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  1. #1
    riding once again jschen's Avatar
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    How do you feel about teachers/teaching?

    The dean of students--one of my thesis committee members--reminded me recently that being half-way through grad school, I really should be starting to think about what I'm doing afterward. I still have 2.5 years of grad school, but it's not unusual for top labs to have postdoctoral fellows lined up 1-2 years in advance. So though the future is still pretty far away, the day I have to decide whether to become a professor is looming much closer than I'd like.

    There seem to be quite a few complaints about teachers voiced around here. So I'm wondering... Has any teacher ever truly made a positive difference in your life? Even if the teacher was teaching a specialized topic you'll never use again?

    And to educators on this board, what do you love about your job? What do you hate? Would you do it all again? Even if alternate career paths could give you far more money? (Say, 400% more.) Have you ever seen a student "get it" and have a figurative light bulb turn on in his/her head? And apply it generally to life in general even though the light bulb was in a specialized subject that doesn't have much direct connection to the student's life?
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  2. #2
    commuter all star peregrine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jschen
    ...
    There seem to be quite a few complaints about teachers voiced around here. So I'm wondering... Has any teacher ever truly made a positive difference in your life? Even if the teacher was teaching a specialized topic you'll never use again?
    ...
    Wow, yes absolutely! I was lucky to spend 3.5 years with some very inspiring and knowledgeable people. I've learned so much from them and I guess it's safe to say that I wouldn't have stayed at that college if I weren't so impressed with the professors there.

    jschen, teaching is a very honorable and selfless profession (of course it depends largely on the person too) but at the same time is probably one of the least recognized and acknowleded. It's not for everybody that's for sure. I wish I could give you not a $0.02 but a $200 advice, but I'm at similar crossroads as you are. Good luck with your decision.
    Last edited by peregrine; 03-20-06 at 11:39 AM.

  3. #3
    Meow! my58vw's Avatar
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    jschen,

    Teaching is such a wonderful and selfless profession. Someday I will be a college professor, it has been a lifelong dream, yet while man people say that being a professor is such a kick back life, the competition is so cut throat, expecially at the cal state and UC schools that you are constintly forced to do "groundbreaking work" and publishing to stay in. If you go to a school that is less that way be prepared to make less than what a high school treacher makes, 40 - 50k maybe.

    It is true that around that 3rd year of a PHd program you should be looking for what you will do afterwards, but then the world is so open for you. As you know, there are so many job avalabilities that you should be able to find something out there, in industry or education. Whatever you want to do I am sure it will be right for you, just give teaching the look it deserves. I bet you will be a very good teacher...

    Now as for someone being an inspiratin in my life, I can name about 4 or 5 but I will stay with two. Dr. Roger Tatum, co founder of lifepoint instruments here in socal, is to many the "God" of chemistry, and a very close friend. I have taken not short of 8 classes with him, along with substantial research along the way. He has always been there when I needed help academically or personally, and we have become close. He is also an avid cyclist, having had a nasty stroke two years ago, he was back on his bike 6 months later, and before I got hurt we completed a double metric together...

    My other inspriational teacher is Dr. Ivan Rouse, one of the most knowledgable condensed mater physicts that I have ever seen. He has become in many ways more than a professor to be, and the way that he runs his class and treats his students in comendable. He is the kind of guy that will send hours helping student in the day to then go voluntier in a homeless shelter, etc at night. His wife had been a great support with everything in my life, being an elementry school teacher at a local district. If I have ever needed a shoulder to cry on he is the one. He has also been through some hard time, including 3 surgeries in as many years for pituitary problems, and now I find out he is color blind... what a guy.

    There are so many more, Edwin Karlow, professor of physics, Dean Hunt, education director, Claudia correa, the teacher that tought me to dream and aim for the stars, Dr, Sheldon, organic chemist, June Hilton, Donald Wade, Marvin Tapsfield, Gary Lesh, etc... the list goes on and on...

    The best thing about being a teacher though is when you strudents look back and remeber the impact you had on their lives... that is what it means to teach!

    Mandy
    Just your average club rider... :)

  4. #4
    Lex
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    I think that teachers are generally underpaid and underappreciated and I cannot believe the sort of things that they have to put up with from parents and students (especially as children have become less disciplined over the years and have grown a massive sense of entitlement without the benefit of having to work for anything - okay, that's a rant).

    That having been said, there are several teachers who have made a difference in my life. One of my college profs was so ethusiatic and well loved and so willing to go the extra mile so that a student really understood. Another was unflinching in his analysis of students work and attention to detail so that they really brought their best work to his class. I could go on, I won't though.

    The neighbors teenager will come over sometimes when I'm outside and go on and on about how stupid all of his teachers are. How he knows so much more than they do about everything. True knowledge is knowing that there's so much out there you'll never know......and true brilliance doesn't have to be repeated, advertised and broadcast ad nauseum.

    *whew* LOL
    "I'm starting to have grave doubts about this thing I barely liked in the first place." Homer Simpson

  5. #5
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    I think most teachers will if the student/parent lets them. I'm at a K-5 school,about 1200 students and most days the parents complain about the teacher,work given,you are kicking my kid out of school because he smoked pot in the restroom. Just about any kid can get the most out of a teacher.
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

  6. #6
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    I am not a fan of teachers. 95% of them were pretty much tools who were not doing it for selfless reasons. There is a glory attached to teaching which I don't believe to be true. I believe "most" teachers fall into the "if you can't do, teach" category.

    I did have 3 or 4 amazing teaching who fall into the "I love to to teach category" unfortunately all of them taught topics I didn't enjoy or couldn't focus on. Those teachers opened me up to ideas and thoughts, along with my parents, that went beyond my geeky computer mind. However those 3 or 4 didn't offset that 12 years of school I couldn't stand

  7. #7
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    i've had a few good teachers, and yes, they're memoriable. nobody ever sparked my imagination though, i had to do that myself persuing my own interests. school and teachers were just something i had to do - like going to work everyday.

    i had plenty of bitter teachers though, who really didn't do more than what was necessary to get a pay check. lots of worksheets to do, boring films to watch, etc. i could tell their lesson plan was "how do i fill up an hour?". at 35-40k a year, those teachers are not underpaid for what they do.

  8. #8
    Meow! my58vw's Avatar
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    Maelstrom I can not agree with you more, although I believe the number is about 75 to 25 percent.

    I have college profs who are that way, or who care more for their research interests, although at my current college the pay is so low you better like teaching here! In high school, it seems like there are far too many teachers who just do not care... the problem is with all the road blocks and hoops we have to jump through it is no wonder more people who would love to teach can not do so... it is quite sad really!

    On my side, you can tell it is the most important thing for me when I sue for a teaching credential when they deny me for "personal" reasons, and want to teach at 5 - 6 years old... you can not make good teachers, they are born that way, and there is no way around that! - Caring is a rarety now days!

    Mandy
    Just your average club rider... :)

  9. #9
    Resident Old Fart Olebiker's Avatar
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    Too many university professors find teaching undergraduate courses to be a tedious chore interfering with their research and writing. Most of my memorable teachers were at a junior college where teaching was their primary focus.
    Wag more, bark less

  10. #10
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    actaully, yeah, i've had some fantastic community college teachers in the past. i used to take a lot of summer courses, and quite a few of them did their job really well.

  11. #11
    riding once again jschen's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your replies so far. I do love organic chemistry, and if I teach, I'm leaning toward teaching at a small liberal arts school so that I can focus on teaching rather than on research. Obvious issues are the pay sucks and you have no choice about where you live. (My best friend, a bachelor's degree chemist working 40 hours a week doing a job I could do, made $600K a few years back, but teaching at such a school, I wouldn't make that much in a decade. As for geography, positions open sporadically at essentially random locations, and if you want to make a significant impact teaching such a specialized field, you'd better pick the highest caliber school of your very short list of choices.) It often seems to be not worth accepting those sacrifices in order to teach a classroom full of people who mostly don't care about what you have to teach (as long as they can pass the class and get into med school) and who mostly have long since become jaded about their teachers.

    If teaching means truly changing only a very few people's lives over the course of a career, then why bother? Why not just go do something else, where one's mentorship can readily reach just as many people? There are many sacrifices involved in becoming a teacher (the ones discussed above being just the most obvious), and I'm willing to make them if the rewards of teaching are commensurate with the sacrifices. But I don't know whether that's the case.

    And my current professors are of no help on the matter. They're convinced that I'm headed toward the most competitive research-oriented academic post I can land, and I'm not ready to tell them that that's not the case unless I'm absolutely sure. And they're happily at a very research-focus institute and at the top of their field, so their experience doesn't tell me much anyway.
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  12. #12
    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    I certainly had some that aided me greatly. That was 40 years ago though.
    Just Peddlin' Around

  13. #13
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Bloody few teachers made much of a difference in my life. Through High School they were way too busy trying to drag the low performers along with the rest of the class. There was one advanced class on culture and philosophy where the other boys just wanted to score debating points to demonstrate their dominance to the girls who generally sat back. In engineering school it was assumed you already knew how to learn and the teachers just laid it out for you. My girl friend exposed me to Ayn Rand. Now there was an AHHA! moment. I got more out of my familys' 80 year collection of National Geographics than most of grade school.

    Looking at life from my perspective I would have gotten an ordinary job out of college, socked away every cent I could for 20 years and retired to a life of non-stop cycle touring at age 45.
    This space open

  14. #14
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    i used to do some training and teaching at my job. in many ways, adults make the worst students! they'd duck out to answer a cell phone, or run back to check emails, show up 30 mintues late, any number of things. often it was hard to get them to focus, because they'd be thinking about something they needed to do at their desk or another meeting they have later in the day, etc.

    i like explaining things and talking through stuff, but only if the people can engage me a little. then it's fun. it's no fun trying to talk over people or seeing someone staring out the window wishing they weren't listening to me.

  15. #15
    Senior Member joeprim's Avatar
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    Teachers are underpaid and likely under appriciated. A college prof though can, depending on his field, get research grants. To me that would be fun. My mother still teaches a couple of math classes a week as a volunteer at 87 so she really likes it.

    Joe

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    Senior Member
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    Have you tried tutoring or asking to be a teacher's aide? You can get a taste without a long term commitment.

  17. #17
    Kicked out of the Webelos bluebottle1's Avatar
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    I'll just chip in by saying that I've had a few professors over the years who really made a huge impact on me. Even if these were not people who I went to for counsel or anything of that sort, their conveyance of ideas with real passion was a service I'll not soon forget. And I'll add that most of these classes were not "useful" in the sense that I don't use the things I learned on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I think there's a value to ideas and thought, in and of themselves. The fact you care enough to ask the questions you're asking suggests you think the same.

  18. #18
    Lex
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    i've had a few good teachers, and yes, they're memoriable. nobody ever sparked my imagination though, i had to do that myself persuing my own interests. school and teachers were just something i had to do - like going to work everyday.

    i had plenty of bitter teachers though, who really didn't do more than what was necessary to get a pay check. lots of worksheets to do, boring films to watch, etc. i could tell their lesson plan was "how do i fill up an hour?". at 35-40k a year, those teachers are not underpaid for what they do.
    35 to 40k is not underpaid? Every area is different so this may be a lot of money somewhere. Though teachers get the two months off in the summer they have a great deal of take home work. Six classes + 30 students per class + grading makes for a lot of headaches. That doesn't allow for lesson plans or meeting with parents or whatever supervision of extracir. things they might do. My mother is a teacher and she does a lot of prep work. Her typical workday is a 10 hour day....and then she grades or prepares for the next day when she gets home.

    On a sideish note my favorite story is from a friend who teaches in Texas who gave a student who turned in a paper two weeks late a D. The mother was incensed saying that he should have gotten a better grade as his brother who was in college wrote the paper for him. She pushed it through so that it was graded again and even without considering the lack of morals the parent was promoting, the kid got a failing grade.
    "I'm starting to have grave doubts about this thing I barely liked in the first place." Homer Simpson

  19. #19
    riding once again jschen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottogo
    Have you tried tutoring or asking to be a teacher's aide? You can get a taste without a long term commitment.
    I've been my professor's TA for his advanced organic synthesis class. One lecture was completely my responsibility, from planning to execution. The class loved it. But one HUGE difference is that that class had 9 students, all of whom really wanted to be there since they all chose to be in grad school to do organic synthesis.
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  20. #20
    Go hula
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    I took a lot of college prep courses in high school and hated some of my teachers because of the hard work that was assigned. However it made my freshman year in college more of a breeze. I didn't realize it then, but when I look back, I do appreciate the hard work they put into their classes. Ms. Taggert, Mr. Ribovich and Mr. Weinstein, I tip my hat to you! (it's been over 20 years and I'm amazed I still remember their names!)

    In college I had two profs that really stand out because of the passion they showed in their subject. One was an art history prof (Dr. Cohen at San Jose State). She was so passionate about art history that even though I signed up for it just to fulfill a general ed requirement, I ended up taking another one of her classes just because. Another was Dr. Roe of the Health Science deparment. She really opened up my eyes on not just public heath, but the politics and controversy that goes behind it (abortion, HIV/ AIDS, etc.). I ended up choosing Health Science as a minor partly due to her.

    Teachers and profs who have a passion they pass on to their students are rare and I hope they realize how much of an impact they have on them. I hope their enthusiasm lives on.

    As for teachers today, I think they have it way harder than the teachers of my generation. These days they have to consider students who pack guns/weapons to school, juvenile obesity, eating disorders, depression and parents who don't know what's best for their child. On top of that, budgets are being cut left and right all the while they are still expected to churn out high-performing students. I was surprised to learn that several high schools in my city have in-house day-care centers for the babies of the students. It's just a part of high school life these days, and teachers are now supposed to accomodate the students who have babies in the day-care center by allowing them to leave class to go nurse and set up special accomodations for their homework assignments. Where/when in college were teachers prepared to do this?

  21. #21
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    JS,

    Is the info on your screen correct. E.g. are you in San Diego? If so Los Angeles is not that far away. You might want to talk to some profs at the following schools.

    Occidental College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd, Cal Tech. I listed them in my level of confidence that they are teaching schools. All do some research. Tech might even be more a research school, but still has very real contact with students.

    AS to your original question about a teacher making a difference in your life. Not in mine, but that is more a function of having good parents. If you are already on the right track it is much harder for someone else to have a major good influence. But I can name at least a dozen who I'm reasonable sure did make a difference in someones life. I don't know whose. I'm just sure that somewhere they lit the spark in someone or helped them with an important decision.

    Perhaps an example would help. In deciding what College to go to the big push through official channels was to go to the U.C. system, mainly U.C.L.A. of Cal. One of my teachers strongly advised against that, he was correctly convinced I would get lost in the huge shuffle and not be happy. IF I did not have other corret guidance he could have made a huge difference in my life. But my parents had already given the same advice, the same way. All three said for me a big school for undergrad was not teh way to go. Oh and my dad went to U.S.C., Mom U.C.L.A. and the teacher was finishing up his doctorate at U.S.C. so it was obvious they did not have anything against big schools. Their advice was based on knowing me.

  22. #22
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lex
    35 to 40k is not underpaid? Every area is different so this may be a lot of money somewhere. Though teachers get the two months off in the summer they have a great deal of take home work. Six classes + 30 students per class + grading makes for a lot of headaches. That doesn't allow for lesson plans or meeting with parents or whatever supervision of extracir. things they might do. My mother is a teacher and she does a lot of prep work. Her typical workday is a 10 hour day....and then she grades or prepares for the next day when she gets home.
    i feel that some teachers deserve more pay, certainly. people like your mother who obviously puts a lot of effort into it. i was just saying for every good teacher there are 2 or 3 that seem to do the bare minimum to get by. for those types, 35-40k i don't think is being underpaid. i barely make more than that now after 5 years at my job and i need to produce results.

  23. #23
    05 Roubaix Comp Double
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    All teachers have to produce test scores. Hard to teach non-english speaking students when they are in regular classes.
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

  24. #24
    Coolest Chick You Know RVAbatman's Avatar
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    okay, people are practically writing essays here so i only read half way through. so if i repeat what someone else said - i apologize in advance.

    i've never been one to believe the "those who can't do - teach" motto at all. i've actually found that most of the teachers i came through know very well what they're talking about. they can do. they can't teach. i've worked with teachers who were hired based on their knowledge of the facts. i would have killed to have a teacher based on their work with children and their ability to teach. if you do decide to teach, please make sure you can make a connection with young people first. don't teach just because you know something and need something to do with it.
    Quote Originally Posted by queerpunk
    go easy on the stupid generalizations, because that's stupid.

  25. #25
    riding once again jschen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99
    JS,

    Is the info on your screen correct. E.g. are you in San Diego? If so Los Angeles is not that far away. You might want to talk to some profs at the following schools.

    Occidental College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd, Cal Tech. I listed them in my level of confidence that they are teaching schools. All do some research. Tech might even be more a research school, but still has very real contact with students.
    Funny you should mention Pomona College and Harvey Mudd. The last time I was talking with a friend about my dilemma, I was taking a walk through the Harvey Mudd campus. If I become a professor, I would love to teach at one of those two places. I took three math classes at Pomona College and two chemistry classes at Harvey Mudd (at $100 for each course... a true bargain!) while attending Claremont High School. I'm still in touch with my chemistry professors at Harvey Mudd even though it's been a decade since I took their classes. My professors at the Claremont Colleges are a big reason why I am considering becoming a professor.

    One of the things that most discourages me about teaching is that when I was at Harvard, I knew about professors in various science departments that had told professors in the chemistry department that if they could, they would give their students C- in organic chemistry and spare them the trouble. Including thee biochemistry department! So why bother if even the biochemists in the class don't care? On the other hand, the professor of the pre-med oriented organic chemistry series occasionally got some very rewarding comments in his course evaluation. Things like "organic chemistry really taught me to think clearly". I think that should be the primary goal of intro organic chemistry. After all, for all but a select few, it is a science they will never use again. But I believe properly taught, it's the most natural place in the introductory undergrad science curriculum to teach problem solving skills of all types. Few other fields at the introductory level require as much ability to work with qualitative and quantitative concepts, to pick out relevant information in the midst of information overload, to think both tactically and strategically, and to learn to handle something for which you walk in with absolutely no intuition or feel.
    Last edited by jschen; 03-20-06 at 12:05 PM.
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