Being a Teacher

Parent Q&A

Relocating from NYC, inquiry about teaching in the Bay Mar 13, 2018 (6 responses below)
Any Union City (New Haven) Teachers Out There? Jan 10, 2017 (1 responses below)
  • Hello BPN, 

    I'm a new father and my family is transitioning to live in the Bay Area for the first time. I'm looking for some advice specifically about substitute teaching but also more generally about the teaching job market. I have eight years experience as a high school english teacher at a small public school in Brooklyn, two years experience teaching at a private school in Massachusetts, and have taught English Comp as an Adjunct at a small college. 

    I'm reaching out to the BPN community to find out if anyone could tell me about their experience with subbing (there is some older advice in the archives about this but wanted more recent reports) in the Berkeley/Oakland public school systems? And/or the private schools in the Easy Bay? How steady is the work, what is the pay like, what is the lifestyle like? How sustainable is it over a year long period? Does it lead to possible employment? 

    I have looked through school websites at job openings but applying cold hasn't produced results.

    Any advice or personal antidotes would be appreciated!

    - Chris

    Chris, you can make a decent living doing being a sub around here. In fact, I think if you sub in SF proper, committing to 4 days a week, you can even get health care. And there are tons of jobs that go begging for decent teachers because the pay is so terrible. I am hoping for my own sake that you'll also take a look at the West Contra Costa Unified School District. You sound like you've got a ton of great experience and I'd love for my kids to have you as a teacher. Good luck! 

    There are jobs for substitutes. In terms of long-term public school jobs it depends on whether your credential is transferable. You should be able to figure it out (or at least what questions to ask) on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing Website. You can't get a permanent job in the public schools without a credential. Cal State East Bay or SFSU offer courses you could use to fill in your credential. To teach as an adjunct in CA, you need a MA in the field. That said, there are very few jobs in English at the Community College level, and relatively few colleges here compared to the East Coast.

    The substitute pay in BUSD isn't much. It seems like something to do as a transition, rather than as a long-term job. In general CA teachers are paid less than those in NY or Mass, and there is a greater discrepancy between salaries and housing costs. On the positive side more jobs are opening up because many teachers are retiring now. Usually people with experience other places can get jobs if their credential is ok. I've heard of new hires getting their out-of-district years counted on the salary scale.

    If you are open to Charter schools, East Bay Innovation Academy is expanding each year and looking for dynamic teachers to join the team.  See here:

  • Would love to get some info on what it's like to work for the Union City (New Haven) school district. I'm a fifth year public school teacher looking to make a switch after having been with the same district all these years. Specifically, I would like to know what curriculum is being used for ELA and Math, if there is 1:1 technology in the classroom, the socioeconomic diversity of students in the classroom, and whether teachers are generally satisfied with their district's initiatives and leadership. Thanks!

    I'm a graduate of the NHUSD and can put you in touch with quite a few Logan High teachers if that interests you.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Thinking about a Teaching Career

Husband wants to teach, so I'll be the breadwinner?

Jan 2014

Hello BPN Community, My husband is in his 40s and has been a full-time father for four years, trying without success to find a job in his background of warehouse and production work. (He has a B.A. but his employment history is with low-paying jobs not requiring a degree, which he got in his 30s.) He has been volunteering at our children's preschool and elementary school for over two years and enjoys working with the kids. He gets a lot of comments that he should be a teacher, and he is working toward making that happen.

I'd like to hear from anyone with experience with CalStateTEACH or other affordable (public) credential programs. He already tried BATTI but did not get accepted. Also, anyone who has transitioned to teaching mid-life and/or who can give some knowledgeable insights about looking for teaching jobs and the longer-term outlook for teaching jobs in the Bay Area.

If you're a breadwinner mom I'd also love to hear from you as this role reversal has been a real emotional strain on us individually and as a couple. We have been getting by on my income but there's not a lot extra at the end of the month. Having him be the full time parent while I work has left me feeling resentful and sad. I admire teaching and teachers and am resigned that he will never make much money, and that I will always have to work full time. At this point just having the additional income and benefits, and him saving for retirement, would seem like a windfall. Thanks so much. Hoping for better times ahead

The husband of a friend has been a successful childcare provider in their home for 20 years. It's been a blast for all of them and he's earning good money. People really value that he's a man providing this kind of nurturing for kids. He takes in just a handful of kids, always has a waiting list, etc. He's a teacher, without a doubt. This might be a good way to go because the length of time needed for education is so much shorter than with elementary school teaching, for example. Some info: Mom 2
I can't speak to breaking into teaching mid-life, but boy do I hear you on being a sole breadwinner. It's very hard to be a working mother no matter what, but even harder knowing that it's all on you to provide for your family--and that much harder to have your spouse finally find a career path only to have it be one that will still require you to work full time. You sound justifiably weary, and even though you say you're resigned to the fact that he won't ever make much money, I think it's understandable if you still need to grieve, even privately, the loss of the family structure you thought you had signed up for. I am in your exact same situation--sole-breadwinning mother of two, heretofore stay-at-home partner just starting up a not-super-lucrative home business that will help a bit but not at all enable me to work less than full time. This path is challenging and isolating, for sure. So much of the workplace rhetoric around family-friendliness involves letting mothers work part-time and it is absolutely maddening to be unable to cut back at work because your salary is IT, particularly if you have a lot of mom colleagues at work who *do* have bank-making husbands.

I wish I had more concrete suggestions for you, but the main thing that has worked for us is really frequently acknowledging to each other how hard the other one works. Your husband is probably dealing with plenty of insecurity about his career, and he'll be much more supportive of you if you can let him know how much you appreciate what he has been able to do for your family while he was unemployed. It's also been invaluable to me to have non-mutual friends I can really open up to about how hard this is, so that I can express my feelings without sounding unsupportive about my partner's new career path.

If breadwinning mothers had any spare time or money to meet up for coffee, I'd certainly organize a support group! You are doing an amazing job supporting your family, and you have every right to also be frustrated that you have to do so. Same boat, sister

Hi there!

I was once in your shoes (and still sort of am) I was the breadwinner of the family for over 4 years until I had the courage to quit my FT job (that I had for over 8 years) to pursue my passion and love of photography (which means I'm no longer the breadwinner mom - for the time being anyway).

My husband had stayed home with our first child since I was making the most money at the time and he always ended up with low paying jobs as well but his dream was to always be a teacher and that was the path he was on until we had our kid (we now have two kiddos, by the way). Anyway, I pushed him to take on any positions at schools. He was hired as an after school teacher at a charter school and found that they had a credential program through the school in which the school and program pay for a portion of the credential!! It's called REACH..

My only advice is - imagine if the roles were reversed and how you would feel and or want to be nurtured to find your own career path, if you wanted to pursue something outside the home. If you are starting to feel some resentment - imagine how he may be feeling in his own situation. Have you expressed how you've been feeling lately at all to him? Times are tough all around - and especially for us as I get my business off the ground. My husband is finally at a place to be able to contribute so much more than he has before (plus he still takes on a lot of housework so that I can work too) - at least financially. It wasn't always the case, and it wasn't immediate that is for sure! All good things take time. cw - was the breadwinner mom

Private schools don't require teaching credentials. I taught at a catholic high school for 3 years. During my 3rd year, I enrolled at SFSU part-time to work on a teaching credential. On the whole, private schools pay less than public but he can move to a public school after he gets his credential. Having him first work, then start on the credential, may help with the financial part so that you won't feel as much of a breadwinner. Good luck

Considering teaching but I'm an introvert

Feb 2013

I am considering getting my teaching credential. I have volunteered in classes, tutored on the side. I love working with kids. Now, I'm finally out of the corporate world and considering my teaching credential in secondary education. However, as an introvert, I'm not sure I can manage a huge class! I like working with small groups of kids, hands-on projects. I've helped my friend co-teach her ESL classes at the university level and enjoyed that very much; she has a masters in TESOL. Are there other roles and jobs out there that someone like me can do in public education but not teach a class, per se? want to be an educator

There are quite a few jobs in schools that involve teaching and working with students in small groups or one on one. Depending on your interest or your level of education (and your willingness to get a credential or other requirement). Several possibilities come to mind right away; you could work as an Intervention Specialist (in General Ed.) or a Special Day Class Teacher (Special Ed.) or a Resource Specialist (also Special Ed.) If you are already in school volunteering, it would probably be a great opportunity to connect with the people who do these jobs and ask their advice about the necessary training and how they view the profession. If they are willing to share this wth you, you could receive some very useful advice. Special Educator

Career change - to become a high school teacher

Sept 2012

Dear BPNers,

I am thinking of the possibility to have a career change and to become a middle or high school math/science teacher. My background is somewhat related to engineering, and I only had limited teaching experience before.

The reasons that I like to be a teacher are:

1. From my limited teaching experience, I feel I like teaching. And I love to interact with children. My previous job requires me to sit in front of a computer almost all day long, and I really don't like that. I think it will be a lot better to work in a classroom and talk to the students rather than using a computer all day long.
2. I love math and science, and I was always very good at them when I was a student.
3. I am a mom of a small child. To be a teacher seems to allow me to have more time with my child, because (I guess) a teacher's schedule is similar to the students' schedule, such as winter and summer break, and after school hours.

The reasons that I am not fully convinced that I should jump into teaching right now are:

1. I heard that teachers are generally under paid, and they have to work extended hours everyday, and many of them have to work at home (like grading) after a 8-hours work at school.
2. I heard that older kids, especially high school kids, are not as easy to work with as the younger kids, and sometimes they will show disrespect to the teachers. My friends said it is easier to teach elementary school, but I kind of prefer middle or high school, because I feel middle or high school kids are at the right age to be really into the world of math and/or science.

So BPNers, please share with me your experience or stories to be a teacher and any advice you may have. Or, you can just answer one or more of my questions below:

1.What is it like to be a teacher?
2.What is it like to teach in high school?
3.How many hours per day do you work?
4.Do you have to take your work home?
5.Do you have to work during after school hours?
6.Do you get paid to work during after school hours?
7.Overall, do you think you get under paid?
8.Do you have any advice or tips to work with middle or high school kids?

Thank you very much! To be a teacher? Or not?

Please check the archives as this question has been asked many times. But here's the short version:

1. It is an incredibly difficult and complex job that has far more to do than just understanding the subject matter. The best math teachers I know did not even major in math in college.

2. Do not teach high school unless you LOVE teenagers. You cannot be an effective teacher if you only love your subject, you must love the kids. All of them. And yes, teens can be horribly disrespectful if given the opportunity.

3. I teach ''part time'' and am at school from 8:00-4:30 most days and work at home every night from 9:00-midnight and often as late as 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. No kidding. And this is much less than I worked when I was new. In my first seven years, teaching full time, I easily put in 80 hours a week.

4. Yes, I take work home.

5. Yes, I work after school hours and on weekends.

6. No, I do not get paid for this time.

7. It is extremely difficult to get by in the Bay Area on a starting teacher's salary, especially if you have kids. You should expect to feel underpaid. You will definitely feel overworked.

8. Go volunteer in a high school or two and see what it is like. Talk to teachers.

Most importantly, please do NOT become a teacher so you can ''spend more time with your kids.'' Yes, summers are nice, but ask anyone whose parents were teachers and they will probably tell you that it felt like their parents spent more time on their students than their own kids. Teaching is an incredibly inflexible job. You cannot just slip out mid-day to take your kid to the dentist, or leave early to go your kid's Halloween parade. You are legally responsible for your students and your own children will often have to come second. --Reality check, please

These are huge questions! As a teacher at a public high school in Oakland, I love my job, which can exhilarate and enliven me, but often find it exhausting, frustrating, and overwhelming as well. I take some work home (less now that I have children and have developed systems to manage the workload more efficiently) and stay at work till about 5 most evenings. I get paid a little more than $40k a year plus very good benefits. My pay only reflects my contracted hours (8:15 - 3:15 each day), although I can earn more from taking on additional responsibilities. I earn less than I feel I should for the quality of my work, but the benefits make a big difference.

As for the complicated nature of the high-school classroom, I think you need to see it yourself to get an idea of whether you're actually interested. I suggest visiting a few classes in the type of school where you're interested in teaching. Make sure to see at least one first-year teacher in a general (or low-track) course. Establishing classroom discipline can take time and practice, and the effort to do so drives many new teachers away from the profession.

I hope this helps! Best of luck. Our students need more high-quality math and science teachers. Maybe you'll be one!


Have you ever worked a job where you were interrupted by small requests/demands throughout the day, and needed to complete your ''main'' work as well as the requests? If you were good in that situation, you've got a better chance at enjoying teaching than if you're a person who requires work to come at you one thing at a time.

In today's version of the teaching profession, you don't talk with students all day--you deliver instruction and assess student learning, and you do it within very well- constructed and engaging routines and boundaries. Kids don't do well in unstructured environments, and especially not kids in urban schools, which is where you're most likely to find a job, at least initially.

Content area expertise is only part of the picture. A HUGE part of effective teaching is a detailed understanding of the developmental requirements of young learners, including what to do with a class full of students at widely disparate achievement levels (in any class, you'll have students way below, a little below, at and exceeding grade level expectations, and you'll need to keep them all engaged and push all their learning forward--but they can't all easily read the same text, for example, so you'll need to figure out student by student what to do about that).

Teaching is hard but very rewarding. The hours--including the after-hours work you mention--are brutal if you want to do the job well, and they are not conducive to work/home balance until years into the profession. Summers and holidays do make up for that to an extent, but your friends and family will have to ''wait'' for you until you get to breaks.

Most teachers struggle; in public schools you'll be hard pressed to find a good mentor, and if you do find one, s/he has probably been asked to take on extra duties to alleviate some administrative workload (usually, so the administrators can get into the classroom and try to train the struggling teachers). There is no extra money, not for anything including necessary materials. In underfunded schools, you'll spend thousands to keep the classroom running, and you'll already receive FAR less money than similarly trained professionals (though, with your degrees, you'll likely receive more money than many other teachers in your building--but keep in mind this also means you'll cost the school more money, and they'll have that in mind when they evaluate your worth).

Much would have to change in U.S. policy to make public education a valued and sustainable professional choice. I taught and loved it, but I left so I could have a home life. Most of us do when we have children and/or when we want our nights and weekends back. Don't mean to discourage you, but those are the facts

I was a high school science teacher for about 12 years in several districts and a middle school teacher in BUSD. I have finally done the opposite of you and moved to a nice quiet cubicle. I would be happy to answer some of your questions. First I would suggest either volunteering in a classroom (probably will need finger printing) or come on board as a substitute teacher for West Contra Costa Unified (they have the most open policy and need the most people). Sub for 3 to 6 months at a variety of schools and age groups, talk with the teachers at the schools, and then decide if you want to go through the teaching program. I went through Cal State East Bay as it was relatively inexpensive and you were given your own classroom from the start instead of being a student teacher. That had its pluses and minuses. Feel free to contact me at my email. The pay was low to start with (compared to what you are probably used to) but I ended at about $66K per year; considering I was only teaching about 9 1/2 months per year and have a nice long summer off, it was a pretty good deal. cocosar
Teaching is a hard career, but if you prepare well and enjoy your job it can be an amazingly rewarding one.

I would let others who are high school teachers respond some of the questions you have, but be aware that teaching jobs have becoming increasingly more competitive, and there is definitely a lot more people interested in Elementary Ed than HS so usually High school math and science are better fields in terms of finding a job (and special ed.).

Being a good teacher, in my opinion, definitely requires a lot more than the ''school hours,'' but after the first 2-3 years of teaching it's a demanding job but a ''reasonably demanding one''.

One important thing to consider is that, socially, you will be seen as a volunteer rather than a professional, and sometimes that can feel very limiting (and it is, in my view, utterly unfair!).

If you do chose to go into teaching, make sure you get good training in a rigorous program with lots of field work and hopefully with good intellectual and research skills that will allow you to be a strong professional and advocate for the young adults you'll be working with. Since you already have a degree, a Master of Teaching Education might be a good match for you. Former teacher, current teacher educator

Thanks so much for asking this question! I also am seriously considering a career change to become a middle school math teacher. Sierra
I've been in the teaching profession for over a decade, with most of my years teaching high school or working with high schools as an administrator.

First, most of ''what you've heard'' is correct.

I'll be too brief, and a little trite. The only other option would be a novel.

1.What is it like to be a teacher? If you can put the success of others above your own, and make the success of others the primary goal of your own success, it's the best job on earth. That may sound simplistic or easy but it is hard (as a parent you will understand this) and essential for successful teaching.

2.What is it like to teach in high school? It's a great combination of enjoying both kids AND a subject. You can teach either end of the spectrum--elementary and college--and only love one, respectively; for high school, loving both is best.

3.How many hours per day do you work? As many hours as you have to work. There won't ever be enough hours, so it hardly matters.

4.Do you have to take your work home? Yes.

5.Do you have to work during after school hours? Yes. If you are lucky, those that are required will be defined, designated in advance, and you will have some choice. But you will have to do them. And you will want to do others--attend kids' sports games, the school play, etc.

6.Do you get paid to work during after school hours? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Some hours are built into your salary. Others--if you are a coach, etc.--you may get a stipend.

7.Overall, do you think you get under paid? Yes. Never, ever, try to calculate your hourly wage. You'd quit the next day.

8.Do you have any advice or tips to work with middle or high school kids? --Treat them above their ability to behave, and they will rise to it; expect them to behave poorly and they will.

--Love your subject, and they will love it, too.

--The more you hated high school yourself, the better off you'll be. (Some will disagree, but you can see my point.) Adolescents have a great sense of justice, quick minds, and bizarre senses of humor. They are learning the rules of society, and are struggling with which they accept, which they reject, which they don't understand and which make them feel safe. Being the ''other adult'' in a teenager's life is a powerful, important, sometime unpleasant, sometimes life-changing job.

Good luck making your choice. Miss teaching HS

All in all, being a teacher will give you more time and freedom in the summer to be with your children, but it will give you less time than a normal 9-5 job during the school year. Like A LOT less time. Many teacher parents feel guilty about this. I can say with confidence you will have less energy and less time for your own family.

I recommend substitute teaching or summer school teaching first.

1.What is it like to be a teacher? Exhausting, fun, interesting, stressful, and did I say exhausting already? It takes enormous stamina.

2.What is it like to teach in high school? You have to like teenagers. They are more interesting and funny than most adults, but they take vigilance. One nice thing is that they are still very receptive to being helped, and want to become better people. Teaching is so much more than just working with kids, though; you'll spend a lot of time in meetings, prepping, dealing with parents, administrators, and colleagues, and doing paperwork.

3.How many hours per day do you work? 7:30-3:20, but I work at least 2-4 hours a night on top of that, either by staying at school late or by working at night. I spend 6-7 hours per weekend, too. You never really get freedom from your work; there is always more to do and if you don't do it on one night, you'll have to do it on another. It's endless.

4.Do you have to take your work home? Yes, absolutely. I know two teachers out of 200 who don't take their work home.

5.Do you have to work during after school hours? Usually you have ''supervisions'' where you need to chaperone a sports game or dance, but mostly it's just more grading, lesson planning, and organizing.

6.Do you get paid to work during after school hours? No, not unless you're a coach.

7.Overall, do you think you get under paid? Without a doubt, yes. Especially when you consider how much time you spend working, how much education you need to do it, and how exhausting it is.

8.Do you have any advice or tips to work with middle or high school kids? Find your biggest trouble-makers and get to know them very well. Make them your ''beta''; you are clearly on top, but give them a leadership role. The best way to manage teenagers is to make them feel sure you respect and care about them. Then they're easy.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you like to perform/be on stage, even when you're sick, distracted, or tired? You'll be talking all day long, around people all day long. There's no hiding.

2. Do you do well in inflexible schedules? Your day won't be your own. You can't go to the bathroom when you want to. You can't hide.

3. How do you feel about all the non-teaching stuff? (Meetings, collaboration, parent anger, student discipline?) Anonymous

Teaching is a wonderful, challenging, demanding, stimulating career. You are not the first person who when looking for a change thinks that teaching may be the answer. I am a middle school and high school biology teacher who is not currently teaching. Here are some positive and perhaps not quite so positive things to consider.

1. I love being a teacher when I can decide to do the things that I want to do with a eye to the needs of my students. In some ways, this is the case all the time. In other ways, this is the case none of the time because the district/state/nation/testing body is determining the best approach to teaching not me.

2. I love high school students. They are ready for challenging conversations, they are often eager to learn about the world that they are becoming a part of, and most of them can focus. I miss spending time with them.

3. Count on standing in front of a group of kids for at least five hours every day. Then also realize that you have to prepare your lessons, photo copy whatever you need, respond to emails from parents, kids, teachers, the principal etc, make and return phone calls to parents, go to meetings after school, and grade all of the work that you have asked your students to complete. You will be working evenings and weekends, especially the first three years.

4. See #3. In a nutshell - yes.

5. See #3. If you think your job is over when the last bell rings you are misinformed.

6. You are a salaried employee. Your contract usually counts for about a seven hour day. You will be working far longer than seven hours each day, particularly in the first three years on the job.

7. Job satisfaction is a huge reason why teachers teach. Many school districts post salary schedules are on-line so you can see determine this one for yourself.

8. Middle school kids are an interesting group. They demand respect and will give you respect only if you know how to give it to them. They can be wonderful to work with. They can also eat you alive. You have to be able to think fast on your feet and be a clear and thoughtful disciplinarian.

I would recommend that you figure out how to volunteer in a middle/high school public school classroom and see what it looks like first-hand. If you do decide to go ahead and take the plunge I would recommend you look that the Mills College Mid-Career Math and Science teacher credential program. long time teacher

I was a teacher for many years. I LOVED my job. At the same time, it consumed me to an unhealthy degree. Part of that is because I had trouble drawing lines and carving out the time in my life to take care of my own needs. When I got pregnant, I quit, because I could not see myself being a teacher and a Mom at the same time. That said, there are many teachers out there with families. Some people are better at knowing when to stop, or better at time management, etc. I would never discourage a potential teacher who will bring passion to the classroom. It's true that you will have a lot of holidays, and the summers off are great. Just be aware that it is A LOT of work. Science teaching is more work than Math teaching.

1.What is it like to be a teacher? Being a teacher is amazing. It's so rewarding to work with young people, to make connections and teach and learn with them. It's also VERY hard, very intense work.

2.What is it like to teach in high school? If you like teenagers, High School is great. You can specialize in one subject and hopefully have only one or two different classes you teach. You have A LOT of students, though, which is hard.

3.How many hours per day do you work? Anywhere from 8 to 12

4.Do you have to take your work home? YES. Grading takes MANY hours. You also end up spending a lot of time after school with kids, or contacting parents by phone or email.

5.Do you have to work during after school hours? YES.

6.Do you get paid to work during after school hours? NO, not exactly. You get paid a salary, the same each month no matter how many extra hours you put in. For me, it was hard to set boundaries with my time and energy. You can ALWAYS do more, put in more time, do a better job. But you have to take care of your own needs, too.

7.Overall, do you think you get under paid? I don't have many material desires, so I don't have much of a personal problem with the payscale. I do think it's a shame how low teachers' salaries are compared to many other professions, because I consider teaching to be a very important and noble profession, as well as one requiring a high level of skill and emotional investment.

8.Do you have any advice or tips to work with middle or high school kids? I have tons of advice if you actually do become a teacher--feel free to email me later. Here's a quick few: Keep a sense of humor. Show the kids respect by honoring their intelligence and experience, encouraging questions, creating meaningful learning activities. Earn their respect by being consistent and firm, but also kind and understanding. violetswallow

1.What is it like to be a teacher? Extremely enjoyable, hardwork, unpredictable, and tiring.

2.What is it like to teach in high school? (can't answer this upper elementary only)

3.How many hours per day do you work? A lot. Arrive 7:30, leave 4:15 (to pick up own kids), make dinner, homework (my kids), then continue working for one or two hours.

4.Do you have to take your work home? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

5.Do you have to work during after school hours? Always, always, always and always.

6.Do you get paid to work during after school hours? It is expected via the contract you sign. No, you do not get paid overtime.

7.Overall, do you think you get under paid? Yes, I could not be the sole breadwinner for my family.

8.Do you have any advice or tips to work with middle or high school kids? Find the school that fits your expectations, your professionalism, and your personality. it takes a while to get there but you can find the right fit - there are A LOT of schools in the Bay Area. Finally in the right school!

I do not have advice about becoming a high school teacher. I wanted to write because I was so touched by all the teachers that wrote in about how hard they work. I wanted to tell you all that I so deeply appreciate what you do everyday. I fight every day to pay you more. -Grateful.
Hi there! I am not a teacher, but I have 2 close friends who are and I wanted to share with you their experiences. They LOVE their jobs. One works as an elementary school teacher and the other in a rough neighborhood of Oakland as a high school teacher. The high school teacher does work really hard and spends a lot of extra hours in the classroom & outside of the classroom preparing her lesson plans. She takes her work with and also does a lot of grading on the weekends. She also volunteers her time on the weekends in the classroom to hold tutoring hours (she is a saint!) Keep in mind though that she teaches English & History so a lot of the assignments and testing requires more time to grade (not a simple scantron test.) They get paid the same amount of pay regardless of how much extra time they put in. My elementary school friend did say that she loves the flexibility of taking work home after classes are over. She can come home early and work from home, or stay in the classroom and work there if she wants to. My elementary school friend doesn't do as much ''lesson planning'' because the curruciulum stays more consistent for her students. My high school teacher friend does a lot of lesson planning every summer to prepare for the school year, but that is because she teaches new books each year. I'm guessing for science & math you wouldn't need as much prep work since the ''facts'' don't really change as much? I can't speak to the pay but I can say they are both very satisifed with their work. I have 2 young children who haven't started school yet, but I'd love for them to have smart & passionate teachers like yourself! I hope you'll consider a career in teaching and help improve our education system. Good luck! Teacher Lover

Leaving law, openly gay - teach high school?

Jan 2012

After a successful but increasingly draining career in law, public advocacy organizations, and state administration, my partner (late 30s) is hoping to turn his talents, energy, and optimism to teaching. He has a liberal-arts MA and a JD from a leading law school, practiced labor/employment law for a big firm, and has risen to the top of several private organizations as well as a major state agency, but neither one of us knows much about the practical logistics of starting a teaching career. At the moment he's considering a move into secondary school teaching, probably in private school contexts. It won't happen overnight, we realize, but we want to lay the groundwork. We're a same-sex couple and he would want and need to be completely out in the educational environment. Is this even reasonable to try to think about or expect, even in the Bay Area? We'd value hearing from anyone with experience about what he needs--in terms of training, certification, etc.--and with suggestions about possibilities to explore in northern California or resources we might consult. Any contacts that network members could help us make with teachers ''who've been there'' would also be terrific. Thanks! Exploring New Horizons

My son's fifth grade teacher was openly gay. His partner was the mayor of the city they lived in, and they actually invited the fifth grade class to the sworn in ceremony which was held at the school multi purpose room in an early evening. They had two adopted children who were also going to the same elementary school. The family was well known and well respected in the community (at least on the surface). My son was thrilled to be in Mr. M's class, as well as most other students. He was simply the best teacher. Before becoming a teacher Mr. M was in restaurant management. He changed career to spend more time with his family, and he was teacher's aid in my son's second grade class. We still see the family from time to time, since their boys are one year above and one year below my son.

If your partner is passionate about teaching, I say go for it! we need more qualified teachers! Vivian

There are a few out of the closet gay teachers in the Berkeley schools, and quite a few out of the closet lesbian teachers.

I would recommend your partner volunteer regularly in a classroom for at least a semester before enrolling in a credential program. By volunteering he can see if teaching is actually the right career. It also seems like he assumes that teaching would be less stressful than his current career -- spending time in a school would help him evaluate that hypothesis.

I assume you've thought through the financial costs of this career change -- teaching pays quite a bit less than most other careers that require the same amount of education.

The other suggestion I have is that he should go through a full-fledged credential program (UC, Mills, SFSU, Cal State East Bay) -- the time he spends on supervised teaching will make his first few years of independent teaching much easier. a teacher

re: the person writing in asking for advice about their partner's desire to go into teaching.

First of all, as far as being out: I have met lots of educators and have worked in areas that are progressive and not-so-progressive, and I can't imagine that it would be a problem at all. Out gay teachers (and principals) are very common.

On the practical side: there are two ways to get into teaching.

One: the ''traditional'' route: apply to a school of education and get a credential. These programs usually last two years, depending on how many courses one takes, and can be done by people working during the day. Nearly all local universities have credential programs, although the more prestigious ones (Berkeley, Stanford) only offer credentials en route to a master's. Some online-only schools have programs as well. In the last year or so, student-teaching is done, usually two semesters' worth. He would need to apply to the school's credential program (write an essay, get letters of recommendation, etc.)

The web sites of the various schools should have all of the qualifications/prerequisites listed, but they are usually: pass the CBEST (general subjects' test; fairly easy); pass the CSET (a subject test in your desired area; fairly difficult); take an exam or course on the Constitution, get fingerprinted, learn CPR, etc. The CSET is the thing that will take the most work to pass and prepare for, so start looking that up now.

Two: the other way to get into teaching is through a fast-track program (such as Teach for America or the various Teaching Fellows Programs.) These programs very often recruit only for hard-to-fill areas such as math, science, special ed, and bilingual education, and may not be practical if you plan to stay in the Bay Area. Under such programs, there is no student teaching: you skip straight to teaching with an intern credential and take your classes in the evenings and/or on the weekends.

The Financial and Other Practical Sides: This is a serious consideration. Teachers pay for their own credentialing costs, which even at a CSU can run you $15,000 or so before you're done. There are programs which forgive loans if you teach in high-needs schools, but I would operate under the assumption that you'll be paying every dollar yourself. Then, do some research on salaries for teachers, and find some teacher blogs talking about average weekly workload and stress for teachers. By example: I easily work 50+ hours per week; I am essentially donating 20 hours per week of unpaid labor to my job.

Another **very important** element on the practical side: the likelihood of finding a job once you have got your secondary (i.e, high-school and middle school) credential if it is not in math or science. I went to a job fair last year and it was so disheartening to see how nearly every one of the districts were not even recruiting for any positions other than the hard-to-fill ones: math, science, special education, elementary bilingual. You would do well to find out as much as you can about the unemployment rate among teachers who are teaching at the secondary level, especially if you only have a credential in one subject (i.e, English.) I am not a secondary teacher so I don't know what the scenario is, but you should do your research carefully on this.

And now, finally -- for a reason -- the emotional side, the thing that nearly every working teacher will tell you: I love my job. I will never fail to wish for better hours, better pay, less stress, etc, but I love the gratification, the relationships I have built with my children, the importance of what I do, the challenge (even as I very often feel inadequate to meet that challenge.) My job is about relationships, and it is a hugely rewarding part of my job. I have children who are happy and smiling to see me every morning, and that is easily priceless.

That said, there are frustrations: teaching in a way that goes against my own personal philosophy (NCLB is alive and kicking); seeing children entering my room three years behind grade level; the amount of bullying and disrespect that goes on among children without my ability to effectively address it.

As much as I love my job, I might, knowing what I know now, have chosen to keep searching for a position that provided me the gratification of working with children without the stress, the hours, the very real stakes if I am not effective, and the death of my weekends. However, I am in it now, and am not about to leave any time soon.

I hope that my experience will be an effective guide as your partner searches for the next step in his career. Local Teacher

Husband wants to become an elementary teacher

April 2011

My husband wants to enroll in a teaching certification program in the East Bay and become an elementary school teacher. He is one of the thousands of people whose jobs have basically vanished in the recession, gone overseas or reduced by technology and cost-cutting, never to return. As much as I want to be supportive and am, on many levels, I am also very scared.

I hear nothing but bad news about teaching in terms of pay, satisfaction, layoffs, etc. I'm terrified he'll complete the certification and not find work, then we'll have the debt from the program to deal with along with everything else. I'm also worried about him completing it, teaching for a year or two, and deciding he doesn't like it. Plus, to enroll we'll have to juggle child care for our two kids under 4 and my full time job. Currently, he's a full time dad, so no flexibility to try getting sporadic sub jobs or anything (we have no family or support network for last-minute babysitting).

I really want him to get trained in something that is economically viable as it would certainly take a lot of pressure off me and be good for him, but I have a lot of reservations. Can any teachers out there share some words of wisdom or advice?

I'm a teacher who loves her job. I really can't imagine doing anything else as gratifying, but I often wish I could. This is because the job is so difficult and, in the current climate, demoralizing.

It is really difficult for new teachers to get permanent positions. I know colleagues with four years of seniority in tenured positions who were ''pink slipped.'' For those of us who have a job it is becoming increasingly more difficult. This is due to budget cuts which increase class sizes and reduce resources. Also, instruction is becoming more and more scripted and mandated, which insults our professional training and judgment, and takes a lot of the creative joy out of the work.

But, as I said, I love to teach. Working with children is inspiring and energizing. Scaffolding or designing lessons is stimulating and challenging.

It may be the perfect job for your husband, but if not, it's a huge monetary and time commitment. Perhaps he should speak candidly with several teachers and observe classrooms before he commits. Good luck

Being a Kindergarten teacher vs. Pilates Instructor

Jan 2011

I've decided to leave my well paid but highly unfulfilling career in finance to become either a kindergarten teacher or pilates instructor. The problem is, I don't know which I'm more passionate about. I love them both for different reasons, and can see myself doing either career. With teaching, my main concern is will I have the energy and patience to be surrounded by kids all day, then come home to my own two kids, who are both under 5? With pilates, my main concern is stability - will I be able to get a job? I'd love hearing from others who have made a career change and how they decided which direction to go, or from teachers and pilates instructors with advice about those careers. Torn between two passions

Please check the archives re: becoming a kindergarten teacher before you decide, because it definitely involves much more than getting to hang out with kids all day. Many people enter teaching with a completely false sense of what the job entails and burn-out rates in the first few years are very high.

Yes, it is rewarding, but it is also frustrating and exhausting. It can be infuriating. It is a black hole of time and there is always more you could be doing. It is always on your mind somehow, and you never leave your work at work. It is not just a job, it's a way of life! --Been There Doing That

Congratulations on wanting to follow your passion! I'm going to chime in on K teaching. I taught elementary school (3rd/4th) for six years before my youngest was born. When she was born, I knew I didn't have what it takes to do both (mom and teacher) well. I decided to leave elementary school temporarily and teach preschool. I still find it challenging to be with little ones all morning and go home to my still fairly little ones, but because my hours are limited, I can do both well (most of the time!).

I don't want to sound discouraging, but if you plan to teach in public school, you have a lot ahead of you in earning a credential, getting a job, and fulfilling state standards. Teaching is super rewarding, but I only know a handful of teachers who aren't burned out and several of those don't have young children. Good luck in your decision! Teacher-mom

Maybe I am too risk averse, but leaving your well-paying job sounds like a mistake to me. I can't see any guarantees you would be happier as a kindergarten teacher or a pilates instructor and you would certainly be a lot poorer. Could you augment your wellpaying job with volunteer work that you would find more personally rewarding? And if you want to earn less money, cut back on your hours? Keep the security and the insurance benefits that come from the good job!
There are many factors to consider. You don't say that making money is an issue or whether you have a time line. I think it would be hard to work enough hours to make a living as a pilates instructor versus a FT teaching job. Yet, if you plan on teaching in the public school system you need a BA and a teaching credential. This will take at least a year plus several required tests that cost. It's very hard to get a teaching job right now and many teachers are layed off every year. It would take you years to have any job stability and might not even be able to get a K position since principals can choose to put you in whatever grade level they need. Your job assignment can change year to year and even in the middle of a school year. Teaching K is really hard and tiring and teaching in general is not really as flexible as one might think. You can't come late or leave to pick up your sick child or whatever. I found breast feeding and pumping especially hard if you have an infant. You have one to no breaks in a teaching day and a short lunch. Sleep deprivation is especially hard to deal with and be effective with a classroom of now 30 plus children. You also have to take a lot of work home or work late all unpaid of course. Since having a child I have found it very difficult to teach FT and burn out is a very real issue for all teachers not just ones with children. I don't want to discourage you because a great teacher is an amazing thing and teaching kids is really rewarding on many levels but it's very demanding and you often have so many constraints you can't be the teacher you want to be. I do think it must get easier when your children are older and on the same school schedule but I can't speak to that. I would instead think about teaching Pre-K or day care at a school with out needing a Multi Subject Credential and also teaching Pilates. You may be able to combine the two and have the best of both worlds. Good Luck!
As a newly retired kindergarten teacher, I can easily say that after November being a teacher in kindergarten is the most wonderful job in the world. Before that time it is a job that requires much, much patience, organization, ability to give clear concise directions, ability to picture what will or might happen that one needs to address in directions or modeling, and capacity to love the oppositional child and their parent. Some of this is learned on the job. Please know that it is very tough to get into teaching these days as there have been such large cuts to education funding and class sizes are getting larger. In addition the expectations of parents and administration are higher and require more hours of work on the teacher's part. If you decide to pursue teaching, I wish you the very best. I do not regret a minute of my career! Ann

Editor note: See Fitness Instructor Careers for additional responses.

Single Parent Teacher?

May 2009

I am a single parent of a 2 year old and considering going into teaching. Am I insane? The reasons I would like to teach: I love children and I think I would be good at it. I have a background in social services, counseling and art. I have previous experience teaching adults (ESL) and loved it. I have volunteered in after-school programs in art and drama teaching. I know there is a demand for math and science teachers, and unfortunately, those are 2 subjects I am not interested in. I am interested in english, social science, humanities, history, art, drama, psychology.

My main concerns: I have struggled to manage being a stay at home mom for the first 2 years of my son's life (and it's been awesome!) , but I need to go back to work and I need a career change as my previous work as an freelancer is no longer enough to support us. My kid is my priority. Right now (b/c I have only experience as a SAH parent) it feels like any child of a FT working parent is getting second fiddle, Is it any worse for teachers? I know the first few years of teaching are intense as you learn the ropes and develop your lesson plans . Am I setting my child up for being in constant child care while I make my way through school and the first years of teaching? (I am considering doing an Oakland Teaching Fellowship) Is it doable w/o the support of a partner? Have you done it? Can you share with me? Many Thanks! Thank you for you insights!

I am a solo parent (my X lives 10,000 miles away and has little to no contact with my son) to a 5.5 year old son and an OUSD elementary school teacher. I started grad school when my son was 2 years old and am currently finishing up my 2nd year of teaching. Teaching has been an absolute blessing for me and my son, but it has also been filled with many challenges. Heather
I know that you were mostly hoping to hear from single parent teachers but thought you might also find it helpful to hear from the child of a single parent who was a teacher.

My mother was a High School English teacher and a single parent. While she had already finished her student teaching when I was adopted at 1 year old, she had not been teaching for many years. I remember when I was very young my mother would spend time with me after school and then work on her lesson plans and grading papers after I was asleep for the night.

Although I did not always admit it when I was young, I think it was great that my mother was a teacher. We had a lot of time together that my friends did not have with their parents. We did wonderful summer travels that would not have been possible if my mother had another profession. When I was 7 my mother took a sabbatical and we went to Japan for 9 months. She taught for a semester and we then traveled for 3 months. When I was 12 we drove to Cleveland, Ohio so my mother could take a class on War and Peace. We lived on campus for the summer and I went to several camps and had a great time exploring a new city. Other summers we had lazy days and gardened and baked together.

Childcare during the school years was easy for my mom since she had most of the same days off school that I did. When she didn't she sometimes arranged for me to visit at her school and help in the office or other teachers with projects.

I know there were times when she felt taxed, and dealing with another surly teenager was the last thing she wanted to do, but it was a very rewarding and positive career for her. It gave us a chance to have more time together. I had many friends with 2 parents that spent less time with their parents than I did with my single parent.

I hope this helps. One child's perspective.

Being a Waldorf Teacher

May 2009

6 years ago I was Interested in becoming a Waldorf teacher and attended an information night in Marin, but decided to postpone as I was not ready to make the long-term committment (wanted to travel and continue w/ my artwork). I am now seeking a long-term career and returning to the idea. However, I am also a single mom with a young child (not in school yet) w/ no child support. I know in my heart that I would be totally fulfilled in this position (I am an artist, I love the approach, am interested in education, and I love children) However, I am scared too b/c I know the teachers do not earn very much (approx 35k) and wondering if it's feasible to raise a child on this income, not to mention and it would require acquiring massive student loans to go through the teacher training. Has anyone else been in my shoes and gone for it? Did this route add too much stress to your life or did the joy of the work make it all worthwhile. Is the training and ultimate teaching life still allow you plenty of time to be with your child? If you did it, how did you make it work? And finally, do you know if teachers children ever recieve financial aid to attend a Waldorf School? (I know that on the salary I could not afford a Waldorf education for my son) wanting the best for us

I rarely read this newsletter, so I am hopeful that happening upon your inquiry and sending you some words of encouragement will prove helpful. As far as my qualifications for giving you advice, well, the list is long. My mother is a trained Waldorf teacher and teaches in the program you mentioned. I myself am a k-12 graduate of the Waldorf school system. I taught as a Waldorf kindergarden assistant before taking time off to stay home with my son (20 mos. now). I completed one year in the training you mentioned before my son was born, and am excited to be starting back this coming fall. My husband is a Waldorf teacher. The point being, the life you are considering is very close to my heart. Please feel free to contact me with further questions. I am inspired by your bravery in pursuing this unconventional path for you and your son. As far as the logistics of the program (childcare, financial aid, etc.), the program you mentioned has never failed to meet the needs of an interested student. Never. I am happy to tell you more details about that, as I am currently working out my own childcare and financial aid. My husband makes $49k a year and it has been enough for us to live off of as a family. If you are an assistant, or working in a school while you are a student, then you would make only about $35k, as you mentioned. Children of Waldorf teachers receive free tuition. Think of that as a $10k-18k a year raise. As for the balance of work and home, that is something I am well acquainted with. Are you interested in teaching kindergarden, grades, specialty subjects, or high school? Lets talk more about that via email, since balancing between work and home poses different challenges depending on the specifics of your interest. Hope this helps! Lyssa
Don't hold yourself back too much because of the numbers. Yes, you can creatively support you and your child on $35k; not that you'll be rolling in money, but it can be done. Lack of fulfillment is depressing and boring to live long term - what a happier, richer life you'll give him if you are living your passion and a happy mom. In life, Always pursue what you know in your heart will be fulfilling! For some reason, I have an intuitive nudge that pursuing this dream will turn out much better than you think. Best of luck!

Back to school to become a K-6 teacher?

March 2009

I am considering going back to school to become a multi-subject K-6 teacher. I am now a substitute in OUSD. Have any readers recently become credentialed and how was the job market? Would it help tremendously if I was either bilingual or wanted to work with special ed children? I am looking to attend either CSU East Bay or Holy Names. Any advice would be great on these schools or other pathways to become credentialed. I don't want to spend my time working on another career that will be a dead end. hopeful

An awful lot of teachers are being pink slipped at the moment, but there is supposed to be a long range need for more educators. You are correct that bilingual and special ed. teachers are greatly in demand. The next biggest requests are for secondary school math and science teachers.
Well surely you have heard about the lay-offs. In a few months we will see how many of those really come to pass. If they do, then the job market will be tight because many more experienced teachers will be out of work. If you really want to do special ed, that would probably help. My advice would be to do CSU because it is inexpensive and gets the job done! And also do your research to see how much teachers really get paid and see if you would be happy living with that. anon
I work in New Teacher Support & Development for Oakland Unified . . . and yes, there is definitely more need in bilingual programs and special education (particularly moderate/severe). works with new teachers

Teaching Spanish without teaching credential

Nov 2008

I would like to teach Spanish part time at the middle or high school level in Berkeley or surrounding areas, but do not have a teaching credential. I understand that there is a huge need for bilingual and Spanish-language teachers. I have more than 10+ tutoring experience, am a native speaker from Latin America with a US MA in ESL, am currently a grad student in education, and have taken and passed the CBEST, but I never started a teaching credential program. Is there a route to working part time as a teacher and slowly getting a credential, as I am still a grad student? Would any schools, public or private, hire me without a teaching credential and give me some time (2/3 years) in order to get the requirements done? I contacted the CA dept. of education, but it looks like I cannot work for any public schools without having a credential first... I am hoping that someone has experience with this and can give me some advice about whether I could teach without a credential or how to go about it! I would like to teach and it would help me to finance my education! Thanks a ton! To teach or not to teach

Hi, Schools would be thrilled to have you. You could join the Oakland Teaching Fellows program (OUSD) and work on your credential while you teach. I specifically know of a school who needs a part-time (2 periods) Spanish position. You can email me offline. Nancy
I think all teachers should have a credential. It shows their commitment and one can take heart that they have received some training in child development and other areas specific to children. Go online and look up CalState teach. It is an accredited online school where you can get your credential while interning in a classroom. Do it right.
The pay will not be great, and neither will the benefits or the job security, but you can do what I did and teach at private schools like Head Royce and Montclair Language League. To see more of the private schools out there, go to the BPN archives and look up ''Spanish-Speaking Schools and Preschools''. There's also EBI in Rockridge (on Alcatraz). If what you want to do is get some classroom teaching experience and have it on your resume, this is one way to go. If what you need is to supplement your income, then private tutoring will yield a much better hourly rate. Perhaps you could do a combo of the two. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info on my own experience with going this route. Suerte - Mari
HI-- I have a teaching credential, and spent years negotiating the credential maze-- I have a lot of advice for you-- but the short answer is yes, get a job at a private school (without a credential) and you can go from there-- give me an email note if you want to talk further (we can chat on the phone) Amy

Becoming a teacher so I can spend more time with my child

April 2006

Hello- I have a 2.5 year old son and work F/T. Although I have finally found a company that isn't horrid to work for, I still feel as if I am missing out on my childs life and life in general.

Every day when I drop him off at preschool, I am energized by the kids and feel myself wanting to stay longer and longer. In college, I was a preschool teachers aid and then also was a T.A. for summer school second graders. During the dot-com downer days, I also went so far as to be qualified to substitute teach and had considered getting credentialed. I have a B.A. in English.

Now, I am beginning to think of teaching as a way to sort of lock in more time with my child as he gets older. But I would love to hear from teachers and those especially who have made the leap from corporate to teaching. Are you in fact able to leave at the end of the school day? Do you spend more time with your child? The thought of having summers off with my child is absolutely wonderful. How awful (really) is the pay? I currently make decent money and am guessing a teachers salary would be half of what I am making now. Any trouble working in a decent/safe neighborhood? I am not keen on driving far to work when I live around the corner from an excellent public school. Any other pitfalls? Did you miss the corporate world?

Any advice is greatly appreciated. I know there is a lot to consider with such a change, and want to really think before I jump.

Should I jump?

See the post from the original newsletter about a parent who is a teacher and is drowning! Being a teacher is great in July, but from mid-August to mid-June it is all-consuming. PLEASE do not go into teaching because you think it will give you more time with your own kids -- it doesn't, at least not until summer (and then only part of it)! You have to have a passion for the profession because the pay is not great and the hours are extremely long. The hours you spend at school are only half the time it takes to do a good job. The lesson planning (TONS of this when you are new), grading papers, calling parents, is endless. Also, you have to be sure that meeting the many, many needs of 20-30 (elementary) or 150 (high school) students every day will not impact your ability to meet the needs of your own kids at night. I personally love teaching and cannot imagine any other job that is so rewarding on so many levels, but unless you do well on very little sleep, it is destined to take away from your family time. Please talk to some teachers that you think are really great and find out how much time they spend before you make this decision. Sleep-deprived teacher
Having more time with your child is a great reason to look for a different career and on the outset teaching looks like a good option. But before you jump...teaching is a tremendously demanding profession and requires a passion for children and learning as well as a tremendous communication and organizational skills. I am an K-5 educator and I have spent the last 15 years working as a classroom teacher and am now mentoring new teachers. If you possess the passion and skills above, then by all means we need you in the profession. If you are choosing to teach primarily for family reasons, think again. Excellent teachers stay as long as it takes after the bell rings, spend at least some of their summer vacation pondering and planning the following year and do professional development on their own time and at their own expense. Being a good educator follows you around wherever you go- it's not something you leave at the office- or at least most of the wonderful teachers I know don't. The pay- especially compared with the cost of living here in the Bay Area is less than great- even with good benefits and vacation time. Unless you have a partner than can help with the added financial load or a trust fund it's doable but not easy. Also, some teachers commute too- getting a job in a good school or district is competitive- just like the corporate world there are a lot of good candidates out there. If you are still passionate about this, visit some different schools (they vary a lot even within some districts) and invite a teacher or two or three out to talk about what he/she does. It is an amazingly rewarding job but it's not for everyone. passionate about teaching
I worked in the advertising world, miserably, for 12 very long years before I made the change to teaching ten years ago. I have never regretted my decision. I love working with kids and also LOVE the vacation package. It is very challenging and rewarding, and at times extremely stressful and emotionally exhausting. Regardless, I know what I do is important and feel good about my chosen career. For me, I really think it helped coming from corporate America because I have a broader perspective of the work world. I know, I hear all the time about how teachers are under paid and over worked and I too, made some big sacrifices in the beginning of my career (financially); but I worked many, many, many, many longer days in the advertising world. Regularly during planning season which could last several months, I worked nights (many times until 10:00pm or longer) and was expected to work weekends all the time (anyone in this industry will agree that I'm not exagerating). Now, I have a life. I have time to spend with my daughter and turn off the alarm clock during the summer. I recharge and do it again in September. I'm curious as to what other career-switchers have to say but overall, I'd have to say life is good as a teacher. Thankful Teacher
Hello, Every time I hear someone say they want to become a teacher so they can have more time, I can't help but cringe. Teaching requires a LOT of time and creative energy that many people don't seem to recognize. I am constantly trying to innovate and keep up with changes in the field. There is so much more to teaching than teaching--being a member of a professional community requires attending conferences, reading, leading workshops, etc. Yes, having a summers off is a great perk, but committed teachers use that time for professional development as well as the much-needed rest. It is not uncommon to work well over 40 hours a week and on weekends--in fact, it's a miracle when I'm not working at least a few hours on the weekends. I don't mean to sound negative--I love teaching and I don't have much experience in the corporate world--but I would only recommend that you make a career change if you really WANT to be a teacher, a good teacher, not one who just does the same thing over and over and leaves school as soon as possible every day to be with family. That kind of teaching is not personally satisfying and it's not worth the money. lisa
I can only respond to some of your questions since I went straight into teaching and do not have insight on the switch from corporate to education. I would like to tell you that you can easily find out how much you will be paid by looking at the website or if that fails, contacting the HR departments of school districts. The salary schedule is public knowledge. I teach high school in an excellent district that is a short commute from Oakland.

As for leaving school when the bell rings, it's not quite like that. Your first few years you will need to work very hard on your lesson plans and correct the kids' work. After a few years, lesson planning is much easier but there is still work to be corrected. You can either stay an hour or two after school or take it home.

It sounds like you are interested in teaching the younger kids, which is great. I think it takes more endurance and perhaps emotional energy than the big kids. I enjoy the teens and, since each class is a discrete entity, it is easier to find a part time job, which is what I am doing now. happy teacher

My sister is a teacher, and I can tell you that it's a myth that tecahers leave work at 3:15 and have summers off. There are countless additional hours outside the school day for prep, grading, meetings, conferences, etc... In the summer, there is continuing education, closing the classroom and setting it up again in the fall before students return. I won't say much about the pay, since I think it's so relative, but I know it's low compared to many professions. If you want to teach, go for it. But I wouldn't look it as a way to spend more time with your child. My niece actually ended up resenting how much time her mom spent with students compared to her. anon
I cannot comment on the teaching profession, but I can comment on making the terrifying change to a dream job that pays pennies. My son is 3.5 and up until now, my experience with corporate america has ranged from decent to horrid. I have a 2 page list of references who say I am an awesome employee, but little do they know, I hated my job. I can't go into the very long details, but I think corporate america needs a MAJOR moral overhaul. I finally said enough is enough and made the scary decision to go after my dream job, start from the beginning and take a HUGE pay cut. Fortunately, my husband was also supportive. I have to say, even though we hardly have any money left over each month after paying bills, neither one of us has regretted it! It has made our marriage and our family so healthy, since I am no longer stressed and resentful of the time I spend away from my son. Although I am not spending any more time with him, the time we do spend is of a much better quality because mommy is not cranky and stressed :-) Even though we brown-bag it everywhere we go and have to be very careful with money, it doesn't seem that big of a deal when we are happy and content with our lives.

So, I say, follow your dream! Life is too short to squander it away in a corporate environment that sucks the humanity and hapiness out of you (I don't sound bitter, do I?) :-) poor and happy

I am in education (have been for 10 years now) but left the classroom when my first child was 1. To answer your questions:

''Are you in fact able to leave at the end of the school day?'' If you are very, very organized- that comes with experience. Most teachers don't leave at 3pm (that, unfortunately, is a myth.)

''Do you spend more time with your child?'' I left the classroom because I wasn't spending enough time with my child.

''How awful (really) is the pay?'' When you look at pay in different districts, you have to look at the benefits package. I work in what could be considered a low-paying district, but the benefits are wonderful.

''I currently make decent money and am guessing a teachers salary would be half of what I am making now.'' Probably...

''Any trouble working in a decent/safe neighborhood?'' In my school district you either have to have seniority or get lucky to teach at a school in a good neighborhood.

''Any other pitfalls?'' Teaching is a very demanding job, physically, chronologically, and emotionally. Teachers are required to do so much these days- you become mother to 20 to 33 kids for a big part of the day. After they leave, there is planning to do, grading papers, cleaning up, organizing. I don't mean to be negative because I love being in education. I am in a position in the main office of my district and I work with teachers and principals at 20 elementary schools. I am very, very lucky, but I paid my dues and worked EXTREMELY hard to get where I am. Unfortunately, I have seen too many teachers who are failing their students because they leave on time and don't put in the extra that is truly needed. Yes, summers off are great, and it's a big joke among teachers that ''The 3 reasons I'm a teacher are: winter break, spring break, and summer'' when the reasons instead should be: kids, kids, kids. If you can, either volunteer in a classroom on a regular basis, or become an instructional aide. That way, you can get a more realistic idea of what being a teacher entails. L

Teaching is a very rewarding profession. That said, it is also time consuming and exhausting. You do have the most important thing going for you and that is that you enjoy children. To answer some of your questions; leaving at the end of the day depends a lot on what grade level you would teach, good teachers rarely leave with the kids, but you can take work home, which will help you as you can work after your kids are asleep. If you are very organized, that will help you not have to put in a lot of time outside of school, but I've been a middle school and high school English teacher and worked before, after, and on the weekends frequently. Pay is different for each district, call or go online for a pay scale, but my husband works in the WCCUSD and is on the highest level of pay 10 years in and makes about $60,000 a year. About working in a safe neighborhood, only apply to districts you feel good about, or be prepared to either work wherever you are needed (at least until you achieve tenure), or decline positions and possibly not work at all. I know this may sound negative, but it is best to go in knowing all the facts. Teaching is really fun and flexible and creative and you get to hang out with children, which is wonderful. Call the districts around you and they can send you applications which will answer a lot of your questions. Good luck deciding! SAHM, previously English teacher
I would read the two other posts from teachers in this issue of the advice newsletter. I'm a teacher, and find it very hard to combine teaching with parenting. I love interacting with students and understanding how they think, but the volume of work is overwhelming. During the school year teaching takes me 55 or so hours a week(I think I'm reasonably efficient, and most people in my department seem to be spending as much or more time on the job). When people think about teachers' schedules, what they notice is the time in the classroom, but for that to go smoothly it takes many hours of prep (as I see it, this is one of the major differences between teaching conditions in the K-12 schools and in the Universities. Some countries(Japan, most of Europe) build more prep time into the teacher's schedules.) Another challenge with teaching is that sometimes it is hard to be responsive to your own child after being responsive to other people's children all day long. You also have to turn off that part of yourself that gets used to constantly regulating behavior, in order to enjoy your child. The one advantage of teaching as a parent is that you can do some of the prep off-site(at the expense of sleep, or as a form of parallel play with your child), and for the part of the summer you don't need to attend classes or meetings, you can be with your child. To figure out what the pay would be go online and look up salary scales from the local districts that post them.

I would make different career decisions, if I had known what daily life would be like as a teacher. I always thought I was more efficient than other people, and their complaints were different than mine, but . . . bay area teacher

I also changed careers to spend more time with my kids. The first advice I got, which was good, was to substitute teach for 6 months and see if I still wanted to do it. West Contra Costa Unified was happy to hire me as a sub with my Master's degree and I subbed everything from K-12 to see which age group I liked best. I also subbed at a private school, Prospect-Sierra, at the same time. It kept me employed every day if I wanted to be.

WCCUSD also has an intern program with Cal State Hayward. I had my own classroom and was paid as a full time teacher while I went to night school and two summers of coursework. Exhausting but you know it is for a limited time.

Pay...private and parochial schools pay about 1/2 to 2/3 that of public schools, in my experience. Be careful that your district offers health insurance. I found out too late that my present district, Mt. Diablo Unified, does not and it is a bear trying to find individual insurance. Most districts pay your dental, eye and health insurance. I have been teaching for 7-8 years now and make about $60K. Through experience I now bring home very little work and I teach from 7a to 3p, then work at school until 4 or 5p. Usually two days a week, I have committee meetings until 4 or 5p after school. I have seniors who come in and act as my T.A. for credit so they correct most of my homework with a key.

I enjoy the vacation times with my kids but many times spring break is a problem as different districts take a different week off. Summers and winter break are usually better synchronized.

If you like kids, I would go for it. Goodness knows, we need more dedicated teachers.

Best of Luck! kathryn

I made the switch from corporate world to teaching prior to having my baby. I worked as much or more as a teacher than I did in the corporate world, where I regularly put in 10-12 hour days. The first several years of teaching are extremeley challenging and time consuming. I worked for several hours (4-6) every Sunday grading papers, planning lessons, etc. I usually worked at school during the week from 7:30am until 4:30 or 5 pm, sometimes later. I often did work at home during hte evening. As a new teacher, I was emotionally drained from the realities of public school teaching, i.e. managing discipline, lots of troubled kids, not a lot of support. I taught in a district that is not the worst in the Bay Area, but certainly not the best.

That being said, overall it was a positive experience and I hope to return to teaching someday, when my kids are older and in school themselves. I've heard from veteran teachers that the longer you teach the easier it gets in terms of time. Once you have a library of lesson plans to choose from you don't have to spend as much time figuring out what to do every day.

As a new teacher you may find it difficult getting hired in the district you want to work in, especially if you are not a math or science teacher. Social Studies and English teachers are more abundant than math teachers and therefore those positions are harder to come by. Your chances of getting in to a good district will go up if you are qualified to teach those subjects.

The pay is not great. I went from making $95k to $35k when I made the switch. Though I was on an emergency credential (lower pay) and working at one of the lowest paid districts in the area.

The vacation time and summers were nice, though you may find that you will do some work during that time as well.

So, if you're looking to spend more time with your kids, you'll probably get some of that during breaks and during the summer but not during the school year and definitely not during your first year or two.

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding job, but it's not easy. Don't do it if you're just looking for summers off. You're heart has to be in it to be successful. anon

I am in my 20th year of teaching (high school,English- I teach in a upper middle class suburb, with a supportive community and high skilled/high achieving students) and I have a lot of concerns about your questions. The number one thing I tell young teachers or anyone considering the profession: You need to have a strong sense of your self and your philosopy as a teacher.

There absolutely needs to be a reason for you to be in the classroom. You must either really love your subject, or really love kids or really believe in public education... because it is FAR too much work and too much of an emotional commitment otherwise. You simply won't last. Fully half of all teachers leave the profession within a few years. My belief is that this often happens because people go into the profession for romantic reasons that are simply not based in the reality of teaching. Ideas like ''you get the summers off'' or ''You get off work at 3:00'' are simply not true. I don't think I have enough space here to speak to each of these... I suggest that you spend a lot of time in a variety of classrooms-- even shadow a few teachers through their days (and nights and weekends) to see what their lives look like. I don't know a single good teacher who doesn't put in a ridiculuous amount of hours....I have a 10 and 13 year old and I feel incredibly lucky that I have a husband who has not only been supportive of my job, but flexible enough in his that he could do things like take the kids to doctors' appointemnts and help out in class during the school day, and go on field trips, things that are difficult for someone whose day is run by bells and whistles.

I'm not here to discourage you. The profession will always need good teachers--- and kids will always deserve good teachers, but becoming a teacher (at least becoming a good one) is a lifestyle choice, and not one made by default. I don't want to discourage idealism... teaching is in many ways a leap of faith, an entirely hopeful act... but romanticizing it doesn't help anyone.

And, by the way... you can go on the website of just about any district to ask for the salary schedule to see what teachers make. a committed, but tired teacher... with eyes wide open

Teaching pay is really low. There's not one teacher in my school who owns a house unless they have shared the cost with a partner. You have to live very frugally and still have very little to save. I am seriously considering another career because I cannot afford to teach anymore.

The kids are definitely the best part of the job, I truly love my students and enjoy working with them. As many teachers will tell you, if you could just teach (and make a decent living at it) it would be a great job, however you spend a lot of time dealing with administration and test scores and the pressure to keep scores up. I teach in Richmond, to mostly second language learners, and they are required to take the same test as everyone else. Hanging over our heads is the fact under No Child Left Behind, if scores aren't up we may lose our jobs, get transferred, lose pay...this and the fact there's no additional support to help these you just have to make it happen. Administrators are stressed and it's passed down to the teachers. Many experienced teachers are trying to get into schools with high test scores as the pressure is too high in low scoring schools.

I know some teachers who find it difficult to work all day with kids and then go home to kids. Usually you are the only adult in the room and have very little contact with other adults, it can be a weird feeling...all the teachers are so busy they have very little time to talk, except at lunch. As for working late, your contract gives you your hours, although many teachers feel pressure from principals to stay late. They'll take as much free time from you as you'll give them.

All that said, summers off are won't have the money to do anything, but the time off is wonderful. Good luck with your decision. Maybe try subbing to get a feel how you'd like it. MVM

Everyone I know that is a full-time teacher works evenings, nights and/or weekends making lessons, correcting papers, etc. And starting teachers earn about $35-38K/yr. --just FYI
Although not everyone is happy as a teacher, it has been a very positive choice for me. I left a high-level corporate career and became a fifth grade teacher in a suburban school. I did about a year of soul-searching under the guidance of career consultant Toni Littlestone. She patiently and sensitively helped me examine my values, my lifestyle needs, and my personality, and to work through a lot of fears I had. I do have a fair amount of work to do after work and on weekends, but even that is nothing compared to the stress I had in my former job. I make about $60,000 per year, which is far less than I made before. My spouse works, and my family and I have to be careful, but it is worth it. The main thing is that this suits my values. I believe in education, and feel that my work matters. I give a lot, but I get a lot back. happy to be a teacher
Although not everyone is happy as a teacher, it has been a very positive choice for me. I left a high-level corporate career and became a fifth grade teacher in a suburban school. I did about a year of soul-searching under the guidance of career consultant Toni Littlestone. She patiently and sensitively helped me examine my values, my lifestyle needs, and my personality, and to work through a lot of fears I had. I do have a fair amount of work to do after work and on weekends, but even that is nothing compared to the stress I had in my former job. I make about $60,000 per year, which is far less than I made before. My spouse works, and my family and I have to be careful, but it is worth it. The main thing is that this suits my values. I believe in education, and feel that my work matters. I give a lot, but I get a lot back. happy to be a teacher
I really hope you read the posting down below in this newsletter entitled, Teachers as Parents: Avoiding Burnout. She addressed a lot of your misconceptions. I don't know any high quality teachers who work any less than a 45-60 hour week. Most teachers arrive at school at 7:30am and leave at 5pm - and many work at home too! And summers - by the time you pack up your room, write your progress reports, attend conferences, plan new curriculum, set up your room again, write grants etc. you don't have many weeks left! Yes, more than in the corporate world, but not many!

Teaching is an incredibly hard profession to combine with parenting. I know very few people who have been able to have kids and continue teaching - and remain happy sane and balanced! The demands on teachers these days are tremendous - maintain ongoing communication with parents, make sure your students do well on tests, counsel troubled students, work with families in crisis, fill out paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork, go to meetings, grade papers, create curriculum - oh yes and teach!

Do some informational interviewing with teachers who combine teaching with parenting a young child. It's REALLY hard to do well. The people who I see able to balance parenting and being a high-quality teacher have partners who are home full-time or mostly full-time. These people also have the personality that enables them to work hard - but leave worries at work so that they don't carry it home. If you aren't this kind of a person already - teaching may completely drain you.

I think you are envisioning life as a teacher the way it was 30 years ago. It may still be this way in parts of the US, but it isn't in CA where our educational system is falling apart, many families are in crisis, schools are underfunded and teachers are asked to do more and more with no increases in prep. time or money. I love teaching, but you HAVE to be passionate about it - it isn't a lifestyle choice that any sane person would make! A Passionate, but drained teacher

I became a teacher when my oldest child was 18 mo. The first year I worked from 7 to 5 daily and also worked all day Sat or Sun. By the time I got home each day I was both physically and emotionally drained. It has gotten better over the years as I know have more lesson plans to draw upon, and set better limits for myself, but it is still exhausting.

Since becoming a teacher I have had another child and my oldest is in first grade. Because I ''don't have to be at work'' past three and can ''take my job with me'' I have ALL of the responsibilty for doing ALL the driving of our children to tutoring, lessons, and sports. Meanshile I try to get my grading done on the sidelines.

Being a parent and a teacher also put me in a strange position once my child became a student. Some of my childrens' teachers have assumed I would be on ''their side'' when my kids had problems in school. I am expected to be one of the ''easy parents'' who doesn't make waves and is always supportive even if I truly disagree. It is to be assumed that my child will be the top of the class or that I will know what is being taught and school and will pre- or re-teach the lessons at home so that he will master skills faster. The unfortunate reality is that trying to do homework with or teach skills to my own child is a nightmare for both of us on some nights because I have used up all of my patience during the day on my 175 students. (I guess I forgot to mention that I teach middle school... patience does have it's limits.) I find that at social events other parents sit back and wait for to see if someone else is willing to set limits for all the children so it usually falls to me to intervene before someone is injured, and there are some who then make comments (some not so appreciatively) about my telling their kid to stop acting up. And then when I go on field trips with the class the ''behavior problems'' are always in my group because I will ''know how to handle them''.

Teaching does give me more time with my children. And I have to say that I am a much more fulfilled person as a teacher than I was as an office worker and that has to be better for my kids. I do love teaching. But it isn't a short or easy work day. Hope that helps

Thinking about Becoming a Teacher

July 2001

I'm interested in becoming a grade-school or high-school teacher but I really don't know where to begin or what it would be like. I've heard there is a high demand for teachers these days, and it seems like it would offer a good schedule for a working mom. Also, I am going to have to stop working on the computer as much as my present job demands. Any advice would be helpful, especially comments from teachers about what they like or don't like about their jobs.

Before I became a teacher, I slowly worked my way to the classroom. First I did some tutoring and I enjoyed that, but it was the best situation being one on one with the student. Next I tried substituting, which again will give you a flavor of teaching, but not the complete picture. By the way, substitutes are in higher demand than full-time teachers. With substituting you will get a real variety, from just baby-sitting the students and not really teaching, to actually getting to teach the students. The best part about substituting is that you get to go home and not have to grade any papers. Which brings me to the drawbacks of teaching. What most of the public sees is a teacher in a classroom, getting out at 3:00 and going home to relax. For me, the drawbacks of teaching is that it requires much more than a 40 hour week to do a good job. Grading papers and making lessons take a lot of time. Finally, we all know that teachers do not get paid well enough for the amount of work that they do and the importance of their work. If you are still interested, I suggest tutoring and/or substituting as a starting place. If you still like teaching, then get a credential at Cal State Hayward. David
I am responding to the anon. request regarding how to become a teacher and whether it is an enjoyable occupation. I am a high school teacher at a progressive independent school- I have also taught in public schools in the Bay Area. It is amazing, powerful, inspiring and exhausting work. Don't go into it thinking it will give you extra time- it won't, particularly in the first few years. Besides the time in school, you will have lesson planning, correcting, parent contact and administrative meetings. I don't say this to put you off, but to help you get a sense of what is involved. I really love what I do, and I am able to bring my two year old to work with me once a week so she is around these amazing kids that I work with. The questions and insights of my students push me into an ever closer examination of the literature and writing that I teach, as well as pushing me to examine my self and my relationship with the world around me. When you hit your groove as a teacher, it is a wild dance of learning and laughter. Sorry- I wax poetic.

How to become a teacher: There are several options: The traditional route is to get a California State Teaching Credential (multi-subject for elementary, single subj. for high school). This will take approx. 2 years full time- and includes a battery of absurd tests and administrative B.S. It also includes a 4-6 month student teaching experience which is when you really start to learn. You don't learn how to teach by taking a class, no matter what anyone tells you. Many local colleges and universities offer credential programs- some tailored to working people/parents (is there a difference?) Other ways to become a teacher include internships in independent schools( you don't get a credential, but if you work in independent schools you may not need a credential- not that I am recommending working in an independent school, public schools need enthusiastic new teachers) or applying for an emergency credential while you are working in a school that desperately needs teachers. I would be glad to talk with you about this if you are interested. Toby

Teaching has pluses and minuses as a career for parents (I'm assuming you are a mom.) The plus is that you are on more or less the same schedule as your child. The minus is that during the school year the work is very emotionally intense and takes about 50 hours per week, some of which can be done at home. Teachers spend many hours preparing the classroom in the younger grades and grading papers in the upper grades. There is also work involving school administration and parents which usually takes place outside of the part of the day the students are there. The first few years can be difficult as you learn to structure curriculum and manage the classroom. I truly enjoy teaching -- I like observing how kids learn and I like making connections with them. Teaching is also a creative job, as you discover ways to make the curriculum accessible to all of your students. It's very hard work, and at times I fear that it takes some of the emotional energy that I might put into parenting. I strongly suggest that you try out teaching by substituting or volunteering regularly at a local school. I would also strongly advise you to do a full-time credential program that includes student teaching so you will be truly prepared. I've seen many of the people who attended the intern-type credential programs struggle with all the challenges of teaching in addition to being in school themselves. Try to learn more about teaching by spending more times in the schools before you make a final decision.
I have been a high school biology and environmental science teacher for the past five years. I had my daughter in September, and took the entire year off...and will probably not go back anytime soon.

I can honestly say that I loved my work but that it would be VERY difficult to be a teacher and parent at the same time. While the hours you are at work may be similar to the hours that your child is at school, your work and your obligations do not simply end there. Not only are teachers required to be there for the school day, but we are also supposed to be there for a specific amount of time before school begins and after it is over. Planning your curriculum, collaborating with other teachers and grading papers take A LOT of time, usually outside of school hours. There are also staff meetings, curriculum development sessions, professional development classes and parent meetings that require our attendance. At the high school that I taught, we were also required to attend a certain number of extra curricular activities a year, such as athletic events or drama productions. I am not complaining, please don't misunderstand where I am coming from. I just want you to be aware that if your children are of an age where they need (or want!) you, they might find your time in short supply.

Saying that, teaching can be a wonderfully rewarding career. Your motivation needs to come from having the desire to help children by enriching their lives. You will probably not be thanked very often (similar to being a parent, I suppose!), but you will feel tremendous when you see your students brighten!

There are some wonderful credential programs in the bay area, including Dominican University in San Rafael and Mills in Oakland. Science and Math teachers are in particularly short supply.

Best wishes, Michelle

I love being a teacher and have been one for since 1988. It is an extremely creative and rewarding career. You could call Hayward State--they offer an internship program where you can work part-time while taking classes. You could also do the more traditional route of classes and student teaching (without pay of course). Many schools in the Bay Area offer credentials: the most inexpensive way to go is SF State or Hayward but Mills and St. Mary's and possible Holy Names offer credential programs. You may need to take some prerequisites, take the CBEST test and there are a whole host of other credentialing requirements that I don't know about since they have changed since I got my credential. There is a definite demand for teachers now, especially in certain subject matter. You probably wouldn't have difficulty finding a job. However, I caution you to reconsider teaching if you think it will be an easy job or just a 7 hour a day job. Although the teaching day is around 7 hours, the work doesn't end there. There are many papers to correct, lessons to plan, parents to call, etc. The first few years, especially, are very challenging and require a lot of commitment as you learn about classroom management, your subject matter, etc. KC
My background: I have taught in public and private schools, and am currently an educational researcher involved in issues of teacher development and teachers' work. I am speaking here informally, though, just trying to address your question.

I would suggest you spend a day shadowing a teacher you know, whether it is a teacher-friend or your child's teacher. You could offer to spend a day with him or her, in exchange for some kind of assistance (such as working with a group of students, grading papers, preparing materials for an activity). That would give you a teacher's eye view of a school day.

People often do not realize the amount of work that goes into teaching. A recent study found that 1/3 of the work that elementary teachers do is unpaid (meaning outside of school hours/contracted time). If you teach elementary school, most of the outside work goes into preparing and planning the activities in your classroom. If you teach high school, most of that work is in grading papers. (Of course, elementary teachers grade and high school teachers plan too!) Both elementary and high school teachers also spend time doing things beyond what they are contracted to do: tutoring kids individually, holding extra parent conferences to address issues of discipline, making phone calls home, following up with counselors or principals on various issues, attending meetings after school, professional development workshops, etc.

This is not to dissuade you from entering this noble and rewarding profession. But definitely enter it with your eyes open. You should also try to figure out what environment might suit you as a teacher, as different schools offer different kinds of work environments. The most obvious is the difference between high school and grade school. Do you enjoy working with adolescents or do you prefer young children? Are you passionate about a particular subject matter? Or would you prefer the challenge of teaching a variety of subjects in a self-contained elementary classroom? Does it appeal to you to develop relationships with about 100 to 200 young people each year (h.s.), or would you prefer to work with around 20 to 30? In addition, different schools have different teacher work cultures. Some are very collaborative, where teachers are expected to share ideas (lessons, assessments, discipline strategies, etc), while others are more individualistic. Some have a teacher work culture that is about the academic identities of the teachers; some teachers are about social justice through education (these are not mutually exclusive categories, of course... just trying to give you flavors). And while the pay is often better in affluent public schools, the work culture (and the student culture) may not be, so don't make a decision about where you'd want to work based on test scores.

Of course, independent schools do not necessarily require credentials. But they often look for academic pedigrees. They tend to pay less than public schools, but in turn teachers in independent schools have fewer students, more planning time built into the school day, and fewer extreme discipline problems in their classrooms. You might look up an independent school teacher placement service like Independent Educational Services ( if you think this might suit you.

I obviously could go on at length about this topic. I hope this gives a helpful start. Good luck! Ilana

You could contact a university directly about the credential program but it would probably be more useful to contact your local school district, or a nearby district in which you would like to work. The ditrict would be able to give you more information on salary, benefits, work conditions etc. Since there is such a demand for teachers, the districts are usually anxious to helpg you go about getting your credential. If you're trying to juggle this with being a parent I would recommend seeking a job as close to home and your children's school as possible. Also, if having time for your children is a big concern you might want to look for a part-time or job share arrangement assuming you can afford to do this.

It can be very rewarding but also challenging. There are a fair number who try it and don't stick with it. I would recommend you get into different classrooms to observe a bit before you commit to a career change, and remember the job openings may be in the more challenging schools; keep this in mind when you select the schools you are going to visit. I think a lot of people who quit envisioned something very different than what they found; you have to go into with an open mind, ready to work hard and be flexible. Email if you want to talk further. Betty

Becoming a Reading Specialist

Dec 2002

I am considering becoming a Reading Specialist but want to know more about the field , both in terms of types of jobs availalbe in this field, schooling and experience necessary and salary range. I have extensive background in teaching adult literacy and ESL to adults so am hoping this would build on my experience, though I realize it would be different to apply my skills to elementary or/ and high school education. Does one have to have taught in the public schools to beome a Reading Specialist? I am not interested in becoming a classroom teacher, but would like to do primarily staff development / training with teachers and do some classroom teaching. Where does Special Education fit into this? I would appreciate any advice on how to pursue this career path. Thanks! anonymous

I was sorry to see no responses to this in the last newsletter, as I was looking forward to them. I have just read the most amazing book: Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It. The author, who has done a great deal of her own research and thoroughly reviewed others' research on reading has developed a way to teach reading that she says is 100% successful (they emptied Special Ed rooms). Her son and daughter-in-law made a program based on her ideas called Phono-Graphix. You can find out about Certification on their website The book has a forward by Steven Pinker,in which he says, ''Why Our CHildren Can't REad is one of the most important books of the decade. REad it for your own pleasure and enlightenment, and buy copies fo rthe people in control of your children's education.'' I found it both very enjoyable to read and enlightening. I am working with my own 4-year-old and my neighbor's 5th grader (remedial) using the program and I am very happy with the results (I should note that the stories are idiotic and the illustrations awful, but they are really beside the point). The book was absolutely clairvoyant with regards to the reading problems of the child next door. It described a typical pattern of kids who do ok in 1st grade, then fail 2nd grade and then slip farther and farther behind and become more and more humiliated and lost by reading failure and end up being labelled ADD and on medication and never really learn to read. This kid fits the bill perfectly: she failed 2nd grade and her mom came to me when the teacher suggested she be evaluated for ADD. I am sure she has no attention deficit, she just can't read well enough to do her work, even math (which she has a natural aptitude for). The diagnostic tests were amazing, because on first sight you wouldn't even guess that she had serious reading problems (I knew because I had heard her try to read out loud to my daughters and I could tell that she was guessing at words and not comprehending what she was reading). I was surprised that she could read every word on the common words list and even more surprised that she could read not one of the nonsense words, in other words, she had sight-memorized just about every word she knew and was unable to figure out new words. THis was despite the fact taht she knew most of the easy letter/sound correspondences: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z and even sh ch th, but when it came to wh ai ea ei ie oi oy ough eigh oa oe she was lost. THe most amazing thing about the program is that they say that they turn non-readers into grade-level readers in 12 weeks (or 6 days of intensive sessions!!) Costco has been training reading specialists in the program I hope some others will post about their experiences as reading specialists. I am just and interested mother and neighbor (so far). susan

Finding a Teaching Job

Are some teaching positions more family friendly?

June 2013

I am currently working part time as a consultant, but am contemplating returning to teaching (special ed). I taught for more than 10 years before the birth of my child, and I loved it, but the hours were often long, and I brought work home most nights/weekends. I want to have a job that I feel passionate about, but I am also passionate about having family time - so I suppose this is a question for all of you teachers out there. Is it possible to do a good job, and not spend lots of personal time working? Is the expectation for most teachers still to put in extra time to do the job? If so, could people give me an idea of how many hours per week they work? My job now is very flexible, but I am not making much money. I need to figure out a way to increase my income, and not sacrifice my life with my child. Are some districts/schools better than others to work at if you have kids of your own and want to spend time with them? is the grass really greener?

Our union recently asked us to record all our hours outside of the paid duty day in order to bolster our case in negotiations and I logged 24 hours outside the classroom in one pretty average week. I am technically a part-time teacher (.8) so am only paid for 28 hours per week. Do the math and you can see that I work almost double the hours I get paid to teach.

The boundaries I set for myself were to try to protect my family time, but that has meant that I often stay up very late. I take my kids to practices and lessons, go to their games, and when they were little, did not work while they were awake. I often started my ''second shift'' at 10:00 p.m. which meant staying up until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. fairly regularly. And frankly, I am a less effective teacher since becoming a parent because when I was young and childless, I was able to devote many more hours to the job that are now taken up by my own kids. I am fine with that, but it is the reality.

I once had a volunteer in my classroom who wanted to be a teacher and when I asked him the following year how his teaching program was going, he confessed that he had changed his mind because he could not commit to the hours. He admitted that he always thought teachers who put in so many hours were just not organized or efficient enough, and with his business background, believed that he could figure out a better way. He quickly realized that to be an effective teacher, he would have to put in many more ''extra'' hours than he was willing to do, and he was not willing to sacrifice his lifestyle to be a teacher. He quit his teaching program and went back to business.

So yes, from my perspective the extra hours are necessary to do it well, and there is always more you could be doing to be better. The balance between your children and your students is a constant tension that me and my colleagues who are parents struggle with every day (until late June!). --Getting some R soon

I'm part-time and it takes me 35-40 hours per week to complete my work. Compared to full time it is much better because I can spend the weekends with my family except when I have something large to grade. When I taught full time it took me about 55-60 hours per week. Recently our union had us record the time we spent outside of the actual classroom hours and I was actually a little shocked at how much time it took me, even though it was a relatively easy week as I had finished grading my last batch of tests the previous week. It is creative work, and I love the connections with my students (though at my site the administrators seem bent on homogenizing our teaching which makes it less interesting for both teachers and students.) anon
If there is any way you could start back at work as a sub or part time I would say that would be ideal. I went back to work when my kids were about 2 and 4 and started part time. 20 hours a week. it was a great way to ease back into it. anon
I have been teaching for 11 years now. When I started, I was single and childless. It was a great job because I could leave my house at 5:30 a.m. and leave work at 5 or 6 p.m. and no one else was affected. Now, I am married and have three kids and during the school year, I feel the constant tug of family vs. work. I always have to choose between the two and I often push the pick-up times for my own kids as late as I possibly can in order to get a little more time to get work done. It's such a rat race sometimes. I refuse to work on weekends and during summer vacation because if I did, I would NEVER see my family.

As you know, teaching is not constrained to class time. There's all of that grading and prepping and writing letters of rec (I'm a high school teacher) and meeting with parents and other teachers and administrators and and and .... It never ends. It is so hard to find that time now. When people say things like, ''At least you get your summers off!'' I really have to breathe deeply and then bite my tongue.

I really do love my job--the students are simply exquisite human beings and it's really challenging to be an effective and ''good'' teacher--but I hate that with bigger classes and more expectations for teachers to fulfill (faster/more frequent communication with parents, more assessments), it's become a little unsustainable. I walk thisclose to the brink of insanity until the last day of school.

Please please please return to teaching if you liked it for the people, for the work. Do not consider it for the luxurious hours. ECG

The answer to your question partially depends on what grade levels you're working with. Special Ed teaching has less grading/planning at night or on weekends than general ed classroom teaching, but you'll be expected to be at IEPs after school, and parents now expect a lot more communication with you than they even did five years ago. I doubt you'd get away with less than an hour or two a day, minimum, for paperwork and email at home. As a general ed hs teacher, I leave work at 4pm, and then later work 2-4 hours at home a day, and several hours each weekend. And I've cut down a lot.

I think realistically the benefit to teaching full time instead of consulting would be the steady paycheck, but keep in mind the paycheck tends to be pretty small, too. There are many districts right now in salary negotiations that aren't always going well. We haven't gotten a raise in five years, and three of those included furlough reductions, too. The second advantage is job security, but if you're just coming back now and starting at year one, you won't have that for awhile. If you'd be paying for child care at all, that would be a huge factor, too.

I think the biggest surprise you'd find is the new push for uniformity, with the ''Professional Learning Community'' model which has stripped teaching of a lot of its creativity and fun, in my experience. I think something else that might have changed for you is that the most rewarding part of teaching for me had been my wonderful one-on-one relationships with students. Once I had a baby, that didn't give me the same buzz anymore. My life was recentered on my home. I also just had less energy in general since I was older.

My advice? Go substitute in an affluent district for awhile (easy classroom management) and see what you think of the new educational approaches. Try Piedmont, Lamorinda, and Walnut Creek (depending on where you are). If you really miss being with kids and it makes you feel more energized rather than less, then you'll have your answer. But my gut instinct is that it's very hard to be the kind of parent you want to be and the kind of teacher you want to be with your own kids at home. It might be exactly the right thing for you once your kids are out of the house, for example. Good luck!

Getting Hired as a Teacher

July 2012

I am a credentialed teacher. My CLAD and ELA are embedded in my credential. I have been substituting for two years. I have good recommendation letters and I have been on a few interviews, however, I have not been selected for a permanent position. I am in my second career and want to teach. What are administrators (principals, vice principals, etc.) looking for in a candidate? What are teachers who sit in on the interviews looking for in a candidate? How can I make myself more marketable to public schools? Any honest, even critical advice and insight would help! Thank you. Subsitute Teacher wanting a Class of Students

Management is about 90% of your job so be prepared to talk about how you handle classroom management or how you might handle a difficult student. Be prepared to talk about how you would differentiate instruction for ESL or differently abled students. Be prepared to discuss what value you can add as a teacher: might you be able to coach a team, lead a club or two, or teach other subjects? For example, I taught science for 13 years. I taught a number of science sections I was not credentialled to teach. The teachers most likely to find jobs are those who teach science, math and special education. cocosar
I am a veteran teacher who has sat in on several interviews at my school site. It truly depends on the level and the subject matter that you teach, but in terms of what we look for I can tell you this:

1. Experience with the age level you want to teach. If you have never worked with the population of students you are interviewing for, it is a huge concern.

2. Ability to demonstrate that you have strong, concrete classroom management skills (i.e. not just that you are ''good'' but that you have the ability to implement a specific plan in your classroom)

3. Knowledge of current trends in curriculum, additional training

4. Being able to articulate specific lesson planning strengths, curriculum development in the past

5. Do your homework about the school you are at- know the student population, know the mission of the school, familiarize yourself with the demographics and test scores

Other than that, dress appropriately - not too stuffy but never casual. Be genuine and know that it is hard to land your first full time teaching job. Be willing to work in a district that may be more demanding (I spent several years in Oakland) and open to hiring new teachers. I value my years in Oakland more than anything- it was hard but I gained a ton of experience that allowed me to land my dream teaching job at a school that I wanted to teach in- primarily because I gained management skills and participated in professional development while in Oakland that made me a desirable candidate.

Hope this helps and good luck. anon

I find that many second career teachers have a hard time getting hired. Being older, principals may question your energy, your patience with young people, your ability to take feedback from younger supervisors, and your ability to have a growth mindset/not being set in your ways/able to change long held attitudes and beliefs that my interfere with your ability to support all students.

Older, mature, career changers are a blessing to the profession. When hiring teachers, I look for 1)Do you strongly believe ALL children can and do learn regardless of race, socio-economic status, home life, etc.? I want a NO-EXCUSES attitude. 2)Are you an effective communicator? Do your verbal and non-verbal communication speak confidence, compassion and clarity? 3) are you resilient? are you able to thrive in a high stress environment? 4) are you resourceful? with technology? are you going to whine about what you don't have or are you going to access all resources to get what you need? teacher hirer

I teach at an affluent public high school in the East Bay. I've also been department head of my department, so I know at least some about interviewing and hiring choices.

Q. What are administrators (principals, vice principals, etc.) looking for in a candidate?

A. On the most basic level, administrators want someone who won't cause them or their schools problems. They want someone who will have good classroom management skills and not need intervention; someone who will have good relationships with parents, students, staff, and other teachers; and someone whose teaching is competent enough that kids do at least as well in your class as your colleagues'. Everything else (test scores, philosophies, etc.) is secondary.

Q. What are teachers who sit in on the interviews looking for in a candidate?

A. Teachers usually have very little sway in terms of who is hired and who isn't, but the number one question a teacher is asking himself or herself is ''do I want to work with this person for the next 10-20 years?'' So what they're looking for depends on what they value, but in general, a school has a particular cultural set of values and the more you fit in with them, the better.

Q. How can I make myself more marketable to public schools?

A. The best way to get a more permanent position is to prove yourself in the classroom over an extended period of time, being adaptable, professional, consistent, and likable along the way. Many people do this through student teaching, but your best option is to long-term sub for someone on leave. The best way to get noticed as a regular sub to get those leave positions is to be ultra-competent and positive. Get known for keeping the kids under control, following the teachers' lesson plans to the letter, and be a visible positive presence in the staff room and office.

My final suggestion is that what you should be doing is trying to find a good match for you. If you're subbing for two years somewhere and not getting hired there, then you might not be a good match for that district, school, or grade. That was my first thought when I saw your message. I've worked at a lower-income very urban school as well, and that school was looking for entirely different characteristics than my current school. I am a perfect fit for where I work, but I also didn't get a job at two other schools where I applied, despite substantial educational credentials and experience. Knowing what I know now, I think it's because those weren't the right places for me. So my suggestion is that you try subbing somewhere else, or in different grades, and see if it's a better fit.

I wish you the best of luck! -A happy teacher Anonymous

How to find private school jobs

June 2009

My sister is currently a teacher in the San Diego Public schools. She teaches high school English. She is originally from the bay area, but received her degree from San Diego State and teaching credential down there and stayed down there to work. My sister and her husband where hoping to move back up to the Bay Area but she was unsure about applying to schools up here due to budget cuts and so many teachers loosing their jobs. She is planning on applying to teach at some public schools up here but we where both wondering how to go about applying to private schools. Do they pay better than public? Also how do you get into the private schools as a teacher? If anyone is currently a teacher at any of the bay area private schools or in administration and can give us some insight on it we would really appreciate it. Missing my sister and trying to help her move back up here!

I have taught at several public high schools and one private. In my research, I found that the public school paid quite a bit less and that parochial schools apparently pay even less than the non-denominational privates. Plus, in public schools, salary generally increases each year until you get over 15-20 years in the district. She should check to make sure that they cover health insurance. For example, Mt. Diablo Unified does not cover health insurance (or at least didn't from 2005-2007). kl
Well, anything is possible, but most private schools complete the hiring process in the spring before the school year is over. There's always a few last minute emergencies in the summer, but she has probably missed the private school hiring window---especially at schools like Head-Royce, Bentley, etc.

The most comprehensive list of independent school jobs will be listed at, but that wouldn't include most Catholic high schools. She might need to check all those websites individually for listings.

Generally speaking, independent schools will pay better than religious schools but worse than super wealthy public school districts in the suburbs. However, if she does get an offer from a private school, she will have some freedom to negotiate.

Good Luck. If she can't find a job up here this year, then she should consider subbing at the private schools she's looking at. There's always someone going on maternity leave and it is the best way to get a foot in the door. Independent School Teacher.

Finding Teaching Jobs at Private Schools

Jan 2007

Does anyone out there know where/how private schools advertise teaching positions? I'm a PhD, interested in teaching at the high school level... Any advice or insights are welcome. Tired of the university culture but love to teach

Well, first of all, let me say that not all private schools are created equally. The ''best'' ones in terms of oversight, organization, and benefits will be associated with NAIS, the National Organization of Independent Schools. Their website will allow you to find all the local schools associated with them, which is a fairly rigorous process. The also have a jobs board at that you can search. Also, on the school search page, you can look for state organizations, the California one is CAIS. They might also have a website and information you can search.

There are several independent school head-hunters, the one that seems to be used most often is Carney-Sandoe (do a google search). They will allow you to apply as a candidate, and if they accept you, they will work on your behalf to place you at a school. The fee for you is nothing, but the schools would pay a fee to them if they hired you. A similar group is, and another is CalWest (I think that's the name). Good luck. I love teaching in independent schools! anon

Go to the websites of the Private Schools you are interested in applying to. They have employment opportunities that you may click on. Good Luck. -
Private schools, even those in the Bay Area, use search agencies for 'independent schools.' I don't recall the names of the ones I used years ago, but a call to local private school secretaries should lead to the information. You will have to convince them that you can teach as they hold the idea that PhDs are introverted researchers. Be prepared to teach sample classes (not give lectures)when you do interview. Also look for alum from your institution on the faculty of private (they prefer 'independent' schools). almost went that route
First try signing up with Carney Sandoe or one of the major education recruiters. I've taught at several independent schools who use these services.

Then start networking, talking to friends of friends who teach and have connections. It's not uncommon to get one's foot in the door that way.

Finally, try starting with subbing. Arrange to meet with heads of departments. Put your face to your name on your resume. Make your self available and when you sub, leave your mark. Don't just passively babysit, but spark those kids. If they like your energy and feel you actually teach, they'll spread the word you are good. Good luck! love teaching

I'm a teacher and department chair at a private high school, and I have seen many people in your situation. In fact, I have many current colleagues who have made your transition, so I know it can be done. There are placement agencies that you may wish to talk to-- Carney Sandoe (national) and Cal West (regional)-- but I would encourage you to do as much of your own research and applications as possible. Schools have to pay a hefty fee to the agency, and you will also have more control over your materials if you send them in yourself. Look at websites of local schools for job advertisements. If there's a school that looks particularly appealing and/or convenient to you, don't hesitate to send in your papers even if there's no advertised job: if something does come up, the school will be glad to know you're out there. If you get an interview, learn as much about the school as you can: from the website, from friends, etc. You should also be sure you're familiar with independent school education, whether from your own experience or from talking to people. If you've never seen the small classes, the personal attention, and the high level of intellectual rigor of a good independent school, it can be hard to imagine! Having said that, though, you will need to remember that you will be making a switch from teaching college students to teaching high school students (or even younger-- you didn't say whether you would consider middle school). So if you have to teach a sample class, don't hesitate to ask your contacts at the school for advice on appropriateness of material and of your lesson plan. I've definitely seen PhD-level teaching candidates blow their chances by aiming too high or too low-- and not realizing their mistake. Finally, you should also realize that teaching at an independent school usually entails other responsibilities beyond the classroom (advising, helping with clubs, dealing with parents, etc.). In an interview, people will be looking to see how easily you will be able to ''connect'' with teenagers and integrate into the culture of the school. I hope this advice will be helpful. Teaching in a good private school can be a truly amazing way to spend your working life. Good luck with your career transition! --A happy high school teacher
There are directories for Private (''Independent'') Schools, and magazines and newspapers. There is an organization called NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) which probably lists openings in its publication.

In your situation I would contact a placement organization such as Carney, Sandoe & Associates. They specialize in placing teachers and administrators in Independent Schools -- the more flexible you are as to course, age group, kind of school, geographic area and extracurricular activites you are willing to supervise the easier it will be to place you. Depending on your subject(s) there may be a fee for placing you, or a school may be willing to pay that fee to get you. Yes, I used to work for one of those Places

How to find a teacher job?

August 2003

I received California Preliminary Credential for Science Teaching a few days ago (I was a teacher in Korea). I want to get a teaching job in the east bay, maybe as a substitute at first. How can I start job search? I looked over, but not many jobs there (esp. around Berkeley) Are there many jobs? Any suggestion will be appeciated.

Call any and all school districts that you would like to work for. I am sure that they will be happy to put your name on their substitute list as science teachers are hard to find, let alone a substitute teacher that knows science. You might also volunteer to substitute in mathematics. David
There are still science postions in Berkeley! Call Longfellow and King Middle schools and Berkeley High and talk to the principals! Good luck. We need you. A science teacher in Berkeley
The best way to find a teacher job, in my own experience, is to call the districts where you'd like to work and talk to their Certificated Personnel person. I've never found any teacher job through listings, but there are a zillion if you ask the districts directly. anon

Advice about Being a Teacher

Becoming a Teacher Librarian

Jan 2014

If you are a past or present teacher librarian, I would love to hear more about your job! I am an ex-English teacher with a Ph.D. and about 4 courses into my MLIS degree. I am looking for something that is intellectually stimulating, but more manageable than teaching english, especially in terms of balancing work and family, and work and play.

As an english teacher, I spent virtually all of my time outside of the classroom grading papers and writing lesson plans (in addition to all the other administrative aspects of being a HS teacher/advisor). It was exhausting, and ultimately propelled me towards an illness that forced me into a medical leave. So now I am rethinking my professional trajectory and am definitely intrigued by the role of the teacher librarian. Since I do not have a teaching credential and do not wish to go back to school to get one, in addition to the years of course- and fieldwork required for the MLIS TL track, I am looking primarily at employment in a private school.

One of my biggest fears about becoming a TL is the dominance of the Internet, both as teaching tool and resource. I am not a Luddite, and I certainly use the Internet for a lot of my research needs, but I do not want my primary role as a TL to be to teach people to perform Internet searches and evaluate sources. That said, I understand that this is a part of the the job, but please tell me that people (teachers and students) still get excited about books as well! In addition, having to be an authority on the Internet and all things research-related on it seems like potentially just as much take home work as teaching English!? To be clear, I am not averse to work, and I realize that almost all jobs, especially now, require a commitment to professional growth outside of the workplace, but given my history and my propensity to overdo things, I want to be more cautious when selecting a second career.

What are the ''pluses and minuses'' of your field and of your work environment? Would you advise someone to enter the field today? What are the biggest challenges? What does the job market look like? (we are not necessarily committed to staying in CA, and are particularly curious about New England and NY as well).

Lastly, if anyone has successfully secured a position at a public school as a TL *without* a teaching credential, please let me know!

Thank you for your input! hopeful future teacher librarian

I was a Teacher Librarian for three years at a smallish affluent public high school on the Peninsula, after being an English teacher for six years. I returned to the classroom this past fall.

In some ways, being a TL is a wonderful job because it can be what you make it. You can choose to be very involved in new courses or programs in your school, you can be an advocate for marginalized voices, and you can learn technology skills that make you a big player in your school. I, for one, managed and was in charge of laptop carts, a one-to-one iPad program, an entire ''computer lab'' of 35 Mac desktops, and became very good at Blackboard and Illuminate. I was also your go-to person for Apple TV trouble or password issues. If the technology was going to help students directly, I was involved. I don't know about other schools, but I was expected to be ''that'' person partly because my predecessor was. The one thing I do feel certain about is that most schools are putting their library money into technology and databases (ABC-CLIO, Gale, Proquest, EBSCO) and not print books. We also used Libguides, which I had to learn.

Here's why I went back into the classroom:

1. I hadn't finished my library credential, and it was very costly and time intensive, and I was already unsure that I wanted to be a TL in the first year.

2. I missed being on stage, and the daily work of being a TL didn't match my energy level. You are CONSTANTLY interrupted. It can feel like you never get a moment to finish a project or task. It was a revolving door of ''wait, what was I doing?'' It was weirdly boring and stressful at the same time. Sure, it meant I had some peace when no one was in there, but the hours were sooo slow. It felt just like temp work, when I would stare at the clock and count down the minutes.

3. I didn't like being a manager of another adult (my part-time assistant).

4. It can feel very isolating, because even if the staff like you and want to work with you, you have a lot less ''moving/social'' time (preps, lunch, breaks) to see people. I felt trapped there.

5. TLs really *do* teach, but what they teach is boring. Website analysis, citing sources, MLA or APA formatting, how to use Word or Google Docs.

6. The library is more of a public space than I was used to, and it was not my domain in the way my classroom was.

7. With very few exceptions, I didn't have kids who loved me like I did as a teacher before. They liked me, but were mostly indifferent. I thought it would be great to have non-critical (grades) relationships, one-on-one, but nope. They don't care about you. I realized I needed that student affection and attention, and thrive when I return it.

On the other hand, no grading, no lesson planning, no parent emails, no work after 4pm (most of the time). You could start reading clubs or do book talks. If I were you, I'd volunteer in a school library for awhile and see if you like the tasks that TLs do. - Glad to have my classroom back

Teaching at a charter school

April 2012

I work at a charter school. Because we are a charter, we are considered ''at will'' employees, and can be let go with two weeks notice, without explanation. A number of teachers, last year and again this year, have been let go without formal observations, feedback, or explanation. Many of the teachers who have been let go have the best test scores in the school, and have not had any reprimands from the administration or complaints of any kind. People are literally reeling from the shock of what is happening (yet again) and the seemingly unlawful firings. It may or may not matter, but every teacher who has been let go in the past two years is of a particular race. There is a pattern of targeted bullying by the administration, but as the school is not covered by either the teachers' union nor by the district, there does not seem to be any recourse (we are a county charter, not a district charter). Has anyone else been in a situation where you are an at-will employee and have been let go without explanation? If so, what did you do? Did you contact anyone, try to get answers, or just walk quietly away? There is a lot of talk at the school in terms of, ''That's how it is done here; this is the culture of the school,'' but does that mean we all have to just sit back and take it? Workers Without Rights

Most employees in California are ''at will'' but they still have rights. It is still against the law to discriminate against a protected status when terminating an employee. Protected statuses would include things like race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc. A terminated employee can contact the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) to complain about a termination where discrimination against a protected status occurred - check out this website: Mary

Infant childcare with a teacher's schedule

Sept 2010

I am due at the end of October. I am a teacher, and plan to go back to work for the second semester at the end of January. I am considering either a nanny or a small day care, but I would like to have some flexibility to not have child care (and not have to pay for it) during winter, spring breaks and summer breaks. I would appreciate any advice or referrals. Perhaps there are other teachers with a similar situation that would like to share a nanny? We live in Oakland and my husband works in Albany, so we are looking in those areas or in between.

Your paycheck doesn't stop during your vacations, and if it did you'd probably have a hard time making it through the summer. Same goes for your daycare provider or nanny. It makes sense to look for someone who allows you to start and stop but be aware of what you're asking from the caregiver. If you seek to hire a nanny you'd have to be very up front that you're basically looking for a temporary position from September to June, unless she's able to go without income in the summer or you're able to find her equally well paid alternate work. You might look for a nannyshare with another family that's not financially dependent on sharing hours all the time. You might find a daycare that lets you stop or at least cut back for the summer. Childcare is incredibly expensive and teaching isn't the most lucrative profession. But your daycare provider or nanny probably makes less than you do, so try to keep good karma while you try to save money. another childcare consumer
Leaving a three month old to return to work as a teacher may not be the best decision. With your teaching credential you might find it easier to stay home and offer daycare/nanny-care to a small number of other infants no more than 4 to start.
Hi- I didn't see your original question but did see the responses, which weren't very helpful in my opinion. I did want to write and say that I know St. John's childcare center (at Stuart and College in Berkeley) does allow people to take a leave of absence during the summers since they have lots of teachers/professors with their children enrolled there. I also have friends that have a nanny who works reduced hours during the summer and it is part of their agreement with her. So it can be done. I hope this was sort of helpful...and that other people write in to give some helpful answers as well. Laura
As a teacher with a daughter who is just about to turn 1 I completely understand how you feel. We were ridiculuously lucky in that our first small, in home day care situation was ideal in all aspects. Our provider (who happens to have two daughters who are teachers so she sees both sides of it) had clients who were with her only during the summer so we were able to drastically reduce our use of care and payment since she received income from them. So occasionally, there are providers out there who can meet those needs. Unfortunately she decided to retire and we quickly realized that for most others their daycares were still a business and of course they should get a steady year round income. Our new provider has told us that she will ''hold'' our daughters spot next summer for half pay on the days she doesn't attend. We find this to be very generous to guarantee continuous care in her stable and loving environment. My advice--ask other teachers who they use for care and ask the care providers if they've ever worked with teachers before for a reduced summer rate. Perhaps you could do a small work exchange for them (another teacher friend of mine did this with her provider providing her with an updated website and another friend loaned her husband out for some yard work/maintaince of the play area). Get creative and remember that this is their job and source of income. teaching mommy
Well since the last newsletter contained some less than helpful replies I decided to post having been a teacher who needed infant childcare not so long ago...

I know that it is difficult to spend money on childcare you don't need over breaks and vacations, especially summer when we are NOT PAID. There are some providers out there who will be willing to negotiate with you to save your spot over the summer for a reduced fee. You'll have to ask if yours is willing... I'd wait until you develop a relationship. Sometimes they can find someone who is willing to take the spot for just the summer and then you can get it back. In general though, if you want ot stay with the same caregiver from year to year you are going to have to pay over the summer and breaks. You are also going to have to expect to pay full day rates even if you pick your child up early. Basically you have to think of it in terms of licesning... she can watch X many babies. If your baby is there from 8-3 she can't offer that spot to anyone else when your's isn't there, it is still yours. Despite what one of the other posters said, there is NO reason you can't teach full time with an infant at home. Personally, I found it easier than working in an office with an infant. teaching mom

Teaching students of color

May 2010

I am a new teacher working through a teacher credential program in a progressive, liberal arts university in the San Francisco bay area. I am a white person with children in public school. I went to public school and public university. I want to teach in urban schools.

In my classes I hear again and again from professors about ''rigorous teaching'' and that ''tests are racially biased.'' Having adopted biracial children I see how some classrooms are racially biased and some tests, particularly the Language Arts portion of tests are racially biased. The sample tests for math and science seem reasonably neutral to me. The vast majority of the tests, sample and benchmark my own children have taken seem to be geared toward upper middle income experiences, however.

In my program we spend a great deal of time discussing how to make the classroom experience relevant for children of color. Included in instruction is allowing students to speak and write and correcting some but not all speaking/writing so as not to discourage students. I have read books (over 100 books in race theory, how to teach students of color written by adults of color, and how to make instruction culturally relevant), I have spent over 500 hours in the last two years volunteering in classrooms in San Francisco, Hayward, Oakland and Hercules. I have taught English as a second language classes to adults.

My problem seems to be that in my classes on race, culture and multiculturalism I am shown how to plan activities, project, products and affirmations that help children feel good about themselves. When I factor in the time spent on these activities in my credential program it takes about 15% - 25% of the time. When I factor in the Elementary School State Standards of Academic English, Reading and Writing, Math, Social Studies / Geography / History, Science Music/Art/Drama PE and recess/lunch I come up with more curriculum than hours in the week. I have cut my transition time to 2 minutes. I have a ''get started'' activity on the board in the morning and after every recess. I am teaching bell to bell.

My two questions are these: Is it possible for a white adult to teach students of color rigorously in a regular classroom (meaning students learn the grade level State Standards in all areas)? Where do white people go to discuss openly the issues of teaching students of color where they can speak openly about fears, expectations, frustrations and realigning their work so that all students are learning? Please Help Me

You express such passion and dedication, and your students are so fortunate. I recommend Teachers for Social Justice, 542 Munich Street, San Francisco 94112 415-676-7844. (They're also on FB.) The organization began in SF but is now national, with an upcoming conference in NY.

You're teaching under policies that constrict your options, and it's necessary to become professionally and politically active (though you can only ask so much of yourself now, as you're learning to teach). Network to help you find schools where there is innovation and collaboration, because these exist. The principals at these schools are looking for educators just like you.

Thank you for your current and future work in elementary education! teacher educator

I have been working in Oakland for 4 years and have struggled with some of the same questions. I have seen very effective white teachers in the district. A few resources that have really helped me are:

Teachers for Social Justice They have a yearly conference and study groups.

TEAMS/Americorps It is a fellowship program focused on teaching in a multicultural classroom for new teachers. There are monthly meetings with workshops and speakers. You can get money to use towards education loans. Fellow teacher

Your question- Is it possible for a white adult to teach students of color rigorously in a regular classroom (meaning students learn the grade level State Standards in all areas)? In my experience, yes you can do most of it. (the Eng/Lang arts.. not necessarily the pe, art, etc.)I am a white teacher and teach mostly students who are non-white. (usually one white kid per year.. so I have alot of experience)Part of your question is actually your answer. You said you plan ''activities''... Make sure your lessons always have a focus/teaching point. You need to collaborate with colleagues on best practices and effective STRATEGIES to get to your teaching points (not just planning activities.) You need to be very selective in your curriculum planning and get the most bang for your buck. Basically ask yourself ''is this just busy work, or do I have a specific goal here?'' A good example is Read Aloud. Every Read Aloud you do should teach a specific comprehension strategy (inference, vizualization, synthesis, etc.) and you should always set a purpose for reading. Never just read a book because you like it or its good (you can do this of course, we want to show them to love reading, but use your precious time wisely) Incorporate your science, math, social studies in to your reading/language arts by doing shared reading, interactive writing and GLAD strategies (look these up if you don't know them). Also, Writers' Workshop and Readers' Workshop are awesome programs. they take a long time to be trained, but there's alot of knowledge on them out there and you like to read... so maybe over the summer? All kids need rigorous teaching, but if we want to close the achievement gap, we need to ask questions like yours. anon
Please stop thinking you need to teach the kids to ''feel good about themselves.'' It is a false notion that you have to build this into your lesson plan through multicultural studies. You cannot teach self-esteem. It comes quite naturally to children when they learn and achieving something. anon
this might be helpful. I haven't done anything through this program, but have a friend who liked it. untraining
Question #1: Yes it is possible for a white adult to teach students of color.

Question #2: Some teachers have formed critical friends groups. There are PDs that help address this (BayCES for example has a Teaching with a Cultural Eye Institute).

If you haven't read it already, Sekani Moyenda and Ann Berlak wrote Taking it Personally: Racism in the classroom from kindergarten to college. Great book!

Some of Sekani's recommendations include doing your own emotional work to unlearn your racism; commit yourself to extensive education in the ethnic cultures of people whose backgrounds differ from your own; be clear on why you teach and who you are teaching. know what each community really wants for its children; don't fall for the ''parents don't care'' nonsense; have clear vision of what children will need to know when they leave your classroom and enter their communities as well as the dominant culture; find a diversity group that talks about racism; find any valid venue to talk about this issue. This will prepare you to respond when or if a black child calls you a racist. You will hear a wide range of views. you won't find answers-but you may find greater clarity. Think about your reasons for working in the community. Make sure these reasons are healthy-not based upon neurotic or exploitative impulses. Don't fall for the hype that you want to ''give back.'' What is it you've received that you want to give back? If you have something to offer, be specific. What do you have that we can use every day? You should be able to sell yourself to the parents and staff you wish to work with. Why should we allow you into our community? What can you contribute? How do you know we can use it? What's in it for you besides a paycheck? Can you work anywhere else? If not, why do we want you? If so, why choose this place when you can make more money and be treated better elsewhere? If we take these gifts you offer, what do you expect to get in exchange? What price do we pay? Why should we trust you? What of true value do Black and other people of color have that draws you to us and makes you want to teach, learn, and suffer with us? What is it that you want so badly, you're willing to endure the challenges in order to get it? black boys' mom

You sound like a very thoughtful and kind person, and I want to thank for teaching it's a though job!! I'm not a teacher anymore, but I (brown person) worked in a very white/affluent school while I was getting my credential at a progressive school with a huge emphasis on the very things you mention.

You asked ''Is it possible for a white adult to teach students of color rigorously in a regular classroom?'' I can't imagine that a teacher of color could do to it better than you, unless that teacher was more skilled or experienced. As a parent I would be offended if you expected less or more from my child because my child is brown. I say this because your question makes me think that you may not expect children of color to learn the SS from you. I believe that children will live up to our expectations.

I would want you to prepare my child by giving her the tools she'll need to succeed. I understand that my child will have to grow up and work and live in a world that is racist, and I will do what I can to support her to be able to handle that. I just think as a teacher the best you can do is create a learning environment, teach her well, and to hold her accountable for her learning.

I completely disagreed with some of the ideas regarding educating children of color I discovered during my teacher education days. I think it's cruel to hold children of color to a different standard because you think they've got it rough, and does zero to prepare them for reality. ex-teacher

I would like to suggest that you stop stressing over this issue. In my experience, either parents have made it clear that school is great and is the key to their future, or they use it for a babysitting service. Almost anyone could go into a kindergarten classroom, spend an hour, and accurately predict who will graduate from high school and who will not. And there is very little a teacher can do about this. In a very few cases a teacher will be able to make a personal connection with a child and get them off the welfare track and on the way to college. I certainly would like to read about stories to that effect. But the idea that schools can change a culture is a liberal dream and nothing more. Sorry to be so negative, but I have spent a lot of time observing kids and teachers and public schools, and I am just being honest about what I have seen. I really wish that a students success depended upon what they heard in school, but it does not. Success depends upon the support of the parents, which some children simply do not have. It is very sad. In my humble opinion, you should ust do your best and let it go. Anon
Hi New Teacher, Welcome to the exciting world of urban teaching. I really enjoy teaching in urban schools because of the students, their personalities, and the great diversity that is representative of the Bay Area.

One thing I would caution you about is the idea of tests being racially biased. I think tests are more culturally and class biased, in that certain words and phrases are included that may not be a part of someone's lexicon as they are growing up. For example, not all households use a saucer when they drink tea or coffee. They may simply use a mug. Is that a racial issue? Hard to say. Is it a class or cultural issue, yes.

My other point would include how to deal with this issue and urban students. I agree that we should create curriculum that is rich and interesting and culturally relevant to our school community, but that it should be in addition to the standard curriculum. If we don't, then we perpetuate a stratified society where students only identify with what is relevant and identifiable to them. Kids should look at murals and view art in a museum. Students should listen to poetry slams and book lectures. Do you see what I'm saying? I often worry that with our good intentions, we prevent urban students from learning the cultural and academic standards valued within the greater society, including the culture of power.

I personally like to know and learn about everything, because I like to be comfortable and adapt to any community. I want to feel as if I am a citizen of the world. That should be the mindset of an urban teacher. anon

I don't mean this as a personal criticism, but I think you're taking what you\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2ve learned much too literally.

You're not teaching ''students of color,'' you're teaching young people. ''Students of color'' is an over-simplification of a complex class/color/race/religion/nationality situation. Race doesn't = class and middle-class doesn\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t = white/easy to teach. Students are more than their racial profile and cultural background. Treating some differently than others sends all the wrong signals IMHO.

Perhaps your professors are from a time when ''rigorous education'' meant ''sink or swim--get with it or get out.'' But you can show respect for your students and their background\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9dand still challenge them academically. Give them a chance to test their limits and expand themselves. Let them know that you know they can handle it. Yes

-People of color face a very different world than white people do and white middle-class bias is a problem, so it's good to be self-aware. But a dumbed-down education will leave these students unprepared for collage and for work.

''Students of color'' are not fragile flowers who will never recover if a white teacher corrects them. If you don't correct students when they are wrong, it will cost them academically and in the workplace.

Students gain esteem through accomplishments, not fulsome praise. I guarantee students KNOW when you are underestimating them. They hate it.

Some years ago I worked at a (post-high) vocational school. Our students were poor, badly educated, immigrants, and ''students of color.'' The students now saw the low expectations of their K-12 teachers as indifference and contempt. They were resentful that their poor education hampered them. But they were desperate to learn and change and have new opportunities. The teachers who got the best student reviews were tough, demanding and inspiring. They taught everyone in class the same and were consistent. The students loved structure and challenges and immediate feedback. They loved knowing the rules--it provided security.

It's not ''racist'' to push students to their full capacity. If you show your students that you value and believe in them, you CAN teach rigorously and build self-esteem. Respect their race, background and culture\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9d-and, please, respect your own as well. Teach With Head & Heart

If you were a teacher in an all white ethnic school I would still say the time your spending on multicultural issues in the classroom is appropriate. I do not know if your progran is on a semester or quarter instruction schedule but I can remember feeling overwhelmed in my quarter based MA program. I too worried I was not getting enough of the essentials to be conpetent in my field. In my experience I learned more outside my program when I started applying what I knew. I also felt jaded I had to get to a MA program before I really felt like I was enjoying my education and that what I was learning mattered to me. I am deeply disturbed by the inequity in our schools. I think testing is necessary but it should not be the only way to assess a childs understanding. To be honest I think homeschooling or a charter school is a better option than sending a child of color to a public school that has prodominently caucasian teachers with under performing children of color. It tells me the teachers and administration are not committed to all children learning. There is more to education than what you are learning how to teach. If you are concerned with how much time you are spending on multicultural issues, think about your student who will wonder how does anything I'm learning in class relate to my life. There are too many examples of schools in urban areas with limited resources but have committed teachers and low income children of color are succeeding. Why? I think it is due to thinking out the box and being creative. The creativity part of your education may be what you are missing. Best, Anon
To the white teacher concerned about her ability to teach students of color:

One of the previous responders indicated that some kids will be okay, others not, and it's not so much about the teacher. I want to disagree. Research shows, in fact, that the factor under school's control that most affects student achievement is the quality of the teacher. Yes, there are a lot of other factors, but teachers make a difference.

Over the 15 years I've taught, I've seen white teachers who are extremely successful with students of color. What do they have in common? They hold high expectations for students (I know it's a catch phrase, but REALLY having high expectations is harder than it sounds), and they scaffold kids to get there. They get to know their students as individuals and their students' families. They have networks of colleagues, both white and teachers of color, with whom they discuss issues of race in the classroom. They learn to step back and reflect on their practice and how it works (or doesn't) for different students. They take responsibility for how their students do without getting bogged down in their struggles. They see equity at the forefront of their teaching.

Good luck! You're starting your career asking some of the right questions. One more bit of advice: the first few years are hard. Don't be too hard on yourself, and stick it out. I've seen too many people leave the profession before they have a chance to get good. Another White Teacher

Job-Sharing/Co-Teaching with a Perfectionist

May 2010

I am an elementary teacher and currently share my classroom with a colleague who is, to say the least, extremely meticulous. She likely has some form of OCD in which everything needs to be absolutely perfectly and everything she does is done in painstaking detail (which ends up taking much more time). It's something she and many of our colleagues joke about, but is probably more clinical than quirky.

We plan to job-share again next school year, but I have my worries. Up until recently, I had thought things were going pretty smoothly, even though I have to leave by 4:30 and she usually stays until 7:00 on her teaching days and often goes into the classroom over the weekend. She has been pretty understanding that I need to juggle family with work (I have two young children and a fairly long commute).

Her anger and frustration over doing more of the work for our classroom recently boiled over and she blew up at me - pretty much ripped me apart in front of a few of our colleagues in the staff room during lunch. I hadn't realized she was so angry with me.

I thought about getting out of this job share, but my options are limited for next school year. I do plan to work full-time after next school year, though. In the meantime, I wonder if any of you out there have advice for how I can make this work, aside from agreeing to look at her ''list'' of things she's been doing so we can divide it up, and going in on my days off next school year so I can catch up on work I need to do.

Thanks for your thoughts and insights. A highly responsible and organized (but not perfectionist) teacher

I am a teacher at a school in San Francisco and had a similar situation a couple of years ago. After struggling with it for too long, I met with career coach Toni Littlestone in Albany (510-528-2221). She helped me in so many ways. We worked on how to listen compassionately to my co-teacher, how to talk with her about my own needs, and also, how to make sure I was well-connected with the other teachers and the administration, not complaining about my co-teacher but creating my own strong bond with them so that if and when the other teacher complained about me, they already independently thought highly of me. I consistently let my co-teacher know that I was happy to do a good job within the hours I could work, but that I really couldn't work the long hours that she was putting in. From time to time, she was very critical, and I learned to be responsive but also firm about my own boundaries. Although things never got perfect, I learned so much from working with Toni Littlestone about building my own core confidence in my work performance, my communication skills, and how to be sturdy while dealing with a critical person. The other teacher did back off somewhat, and then eventually left. After she found a different school, other teachers came forward and told me that they had had similar problems with her and admired how I'd handled it. sympathetic

Extreme burnout - teacher in need of a change

Oct 2009

I am in my 11th year teaching middle school English (at the same school) and am feeling extremely burnt out and in need of a change. I am hesitant to leave my position because I am able to work 80%, have other privileges due to my seniority, and am a creature of habit. However, I am tired of the increase in bad behavior, poor work habits, and lowering achievement levels of my students. In the past, I had been heavily involved in working to reduce the achievement gap (writing and administering a grant), and served on many, many school and district leadership committees. I never thought I would want to ''defect'' and move to a less diverse district, yet here I am.

At this point I don't know if I even want to stay in teaching (though I can't imagine not having summers / afternoons off) My questions run the gamut:
1) What options are out there for teachers who no longer want to teach? ... especially if you want the benefits of the same schedule (summer off etc.)
2) If I stay in teaching, but move to a district that has less diversity, what are the disadvantages? What happens to years of service on salary scales? What happens to seniority in terms of lay offs?
3) What about teaching in private schools? How much lower, on average, are you paid?....other pros & cons?
4) If I tried to move to elementary teaching (I have a multiple subject credential), is it possible to teach part time? I'd consider job sharing...or being a prep teacher. How difficult is it to find/arrange these kinds of situations? Thanks for your thoughts and advice. anon

Hi, I was an 11 year science teacher who decided to transition to something else. Boy, did I pick a lousy time to try this!! It is very difficult to find any jobs out there at this time!! If you can find your fulfillment volunteering or doing a fun hobby, I would definitely hang in there at your job. Maybe you could get some classroom volunteers among parents or college students who need credit to help with the burn out. I also had a student helper from a higher grade who I taught to grade papers and tests. If you change districts, you lose seniority and start two year probation all over again. You may be able to resume at near the same ''step.'' Also, health plans are all over the board, so make sure you aren't losing subsidy to your health insurance.

I have not found anything in 1.75 years of hard looking that gives you the same amount of holiday time. Most places will start you at 2-3 weeks per year plus legal holidays (if that). Also, many jobs are looking for very specific skills. If you are going to look, I have been looking in the federal government sectors. Structured jobs, good benefits, 1 year - 18 months probation. Many pay you while they train you. The problem is the number of job seekers. I was trying to get a job at Social Security. There were 3000 applicants for 12 positions. After the written test, given to 1000, they interviewed 100, and then cut to the 12 positions. Best of luck to you. kl

While a new teaching position may be exactly what you need, perhaps you are in the right place but just too worn down to feel committed anymore. You might want to consider the Courage to Teach retreats, part of Parker Palmer's Center for Courage & Renewal: reconnecting who you are with what you do. Whether or not you change your career path, the retreats can provide a foundation for decision making and self understanding. To quote the website: ''This program is especially designed for preK-12 educators--teachers, counselors, and administrators on whom our society depends for so much but for whom we provide so little. Courage to Teach focuses neither on 'technique,' nor on school reform, but rather on renewing the inner lives of professionals in education.'' Here is the URL for more information: Worn down but now renewed
After nearly 20 years of teaching, I changed districts (because of a move), to a district with high-achieving, uber-literate, goal-oriented students. I received 9 years of credit-- in other words, I had to go back to year 10 on the pay scale. I think this is pretty typical-- some districts don't give more than 5 years for prior service. ( It's insulting , yes, what other profession is penalized for experience??? it makes no sense, but that's a different story).

Having said that... I do think you need to so some soul searching about whether you want to continue to teach at all. I'm concerned that your post expressed a desire to find an easy place to teach. In the 25 years I have been teaching I have certainly learned this: I don't know one single good teacher that doesn't work really, REALLY hard.. and that's true in suburban districts as well as urban ones. Teaching should not be a default option, but one you choose deliberately because you really love your subject, or love kids or preferably both.

All kids deserve good teachers. So... if you are looking for an easy way to do this job, I want to reassure you that it doesn't exist. If you feel like changing the environment in which you teach will give you an opportunity to feel the enthusiasm you know you have in the classroom, then you should explore that option. I'll say it again: all kids deserve good teachers. - a veteran

You could try to get some district level specialist thing, like in ELD, or some other kid of ''teacher on special assignment''. You could think about teaching high school in your district. If you move to a new district, you don't carry all your seniority but I think it is about 8 years(maybe varies by district?). Each district has it's own pay schedule so you might not be paid that much less. Those are my ideas. You could tutor or teach in private school but don't forget about your pension!! anon

Professional development while taking a few years off

Sept 2009

I am a teacher taking a few years off, but as any teacher knows, you have to keep getting professional development hours to renew your credential every 5 years. This is MUCH easier to do if you're working in a district. Has anyone had experience with trying to do this while not currently teaching? Any ideas for good professional development ideas? Thanks! credential renewal coming up

You will need to pay for professional development workshops out of pocket, but there is no reason you cannot attend them. Contact your local county office; they are responsible for a lot of PD and are typically cheaper than private companies.
You're in luck: ''For holders of professional clear credentials: The Commission no longer requires verification of professional growth requirements (including clock hours and days of service) when renewing your teaching or services credentials. If submitting a paper application, you no longer need to include professional growth documentation or complete section 3 of the renewal application [PDF]. Once your document is renewed, it will be issued as a ''clear'' credential.'' source: oakland teacher

Teachers: Do you pay for childcare over the summer?

May 2009

I am currently looking for childcare for my baby starting in August, and will probably want to use the same caregiver the following school year. Here's the problem. I am a teacher and do not work the two months during the summer. I also don't get paid, unless I have 20% deducted out of each of the official 10 monthly paychecks. And since I'm a teacher, my paychecks aren't exceptionally large. Teaching summer school may or may not be an option, and often pays so poorly that it would barely cover childcare. What do folks in my situation do with their care-provider over the summer? I can't expect the provider to save my spot and not earn money for two months! But at the same time, it is a huge financial drain to pay for childcare that I don't need, during a period in which I'm not getting paid. I brought this up with my husband, anticipating this being an issue next summer, and he said we would just look for a different provider the following year. Given how much legwork and time and emotional energy that goes into finding a childcare provider (MY time, energy and legwork), that doesn't seem very appealing, not to mention that the consistency would be good for our child. Any advice? What do other teachers do? teaching mommy

Hey there, have you thought of taking care of 2-3 other kids during the summer and charging their parents...less than summer camps but enough to offset what you have to pay to hold your spot and make some money in the process. There are many parents out there who would love to not pay thousands for camps all summer. Just a thought...good luck! Amanda
I am guessing your child is still pretty young. Don't worry, this will only be an issue for a few years and then when your child is in school you will have great summers together. In the meantime, you could talk to your childcare provider. If she is open to working with older kids, it probably would not be impossible for her to find a summer job with kids who are out of school for the summer. Or you might want to keep her around on a part time basis to give you a little break in the summer. Obviously your nanny might just say that she's not interested and try to find another job. But I'd say first talk it over with her, see if she feels like a little vacation too. I am a teacher too but before starting preschool my daughter was looked after by family and she started a preschool with a sept-june schedule at age 3. anon
Pay your daycare provider over the summer to save your child's spot. It's stressful for your child to get a new care provider every year, and not fair to your child either. That's what I do and I'm a teacher. Alternatively, you could find a preschool that has an optional summer program. You pay only if you send your child to the summer program. there are lots of those out there. anon
teaching mommy, i'm not a teacher but i was thinking why don't you ask your provider if you can ''sublet'' your spot. You could post an ad in the BPN child care section or on craigslist. maybe there is someone out there that only wants 2 months of care. or i would ask your provider if you could go to part time for 2 months. you may need a break even if you aren't working. i don't think it's a good idea to give up your child care spot and find a new one in the fall. - searching for child care is no fun!
Hi, I would suggest advertising for someone who has elementary age children who she would like to care for in the summer. That way, during any school vacation time, she can take care of her own children, and when school is in session, she can care for yours. I would think it would be a win win for both of you. Just a thought, Laurel
Hi, I am a part-time teacher at two different schools, paid hourly. Some of the hours continue over the summer, but the majority do not. Last summer, when we were considering our childcare options (someone such as a student/graduated student taking a year off before grad school - paid hourly, who isn't paid when doesn't work etc. and can also cancel and be other places for grad/job interviews, etc. (so not always there if you need someone) vs. a nanny share-type situation where it would be consistent, on both sides, and hopefully more long-term. We decided to opt for a nanny share situation, and just love our nanny, who is fantastic. We decided to just save up a little throughout the ''feast'' times of the year (ha, I know) to have a little extra to cover the promised minimum hours/week in summer. Our situation might be a bit different, as I teach only 2-3 days/week. My summer salary will probably cover childcare for our 2 committed days. The only reason we would have given notice and switched would be if we were unhappy with our childcare provider/situation. Last spring we hired a student who had taken a year off after undergrad to apply for grad schools, etc., so we've seen both sides.

Overall, and for the longer term, I think it is better to have the consistency at this stage of our child's development. Our child is now in the throws of toddler-hood, and is quite attached to our childcare provider, which makes us very happy. She is such a professional, and is so kind. I would feel sad to make our child switch at this point in development - would feel like a big upheaval, I think. But kids are resilient! I feel like it isn't then a situation where our child is ''just'' kept out of harm's way (!), but also provided with fun opportunities to get out and learn, like story hour at libraries, parks, music and cooking classes, etc. The advantage to having someone such as a student is that if they babysit well, they provide good interaction with a child as well, and you get to be home full-time in the summer, if you want to be. I really enjoy the couple of days teaching/career. If I were you, I'd sit down with your partner and come up with a list of pros/cons and see what you both prefer... I think it's possible to budget for summer care - for us, it is kind of a question of priorities, as this was our choice. There are many different, great options out there, and no one size fits all! GL! Summer fun, either way

I'm a teacher, and each year has been different. 1. For day care we have paid partially 1/3 to 2/3 the regular tuition or costs. (Offer this - the caregiver may be willing) 2. We have left the previous preschool and started a new one. 3. We have also paid full cost to keep a spot in the current preschool. (Suck it up, if it's a good preschool) Once your child enters elementary school and attends before and after care, it all gets easy. We teachers do not have to pay nor scramble for camps to care for are kids over the summer. Woo hoo. Good luck

New teacher, hates teaching: what now?

April 2009

So I made it through the credentialing program, only to find that I hate teaching. Why did I do it in the first place, you ask? It seemed like a good idea at the time. So... is my credential good for anything now? (Elementary school...) How do I start over? Where do I go from here? Help! Thanks! Annie

I can relate to the difficulty of going to school, taking all the tests (CBEST, CSET, and RICA), getting a teaching credential and then finding out that teaching is not for you. I've been there. I also got a multiple subject (elementary) teaching certificate. Now, what is next?

I have a question for you... Could it have been the wrong grade?

Sometimes people start in the wrong grades. Maybe you are like me and the whole teaching thing is just not it at all. Please do not blame yourself. No one can prepare you for the real world of teaching until you are in it. It can be so frustrating too because so many do not understand the demands in teaching. What's next? My suggestion would be to make an appointment with a career counselor. If you went to Mills then call them up and make an appointment. Otherwise, I heard that you can make an appointment for career counseling at Cal State East Bay in Hayward. (I don't know about cost there, however, I strongly recommend that you do this because I think that you will find it beneficial. This can help figure out some way to move forward in a career that is meaningful. This is can be a wonderful way to help you examine your skills and look into what you have to bring your next job/ career. I wish you well. Been there, done that, left classroom teaching Rachel

I had a brother in law who went all the way through medical school and then decided he didn't like working with patients!! He became a pathologist and now works for a company that designs medical instruments. You can take your completed credential and look at a way to build on it. My suggestions are speech pathology (where you work with kids one on one), school librarian, school administrator or school psychologist. They all require some additional training but it is doable. Another possibility is to look into companies that design materials for teachers, write curriculum, etc. Or how about training at a big company like Kaiser?
Hi there, For some perspective, I'll tell you my experience. I graduated with an M.A. in teaching ESL. By the end of my 2nd semester teaching after graduating, I was ready to quit and wondering why I had spent the last three years of my life getting this degree. Well, I stuck it out. Three years later, I LOVE my job. It's truly a wonderful career for me. (There are definitely downsides, but the positives far outweigh them.) It's just that it took some time and the beginning is by far the hardest. You don't say what you don't like about teaching, but if you're willing to give it a year or two so that you feel more comfortable with what you're doing and so you've developed some lesson plans, you may find it's the right career for you. Good luck with whatever you decide. Happy Teacher
I would like to recommend Sue Schleifer at Oak Communications. She coaches people who are rethinking their careers, and helps people focus in a creative way about what to do next. She also helps you deal with the overwhelmed feelings. She is at 510.269.4434. Good luck! Pat
Lord help us, please don't become an elementary teacher if you hate teaching! This world doesn't need one more ''teacher'' who doesn't want to be there, spreading the gloom to our children. Good idea to figure out your alternatives, what about a junior college, dealing with adults? Please stay away from the kids! tired of pissy teachers
As someone who has taught over twenty years, I want to reemphasize advice of others:

#1. The job will never be as hard again as it is in your first two years. Trust this. Really, truly. I'm not suggesting it's not time consuming later; it is. Teaching is a demanding profession; I don't know any good teacher who doesn't work hard day in and day out. BUT, as time goes on, you do develop a ''bag of tricks,'' that help guide you through the little decisions each day (like ideas and tips for lessons, logisitics, organization). And more importantly, you develop foresight-- You don't go home every night and think, ''ohmygod, what am I going to do tomorrow?'' You start to learn to have a bigger vision for small units, and for your classroom experience altogether. This will help you build confidence and not help you feel so overhwhelmed all the time.

#2. Someone else suggested that if you didn't like teaching you should get out because our schools don't need people who don't want to be there. That is true, but perhaps some people don't understand how much working conditions have an impact on your morale as a teacher. Even the best teachers can have a hard time. There often is not enough support(I know that I couldn't have stayed in this profession as long as I have if not for a very supportive spouse and colleagues) And looking at the other side:the profession ALWAYS needs good teachers,and loses too many. I believe something like 1/2 leave the profession before 3 years. This year has been tough, with layoffs and cutbacks and on top of that you're new, so the year has been extra hard).

So,is teaching for you or should you leave? Another responder suggested that you might look at a different grade level, and this is sound advice. I'd also suggest that different schools can be completely different experiences as well, and you may not have the right fit. You may want to look in the suburbs if you are in an city, or visa versa. You may want a small school if you are in a big one may simply need to find a place with supportive colleagues and administration.

Ultimately, there needs to be a compelling reason to keep you in the classrooom,that's for sure. Teaching should not be a default option,something you decide to do because you can't think of anything else to do with a liberal arts degree. You either need to love kids, love your subject or believe in public education(preferably all 3!),and probably evaluating the reasons you are there should be your first step in deciding whether to stay or not.

But-- don't opt out just because it's hard this year! Have faith in your abilities and find support wherever you can (even if you have to give it to yourself!) Our kids ALWAYS need good teachers. - veteran teacher

Teaching Job Shares

March 2009

I have been taking a break from the classroom and have a great work from home job. However, I'm missing the classroom, and would like to go back on a part-time basis. I have known teachers in various districts who have done 4 day/1 day and 3 day/2 day job shares - I would love to do one or two days a week. I'm an excellent person to job share with: I don't mind planning and love field trips, parent conferences, building relationships with parents, etc. I'm just not sure which districts still allow that. Does anyone know how I'd find out about this, which districts still allow it - any advice at all on teaching jobshares and how to find them? Thank you! eager to be teaching

Hello! I too am interested in doing a teaching job share. I retired from the Berkeley School District a few years ago and this past year have been subbing, currently doing a long term assignment teaching ESL adults at the literacy level and loving it! There is nothing like the dynamic of being in the classroom. I know Berkeley accepts job shares and in fact I have put myself on the union list of referrals for teachers looking for job share partners. I have yet to hear anything from that, but it is early yet. I have taught everything from preschool to adults and liked it all. I prefer collaborative work to teaching solo so job sharing appeals to me. Why don't we talk further and see what we can devise?
I'm in the same boat...I have small children and want to work 3 days/week in the classroom starting in Fall 2009. I'm currently subbing for WCCUSD part time, there are several job share teachers there. I believe they have a job share fair in April or May. Maybe give the district a call. I think you can check out their union office as well to see if anyone has posted job share openings. Good luck, maybe I'll see you in the classroom Beth
Vallejo has had job shares for teachers for a long time. Don't know if current economic climate has changed anything, but imagine that the usual job shares will continue next year. Barbara

Job sharing with another teacher

Jan 2009

I've been working for 12 years as a teacher in an Oakland Public School, mostly in 3rd grade bilingual classrooms. This year I'm working in the same school part-time as a reading intervention teacher so that I can be home with my baby part-time. It's a job-share arrangement that fell into place perfectly. But now with budget cuts looming, I may very well lose my position. While I'm pretty guaranteed of a full-time job in the district if I want it, I emphatically DON'T want to work full-time as long as my child is little. So my question is, how do I go about finding teachers who are in a similar situation and would like to job-share a classroom teaching job? I am currently in Oakland, but would LOVE to work closer to my Berkeley home if there were a job available (though I'm not sure how that works if you don't already work for the district). Please advise as to how to hook up to other teachers wanting to share a job. Thanks.

Teaching is so intense and demanding that I think job sharing is the only way to do it. I would be a bit cautious about changing jobs in this economy, however, if you have built up some seniority in OUSD. I was in HUSD which allowed job shares at the principals discretion. I always did 4 days and found a partner for 1 day. On weeks with holidays, I often had a 3 day week. Look into your district's policy. Talk to your principal and see if he/she is supportive. Put the word out that you are looking for this situation. I have a friend that job shared in Oakland for a few years, but that was a while back. Maybe someone on this list is looking for just this situation. Good Luck. anonymous

Teachers pumping milk at work

Jan 2009

I am currently finishing my single subject teaching credential, but will deliver my second child before the school year begins. I'll start subbing when my daughter is about six months old. I nursed my first child until she was two. I worked in an office environment that made it easy to pump & store milk. How does this work if subbing/teaching in a high school or jr high? Isn't it required by law that I be given the opportunity/location to do this? I'll probably be in Berkeley or Oakland schools. Any info & experiences would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. concerned mom

At Berkeley High there are no private spaces for teachers except bathroom stalls & it would be hard to pump in one of them because you'd tie up the bathroom. In addition, you would be expected to meet with students during lunch. So, unless your prep falls in the middle of the day, and you are ok with pumping in the bathroom, I don't think it would be possible (although I believe it is legally required.) If you were a substitute, you wouldn't need to meet with students at lunch, so you'd have the time, but not the space. anon
I am an elementary school teacher who went back to work part-time when my baby was 7 months old. I started out pumping twice (lunch, then after school), but quickly reduced it to once daily, and since December (baby 11 months old), I no longer pump at work. I pumped in my classroom (I have my own classroom.) I would lock my door, post a ''do not disturb'' sign, and make sure I wasn't visible through the windows. Even with these precautions, I got walked in on once by my (male) principal and once by my (male) literacy coach, both of whom had keys to my room. They were more embarrassed than me, but it was still awkward. The fridge in the staff lunch room was filthy, so I brought an insulated bag and some ice packs to keep the milk cold until I got home. No problems there. My main issue I had was finding the time to pump. A school day is usually so regimented and packed that I wound up having to wait until after school was out to pump. I only work 2 days a week, so it hasn't affected my milk supply, but it would be different for someone working more days. It's tricky, but you are right about the law requiring them to provide you a room. Of course the law requires a lot of things to be happening in schools that isn't! Good luck! lactating and educating
I think they are supposed to provide you with a space, however I am sure that that will be a pretty uncomfortable thing to demand if you are day to day subbing. You'd have better luck if you were on a long-term sub assignment or in your own classroom. I just used my classroom since I didnt' have to share it with others... essentially that was my office. To make it possible I covered the windows and doors and always pumped with the lights out. I also situated myself so that if someone (custodians, security staff, etc.) were to unlock the door and come in they, and the people in the hall wouldn't get a view of what was going on. I didn't ever have a problem with that happening fortunately. I don't know if word got around that something like that could be going on; I never purposely announced it, though I wasn't shy about doing it either. (I did have a couple of friends who would stop by and chat, have lunch while I was at it... that sounds strange, but it worked for us.) I did request a certain lunch and prep period so that I could time my pumping. My VP balked at first, more to prove the point that the schedule was ''for the convenience of the students, not the teacher.'' I was prepared to fight, but she ended up giving me what I'd asked for.

This year at my site we have a school counselor who is pumping. She doesn't have an office, and space is at a minimum. We've set her up using the technology closet in the library... no windows, well lit, electric outlet, few staff have keys, and the library staff makes sure she isn't there if a maintenance worker is trying to come in. It isn't ideal, but it is close to a room with a sink, and beats the months I spent in an office building pumping in a restroom stall. been there done that

Teachers as Parents: Avoiding Burnout

April 2006

I'm an east bay public school teacher (secondary level) who went back to teaching full time after my son turned 2. He's now three. I've been back to teaching for almost two years, and I feel like I'm literally drowning. Drowning in paperwork. Drowning in lesson plans. Drowning in meetings, phone calls, errands, housework, and did I mention paperwork? My poor son - in daycare three days a week, with my husband the other two - gets very little mom time. I feel very guilty.

I'm approaching burnout. Why? Because when I come home, I set everything else aside to be with my son. Those few hours are precious to me. This means, of course, that grading, planning, and typing don't even get started until about 8:00 PM, and I work until at least 11:00, sometimes later. And I wake up at 5:00 AM to get a head start on the day. If I don't keep this schedule, I literally cannot stay afloat. I'm not doing a great job as a teacher. A former award-winning mentor, conference presenter, state grant receiver, program initiator and member of the principal's ''inner circle'', I'm now on the periphery, giving papers cursory glances and lurching home as fast as I can. If I had to grade my teaching since giving birth, I'd give myself a C.

I used to love my job, but it's sucking so much out of me. Are there any other parents of young children out there who are teachers? I can't quit my job - we'd lose our home and the very basic amenities we keep. I'm just so numb, raw, and dog, dog, tired. My students deserve better. My son deserves better. My husband and my soul deserve better.

Teachers who are parents, how do you do it? How do you manage your time? How do you balance the never-ending high tide of grading, scoring, and preparation with time to enjoy your life? Inside a sinking bathysphere

Have you considered trying to find a job at a private school? You can enjoy teaching, but typically (especially in the lower grades/middle school) have smaller class sizes, meaning less papers to grade. There's generally, in my experience, less paperwork and less red tape. On the other hand, the pay will probably be a little bit less, and some people find parents and their demands to be more overwhelming. It might be worth checking out. anon
Oh my, are you me? I am only working part time, but I have the same problems, to a lesser extent. Is it possible for you to work part time? In any case, I think it might help for you to not take your work home and do it at night, but to stay at school an extra hour, at least one or two days (on the Dad days perhaps), and do what you can there. Take home only one or two packets of work per night. Make it easier for yourself to correct things--make good rubrics, make keys so your husband can be a TA at home. Give oral projects that can be graded in class. Emphasize quality over quantity in homework, your students will love you for it! Have students correct their own/their partner's quizzes with an overhead. Spend some time this summer getting some lesson plans or calendars ready so you don't have to do that every night. I think you are right to drop everything and be with your son when you are home, but also set aside some time to drop everything and work and also find some way to minimize that work. same situation
I have been teaching for about 8 years now at high schools. I admit I only have part time custody of our two children, but it is a full time activity when I have them. Ways I cope...1) we eat out a couple times a week. 2) if you can squeeze it out of your budget, have a housekeeper come in twice a month ($70 per session). Ditto on a gardener ($110 per month). You have limited time so really need to set your priorities. 3) I have a T.A. for two periods and they grade most of my homework/classwork using a key or rubric. They are seniors who get credit for being a T.A. If you teach elementary school, recruit parents or dependable students to do the same. 4)I have my computer in a corner of the living room so that if I do have to grade at home I can still hear, talk with my kids while they do their homework, play, etc. 5) I also took a great course on managing all the paperwork and I have a CD copy of it that I would be willing to loan you. Good luck! kathryn
I am also a full-time teacher at the secondary level (at a private, parochial high school) and I agree that it is tough to balance everything. It sounds like you are spending too much time on everything for school. I am not trying to be critical, just thinking that you must be an English teacher with so much to grade. I am wondering how long you have been teaching. I found that in my first couple of years that I felt like I was drowning and I didn't even have kids. I think you need to decide that for awhile you won't be the best teacher and that is OK. You are probably a better teacher than you think you are anyway. I guess I tend to try to do my planning on the weekends and directly after school. Somehow I manage to leave everyday at 3:30 or 4 and really don't do a lot at night unless I just gave a test or project. Then I try to go in on the weekends while the kids are napping. My problem has been finding time to pump and teach in 3 different classrooms. Maybe you might consider going part time or switching to a school with smaller class sizes. I realize none of this may help but I think you should consider ways to work smarter and not harder. I have given up for the time being to be an awesome teacher and instead I make sure I do my job, keep my job and try to take care of my kids as best that I can. I will say that private/Catholic schools tend to be more of a community environment and I don't get this sense from public. anon
I teach high school English in a high achieving district. This is my 20th year. My kids are now 11 and 13, and I could have written your letter myself. Here's my best piece of advice: sometimes,(perhaps all the time), your goal is to be a good teacher, not a great one. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm asking you to compromise yourself... but I also think you need to give yourself permission to get on the treadmill,so to speak. You need to have a real life, so you actually can be present and happy in your teaching life as well. It's ok not to have a innovative lesson's ok to take a little longer to get the papers back. It's also ok to use your sick days ocassionally to grade papers or take a ''mental health'' day or go on a field trip with your kid... And you have to let go of the award winning this or that for a while. You're right-- your kid IS the most important thing. This isn't to say that you're students aren't important... of course they are... but this is a good opportunity to help you find ways for them to depend on you less. Many people go into teaching , because they are nuturing people-- perhaps even self-sacrificing people-- and they may have a hard time letting go of that, but it just doesn't do any good to be wasted all the time. It's a compromise you make.

Also: I taught 60% for 2 years and 80% for 4 years when my kids were younger. I know it's not always possible to do that... but it did help me feel like I could be both a better parent and a better teacher. ( I know, I know, then I could work 50 hours a week and get 80% of a public school teacher's salary! It's unjust, but alas, so is the world we live in).

Above all, find support. Go out and have a beer with your fellow teachers from time to time. Go to the conferences where you can surround yourself with people who are enthusiastic about the profession. Remind yourself from time to time what your ideals are... believe and and understand that that is often enough. This is how you will survive as a teacher. Been there, done that

I feel your pain! I am definitely not the same teacher I was before I had kids and unfortunately, the only way that I have found to be both a decent parent and a decent teacher at the same time is to work ''part-time'' (I still put in over 40 hours/week, of course!). Many of my colleagues with small children have done the same, and it seems to be a sad reality of our profession. I am lucky to be able to afford this and still live here in the Bay Area, but I think the only alternative is to adjust your expectations of yourself as a teacher to fit the reality of the time constraints of a parent, or vice versa. PT teacher, FT mama
Another thought: Even though it's hard, you have to do your best to maximize your time at school. One way to do this is to actually plan to stay later in order to get work done. I know this feels terrible; after all you want to get home to your kid right away, but if you can do some grading at school, and actually take less home, it will weigh on you less. How else can you use your school time efficiently? Before I had kids, I used to only grade when I could really sit down and focus...which meant I needed to have an hour or more of time. After kids I had to change that mentality and use 15 minutes- or even 10 when it came up... during lunch time, or preps, or while students were working on a quiz or something else quietly. I also made a concerted effort to schedule lessons regularly that allow such quiet time (like reading time or... yes, even movies) in order to give myself time to do some grading during school hours. These things do not compromise you as a teacher.They allow you to stay in the profession.

Sometimes, it's really hard to be ''on'' all day, to keep pushing yourself to stay mentally focused even during lunch. I know, beleive me, the pace is relentless. But, think about it this way: if you can work in 30 minutes every day at school, that is two and a half hours at home you don't have to find at 5AM or 11PM. It really adds up.

You know, we don't ask our lawyers or plumbers or CPAs to be extraordinary people, but somehow we expect it of teachers. It's ok to be a normal person, with a real life. Don't feel guilty for living it. a veteran teacher

I hear you. I have two kids and teach middle school. It is exhausting. This year I have found a balance that is working fairly well.

1) I write my lesson plans one month at a time. Usually I end up staying on schedule better this way than I did when I planned a week at a time. I get all of my copies made at the beginning of the cycle and find I have more time for grading.

2) I spend my prep. time (my only block of uninterrupted time all day) grading or running copies only... calls home and follow- ups with counselors come at times of day when I have fewer consecutive minutes so that they can't eat-up my whole prep.

3) I set an end of day time and work to it no matter what, even on Fridays and before vacations... sometimes I don't get all I wanted to done, some I do more than I had planned.

4) I have stayed out of the ''politics'' because it is an energy drain.

5) NO WORK ON WEEKENDS... that is kid and husband time.

6) Simplified grading for homework that is ''skill practice''.

7) TA, volunteer or detention students do clerical work like filing, sorting, alphabetizing, stapling, etc.

This isn't exactly my favorite, but it is the all important... don't beat yourself up for what you ''should'' do. There is always another thing that you could do or spend money on that would make you the ''best'' but sometimes good enough is enough. There are some days when I assign book work... it isn't the most exciting or innovative teaching, but it is valid, and gives me time once in a while to get some of the planning and grading done during school hours. tired teacher

Going back to teaching after time off

April 2005

I am looking for a new teaching job after taking the year off to have a baby, who is now 3.5 months. I finished my masters/credential program last June, so I have only student taught so far. I am not sure how or if I should explain the gap in my resume in a cover letter or how to address it in an interview. I would also like a part-time position, but I'm worried that if I ask about that in an initial interview, I will sound flaky or uncommitted. Basically, I am feeling that employers feel like I am not as trustworthy and desirable as someone without a baby and I'm struggling with getting my foot in the door. Any tips from those who have crossed this road before would be appreciated! Thanks. Anon

So I think there are two very different things you're wondering about: how to deal with the resume gap and how to approach looking for a part-time position. I've been a teacher in several school systems, and am currently doing a university faculty job search, so here's what I've found. I think the first is easier than the second. My guess is that it will not be an issue at all, and I would not mention it in a cover letter. It's only a one year gap, and in a tight job market that's especially not a big deal. However, in my own job search, I decided to be completely open in interviews about having a young child, because I want to make sure I'm somewhere that is supportive (or at least not blatantly unsupportive) of that. If you feel similarly, then you might want to work it into the interview, but not let it be too big a deal... I always check myself to make sure I don't go on and on about my baby, although he IS my favorite topic of conversation :)

The second issue, wanting to be part-time, is likely to be tricky. In public schools (don't know about private), part-time jobs are hard to come by, especially if you aren't already in the system. Some people job share, but that often involves being in the right place at the right time, and knowing people already.

Unless you are specifically responding to a part-time posting, you are unlikely to be able to negotiate it. I've had part-time teaching positions due to the right time/ right place factor, but they aren't all that common from what I've seen. I wish this wasn't true, because I think schools of all places should be models of family friendly workplaces. But realistically, I think it will be hard for a beginning teacher to find a part-time placement that pays you as a credentialed teacher (as opposed to after-school programs, etc.). That said, I hope you find something! Good luck. Stephanie

Hi teacher, I just wanted to let you know that there are a lot of job possibilities out there. I did teach for 10 years before having a child but gave up my tenure to be home with my baby until she started kindergarten. Then, I had a clear idea of the type of position and number of hours I was willing to take on. It took a couple of months but I found my job and actually ended up sharing a contract with a teacher whose background is similar to yours - credential but not much experience. She is moving back to southern California next year so we may need a replacement. Feel free to contact me if you want more info or advice. Betsy Weiss bweiss [at]
Why don't you substitute teach? For example, get a nanny for Tuesdays and Thursdays and then only accept jobs for those days. Add on more days as you and your child are ready. You will get a feeling for jobs in the district and also recommendations for when you are ready to apply for a permanent position. --good luck

Health Benefits for Part-Time Teachers

August 2004

I just accepted a part time teaching position in a public school. It's a 40% position. I was told that I would get 40% benefits. When inquiring what my portion of the payments would be, I was told that $1000 would be deducted from my check every month. This is $200 more than what I currently pay and I pay for 100% of my health insurance. This doesn't seem right. I'm hoping that there are some other subscribers who also teach part time and can tell me if this seems off. I thought that if my district is paying 40% that it would that much less than what I currently pay. Don't large organizations get breaks on the insurance costs? Second question - Has anyone ever negotiated their contract with a school district if they've chosen not to take the benefits offered? It would be a savings for the district not to have to pay for my health insurance. Wouldn't it make sense that they'd pay me the difference, or part of the difference? Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you... frustrated with benefits

I am a health insurance broker who helps individuals, families and small buinesses find health plans tailored to their needs and I just met a woman yesterday also working part-time for a public school. She was offered the choice of buying her own policy or paying a pro-rated cost of her benefits in the group plan. She discovered that it was much more beneficial to her to buy her own policy. The decision is always individual, but you might consider looking into an individual policy. Small business plans are always more expensive than individual plans. And, every employer gets to determine certain specs for who's covered (domestic partners or not, part-time employess or not, etc). I don't know what district you're in but if you're interested in looking at an individual policy, give me a call. Denise Lombard, Health Insurance Specialist 510-530-8086
First of all, let me say I'm sorry!! Depending on the district, teaching part time can mean that your benefits cost a lot--I've been there!! It really doesn't seem right, but that's the way it works a lot of places. It doesn't surprise me at all that your benefits are so expensive. What I've found is that rules about benefits are totally dependent on the district. Some districts (Alameda and others) will let you have some money back each month if you opt not to take their benefits...not the full cost of the benefits, but still, some money. Other districts (Fremont, Pleasanton) tie benefits into the salary, so employees appear to make more than those in other districts, but must buy insurance on their own unless they are covered by a spouse or partner. Still other districts (Oakland, Piedmont) do not give employees any money back if they opt not to take the district insurance, even though, as you point out, it would likely save them money. So, not knowing which district you will be working for, it is hard to know exactly what you are dealing with. Have you read your contract? It is probably online and should spell out how your your particular district deals with benefits.

One option is to go with the cheapest plan (usually Kaiser). Then you will probably pay less than if you opt for another plan, such as Health Net.

If you do opt to take the district benefits, you can have them paid for with pre-tax money. Talk to someone in payroll about this--it will save you money. Also, you might want to see if you can set up a reimbursable account for medical expenses such as prescriptions and co-pays through your district...this is where you have a certain amount of money deducted from you check each month pre-tax, but then submit receipts and get the money back. (There is also a way to do this for child care expenses--same process, different account.)

Another thought is seeing if you can increase your working time to 50% or 60%. Then you will make more and (again, depending on where you will be working) your benefits cost will be less (you might be responsible for 50% or 40% instead of 60%). This really makes a big difference in some cases!

As far as negotiating individually with the district, I don't think this would be possible. If the district DID negotiate a special deal with you, it would most likely be in violation of the contract negotiated by your union. Good Luck! A Part Time Teacher Too

Hi. I'm also starting a 40% public school teaching job this year. I've been paying for my own Kaiser benefits while on a year of leave from my previous job. In my new district, I'll have to pay about $550 per month (for my family of 3) to cover the 60% of benefits not covered by the district. This is very comparable to what I'm paying now for my own family plan with Kaiser. However, the plan I will be now under will have much lower co-pays, include more services, include vision/chiropractic care/etc., and include Delta Dental as well. I'm not sure why your cost should be so high! Feel free to e-mail me if you want to discuss this situation further... Jen