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Teaching high school physics

  1. Sep 8, 2015 #1
    I am looking for some advice.
    I have always been really interested in teaching at a high school level or community college level. I am kind of close to getting my BS. I have ten or eleven classes to go. But they're spread out over the next two years so I have two years to finish. I've done some reading and from what I've gathered the public school systems are always looking for science or math teachers.
    My concern teaching at the high school level is that I won't get a chance to teach any students any fun physics. Or teach any calculus. Is that(calculus) normally only reserved for college? I would hate to have to teach algebra. I want to work with students that want to learn and not teach high school algebra and deal with the P.I.T.A students, for a lack of better words. Is there anyone here that has worked or works on that level of education that can shed some light on that?
    I just started working at the university in the astronomy department doing research. I'm funded by a scholarship for the next 12 months. This brings me to my next point.
    I know in order to work at public schools I need to get some kind of certification. But I don't know the process or time it takes to do that. And only having two years left to graduate and one year of that being reserved for research, do I have enough time to get the ball rolling on the education route? Or is this something that is university specific and need to have to talk with a adviser?
    And from what I've gathered from community college instructors, I only need a masters to qualify to teach at most community colleges. And I'm sure undergrad plus graduate research experience would only help my chances of landing a community college teaching job.

    Would anyone be able to offer advice of any kind?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2015 #2
    Assuming you're in the US, I believe this is state-specific. Talk to someone in your education department about certification.

    From what I have heard, it's quite difficult to teach community college with only a master's, as many Ph.Ds are looking for those jobs because of the difficulty of the university job market.
  4. Sep 9, 2015 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Get thee to academic advisors within your college of education (alternatively, go to an education department and speak with the program director) and ask them these questions. For public schools, you do require a state certification which represents a considerable amount of work. On the plus side, your STEM education interests and background make you highly desirable, employment-wise.
  5. Sep 30, 2015 #4
    I have to agree with what has already been said. While out of work I thought I would apply to teach high school. I went directly to the school. I could not believe it. I could not even talk to a teacher. I only got so far as some teacher's aide, that pushed a form to me to take to the Sheriff to be fingerprinted as a first step. One burly security guard /aide in a city school gave me the fingerprint form told me he was not a teacher, he just worked there to provide forms. Then they told me this was only the first in about 13 steps. It seemed that they just wanted to get rid of me. I did get fingerprinted though but never sent it in, because I started hearing from CC's.

    Career counselors suggested I go to education professionals in the college I graduated from and enquire about an internship/training program, if I was interested in teaching HS.

    I applied to several community colleges and got 3 interviews. Two rejected me, one I never heard from again, and they were funny. They interviewed me for more than 90 minutes. After the interview they were all smiling and at ease and they told me the never had an interview that went 90 minutes with two rounds of questioning. They (all 5) congratulated me with enthusiastic handshakes. I thought I had the job. later they told me they had to interview at least three people and I was only the first. This interview was on December 2, and they were looking to close the interviewing process on December 7, to start for the winter semester, after Christmas (I thought they were crazy). How could they hire someone and expect them to move across 800 miles in three weeks. I heard the school was undergoing many challenges in keeping their senior administration (several resigned about this time). It is possible the Provost or Dean was one of them.

    I was fortunate to get a much better offer on about December 15 of that year. I later heard from another CC for an interview (twice) but by that time I was working.

    By the way I disagree with one point. I have a PhD. and I got beat out of CC's by applicants with Master's degrees.

    Also many CC's teach algebra based physics and it is not unreasonable to find you will be teaching algebra along with physics. The downside is you may also be teaching older students who failed algebra when they had to learn it in high school. CC's offer many challenges and not so much fun. You may be better off teaching an honors high school course to clever kids. By the way many High schools have physics and mathematics classes that include calculus.
  6. Sep 30, 2015 #5


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    One thing I would add is that at the high school level you're really a teacher first. So even though you may have the credentials for teaching senior level or even AP physics, you may not get to teach those courses at first. As a teacher, you'll be assigned the classes that need to be taught. If administration needs someone to teach the 10th grade Sweat Hogs (probably dating myself with that reference, although for the record I only saw I in re-runs), then you're stuck with the 10th grade Sweat Hogs. You have to be in it with a desire to really help the kids learn, regardless of the specific course. That will mean teaching algebra.

    Something else to consider is that you seem to be looking at the problem from the "I only have so much time to squeeze this in" point of view. Really, if this is the direction that you chose for yourself, if it takes you an extra year of school, then that's what it takes and that's what you need to do to get to where you want to be.
  7. Sep 30, 2015 #6


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    You seriously just walked into a school to apply for a teaching job?

    Maybe it's different where you live, but where I'm from teachers are hired by the district school board, not the individual schools, so one would apply directly through the school board.
  8. Oct 1, 2015 #7
    I did this in 2015 and as I said, I felt the reception was rather cold. Later, when I looked for teaching positions on the internet, I found that school districts did the hiring not the individual high school (just as you said). Maybe I was naïve.

    In my defense, about 20 1995, in another state the local high school needed to replace the physics teacher part time. I heard about the position by word of mouth. 1 I applied and interviewed at that local high school for that position. To my surprise, they asked me what it would take to hire me full time. I found out later, they asked an earlier applicant if he knew me. The earlier applicant was a co-worker and a friend of mine and he told me he supported me in preference to himself. However, I was not chosen for the part time job. I think, the decision was made by a science teacher and the principal. I won the teacher over (he seemed enthusiastic, and several times he told me, for example, tell her how you would get the concept of moment of inertia across to your students) , but I think the principal had reservations. Anyway, I had too much time in service for a career change to teaching, so I would only accept part time.

    In 2015 tried this walk in procedure again at a the same suburban school in the county where I had lived 20 years ago, and the reception was much more cordial.

    I could have networked better. I knew several high school teachers in that state through officiating at student chess tournaments throughout the 1990's. I did not consult them to ask what would be the best way to introduce myself, and apply for a position. I even worked professionally with a former member of the county school board and I did not consult him. I suppose I had only a few hours after the first interview before I had to fly back, and I thought I would introduce myself to that same local high school. I was already dressed for the occasion.
  9. Oct 7, 2015 #8
    thanks for all the replies!
    i spoke with one of the instructors at my university that taught high school physics for a while and he gave a lot of good advice based on his experience. my next stop is with one the advisors in the college of education. because of the class sequences i still have two years to graduate so I'm hoping i can knock out a few of the education courses that you have to take before taking the states cert test... or something like that.
    his experiences are a little conflicting with what Choppy said. He told me that i will probably be forced to teach a subject i don't care to teach but i can suggest the addition of a physics type course. apparently some schools seeing having a physics program as huge plus. its makes the school looks good. and since people with physics degrees are in high demand to teach high school physics, its typically not that hard to make something like that happen.
  10. Oct 8, 2015 #9
    Actually, I can almost guarantee it. As a new teacher, you are low man on the totem pole and get to teach what the more senior teachers don't want to teach. :smile:
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