The Joel on Software Discussion Group (CLOSED)

A place to discuss Joel on Software. Now closed.

This community works best when people use their real names. Please register for a free account.

Other Groups:
Joel on Software
Business of Software
Design of Software (CLOSED)
.NET Questions (CLOSED)
Fog Creek Copilot

The Old Forum

Your hosts:
Albert D. Kallal
Li-Fan Chen
Stephen Jones

thinking of leaving IT to become a teacher

Teachers typically make decent salaries, they are not impoverished. From what I have seen, their jobs are much more secure than IT or office workers. Also, those jobs typically have much better benefits and retirement plans.

When figuring out life-time income, and overall quality of life, teaching sounds like a better option. You wouldn't have to worry about long periods of unemployment, or not being able to find work after 40. I don't know how you calculate the constant stress of never feeling secure about your livelihood. I have fantasized about how nice it would be to have a job where you just show up and do your job, and as long as you don't do anything really wrong, you can feel fairly certain that your job will still be there tomorrow. I think it would be nice to not have to constantly fight for some angle that help me find my next job. I hate to even think about the time I waste wondering about stuff like: should I get an MBA? Should I this new language? Should I move to a different state? Is this, or that, skill less off-shorable? IT can sometimes be rewarding work, but it can also be a life of constant turmoil, and uncertainty.  At last with teaching, there would be plenty of free time to work on an ISV.
Monday, June 16, 2008
are you talking about teaching primary schools through high school? You don't do this for the money. Your probably looking at $40-$50k to start in urban areas. Less in loss urban areas. Max salary is probably $70k-80k in urban areas (after years and years of experience). Woudn't surprise me if its alot less.

anyone who looks at teaching as a good opportunity for money is nuts. you do it because you want to do it. What do you want to teach?

your basically stuck in a classroom with kids all day long. Are you patient? Are you in a good mood every day? You really can't be a successful teacher and be in a bad mood ever.

if you teach in poorer areas its going to be alot harder and alot more stressful.

Richer areas have computer science courses. These would be good to teach since its probably the better students who take them. However, you will probably have to also teach a generic computer literacy class as well (you are not going to have 4-5 periods worth of CS... not enough interest).
Monday, June 16, 2008
Are you in the US or the UK ?  You can make reasonable money now in the UK in teaching.  But my partner is a teacher, and anyone who uses the line "Where you just turn up and do your job" doesn't go down well in her book.  "Your Job" involves masses of preparation, admin, reporting, parents evenings, school open evenings and a whole lot more too.

In the UK at least, it's also heavily unionised and there seem to be a good number of teaching staff who exploit that fact.  You are quite right that it is very difficult to get the sack though.

The only successfull teachers are the ones who genuinely love it and put up with all the crap because for them it's truly worthwhile.  Don't go into it for the money or because "you can just turn up".
Teachers Pet
Monday, June 16, 2008
No stress in teaching? Huh? Every teacher I've spoken with recently has said it's nothing but stress. Their hands have been so tied by liability concerns and regulation that they can't even discipline the kids when they disrupt class. Even sending them out of the classroom incurs all kinds of demands for justification. The kids are basically free to be as disruptive as they wish - texting on their phones, listening to music, talking, etc. One teacher even told me that they have kids receiving calls in class and he wasn't even allowed to confiscate their phones. And don't forget that on top of all this the teacher is held responsible if their students score poorly on standardized tests.

And don't forget that it only takes one false accusation from one troubled or vindictive student to permanently turn your life upside down.

I'm glad there are people willing to put up with all this, but no way would I ever consider being one of them.
The Original Henry
Monday, June 16, 2008
"Your probably looking at $40-$50k to start in urban areas. Less in loss urban areas"

Not true. My business is in a rural area with a relatively low average household income of $22k. Average individual income is $14k.

Local paper recently published all public employees salaries. The teachers here start at $45,000 and go up to $90,000. $80-90k is the going rate for the title of "Coach/Teacher". Lowest salaries are teaching assistants, they only make $15k-$20k, but that's a make-do job with no degree requirement filled by the imbecilic grandchildren of the school board members.

I went to the school board meeting to say that the reason they have a budget deficit is these crazy high salaries and they pulled out statistics showing that this county pays less than any other county in the state.

So the myth that rural teachers aren't paid much is a myth.
Rural Developer
Monday, June 16, 2008
Oh and only 65% of students here graduate from high school.
Rural Developer
Monday, June 16, 2008
My sister and mother are both elementary school teachers.  I also have a couple friends who teach, some in NYC, some in Los Angeles, FWIW.

Pay and bennies are indeed better than you'd think when you annualize the salary compared to a 50-week a year job.

Job security can be very good once you have some seniority (say 5 years in), but here in California teachers with little seniority are getting laid off due to budget cuts, so you are hardly guaranteed a job early on.  Also even with seniority, its hard for management to fire you but they can make your life a living hell.

BUT what I hear is that the job is extremely draining...I guess there's very little downtime during the work day.  To hear them say it, the extra vacation time is necessary to keep them from going insane.  I guess take this with a grain of salt...anyway I think teaching can be a good career move if you actually enjoy the work.  If you are just doing it for a stable paycheck you may wind up pretty miserable.  The job is probably a lot more demanding than you think it is.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Just to warn you most well paid teacher's positions have an extremely large list of candidates.  In PA there are several thousands new teachers coming out of college every year trying to get one of the hundred or so new jobs in good suburban school districts.  There is probably a healthy demand for say High School Math teachers in West Philly but that's not the cushy job you are envisioning.
tekumse Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
My wife taught 2nd grade for 3 years.  Hated it and quit.

The kids themselves were ok, but the administration and bureaucracy were killers.  And don't get me started on the parents.

Also keep in mind that you will be locked into a pay structure that does not care how good you actually are.
Jason Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
Personally, I went the other way 15 years ago, and I have no regrets at all. Working in IT, I have much shorter hours, much less stress and far more money. When I was teaching, I was working 60 hours a week just to keep up with preparation and marking; and the in-school hours demanded constant concentration to always be "perfect" - to always be on time, to always have all the answers, to always know what EVERY child was doing, to never say "F***", to never loose your cool, to... Yes, I have the OCCASIONAL 60-hour week now, but even then, I am in control, and can always goof-off for 5 minutes to post a reply on an internet forum!

So, personally... I think you are mad! But I also admire you if you do it successfully.
Syd Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
Don't know where you are, OP, but my local public school district is laying off dozens of teachers right now.  So much for the job security theory.

My wife is on the board of our church's school. The longest-serving teacher we have (about 20 years) is paid in the low 40s & gets decent but not great benefits.  The teachers do this because they love teaching.  Most are married & have working spouses or they could not afford to actually support themselves.

The reasoning in your orginal post is badly flawed.
a former big-fiver Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
"I have fantasized about how nice it would be to have a job where you just show up and do your job, and as long as you don't do anything really wrong, you can feel fairly certain that your job will still be there tomorrow"

Work for the government?
farmboy Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
You're a babysitter working for the govrt. so the govrt. can get their tax from parents.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"I have fantasized about how nice it would be to have a job where you just show up and do your job, and as long as you don't do anything really wrong, you can feel fairly certain that your job will still be there tomorrow."

Please don't ever, ever teach.

Your students and co-workers will have complete disrespect for you because it will be obvious to everyone that you are dispassionate and irrelevant at best, or obsolete and despicable at worse. Please factor in the "absolutely no job satisfaction" into your calculation.

And you're wrong if you think you won't ever have to update your skill set. High school com-sci courses are about teaching the flavour of the week software. You'll probably be forced to learn something new every year and your kids will pick it up faster than you will, and you will be ignored and ridiculed to your face.
DorothyBooher Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
On the other hand, if you were thinking about teaching post secondary, go for it.

No one expects you to care, and you might actually have valuable industry knowledge/experience to share with the students.

If you know one technology really well and it's still going to be in demand years from now, you may not need to learn anything else ever again.
DorothyBooher Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
Maybe at the college level, but no way I would do secondary. You'll be working for someone (the principal) who is very political, CYA, and not necessarily very smart. I have never met one that was not an empty suit. No way, Jose.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Don't forget the brain behind Apple (as in the 80s, not the present) Steve Wozniak left Apple and become a teacher for 5th grade students.
TravisO Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
anonymous female
Monday, June 16, 2008
You're going to have to pursue a bullshit masters degree in Education, and you're going to be working with the dumbest of the dumb in a union shop. The administrative types are typically the teachers who can't cut it, so they go for Educational Administration certificates. (required to be a Principal, etc)

My wife has been a teacher in NYC for 18 years and is hating her professional life right now. Her school has been turned over to a pack of idiots who let the students run amok. Because of the way the union contracts are cut, it is nearly impossible to transfer unless you move to a slum where you "teach" classes of 150 (where 8-12 kids show up) and you have to worry about getting raped in the stairwell.

If you get into a good school where the administration supports you, its a wonderful, rewarding job -- both professionally and personally. For our kids, summers off with mom meant daytrips to the beach and plenty of time sightseeing in Manhattan.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Remember by coming here you are going to get the opinions of above average developers and IT folks.  For average or below average people teaching may be great.

Many people don't mind working with the "dumbest of the dumb", because if you are even half way intelligent you can manipulate your environment quite easily.

Not to mention a union can actually be a good thing to have.  Look at what is happening in IT and engineering as all the geeks sit on their butts and refuse to organize.  Jobs are getting offshored or handed to cheap H1b's.

If teaching looks good to you and what you want out of life GO FOR IT!
Monday, June 16, 2008
I assume that you mean teaching in a public school in the U.S..  I taught high school science for a couple of years before getting into computers.  I'm never tempted to go back, myself, and I try to gently discourage people from pursuing public school teaching as a career.  The disappointment and burnout rate is high.

In your case, you're not going into it looking for excitement or fulfillment.  If what you mostly want is a steady and predictable job, once you get settled in a school, you'll have that.

My #1 recommendation if you want to pursue this is to spend some time substitute teaching.  You really don't want to chase an ed degree for some years and find out you don't like it once you're there.  It's usually easy to get in as a sub, and will give you a much better idea of the reality of what you'd be doing.
Matt Conrad Send private email
Monday, June 16, 2008
Well I guess the grass isn't so green on the other side...thanks for your insight everyone..  It doesn't sound like such a good idea now...
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Don't feel bad.  You know if you want something badly enough, it doesn't matter what everyone else says.

You are easily discouraged. You didn't really want it.  Trust me.
anonymous female
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"For average or below average people teaching may be great."

Great insight, drex. It's amazing how easy everyone else's job is, isn't it?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"Teachers typically make decent salaries,"

Define "decent."

"they are not impoverished. From what I have seen, their jobs are much more secure than IT or office workers."

So IT is not impovershing?  Have you heard of Teacher Unions before?

"Also, those jobs typically have much better benefits and retirement plans."

Yea, if you have tenure and part of their union.

"When figuring out life-time income, and overall quality of life, teaching sounds like a better option."

Better option than IT?

Frankly I disagree.  There is no job security with any job union unless you are part of the union.  Teachers are fine people and all and we need them but your focus seems to be better income and such and teaching, in my view, doesn't satisfy the goal.  However, your goal is not well defined in these terms other than to call it "decent."

"You wouldn't have to worry about long periods of unemployment, or not being able to find work after 40."

Maybe if you were tenure and part of the union. but that doesn't seem to agree with the financial aspects.

"I don't know how you calculate the constant stress of never feeling secure about your livelihood."

Financial independence is how I calculate it.  You have other ideas?

"I have fantasized about how nice it would be to have a job where you just show up and do your job, and as long as you don't do anything really wrong, you can feel fairly certain that your job will still be there tomorrow."

Own your own company and you can do this plus grow it to meet your financial goals.

my 2 cents...
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The hours are long with a lot of extra prep work at home.

Teachers often have to provide materials for the classrooms which are not paid for by the school.

Forget it unless you are doing it because you love it or because you want to learn about it to sell software/hardware/services into the business.
Cade Roux Send private email
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Rural Developer-

can you post a link to your newspaper article? That is quite a bit above what we see in our local area (Christiansburg, VA).

Teachers max out at about $27 to $30/hr. Assuming they work 9 months, that's $60K * .75=$45k/year. Median Pay is $11/hr, which works out to about $22k*.75=$17k. I just looked this up on our workforce site as we hired a teacher for the summer. She confirmed the high end (she has 10+ years experience and a Masters degree, so she's at the top end.).

 And while we are rural, we have Virginia Tech nearby and cost of housing, etc. is much higher than, say semi-rural Louisiana (where my sister, parents and inlaws live).

From my experience, the first few years of teaching are a LOT of work. Probably 1-2 hours of prep per hour in the class plus time to grade tests. A have one timesaving tip for you: ScanTron sheets. Grading is no fun! Once all that prep is done, yes you might be able to just "show up". I've had one excellent teacher back in high school who could do that... after 12 years of teaching.

Is there a way to dip your toe in the water? Perhaps tutoring or substitute teaching?
Mr. Analogy Send private email
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I assume this is teaching at public K-12 schools.

If you are in an area with affordable housing, then it is possible to live alone on a teacher's salary.  Otherwise, teachers must live in a 2 income household to subsidize themselves.  But heck, that's probably true for most people in areas where housing is not affordable.

Salaries vary by state and county, but the variance is not extremely high.  For example, there are no teachers paid $10k or $100k.  I would say that the common range is around the $30k to $60k range.  It would be smart to find an area with a low cost of living and relatively high teacher salary.

Teaching has good benefits.  Generally, they get very good medical/dental.  They are represented by a union who protects them.  They receive a government pension at retirement.  Guaranteed (but not huge) raises for more education and years of service.  They get 2-3 months off in the summer, and approximately 4 months off during the course of the year.  This is great if you want to travel every summer, or do a 2nd summer "fun" job. 

My wife is 2nd grade teacher and loves it.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
@Mr. Analogy

Salaries depend on where you live. Where I live in Upstate NY, my friends who started out as teachers when I got out of school around 1999 were making anywhere from $38-48k, plus benefits... keep in mind that at that time, a 3BR/1.5BA house in a good area was like $150k.

Now those folks have finished their master's degrees and have moved up the scale, and are probably in the mid 60's. That's similar to the career path of most programmers around here. Top of grade is $80-100k, depending on the district. One person runs a little business at the local racetrack and subsidizes her income very well during the summer downtime.

Keep in mind that in NY, teachers get excellent benefits in most districts, and will get 2/3 of their final salary as a pension, and usually have other deferred compensation options. The "catch" is that you have to stay within the government retirement system to get a good pension for your career.

The difference between teaching and other jobs is that the both the career ladder AND lateral movement is limited. A school with 100 teachers may have 10 administrative positions making 20-30% more than what a teacher would make. Those jobs tend to vacate when people retire or die, so it can take years to get one, so you had better enjoy teaching!

Basically, it's a good job, but it's not for everyone. Personally, I couldn't handle teaching the same crap year after year. I thrive in the IT world where there's constant change and new challenges.
Duff Send private email
Sunday, June 22, 2008

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz