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“After 11 years in the construction industry, I decided to begin a new career teaching my favorite subject from when I was in high school - construction.
I got mixed signals when I investigated the necessary requirements for said job, so I applied for the position at a new, local hs. I learned alot from doing that.
Long story, well... even longer, I opted for a Bachelor degree in Trade and Industrial Educ - as opposed to 2000 hrs. at a VoTech school. Both options required three years exp in the field.
At age 30, I enrolled in a local two year school (no longer JuCos). Got an AA in Educ, then transferred to UGA for a BA in T&I Educ. All school was part-time - I continued working full-time.
I began teaching seven years ago - nine years after my initial enrollment. My first year, I was classified as "fourth" year, which meant more $$$.
The kids are a source of both exhilleration and despair. I never came home from my "real" jobs as tired as I do every day from this job. Not once.
Technically, I'm a lousy "teacher" as required by the handbook. But I finally learned to focus on my strengths, and *almost* disregard my weaknesses. Hey... I'm the "shop" teacher - I can get away with alot (insert chuckle here).
I collect receipts from out-of-pocket purchases. I cash them in before Xmas and Spring Break.
I have an eight week summer. Our calendar features four one-week breaks (Sept, Nov, Feb, Apr), and a two week Xmas break. It's a kewl calendar...
I teach carpentry and residential wiring to first-year students, and commercial electrical and expanded carpentry to second and third year students. Advanced students do alot around the school, too - ie, install chalkboards, stagecraft for Drama, repair any and everything, etc.
I've decided to revamp next year. I *just might* reinstitute masonry, and do something different for carpentry. Now, my first year kids build the World's Best Built Portable Storage Buildings... seriously. However, I'm ready to do something new. I'll keep electrical - that's for sure, and I'll continue carpentry in some form.
My advanced students are building a portable greenhouse. They (me, mostly) are also designing The Cotton Indian Creek Center for Environmental Studies. Cotton Indian Creek makes up about 2000 feet of the school's western property line. The heavily wooded floodplain is about 30 acres. The plan calls for about 2000 feet of elevated boardwalk, 1000 ft of trail, a suspension bridge, a 50 foot observation tower, three creekside outdoor classrooms, and a 10,000 sq ft Science Building. We're currently building scale models of the aforementioned features - including both structural and presentation models of the building. We also have a plot model (1"=60') of the overall area. If we can sell the Dise're having a blast!
My district consists of five high schools, with two more slated for next year. I have the only Construction program, tho, which allows me to do absolutely anything that even resembles construction. The State has a Construction Curriculm (which I helped develop), but I ignore it - too cheesy. I have more autonomy than the law should allow - but who's complaining?
I give written and performance "exams", but those are mostly for show. I grade the kids from my gut. As a degreed T&I edumacator, and a 20 year vet of the industry, my "expert" opinion is beyond reproach. It's the undocumentable intangibles that count the most... in the shop, anyway.
Advice for First Yearsters:
DO NOT expect any help from anyone. You will be TOTALLY alone. Adult interaction is non-existant between 8:30 and 3:30. You will be thrown to the wolves. You will sink or swim - no one provides you with floaties. If (and I do mean IF!) you actually survive the first year, PLEASE promise you'll return for the next. It's ENTIRELY different the second time around...”
“SWEET! I'm pumped! Thanks gojo. Again, that echos what I've been hearing from many.. the first couple years are exaspirating, but after that, it only gets better. I'm not scared of those first two years.. well, okay, I'll be a bit nervous.. but I won't show it.
Thanks for sharing.”
you'll show it...”
From one who has been in the trenches for decades, and I'm serious...never trust an administrator. They'll sell you down the drain to protect themselves in a heartbeat.
Never meet with a parent without a third party present..another teacher, administrator, guidance counselor. Never EVER offer a kid a ride home from school, and if you have to be in a classroom with only one kid there...make sure your classroom doors are open, and try to alert another nearby adult that you are in a classroom alone with a kid. Never EVER give a kid your home phone number. Don't try to be the kids' friend. They don't want you for a friend. They want you to (they will never admit it though) run a well structured, well disciplined, respectful classroom.
If you let a kid get away with anything, it will bite you in the butt for a long time.
Parents want and demand quality education for everyone but their own kids. They will lie, manipulate, and call in chits from everyone from politicians to school administrators to WIN..whether it be for elligibility, grades, or positions on the yearbook staff. Lots of judgement calls have to be made when you deal with parents. Remember, they will support you as long as things are going well for their kid.
Always...ALWAYS..cover your butt. You will be called on things you wouldn't even dream existed. And here is a BIGGY...if an administrator calls you into an office to discuss an indiscretion, a mistake, a complaint, or anything that could blemish your record or be cause for a reprimand or dismissal HAVE A UNION REP SITTING IN ON THE MEETING!!! I can't stress that enough. Don't EVER try to go it alone...That is your right, and if you don't have that person taking notes from the meeting, you are as good as dead meat if an administrator has an issue with you. If you think you can handle it alone, you are mistaken...a bad evaluation or a letter of reprimand stays in your file a minimum of 5 years and in some systems as long as the administrator wants it there. You don't have many rights in your first three years, but you always have the right to representation from your association..the union. It might even be beneficial to become involved in your association.
Teaching is one helluva way to go through life. You can plan all your vacations years in advance...they are always the same.
The days are short..in Maine if it snows you don't work..you do have to make-up snow days at the end of the year. The money isn't all that bad, but in Maine it isn't all that good. Pack money away in the 403B plan..check it out..only employees of non-profit groups can use this...never withdraw a dime of your retirement, and if you get piled up with correcting, never be afraid to take a sick day to catch up.
Again..don't make friends out of students...a respectful professuional distance has to be maintained. Kids will eat you up only if you let them. You control your classroom, and once you give away your power, you will have an extremely hard time getting it back.
95% of your students will be great kids. Cooperative, industrious, courteous, personable, likeable, and many will be memorable. The other 5% will make your professional career a horror show..if you let them. They lie, disrupt, manipulate, complain to parents who go straight to administrators, cheat, skip school, lose books, and commit a variety of other ant-social stuff that will give you fits...unless you impress upon them early..what you want them to do, what you expect of them, and how you want them to conduct themselves in your classroom. DO NOT permit kids to be late to class...DO NOT allow them to eat in the classroom...water is fine, but if they turn it into a restaurant, the janitors will turn against you. They aren't there to clean up potato chip bags and cany wrappers in classrooms.
Get a guidance counselor on your side. There will be many times when you and a kid just don't fit together. An administrator will tell you it is your job to educate everyone... a good guidance counselor will quickly recognize a misfit between a kid and a teacher and take appropriate action.
The secretaries can make you or break you. DON'T request them do extra work for you, and never give them information about another colleague or thoughts about administrators. The only one you can thoroughly trust in a school is YOU!!!
You are about embark on an exciting, rewarding, wonderful career. OH, it takes about 5 years before you become YOU in a classroom. You will try to be something other than you, we all did, but eventually when YOU surfaces, and you have your file cabinet full of stuff, you will either be looking for another job, or spending lots of great time with kids in a classroom.
The lesson plans never become that easy...don't rely on the same stuff year after year..education is dynamic..you too must be dynamic, or you will become like lots of others..dusty and witing to retire. The correcting is the worst part of the job, and don't let anyone else do your correcting...it is the one true way to "see" inside a kid.
Good luck my friend..I hope I haven't scared you.”
“Oh, I almost forgot...if you have a sarcastic streak about you, try to restrain it when you deal with students. It's OH so very easy to come up with a cute glib remark when dealing with smart-asses and adults can be qood at that when dealing with kids, but if a kid complains, the remark will not work to your advantage. The BEST way I have used to deal with an unruly, uncooperative kid is to take him into the hallway and simply explain that you need for him/her to to the work and do it so as not to disrupt other...that means no talking and no "sharing" (that's the buzzword in education these days...it's a kid's excuse to shoot the bull and do no work). The kid will usually come back into the room and either do what you ask or provide you with ammo to write a referral and hand it off to an administrator. You don't want to waste too much time with disruptive students, but you have to be able to document ways you have tyried to set the kid on the right track. And, taking a kid into the hallway keeps it from being a spectacle in the classroom. Trying to discipline within the group never works...it provides fodder for the group to feed on..trust me, you don't want that. When the kid and come back into the room, no one but you and the kid know what has been discussed, and if the kid starts to whisper to his neighbor, a "teacher look" should bring it to a halt..if it doesn't, out the kid goes. You asked, you explained the rules, and the kid then defied you and continued to be disruptive. Usually that's enough for administrative action. But you have done your job in a professional manner, and by going into the hallway, no other student can rework the details to work against you. Some kids will do that given the opportunity.”
“Mountainmaster - thanks, I really appreciate the advice. It really helps to hear this stuff. So, thanks again! :-)”
two cents from California
“After college I worked for GM as an industrial engineer for 9 years. Then after our plant shut down I went into teaching at the college level to "give it a try". I took a pay cut, but with summer teaching, etc., I never made less than at GM. Fortunately I rode the wave of salary increases during the 80s and the wave of performance increases in the 90s.
School is in session 33 weeks a year and our teaching schedules are 4 days a week. The flexibility is wonderful. California state employee benefits are great...if you can keep your job thru the budget crisis.
College is a whole different ball game compared to K-12. No discipline problems and I make it a point to get to know my students as friends. I don't know if I could handle 7-12. I taught 3rd grade boys Sunday School class for 6 years. The first two years were very difficult. Then I got some good coaching and it got much better.
I am board chair for a Preschool-12th grade private Christian School. It rocks and the administrators & teachers are wonderful. They have a consistent discipline system and everyone knows it is enforced. That stops a lot of crap. If you are willing to work for less, you might be able to find a well-run private school (religious or secular).
Like anything else, you have to give it a few years and be very mature about how the system sucks. Don't be too idealistic about education, but realize this: You have almost total creative control in the classroom. I try new stuff all the time and if it works I use it again. See if you can find an experienced teacher to be your mentor. That helped me a lot. Mentors know how to do all that stuff Mountainmaster said. They also know how to ignore some of the new teaching methods they shoove at you that are garbage.
In my setting the union sucks. I am not a member, but they suck $52/month out of my paycheck every month for an "agency fee". All it does is support liberal democrat political activities. I "like" all the administrators at my university, but we are having some major problems right now. The Chancellor and Board of Trustees don't have a clue either.
You might as well plan on eventually getting all the education you need to get to the top of the pay scale.
“This is a great thread. I just want to add my thanks to those of you who have taken such time here to provide really helpful information and advice.
“I second what Fritz said. Thanks! :-)”
I taught my first class Wednesday!
“Well actually I substituted for a Science teacher at a Middle school in the country. I still have one more year to get my degree, and another year of credentialing after that. But due to the lack of teachers, they're willing to let "Prospective teachers" like my self substitute teach.
8th grade was definately a strange experience. But I survived, and I got paid 95$$ for the day. :)”
“I substitute about three days a week in So Cal. It's OK, but I wouldn't want to do it full time again.
I loved my career, and it provided me with the time and enough money to enjoy my life with my wife. And I considered myself a good school teacher.
I don't think I would want to be a full-time teacher especially here in So Cal. The classroom loads are enormous 30-40 kids in 5 period a day high school classes, the materials are short, and the accountability in every area is stifling. The money and bennies are pretty good, compared with what I got in Maine...I retired in 1996 with 29 years and a Master's Degree, and my final year's salary was about $48,000. Here in California that salary comes pretty quickly especially if you have advanced degrees. If you teach in Maine, and you don't have an advanced degree, start working on one. It adds a minimum of 10% a year to your salary, and over the course of a career, that's a lot of money. Your final three years of compensation are what determine your retirement benefits...always keep that end goal in your mind.
Artex, you still haven't stated where you will be teaching. In Maine that makes a big difference when it come to salary, benefits, and local support. The Portland area still probably has the highest salaries, and if you go too far north, the local politics may make your teaching life a little difficult. It's nice to be able to disappear after school hours in a sizeable community, but if you are in a place with 2-3 thousand people, you will be well known...all the time, everywhere. If you like that kind of recognition fine. I liked not being known. But after 29 years in the same local high school, it was tough to run around a city of 65,000 without running into ex-students everywhere.”
“Hey Artex, et. al.,
I'm a teacher ...Art, Art History, Photography, Computer Art ...jr-sr high school (public). I love the job,, work too hard at it, and after 26 years, still don't get paid enough. They say that June, July and August are the three best reasons for being a teacher, but I've never really been "off" during the summer, though I like what I call a "flexible" summer schedule ...good for outdoors stuff ...you can schedule around the weather forecasts. During the school year, I work very hard at what I do ...and bring home work nearly every day and every weekend.
Some schools are tough, some have inept administrators, some have uncooperative/unfriendly teachers, some have serious drug problems. But although my school is no utopia, I have to say that I've been truly blessed with the place where I teach.”
“MountainMaster - The Bangor area would be my first choice. Augusta area would be my second. When I say "area" I mean any town within an hour of those cities. I'd pretty much go anywhere in Maine except, no offense, Portland. Too big of a city for me and not what I'm looking for. I'm thinking my next best step will be to send resumes and cover letters to schools in those areas and elsewhere in the state within the next few weeks. I'm assuming the probability of getting hired right away would be slim to none, but it'd still be wise to get my name out there. I'll be more aggressive with following up as summer approaches, and hopefully will be hired by August or so.
I thought about what you said with the small town scenario, and I'm fine with that. I'd actually welcome it.
MSilver - I was wondering when you were going to chime in here! :-) Good to hear your thoughts and input.”
“Wow, I just read mountainmaster's posts. Amen. Lotsa good stuff there. He's absolutely right about kids and rules ...they not only NEED rules, they WANT them ...they want and need to know where the boundaries are. If the teacher doesn't set and enforce the rules, the students will surely fill the power vacuum. And even when the teacher delineates the rules, the students will test those boundaries; they'll push and probe until they find the edge. Don't try to be their "pal" ...they will certainly like you for that, think you're "cool," vote you "Teacher of the Month," but you'll pay the price.
There's so much more to say, but I have semester grades to get done. Later.”
“Lots of good stuff so far!
At our private school, the biggest problem used to the the parents. Sometimes they think the rules aren't for them or their kids. Once we started being pretty consistent on suggesting they go elsewhere, things got much better.
Public schools don't have the ability to do that as easily and the problem is usually NO parental involvement. Sad situation out here in So.Cal in that regard. I could tell you some sad stories.
My friend who is a HS Psychologist told me that a teacher in his district with a Masters Degree and 15 years service can make over $70,000/year. (but our cost of living for housing is pretty high around here).”
“With the salaries, what I'd likely make in Maine is more than ample. I just did a cost of living calculation, and found out that my current salary here in the NYC-area is the equivalent of making about $15,000 in Bangor, ME! I'll be rich if I teach up there! LMAO!”
“Not necessarily, Artex...Maine is not a cheap place to live. The taxes are high and housing in the urban areas is expensive.
Fuel oil for heating and the maintenance on a vehicle is expensive. Cars don't last that long with the salt and crap on the roads the better part of the year.
I'm finding it is much cheaper to live in Southern California than Maine. I was lucky though...I got property here very cheap. My property taxes are much lower, my state income tax is lower, and the cost of registering, maintaining, and insuring automobiles is much cheaper.
Recreating out here is FAR more available than in Maine and a lot cheaper. You really should visit Augusta if you are thinking of living there...it isn't all that great. Nothing to do, and it isn't close to much of anything except the Kennebec river.
Bangor is OK, and you will be close to the University and have access to the Allagash and Baxter State Park. If you like fresh water fishing you will be in trout heaven. North of Bangor headed toward Presque Isle and Houlton are some of the finest brook trout streams in the world...but you have to know where to go. Befriend a local. There's a place called Dyer Brook that used to be a "to kill for" stream up just of I-95.
You say you like cold...you will have to LOVE cold. Winter settles in in early November, and you really aren't done with it until Maine...then the black flies assault you for a month, then the mosquitos and humidity are around until a first light frost usually in August. Count on lots of tourists wanting to be in the same place you want to be during the summer. If you are a skier...Sugarloaf or the Rangely Lakes area as well as North Conway in NH are terrific areas. There are some local areas around Rumford that are also terrific, but plan on long weekend lift lines and lotsa snow bunnies.
Once again...add in a few extra dollars to your calculations, Maine is really not that cheap.”
“Almost forgot...believe it or not, my electric bills, phone bills, and Internet charges are cheaper here in CA than in Maine.”
“"You say you like cold...you will have to LOVE cold. Winter settles in in early November, and you really aren't done with it until Maine"
Should have read..."...done with it until May."”
“Oh yeah, I do LOVE the cold! Better not let twigeater read what you said about Augusta. ;-)
Thanks for the info though, I'll take that into consideration. So long as I have enough to pay my bills and have a little money left over for gear, I'll be fine. Taxes, insurance and such are still a heckuva lot cheaper up there then where I live now. It's all relative I suppose.”
“I have the greatest job as a technical training instructor for a large utility. I don't have to deal with bad kids, just highly paid know-it-alls who would rather not be there. I get to do lots of research and put together ridiculously flashy presentations. If the kids get to you and you have a chance to get into the corporate training racket, it provides very well.
I was on a commitee at my daughter's Jr. High where I got to meet a bunch of teachers. I was surprised by how intelligent and altruistic most of them were. They were making half what I make. There is a law of supply and demand at work in public schools that keeps the pay low. As long as they allow some of the teachers to be baby sitters, they all get paid that way. Whereas football coaches prove their worth publicly and in these parts demand a salary in the $70's.
There is a lot of information available about enhanced learning techniques that is very helpful no matter who your students are. The theory is that making people sit quietly and commit to memory all the stuff you say is not an efficient way of passing the information. It is unrealistic to expect that to work very well. One concept I tell myself over and over is "the person doing the talking is doing the learning."
It is a challenge for those of us with experience to not expect that the students will hang on every word we say. "Tell us more, O Sage!" It doesn't work that way. Most of the time people must be tricked into learning. Artex, you sound like a guy that's up for that. Smiley Girl on the other hand........”
“I presently work in P.R., so I'm used to tricking people, LOL!”
“Someone should print this thread and make it required reading for new teachers.
I love the small town environment, although our system and practices seem to be very diffrent. I teach English as a Second Language to high school seniors in a small (850 pupils), rural school in southwestern Quebec on the New York State border (Huntingdon) north of Malone, NY. I feel that I have the best of all worlds - three cultures in two languages. The area is about 60% French speaking and 40% English speaking. Almost all my recreation time (and money) is spent in the Adirondacks of New York State.
My (6) class sizes range from 16 to 32 students. I coach boys' and girls' rugby teams and oversee one boys' volleyball team and have a blast. Next year I'll be co-ordinating the high school International Baccalaureat programme that will be entering the final two years of school.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough just how important it is to get involved with the kids and the community. You cannot believe how much easier it makes the work - not to mention the difference it makes in how both the kids and their parents interact with you. I believe the time I spend in extra-curricular activities actually saves me time in terms of wasted hours on disciplinary measures and parental encounters, not to mention the lack of stress compared to so many teachers wasting their time and their health on complaints about the kids, their parents, the administration, the community and other teachers who seem to be having fun.
Calling all teachers!
“Now that I'm officially a teacher, who else here is also in said profession? Just curious. Also, any advice for first year teachers?”
I have no advice for you. Yet. :)”
“So, what and where will you be teaching? What age group? WHat kind of additional training did you have to do?”
“Woohoo Artex! Welcome to hell! JUST KIDDING!
Patience has become my strongest virtue...”
“I'll be teaching media technology (tv/film production, radio, print, journalism... basically stuff I've done professionally the past 8 years) at a vo-tech high school in southern Maine. Mostly 11th and 12th graders. Small classes of about 15 students each.
What are you aiming to teach, smiley girl (if you're not already)?”
“I teach mostly young adults, in medical school post graduate pathology training. I love it.”
“embear, what do you teach? Yam never told me you were in that profession.”
“Ug....I'll be a while, Artex. I've decided that I need to extend my stint in Civil Engineering to capitalize on my 401K vesting. So, eventually, I'll be a middle-school math and science teacher. :)
My major right now is general science, but I think I want to switch that to math. What I really need to do right now is find a tutoring job to get me going so I can start remembering all those things I learned in college and subsequently forgot. Anyone got any advice on how to go about getting a tutoring job?”
“I teach striving musicians how to play the piano.”
“Smiley - not sure about tutoring, but I highly recommend picking up a copy of Harry K. Wong's book "The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher". Several experienced teachers who love their jobs recommending it to me.”
“recommending = recommended”
“embear, wow.. you definitely do have patience then.”
“I teach journalism to journalism school grads.”
“Congratulations, Artex. I wish you success.
I found myself doing some teaching last night. As we advance in our martial arts program, we teach and coach newer students in some of the things that we have learned. In a way this prepares us for possible future days. If and when we achieve Black Belt Status, we are then qualified to instruct.
It's a little different than school classroom instruction, but some of the same things apply: Praise, patience, understanding, use of alternatives, etc.”
“Artex, I'm still undecided between middle school and high school. Though I'm an engineer and had all that higher math and science, I have no desire whatsoever to teach it. But, I'm not sure if I've got what it takes to deal with the middle schoolers. I think I do, I just have to remember to pack my patience. BUt, that's one reason I'm looking for a tuturing position, to get more experience with the middle grades.”
“What more math and science does an engineer have to have to teach middle school?
You have already had far more than most teachers just getting your BSCE.
Heck, I had four courses of calculus, two of differential equations, four of physics, and two of chemistry just as degree requirements, not even counting any engineering courses (which in EE are just more applied math).”
“Its a BSEnE (environmental engineering), not a silly civil degree!! ;)
Oh, and I didn't mean "what it takes" as in course work, more as in the mental abilities to deal with puberty gushing all over the place. I actually think I could have a lot of fun with it.”
“Lol, Geo, that's what I did when I was a newspaper editor. It's also how I got into teaching. I'd complain to my friend who was chair of the English Dept. at the local university about the skills of their journalism interns and grads, and he kept saying I should come back to teach them. So after 15 years in journalism, I went back to grad school myself. Now I'm nearing the point where I will have taught as long as I was a journalist.
Artex, I teach English and communication at a community/technical college -- every type of writing, some lit., and interpersonal communication. My students range from 16 to 70. Right now I'm 45 minutes from the start of my summer course in interpersonal communication, which only has 3 more 3-hour sessions left in summer term.”
“Artex, what kind of projects will you have your students work on?”
“The ol' pipes and poop degree? ;-)
Environmental used to be a subset of civil, but as demand grew, the degree broke away from the silly civils. ;-)”
“It's fun to read everyone's experiences, keep'em coming.
Smiley, your plan sounds very rational with tutoring. Good way to get your feet wet. Have you considered substituing also? That could be a great way to gain more experience and see if you'll like teaching, since it's actually in front of a class. And if you can take the abuse of being a sub, chances are you'll fly as a teacher. Of course, working a 40 hour a week job makes subbing tough though.
As for projects, I have all sorts of great ideas, in addition to those left for me by the previous teacher. I'm at a distinct advantage in that I'm taking over the job from a friend of mine, and she left me all her lesson plans and all that good stuff. I'm going to follow what she's done at first with only mininmal tweaking. Some projects I'll have the kids do is take a two-minute chunk of their favorite movie (so long as it's clean) and shoot it themselves using other students or friends as actors. Also, create a two-minute instructional video on whatever they choose. Just a few ideas I have.”
“Stove, at the University of Michigan, its still a subset of the Civil program. At the highly respected and a hell of a lot more fun Michigan Technological Universtiy, its a separate program.
Artex, if I could get my boyfriend to marry me and support me, I'd quit my job and start subbing now. ;)”
“Hell, give us his phone number and address. He'll be begging for your hand in a week.”
“Dang Smiley, that sounds like a plan. What about it ladies, anybody willing to support me? Huh? Will ya?”
Seriously, being the independent woman that I am, I have a plan in place to support myself until I am finished with school and have a teaching job, just in case plan "B" doesn't work out. And, I have a feeling it'll be a while anyway. But, like I said, I'm sticking it out for the 401K money here.”
“Tutored?...My dog is tutored.
Wasn't there a Farside cartoon by Gary Larson about that. I think the dog was in a car exclaiming to his neighborhood pals that hes was going to the vet's office to get tutored.”
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