There seems to be some confusion about teaching in general, and lots of questions regarding the ups and downs of my choice of career. As with most issues, this one is extremely convoluted and hard to grasp from the outside. My spouse and I will be answering questions. We hope to help clear things up with a perspective from the inside. Keep in mind that we live in a pretty liberal state and in a low-income area, so some of our answers may not be the same as other states or even other districts. If other teachers or administrators want to help contribute, please do! The more viewpoints that get contributed the better. We will do our best to help Reddit understand teaching.

Please, don't gift gold to any of our replies or this post. For privacy reasons, this is a throwaway and would be wasted money anyway. If you feel so inclined to spend money as a thank you, donate to the Reddit Gifts for Teachers here:

My Proof: Will be sent to the mods.

Sorry, had a minor household emergency. I'm back answering questions now.

I'm still here to answer questions, and likely will be for at least a while longer.

Sorry, it is extremely late. We'll get to more questions tomorrow. For now, goodnight.

Ok. I answered what questions remained. I may answer stragglers, but I cannot guarantee anything. Thank you all for participating!

Comments: 201 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

ItsThisEasy18 karma

Do you believe teachers should be paid more? if so, what is your reasoning behind it.

reddit-teacher55 karma

Short answer: yes.

Here's a breakdown.

My salary is approximately $33,000/year.

  • 1440 hours: Actively teaching at school. This is what's in my contract.
  • 615 hours: Work outside of school. This includes lesson planning, correcting papers, planning and researching units, reading or re-reading texts and textbooks, etc.
  • 150 hours: Summer work. This includes planning for the new year and staying abreast of recent educational research.
  • 150 hours: Extracurricular activity work. I only have one and, because it is not a sport or a major activity, I do not get paid.

Amount spent out of my own pocket on my teaching duties: approximately $1000. This includes supplies for my classroom, educational materials, and materials for my extracurricular. I also end up providing snacks for kids who come to my class hungry because they have no food at home.

33,000 - 1,000 = 32,000 after taking out my own out-of-pocket expenses.

1,440 + 615 + 150 + 150 = 2,355 hours in a year.

32,000 divided by 2,355 = $13.59/hour. That's what I make. Before health insurance, union dues, taxes, etc.

My job is to give kids the tools that they need to succeed in life.

For perspective, I made about the same while working a middle-management retail job before becoming a teacher.

c744 karma

You should move to Ontario, Canada. 90k per year after something like 10 years in the union.

Do you think 90k is overpaid for a elementary or highschool teacher?

reddit-teacher20 karma

Do I get poutine and season tickets to the Flames in my benefits package? (I'm only half kidding. I live and breathe hockey and poutine is delicious). No, I don't think that's overpaid. Teachers do important work and there's a lot of pressure, stress, and hours outside of school involved.

Gavlan_Wheel-10 karma

Her school has a union, so 33,000 means that she is new.

Your pay goes up pretty fast. I saw the pay scale for my friend who got a position at a union school and they made about 10% more every year for about 20 years, then it was only like 3-5% more per year. Add in extra pay for a masters degree and you are doing pretty good.

Not to mention it's a public sector retirement, so it's a really good retirement as well.

Now, charter schools are another story. All of the charter school teachers I know only get a cost of living increase of about 1-2% per year. Since it only keeps up with inflation, they never get raises.

reddit-teacher7 karma

Her school has a union, so 33,000 means that she is new.

That was a ballpark figure, but I am not new; I've been teaching for three years. Every school district has a different pay scale that is negotiated between the district and the union. True, the pay scale goes up with more education, as with any other position. However, compared to the private sector, the pay is still substantially lower. The cost to benefit ratio of a master's is roughly the same as a plain bachelor's degree. No teacher, no matter the education level or seniority, is even close to raking in the cash.

Not to mention it's a public sector retirement, so it's a really good retirement as well.

Retirement plans in the private sector are typically level with or past what teachers are provided these days. I bought into that as well, but it turned out to be a myth. Again, this depends upon what the union and district negotiates.

Spouse here: Inflation increases more than 1-2%. Generally it is 3-5% annually (the slow economy keeps it low right now). So really, they're getting pay cuts if only getting a 1% increase annually (even at current inflation rates).

TC11213 karma


reddit-teacher10 karma

Not 150 hours on continuing education. 150 hours on:

  • Looking at my notes from last year on what worked and what didn't work in my units, and changing them to improve my teaching. If you remain stagnant, if you do the same thing year after year without implementing better methods and materials, you're not an effective teacher.

  • Reading new material to decide what to include in this year's lessons. For example, we talk about modern racism when I teach To Kill a Mockingbird. This year, there will be articles about Ferguson included. I have to comb through tons of reading to find purely expository articles that provide good information about what's happening there, and they need to be at my students' reading level. I am also always looking for other supplementary texts. For example, I used to do excerpts from other Holocaust novels with Night. It wasn't a good strategy; the kids didn't have the whole story, and I spent too much time giving background. So I needed to search for some short stories, or some excerpts that could truly stand on their own. Someone in this post suggested a reading that I could pair with Night that I will be looking at soon.

  • Planning out units. I'm in a core field. Ask your Language Arts or math colleagues about the last "fix" they were supposed to institute... the last mandatory "miracle program" that the district handed to them. A few years ago for me, it was a program that replaced a huge chunk of my year. I had to rearrange, cut, combine, and make new units in order to use this program AND meet all the state standards. Also, teachers don't always teach the same classes every year. This year, I'm teaching all new classes. I had OVER 150 hours of planning this summer.

615 hours grading? Absolutely. My class sizes are astronomical (read above: hovering around 40), and if I want my kids to learn anything (which is the entire point of being a teacher), I have to closely read every one of their essays and give them feedback. I can't just slap a "C" on the top and hand it back; they won't learn anything. And it's not just final essays: it's rough drafts, poetry portfolios, creative writing assignments, speeches, paragraph reflections, you name it. Being a Language Arts teacher comes with a HUGE amount of reading papers and grading time. Your experience is different because you teach a different subject area.

I agree with you that teaching is awesome, fulfilling, and fun. I wouldn't stick around if I didn't love my job. But just because I find my work fulfilling does not mean I should do it for a pittance.

Mountainhawk982 karma

Do you get health insurance? Do you have a pension? Those things are major costs to the taxpayers, and particular the pension is generally not available to people employed in the private sector. Your $13.60 an hour could easily be more like $20-25 after accounting for the pension/health insurance.

reddit-teacher0 karma

Insurance, yes, but it is lackluster for a public servant position (not even vision coverage except a base exam). Most full time employees in the private sector will have insurance commensurate to what I get. Hence why it wasn't included in the calculation, nor removed from it for my portion of the bill. Very few teachers here have a pension, I don't.

toss_me_awazer-28 karma

Newsflash: people in the corporate sector also work outside their contracted hours. "Staying abreast" of recent research, and "extracurricular activity work" is something anyone with a respectable job is expected to do. $1,000 a year for work supplies is nothing... don't you think people in corporate jobs have to buy shit for work too? So tired of teachers working this angle.

reddit-teacher39 karma

And how much do people in the corporate sector make? I'm guessing you work in the corporate sector. (And I KNOW that even salaried individuals in the corporate sector receive overtime pay. I don't. Ever.)

So, be transparent with me... what's your take-home pay? My take-home pay is about $23,000. When trying to pay off student loan and medical debt so I can someday buy a house and start a family (my insurance doesn't cover adoption costs, and I'm infertile), losing $1,000 every year because my school doesn't supply enough pencils, Kleenex, books, art supplies, notebooks, etc., hurts my finances greatly. I'd LOVE to have a salary where $1,000 was "nothing" to me. And before you say "why don't the kids just supply those things?" you need to know that my school is high-poverty. These kids' families can't buy food, let alone school supplies. My classroom does not function unless I pull money out of my own pocket to make it function. If you walked in to your corporate office without buying your own "shit," it would still function.

When I say "extracurricular," I'm talking about running an extracurricular activity. You know, things like the speech team, school play, etc. I don't get paid for that. Do you run a completely different program at your corporate job after "official hours" for which you don't receive compensation?

You know what I'm tired of? I'm tired of people who aren't in education turning their backs on the very people who busted their asses to help them get where they are today.

PmButtPics4ADrawing15 karma

What do teachers need the most to help their students?

reddit-teacher63 karma

*Smaller class sizes. My colleagues and I are facing classes of 40+. I teach Language Arts, and I cannot give constructive, solid feedback with that many students in a class. I can spot the errors in their papers, I know what they're doing wrong, but I need to have time to sit down and have a one-on-one to teach them how to fix it. The correcting workload is astronomical... an average of 40 kids times 5 classes equals 200 research papers. To really give good feedback, I would need to spend about 45 minutes with each paper. That's 150 hours. Where do I find the time to do that? We can't serve kids well when we're overloaded.

*Less red tape. Teachers don't get to choose the resources we receive for our classrooms. A chunk of money is earmarked for, say, science textbooks for every student, so the district purchases them. If you asked the science teachers, though, they might say they need to spend the money on just one classroom set of books, new lab equipment, and a portable Chromebook lab. Allocate a certain amount of money to a department and let the teachers decide how to spend it. We are the ones in the trenches; we know what we need to help our kids succeed.

*Less emphasis on standardized tests. Every child comes in to my classroom at a different level, and we are encouraged to "meet them where they're at." This includes differentiating and making accommodations so that our instruction and our assignments are more individually tailored to each student (which is also tough with large populations, by the way). We make some great progress during the year. I had a student jump from an elementary-grade reading level to a middle-grade reading level in one year. We were so proud! But when that student took the state assessment at the end of the year, she was not "at grade level" and, thus, was considered a failure. Then the school is lambasted in the press for its low scores. Not all students do well on tests, either; I have students that can write a brilliant paper and eloquently express their higher-level understanding of the material, but will break down on a test. We are constantly told that students and learning styles are different, and we teach to accommodate them; then we shove a standardized test in their face.

If this was a question about supplies: depends on the school, classroom, grade level, and teacher. My school is out of chairs for students to sit in. I wouldn't mind a few of those.

tit_wrangler30 karma

If I may piggyback off of this, I'd like to posit something that all teachers (in my experience) agree is a strong contributor to success, and yet it's rarely-to-never discussed: parental support. I'd say "home life," as that seems to be an incredibly strong determinant of success, but if we're being realistic about changeable factors, I'll focus on something a little more specific and reasonably changeable.

Let's say you need a student to stay after for extra help. A lot of students simply need one-on-one time to improve, especially if they have learning disorders that makes the classroom environment counterproductive. Well, seeing as kids are kids, not many will consistently and willingly stay after for extra help (or, as they see it, extra work). Parental support is crucial here, as there's only so much a teacher can do regarding matters outside of the 40 allotted minutes.

Let's say a student is misbehaving or is a general distraction. This not only affects his/her own work but the work of others too. It is entirely possible for that student to improve his/her behavior, but it often takes the support of a parental figure as well. The difference between a parent who defends the kid's misbehavior and one who works with the teacher to improve it is tremendous.

And then there's simply the matter of emphasizing the importance of education. If parents treat school cynically, similar to how one might treat a meaningless/soul-draining job, then their kids develop a similar sentiment toward education. In a parent-teacher conference, 99% of parents will play up the "school is so important" act, but it's not difficult to tell who has instilled in their children a sense of apathy. If you treat education (not even school, but education in general) with the sort of reverence and importance it deserves, students will follow suit.

Parental support.

reddit-teacher7 karma

I agree 100%.

mybloodyballentine13 karma

I am a product of the NYC public school system, and our teachers were never shy about complaining about all the problems with the system. What amazes me is that since the 1970s things have gotten worse and not better.

My question, however, has nothing to do with that. I participated in Gifts for Teachers for the past two years, and I'm signed up for this one. I'm happy to help. But both times the teachers were asking for things that I couldn't find, or there were too many choices, or I just didn't understand what they were. Do the teachers mind a gift card? And if so, are amazon, Staples, and Target all acceptable? I just don't want to get the wrong thing! But I felt like my gift cards were a bit of a cop-out.

Thank you!

reddit-teacher12 karma

Anything helps! We always need the basics. I think Amazon would be the best, since there's such a wide variety of products there. Thanks for giving.

UnholyDemigod12 karma


reddit-teacher5 karma

Thank you.

ArrrGaming9 karma

100% Serious question:

Both of my daughters want to be schoolteachers. Probably high school level.

I cannot afford to send them to college. Their mother has talked them into getting jobs (whatever low wage jobs they can get) and saving up to pay their own way through college so that they can become teachers, as opposed to taking out student loans.

My question: What would you recommend I tell them, if you were me?

reddit-teacher18 karma

Spouse here.

Okay, look at it from a purely mathematical point of view: How much are your daughters making now? You suggest low wage, so I'm going to just assume $8/hour. I'm not sure what college costs are near you, but around here they average about 20K a year. At $8/hour net, how many hours would it take to finance just the tuition and fees for a year? 2500 hours. Or a few days over 62 weeks working full time. That is 10 weeks over a year! That is also with every penny saved and not accounting for rent, food, gas, etc. Now, let's assume they're in the minority and graduate from college in 4 years. 62.5 weeks * 4 years of college = 250 weeks. That is nearly 5 years before they've even stepped foot in a classroom, and it will likely be another 5 before they graduate. Running from when they're 18, that puts them at 28, and they're now just getting one foot on the bottom rung of the salary ladder. Working as a teacher, they're likely to start at around 30k a year. After taxes, insurance, union dues, etc. take home will likely be around 22k. 22k take home vs 16k gross with the assumed numbers above. Pretty simple math there.

Really, it doesn't all have to be funded in cash or loans. Go to a local school and work closely with the financial aid office. There are TONS of scholarships that go unclaimed every year. Depending on family history, they could be eligible for grants for something as simple as being the first generation to go to college. These things vary greatly for personal reasons, location, and school. Again, go to the financial aid department, schedule an appointment, and demand their time to help you fully understand all the options that are on the table. Don't just let them point at loans.

I cannot stress this enough (even for non-teaching careers). Don't be afraid of public universities or colleges. While going to a private school may help you marginally to get your resume noticed, after just a couple years on the job - no one cares - at all. It is all about doing the job well, not being a grad from that prestigious college.

Work during school. No more than 20 hours a week though, and make sure your studies don't suffer (at all). Don't fall into the spring breakers trap - those kids usually drop out freshman or sophomore year. Look into work study programs at the school. Many times you can get paid to study! (I worked as a security guard watching cameras and studying during college). My spouse tells me that most schools do not allow you to work while completing student teaching, so plan for that last year in college. Even if your school does allow you to work - DON'T! As stated here, teaching is much more than a 9-5 job. They will need the time to be a good teacher, which will benefit them more in the long run than having a little spending cash.

Not a huge factor, but under student aid laws set a few years back allow the federal loans (federal Stafford loans - not private or state loans) for public servants (read: teachers, yay!) to be forgiven after ten years of consistent minimum payments. This includes people who utilize the IBR (income based repayment) program to lower their monthly payments to affordable levels (I think 10% of gross income max). While they may pay them off by this point, it is a still a highlight to the profession. This means that even if they funded with loans, they won't be buried in debt forever if careful planning is done.

Also, my spouse is MUCH happier not working the low-pay no-reward retail jobs. Teaching is tough work, but it is equally rewarding. Sometimes being happy is worth more than money.

Sorry if this is more than you bargained for, but thanks for the question.

TheStabbyClown8 karma


reddit-teacher8 karma

  1. I'll be honest: it's tight. We live in an apartment because our credit scores aren't good enough to get a home loan, thanks to all the college debt (and medical bills, living expenses, etc.) There's no economic mobility for us right now, and I don't know when there will be. We're not poverty-level... we enjoy our share of college sporting events, matinee movies (no one was keeping me away from Captain America 2), and Chipotle. But neither is it 100% financially secure.

  2. My salary is distributed over the whole calendar year, not just the school year. Some teachers take part-time jobs for extra income.

  3. I made a post in response to a user who asked if teachers deserve more pay; in that post, I break down the number of hours I work over a year. I spend much more time with my work than most cubicle-dwellers I know.

I realize that this all sounds discouraging. But let me tell you: even though we're not paid enough, even though we're not respected enough, I could not imagine a more fulfilling or rewarding job. I go to work every morning saying I GET to go to work, not I HAVE to. You will have the opportunity to help kids succeed who might otherwise fail, you will be able to watch minds grow and change and develop, and you will get to make a difference in this world. Yeah, it's tough and you have to make sacrifices. Sometimes I wish I'd stuck to a career path that would have given me a comfortable $60K salary and a nice suburban house. But I don't think I'd be as satisfied, to be quite honest.

If you're interested in education, I'd ask these same questions to your teachers-- especially in the content area you'd like to teach-- to get more opinions. Approach it the same way you did here (thank you for being respectful, by the way) and I'm sure they will be more than happy to provide answers.

Best of luck to you in the upcoming school year!

noshore4me8 karma

Does the multiple intelligence theory stand up in the real world?

reddit-teacher18 karma

Yes, it does. I have luck teaching grammar and sentence structure in a very formulaic manner using math metaphors with my logical-mathematical kids, but my kinesthetic kids need to physically move clauses with sentence strips to grasp the concept that complex sentences can have different structures. I usually follow the visual/auditory/kinesthetic learning styles in my classroom, but keeping Gardner's theory in the back of my mind has helped me to reach some struggling students.

Renegade_Master7 karma

In another post here you said you are part of a union and are glad for it. My question is in the regard to the Teacher's Unions. In the documentary "Waiting for Superman" the former Chancellor of D.C. schools Michelle A. Rhee attempted to negotiate with the unions to remove tenure (in order to remove ineffective teachers), raise teacher salaries (based on the teacher's score with a maximum pay of $140,000), and provide teacher bonuses for effective teaching.

What is your opinion of Michelle Rhee's plan?

Do you feel the schools or unions hinder the way a teacher can teach? I.E. preventing the teacher from attempting new methods of teaching or by attempting to teach in a less orthodox means.

Lastly, in your opinion what needs to be done to fix the education system in the US?

wrath477135 karma

Fellow teacher and I'd like to make a point about tenure. Tenure actually helps protect good teachers and allows us to try new methods. What most don't understand is we (as teachers) have hundreds of bosses - every parent is our boss. It just takes one to say, "You're a pervert for teaching The Crucible." Which actually happened to me. Tenure gives me the security to try new things. It also keeps administration and parents from bullying me into sub standard methods that I know are horrible, but I would be forced to do if I want to keep my job.

As far as Rhee, I would like someone to show me the teacher in a right-to-work state that makes 140k a year. That teacher doesn't exist. Historically, right-to-work leads to wage suppression.

We keep saying we want the best and brightest to teach, but then take away any incentive to get talented people to enter education. No one ever enters teaching thinking they're going to get rich, but teachers would like to eat meat at least once a week and not live off of ramen noodles.

reddit-teacher12 karma

I couldn't have said it better.

big_blonde_guy6 karma

What has been your biggest challenge thus far as a teacher? (for reference, what is the grade you teach, the type of school (public, religious, private, etc, and the socio economic status of the kids you teach)

reddit-teacher30 karma

I teach at a public high school with a high poverty level.

My biggest challenge-- which is becoming a theme in this thread, I know-- is the size of my classes. I touched on it earlier, but I feel that I cannot adequately help my students when I have 200 of them. I can't hope to provide one-on-one help, give constructive and in-depth feedback, and build relationships when I have that many kids.

Cultural differences are also a challenge. We have quite a bit of diversity in our schools, and not enough training for teachers to understand and work with that diversity.

Here's an example of the disconnect between teacher and student.

I come from a white working-class family, and went to school in a small, predominantly white farming community. I have no experience with African American Vernacular English.

So I walk into my classroom during my first year of teaching, and an African-American student (let's call him James) writes something like this for a Romeo and Juliet assignment:

"Tybalt don't never listen to nothing his uncle says. He be trippin'."

My first instinct is to circle "don't," "never," and "nothing," telling James not to use multiple negatives; to correct "he be" to "he is;" and to tell him that "trippin'" isn't a real word.

The thing is, though... what James just said is completely valid. He understands Tybalt. He's just speaking a different language with its own rules.

See, when West Africans were kidnapped and brought to the Americas during the slave trade, they were told that they were not allowed to speak their native language on pain of death or other physical punishment. But neither were they allowed to learn to read or write the language of their captors. So what did they do? They took their speech patterns and plugged in new words. Since language and speech patterns are acquired so early on in childhood, these hybrid languages have been passed down through generations. And they are legitimate languages with their own rules. Check it out:

  1. West African languages don't have "to be" verbs: is, am, etc. So here's the construct. Translated into Standard American English:

    "He trippin'" = Tybalt is trippin' at this moment in time. It's a singular occurrence. "He be trippin'" = Tybalt is always trippin'. It's constant. (Which is accurate.)

  2. In Standard American English, two negatives cancel each other out. In West African languages, extra negatives act as intensifiers. The more negative words, the stronger the feeling.

    "Tybalt don't listen to what his uncle says" = Tybalt doesn't always listen to what his uncle says.

    "Tybalt don't listen to nothing his uncle says" = Tybalt rarely ever listens to his uncle.

    "Tybalt don't never listen to nothing his uncle says" = Tybalt never pays any mind to anything that comes out of his uncle's mouth.

  3. Without going too far into the technicalities of linguistics, West African languages don't have sounds like "ng," which is why it's "trippin'" instead of "tripping."

Until I learned this, I would have told James "No, this is wrong," and made him redo it-- even though he understood the concept. Now, I understand that I need to affirm his home language, and instead of creating a divide by saying "that's wrong, you're speaking incorrectly," I need to say "You've got the right analysis; now, let's translate this into academic language, which is the language of school."

This is one of the most valuable things I have learned as a teacher.

(Sorry if that was tl;dr. I get really excited about linguistics. Teachers ARE nerds.)

edit: formatting

Karai174 karma

This is a brilliant realization, and extremely informative. You might also like this TED talk:

reddit-teacher5 karma

I've seen that TED talk! The evolution of language and the creation of new languages for new situations is fascinating to me. Thanks for the link, though... it's worth another watch. :)

Karai172 karma

Aye, I've watched it several times, and here I am watching it again. :)

Here is another one:

reddit-teacher1 karma

This one I haven't seen. Thanks!

Mabelpie2 karma

How do you feel about teaching your kids about code switching?

reddit-teacher1 karma

Teaching kids about code-switching is vital.

That way, kids know that using texting language and emoticons to fit their 140-character limit is situationally appropriate on Twitter and in text messages, but not in an essay. You affirm their culture and use of different language constructs while also teaching them what they need to use in school to have success.

reddit-teacher0 karma

It is too late now. I'll get to your question tomorrow. Thanks.

airazor20006 karma

How do handle classroom bullying?

reddit-teacher12 karma

I think it's important to explicitly teach your students the behaviors that you expect, and then model those behaviors.

In all of my syllabi, the school's bullying policy is at the top of my "Classroom Expectations" section. I tell them right away what the consequences are, and that my classroom is a no-tolerance zone for that.

When I see or hear it going on, I immediately take the offending student aside or send him/her out to the hallway to wait. Then, I have a conversation with that student about why what they were saying was inappropriate or hurtful. Sometimes, they honestly don't realize that their language or behavior was offensive; it's something they learned to say at home, and they don't think anything's wrong with it. If they are ready to personally apologize to the student whom they were bullying, they can rejoin class; the apology must be genuine, not facetious. If they are not ready to apologize, they are sent to our in-house detention room or to a principal. Before they can come back to class, they must be ready to apologize.

I think the most important thing is to use it as a teachable moment. If you just yell at a kid and tell them they're wrong, they don't learn anything. If you can make them understand /why/ they're wrong, then they've learned something. And that's just as important-- I might say more important-- than any Common Core standard.

KasurCas0 karma

I'm a firm believer in: Crime or infraction committed in public all consequences dealt with in public. It then becomes a learning moment for everyone. Yeah, just make it work.

reddit-teacher5 karma

This can also backfire by damaging your relationship with the student. I would rather have them learn from the incident than sharply yell at them in class and have them brush off any sort of lesson I'm trying to instill in them about how to be a decent person.

Here's a real-life example from my class:

My students were working in groups. One student (let's call him Matt) said to another student "He Jewed me down to ten bucks." I was helping another group at the time, turned around, and said "Hey, Matt, can you please go wait out in the hall for me? I need to chat with you quick."

When I finished up with that group, I headed to the hall and asked if he knew why I called him out there.

And he genuinely didn't. I knew he didn't. He, like me, probably grew up in a house where phrases like "Jewed down" and "n*****-rigged" were just common phrases. If your parents use them all the time, how are you supposed to know they're insensitive or offensive? So I said that it surprised me to hear a term like that come out of his mouth, since he's such a good friend to his buddies and nice to all of his classmates. I explained to him why the term was offensive, and suggested alternatives... "He totally ripped me off," "he tricked me," etc. He apologized and said that he didn't know, and he wouldn't say it again. I thanked him. Since there was no student to apologize to personally, I let him go back to class.

So Matt didn't get embarrassed in front of everyone, he learned something, and didn't have to feel ashamed in front of the whole class. If I'd have yelled at him right there, do you think he would have been receptive to me? No, his knee-jerk reaction would have been to put up a wall.

Getting a kid to change a behavior is the goal; harsh punishment doesn't always work.

dogs_playing_poker5 karma

Recently it has been discussed by me and my Mom that there should be a Life skills class. This class would be an ever growing class that starts in grade one and goes until grade 12. It is just a 15 minute a the start of the day class. It would start out with basic life skills like taking care of cloths proper hygiene,ect. Then by like grade 8 it would talk about post secondary education how to apply for student loans, how to build a good college application, How to apply to college. There would also be a safe sex class, child care ect. By the time they hit grade 12 saving retirement funds cheque writing how to get a mortgage what is debt why credit cards are not a secret get what you want today for free cards.
Do you think that a course like this might help solve some of the issues that plague our young people and may help solve some of that " I never use anything I learned in School" talk?

sprocket_monkey3 karma

If a kid doesn't have life skills, it's usually not that their parents taught them nothing so much as their parents taught them the opposite. Mom may have explicitly told the kids that stealing is a good way to stick it to the man, or that college is for nerdy losers, or that birth control is a sin.

reddit-teacher1 karma

I agree with you that these skills should be taught in school. The logistics of it might vary-- maybe safe sex and child care become health standards, resume writing becomes a Language Arts standard, and we have an entire practical math class. I'm not sure how to organize it/embed it in the student day.

It would be valuable, though. I wish I'd taken something like this in school. A practical math class on budgeting, loans, savings, etc. would have helped me in the future a heck of a lot more than calculus.

RizzMustbolt5 karma

You say that you teach Language Arts... Do you teach any "banned" books?

reddit-teacher17 karma

I teach A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, which has been challenged/banned in several schools.

paohana4 karma

Are you represented by a labor union? If so, what do you think of your union or teacher's unions in general?

reddit-teacher20 karma

I am represented by a union. I'm incredibly glad that I am. There have been several instances where the union has gone to bat for myself and other colleagues. It's thanks to them that I have the fair working conditions and the health benefits that I do.

I_smell_awesome2 karma

What's your favorite kind of soup?

reddit-teacher1 karma

French Onion. No, I'm not Sean Bean, so I won't go on for an hour about food.

big_blonde_guy2 karma

Do you let the cheese settle to the top and only eat broth for awhile, then eat onions, bread and cheese with soup flavor like I do?

reddit-teacher3 karma

I order it without the cheese. Too gluey and melty.

big_blonde_guy3 karma

While I respect your opinion because you are a teacher, I am disappointed, because gluey and melty is the point.

reddit-teacher3 karma

I respect that. We simply have different learning eating styles.

big_blonde_guy2 karma

You're allright teacher. What do you teach?

reddit-teacher1 karma

English/Language Arts

smileymcface2 karma

How do you feel about standardized testing? If you're against it, why? And what would you do instead?

reddit-teacher8 karma

I feel that there is far too much standardized testing, and I feel that we place far too much weight on the results. I've explained some of my feelings here:

To be honest, I don't know what the solution is. But if we stick with testing, how about testing for growth instead of benchmarks? Here's an (oversimplified) example:

School A

Cohort of students enter sophomore year of school; 100% are at grade 10 reading level Cohort of students leave sophomore year of school; 100% are at grade 10 reading level

School A has experienced no learning or growth. Because the students are at grade level, School A will be hailed as successful.

School B

Cohort of students enter sophomore year of school; 80% are at grade 6 reading level, 10% at grade 8 reading level, 10% at grade 10 reading level Cohort of students leave sophomore year of school; 80% are at grade 8 reading level, 10% at grade 10 reading level, 10% at grade 11 reading level

School B has experienced much more learning or growth than School A. Because most students are not at grade level, School B will be called a failure.

Personally, though, I wonder why governmental officials are so loath to trust teachers. I create the assignment, set the parameters, align it with the standards, and evaluate it. I know the students personally. Who better to evaluate them than us? Look at our graduation rates. Study the success rates of our college-bound kids.

hanni902 karma

how do you think obama has handled education? i thought the problem with bush was his no child left behind act which turned out to be a disaster, the increasing rate of charter schools, and the heavy emphasis on standardized testing. obama seems to be carrying out that failing policy. what do you think?

reddit-teacher11 karma

Race to the Top wasn't the answer we were looking for, that's for sure. The problem is that you have states who decided that they would link teacher pay to student performance in order to provide an "incentive." The problem there is that a teacher can be the best teacher in the world, but a teacher has no control over the school's few resources, a high poverty rate, large class sizes, etc. In order to participate in race to the top you have to participate in "Common Core" standards. There are good and bad things about it, but a federal standard core education to receive funding is extremely impractical, and my state's education guidelines prior to adopting Common Core were better IMO.

edit: a word

jleopold2 karma

I'm a student education reform activist, and I'm interested in what role, if any, you believe students should have in education reform? What direction would you like to see the movement take?

reddit-teacher9 karma

Just as teachers know what we need in order to teach effectively, students know what they need in order to learn effectively, and we need to respect them. I firmly believe they should have a voice. It's their education, after all.

To paraphrase a previous post, I think three things would drastically improve our schools:

*Smaller class sizes

*Letting teachers/departments have more control over where funds go

*Decreasing the focus on standardized testing

I am a big fan of Finland's model. In an ideal world, I'd love to see that here.

Superluigi62 karma

Have you ever been in the situation about allergies with a student or someone in your school? If so, how did you handle it, and if not how would you handle it if it ever happened?

reddit-teacher1 karma

Are you talking about students with nut allergies, latex allergies, etc.? I try to be proactive in preventing any incidents.

My school has a system on which a little "health indicator" icon pops up next to any student who has a health problem that classroom teachers need to be aware of. In the beginning of the year, I scan the list to be aware.

The school I work at is latex-free. On the occasions that I provide snacks for my students, I always ask kids to let me know if there are any dietary requirements I need to be aware of (gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, nut allergies, etc.) just to double-check.

I've never had a student have an allergic reaction in my class. All of them have Epi-Pens in the nurse's office in case of emergency. I would personally escort the student down to make sure s/he got there okay; if they felt they could not walk, I would call the nurse. If it was severe, 911 would be dialed, then the nurse, who would inform parents.

extremeadd5281 karma

What is something you wish parents would do more for their kids?

reddit-teacher7 karma

Just be supportive. That's all. I understand that there are parents who work 3 jobs to keep their family fed and can't come to every basketball game or parent-teacher conference. I understand that there are parents who aren't highly educated and can't help with their high-schooler's math homework (I couldn't do my students' math homework either-- no judgment here). But when kids are supported at home: accepted for who they are, what their goals and ambitions are, etc., they are better learners. Also, when parents make education and learning a priority, it helps. Communication with teachers via e-mail or phone is great, too. Trust me-- we LOVE hearing from parents!

SaxonShieldwall1 karma

Is it true you talk about particularly naughty students behind their back? do some teachers pick on students?

reddit-teacher2 karma

I have had the same experience as apostrotastrophe with the break room. I have amazing colleagues who are always working together for the benefit of the student.

Yes, we gripe a little bit here and there about students who are constantly disruptive, but it's the behavior we gripe about. Student confidentiality is a MUST, so when I'm having lunch with a teacher friend, it'll be something like "Ugh, I have a student who is CONSTANTLY blurting out in class and doesn't raise her hand. I've moved her in the seating chart three times. She can never stop talking during lecture time. She throws the entire class off... it makes it so difficult." Names aren't brought into the equation.

The great thing is that another colleague will overhear this conversation and say "Hey-- why don't you implement the three strikes rule? Give her three strikes and, on the third, she has to leave class for five minutes and fill out a slip at in-house detention before she can come back."

As the above poster said, it's far more constructive.

Of course, there are a handful teachers who are-- sadly-- mean to their students. They shouldn't be teaching.

aNulgoodlove1 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! Not sure if you're still around, but if so, here's my question: Have you ever been in a situation when district/administrative policy actively clashed with your professional ethics?

reddit-teacher3 karma

It is too late now. I'll get to your question tomorrow. Thanks.

reddit-teacher2 karma

I have, however, had a similar experience to mittenthemagnificent's. Our district, too, has the "fixes" that we're supposed to commit to, that are supposed to be the best things out there, and then something new comes in. It's frustrating to be handed a canned curriculum which helps the lower-achieving students while the students who need a bit more of a challenge have to sit by, bored, learning absolutely nothing. When that "fix" went by the wayside, I was thrilled.

checkur61 karma

Why can't the newer teachers (who have been teaching since, let's say, 2004) just form a new teachers union to fight for better pay, along with whatever else that's needed?

reddit-teacher4 karma

Because the teachers who have been teaching since 2000 also deserve better pay. The power of a union is in the entirety of a work force being a single bargaining unit. Two unions in the same district would actually hurt the teachers.

Qusqus731 karma

What's the best part about teaching children?

reddit-teacher8 karma

The best part? I don't know if I can pick only one. I LOVE my job, and it's because of my students that I love it so much.

*Seeing the light bulb come on. It's such a great feeling when a student finally grasps a concept and can start applying it.

*Having my faith in humanity restored. I taught Elie Wiesel's Night last year, and I had students who openly wept. We talked about the current state of the world, about things like the labor camps in North Korea, the laws against LGBT people in Uganda and Russia, etc., and I had students saying "We need to DO something!" Their journals were full of statements like "I will teach my children about this; we must never let anything like this happen again." Or, "This made me realize that this could happen anywhere, and I can do something to stop it." I cried after they left my classroom that day. They inspire me.

*Watching kids who ordinarily hate my subject area have fun with it and learn something, and watching kids who love my subject area grow and thrive.

*Making a difference. In college, they tell teacher candidates that we will wear several hats: counselor, mentor, friend, parental figure, etc. It feels good watching my students go out into the world and knowing that I have had a profound impact on some of their lives. I remember well the teachers who influenced me, and it is a great feeling to know I can pass that on.

Nadamir3 karma

Not that I'm telling you how to teach, because I know jack-squat about that, but since you mentioned reading Night, you may want to read The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal (Nazi hunter extraordinaire). We read it in a history course I took in high school that was all about the Holocaust. The first part is a true story from Wiesenthal's life, about when he was in a camp and a dying Nazi begged for his forgiveness. Wiesenthal then posits the question, what would you do? The second part of the book is short response essays by famous people like the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and some not so famous people.

It's really thought provoking. And it creates some great discussions.

It's a hard topic, but I think it's suitable for the same age group as Night is.

Ninja edit: I accidentally a word.

reddit-teacher3 karma

Thank you! I'm always looking for other perspectives and new texts to add. I don't like to become stagnant. I appreciate your comment and will check it out!

Qusqus732 karma

That sounds really nice. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question!

reddit-teacher1 karma

Thanks for asking.

lth10171 karma

What state do you work in? At my High school the starting salary for a teacher with a masters degree and no experience whatsoever is 48k~ per year, and its similar in surrounding towns. Then again I do live in Massachusetts.

reddit-teacher2 karma

I'm trying to stay as anonymous as possible, but I am in the Midwest.

pmac87001 karma

Hey! Not sure you'll answer this, hope ya do though. Have you been keeping an eye on the teachers strike in British Columbia, and if so do you feel that they should continue the strike until their demands are met or should they break their will and take a compromise for the kids? Currently they are asking for a 12% increase in salary over 6, classroom composition ability, and smaller classes. Are the major ones anyways.

reddit-teacher1 karma

I can't really speak for their position. I don't know enough about it to make an assessment. However, the "for the kids" argument drives me up the wall. Why do you think they're already there? It is for the kids. If they're striking, there must be a pretty big reason (or reasons) to make them do it.

iar0 karma

Can you elaborate on what the comments were that made you do this AMA?

reddit-teacher0 karma

There wasn't a single comment to highlight; just a bunch that gave my spouse the impression that the community would benefit from an AMA. Comments are on this post:

greg655321-7 karma


reddit-teacher17 karma

  1. If they are proactive enough to go online and learn, GREAT! I want my kids to become lifelong learners. I want them to have a hunger for knowledge. I want them to learn because it's fun.

    The thing is, though, a student can certainly listen to lectures online, pore over articles, etc., but the learning process is incomplete without completing work and receiving feedback. I wouldn't say teachers are obsolete quite yet. :)

  2. YES, and that is thrilling. I have long believed that memorizing things by rote (dates in history, complicated mathematical formulas, etc.) isn't really learning. So when my students can access all that basic information in seconds, I can spend more time helping them cultivate a higher set of thinking skills.

  3. What makes you think so? I have a hard time believing that a first-grader can experience physical education, the joys of the sand and water table, the importance of social mores and cultural exchange, and the exhilaration of performing a musical program behind a computer screen.

  4. Are you kidding? Absolutely. I would have really benefitted from a practical math class to teach me how to balance a checkbook, make a budget, and handle future debt. Students in our school learn to write resumes and cover letters-- things that every person entering the work force needs to know how to do.

But how do you qualify "useless?"

Because here's the thing about education. As high school students, we're required to take math, science, art, music, Language Arts, foreign language, etc. Why? Because now is our time to explore. Algebra and chemistry are "useless" to me (as in, I don't use them in my chosen field)-- but I didn't know that until I took them, found out I was terrible at them, and was simultaneously falling in love with my English classes. I fell in love with my English classes so much that I decided I wanted to teach my own.

Additionally, sometimes a class can be beneficial even if it doesn't directly relate to your career. Writing poetry is not a skill you'll need as an accountant, but you might find that it provides catharsis when you are depressed or stressed. Music isn't my career, but choral singing is a passion of mine. Sometimes education is about finding things that enrich your life in other ways than a career field.

edit: formatting