1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

High School Teachers-What's the Reality?

  1. Jul 29, 2007 #1
    I'm thinking of becoming a High School Teacher, perhaps in math or science. I've heard a lot of rumors about the job, but are there any High School Teachers who could tell me more about the nature of the job? What's the reality? Is the low pay hard to live on? Is it a very demanding job? Is it enjoyable? What are some specific drawbacks?

    Thank you for your time! I am truly interested in becoming a math or science teacher, and any advice could really help. :rolleyes:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2007 #2
    Well I'm not a teacher, but when I was in High School, we students were bored of maths and usually harrass the teacher, but for science we enjoyed it because we learned soo much and did alot of practical stuff.

    But really it was the teacher not the subject i guess, at least theres some fun within the subject and not boring than its really worth it.
  4. Jul 29, 2007 #3
    Well in a lot of areas, truth be told, the pay is not that low. Teachers in my area, after they have tenure, can make $90k+. Not to mention benefits, summers off (if you want), getting out at 2:30 pm, etc.

    Teaching has A LOT of perks. The only problem I can see is that it's a bit static compared to a career as a physicist or engineer.
  5. Jul 29, 2007 #4
    I am not a teacher but my mom is. I’ll drop my 2 cents about it since we usually talk about school/career stuff often. BTW, she teaches math. Where we live, the teacher’s pay tops around 70K ish after a good amount of experience. You do get a bit extra for having a Masters degree. From what I’ve seen, teachers do start out low, here around 30 -35K. But you have many opportunities to increase that level. There are plenty of ways to make more extra $$$: teach summer school (she got around $3000 for 6 weeks teaching a 3 hr/day class), teach night school, and the best of all: tutoring. The reason I say tutoring is because math and physics tutors are always needed and teachers have a certain advantage over say college students when it comes to knowing what and how something will be tested. Obviously, you don’t tutor students from your own school. Getting the night/summer school positions isn’t easy. My mom had to apply two years straight before she got the summer school position, and she has started applying for the night school positions but with no luck, yet. There are quite a bit of drawbacks too: You will probably have to start out as the “Teacher on Call (TOC)” (substitute teacher). This sometimes requires you to go out to some far places to teach, and you hardly ever get a “well behaved class”. Furthermore, you get students with problems such as abuse, addiction, and who just want to make your life miserable. You have to be able to handle that and still teach efficiently, and some people just cant. Sometimes, it’s hard to find a position you want to teach at a school. My mom taught Earth Sciences (didn’t enjoy that), and lower level sciences before she got the math position. After a good amount of experience ( I would say around 20 years +), you have opportunities (have to be a teacher that is really good plus involved in many aspects of teaching/planning) to get higher positions such as sitting on district committees which decide the larger scope of the curriculum. Couple of other things, the pension is good, after you retire (usually the age of 65) you can still be a TOC. Back when I was at my high school, whenever my math teacher was away, we always got this old retired dude. And the most important thing of all, you have to enjoy teaching because if you don’t you’ll waste your time and most importantly the student’s time.
    Please note that the perks as noted above are opportunities. It would be your job to look for them, and act on them persistently to achieve your goal.
    //the end
  6. Jul 29, 2007 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    From a UK perspective.
    There is a great shortage of science teachers, such that there is an extra scholarship which roughly doubles the usual grant for a teacher training course, there are also bonuses each year for staying in the profession.
    And salaries are now often better than the same qualifications would earn as a starting salary in industry.

    But the downside is how science teaching has been dumped down in the interests of performance tables and grade inflation:
  7. Jul 29, 2007 #6
    however if you get the curriculum done they don't care if you give the students a bit more

    I remember in my old town (very wealthy town) my science research teacher made over 110,000 dollars a year from the school, not including the extra money he got as kickbacks from getting students into science competitions. Now he did have to read a bunch of research papers, look up research oppurtunities for students, and help keep their research on track.

    but it was a very lucrative position.

    nd I can almost guarantee his written wage was less than that of the department head's
  8. Jul 31, 2007 #7
    My wife teaches high school math.

    The pay is not as bad as you would expect, but it's not great unless you have 25-30 years of experience. The hours are long (there is a lot of out of school grading and preparation necessary), but on the other hand, you *do* get the entire summer off.

    My wife enjoys it, but frankly, I'd run screaming if I had to do it! :smile:
  9. Jul 31, 2007 #8
    The nature of this job depends where you teach. It's not the same at every high school. There are good and bad schools, with the same position with varying degrees of pay.

    Enjoyable? No one can tell you what you like to do. Not everyone floats on the same boat.

    In my experience, I always "pity" the life my teachers were going through. They have to put up with the worst of the worst of students 9-10 months a year. I grew up in a very bad neighborhood/city. My high school was considered a D/F school because the majority of the students were minorities and the general area in the school was very bad, which was a major influence. Most of the teachers who continued to work there wanted to help the students (or they just can't find other jobs), even though it meant risking their lives going through a dangerous neighborhood to teach dangerous/smart/average teenagers.

    My 12th grade economics teacher left in the middle of the semester. She got tired of the constant harassment by her students and pretty much lost it. We had several substitute teachers throughout my final year. It was an AP class too. (Although I wasn't one of the troublemakers, I still failed the AP test with a 1)

    It all depends what school district/area you work. I would research the school/area before taking on the job.

    EDIT: This was in south Miami. My cousin lives in Chicago and some of the areas there can be 10x worse.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2007
  10. Jul 31, 2007 #9
    fizziks, what school did you go to? i was at north miami beach
  11. Jul 31, 2007 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    my son is a high school teacher in queens. he does not make much money, and some of his students come in from places like rikers island prison. e.g. a kid showed up on the last day of class this spring, 40 minutes late, and wanted to come in. it turned out his excuse for being absent all semester was he was in prison. when my son asked for his class schedule the kid handed him a crumpled up piece of paper in a ball. it aint an easy job.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
  12. Aug 1, 2007 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    here is a blog by an actual nyc high school teacher. it is filled with profanity, and humor, probably to let off the steam that builds up in the job. I do not know how seriously you should take it, but it does seem to agree with my own sons stories.


    by the way, in the "favorite posts", Pistol P, is about my son the basketball player.

    i guess to be fair, i should also refer you to some cheerleading blogs from an elite private school where the teachers say they love to come to work every day, etc.. etc,

    heres one of those:


    Listed there under news and events you will find my former student Jeff Brock (I taught briefly at Paideia) has just won a Guggenheim. Not mentioned is that the senior math teacher Steve Sigur has just won a national award as top high schol math team coach, possibly the first Georgia teacher to win the award ever.

    So high school teaching runs the gamut from Paideia to ****ty high. But I assure you some people go to work happy at ****** and some become frustrated at Paideia. But the burnout quotient is definitely higher at the former.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
  13. May 21, 2011 #12
    Well, the pay seems to vary wildly based on location. I don't make anywhere near $70K/yr. Something else to keep in mind with teaching, the salary is determined by the number of years you have taught and sometimes a stipend for teaching science or math. What I mean is, unlike most jobs where if you work hard you get raises and performance bonuses, a lousy teacher can be making the same wage or more than a really good teacher.
    My wife covers me on her company's health and dental insurance and I have life and disability insurance through an outside company because of the cost. Most companies will pay most of your health, dental, disability and life insurance premiums and usually match your contributions to a 401K up to a certain percent. Not true for teachers. In Texas, there is the "Teacher Retirement System" that is basically the same as social security. They withhold 6.5% of your earnings and match that amount. When you retire, you have a pension for the rest of your life. This is the same deal as social security. A private company withholds 6.5% of your earnings, match that amount and send it to the Social Security fund. When you retire, you get monthly payments for the rest of your life (supposedly).
    I spend a lot of time grading, especially labs. That's in addition to writing quizzes, writing labs, setting up and taking down labs, doing the lab the night before to make sure everything works, and writing lesson plans. The contract is for 7:30 am to 4:00 pm but most teachers spend a lot longer than that at school and I spend longer than most teachers at school. There are also "events" and "functions" you attend after school and on weekends because you want to or you are expected to or down right have to.
    The 10 days off at Christmas is nice but most professionals have off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day anyway so it's really like only having six additional days off and at least one day is spent decompressing and one spent gearing back up.
    Summers off are somewhat of a fallacy. Our last day of school this year is June 3 and Graduation is the 4th (which I have to work -- but I would go anyway). School starts August 22 but we have to be back the week before for "in-service" which isn't spent getting your room or materials ready for the new year so I need to put in another 4-5 days during the summer doing that. Additionally, I have eight days of continuing education and workshops to go to this summer. So that's about seven weeks of the summer off. Again, most professionals get at least two weeks of vacation each year so when you back that out, I'm down to five weeks of "summers off". And some of that time is spent doing the things it would be easy to take half a day off to take care of if you were working in other professions. Things like an annual medical check up and a visit to the dentist. It's much easier to put those things off than prepare for not being at school.
    So, if you are thinking about going into teaching because it's an easy gig or having summers off, or for the money, don't do it.
    Now for the good news. It is very rewarding. There is nothing like the feeling I get knowing I made a difference in someone's life and that difference will make a difference in many other lives. I'm thrilled when I hear a student say, "Oh, now I get it. I've never thought of it that way." If this motivates you, by all means pursue teaching because that will be what keeps you going and makes you feel successful.
    A couple of physician friends of mine say the only thing that got them through the first two years of medical school was knowing they wanted to be a doctor more than anything else in the world.
    I hope this was helpful.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook