Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Next Plan

When I graduate in May, I'd like to get a job as a teacher. Yes, I finally want to really try teaching secondary (middle or high school) math. I'm ready to jump in.

The obvious way to do this would be to apply for math teaching jobs here in Denver. If I were to be hired by a principal, it would be contingent upon my enrollment in the "Teachers in Residence" alternative certification program, which I can do at my current college.

What I don't know is whether I can actually get hired. On the one hand, math and science teachers tend to be in somewhat short supply, so it's much more favorable than if I were trying to go teach, say, social studies. But on the other hand, my understanding is that Denver has a pretty tight job market for teachers. I imagine a principal would rather hire a certified teacher than an alternative certification candidate with no experience. (I have no relevant experience at all, not even tutoring.) And it's possible the sucky job market has flooded the alternative certification programs with laid-off engineers and the like as well.

I could also try to do alternative certification somewhere else, where there might be more opporunities, like Houston (which has an easier, cheaper program and higher teacher salaries) or wherever Ed moves to for his PhD. That's another level of complexity to attempt, of course.

I could also graduate as planned and then do a post-degree teacher certification program through my school. I can't quite seem to figure out how many additional hours I would have to take, but that would take at least a year if I went full time, leaving me with the problem of how to support myself for a year with either no job or some kind of a part-time job. (One semester I would be student teaching, which would make it hard if not impossible to have any other job at all, and I don't think student teaching is a paid gig.)

Even more hardcore would be trying to enroll in a Master's program for math education, which could (if properly chosen) result in both certification and a higher salary. But that would be, I think, crazily expensive and definitely require going into debt. (It would also turn out to be futile if I don't end up liking teaching.)

I estimate that, if I were crazily frugal, I could live on about $1000/month right now (net, not gross), and it's quite possible that by next Fall I'll simply have $15-20K saved up and then I could just plan to live on savings for a year while pursuing certification. That's if Ed doesn't move away.

If Ed moves away, I'd need a much cheaper apartment (and they do exist in Denver) in order to live on either my initial teaching salary, or to go to school full time without a lucrative job.

So, why teaching? I've been interested in teaching forever, which was not surprising when I was a kid since that was the one profession I got to see up close, but which has persisted since. I find that I am somewhat obsessed with schools (I especially love books set in schools, even more so if they are really about school itself). I love to read books about how to teach, too.

Can I handle being a teacher? It's a really difficult and exhausting job. Yes, you get summers off, and a lot of other holidays and things, but you also work more than 8 hour days (at least if you want to be any good at all), deal with a lot of bureaucracy, wrangle the kids who are imprisoned in your classroom each day, constantly do paperwork and grading and so on, and the pay is not nearly enough to make up for the stress. That's my understanding, anyway.

However, I have found that currently, when I am not in school, I am horribly bored in the evenings and hate my life. Being a teacher would certainly take care of that problem since I would have a lot I needed to do all the time. And I have also found (as discussed many times before) that I enjoy things in proportion to their level of difficulty assuming I can do them, so I might enjoy the difficulty itself. And reading a book is very different from having to do something, but I have to guess that the fact that I enjoy books about classroom management techniques, how to set up your paperwork, and how to deal with troublesome kids in your class is a good sign. My fantasies about teaching don't involve a class full of attentive, bright-eyed students eager to learn algebraic concepts, so...well, maybe I'm not living in a total fantasy world.

Ed thinks this is a great idea, which I find somewhat astonishing. To me it sounds like a quite evidently bad idea, taking a > 50% pay cut to do a really difficult job that requires a lot of energy and dedication.

Of course, if it turns out that I really do like teaching (or like it well enough, all things considered), it's a very convenient career in a lot of ways. The pay is less than I make now but it's not that abysmal, at least in the places I've checked (i.e., major cities). You can live on it. It's an extremely convenient schedule for raising kids, of course, though it may be that teaching completely satisfies my desire to interact with children at all, ever. It tends to have good job security, and is a job you can get anywhere in the country, and the benefits are usually generous. Unlike oil & gas, it's not likely to collapse as an industry, nor be outsourced to India or China.

And given that I'm obsessed with it, I really need to go and try it. If I find out that I hate it or can't do it, well, I have the rest of my life to pursue other goals without worrying about it any further. If I don't do it, I'll keep thinking I should do it and wondering how. So, we'll see if I can even get such a job, or get into a program, but for now, that's my plan. I'm also taking the Praxis II secondary math exam this Saturday, which I'll need for the alternative (or any other) certification, and which is accepted in many states.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Wooo, other people's exciting life plans that I can enjoy vicariously but don't have to do any of the heavy lifting for myself!

I don't think it's a bad idea to at least (1) see if you can get a job and if so, (2) see if you like it. It's not like taking a year or two to try teaching is going to destroy your ability to get a non-teaching job again in the future.