for it -- the average answer was around $5. The other half of the subjects were given the mug and asked how much it would cost to buy it back from them -- the average answer was $10. (Possessing something, even for 30 seconds, apparently doubles its value to you)

    This phenomenon makes "downward" change even more difficult than you would expect from the obvious reasons.

    BUT, this increase or decrease in self-reported happiness was just a blip and in either case, it would return to its previous level. The real factors that affected long-term happiness were things like family life and job satisfaction.

    (Yeah, scientific studies seem sorta cold when you're looking for personal advice but I thought it was an interesting phenomenon -- and I'm sure other people will cover the personal advice part :-)

  • If you think the IT industry has some bad vibes, teaching takes the cake. Most career teachers I know say that the field is completely lost to politics. On top of that, the pay sucks. You could be looking at a 50% pay cut. I don't think many people could deal with that.

    Also, IT has some real cusy aspects most people take for granted - the absurdly flexible scheduling would be the most obvious example.

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