Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder (Ryan Fuller)

A must read for those who believe teaching is a walk in the park.
My comment to Ryan’s piece follow. Be sure to read his well written post.


We are kindred spirits, Ryan. While I have two decades on you, we share many similarities: I am a former electrical engineer in my third year teaching mathematics at a Title I high school. I constantly tell family, friends, coworkers and the blogosphere that teaching is the most difficult job I have ever held, bar none. Like you, I’ve been fortunate to work on amazing technologies in my first career: laser radar systems, signal processing systems, GPS systems in a myriad of applications and services, and wireless / cellular systems used by the billions while working for companies ranging from startups (Digital Signal Corp.) to members of the Fortune 50 (GTE, Motorola) to GPS pioneers (Trimble) to CDMA wunderkinds (Qualcomm). I am confident that not one of the employees in those companies faces challenges in the course of their entire career that compare to what a Title I teacher confronts on a daily basis! I did not understand this truth, myself, until I walked a mile in a teacher’s shoes…


BTW, I love the “compare and contrast” approach in your essay. It perfectly presents the challenges in teaching. Well done! I especially like the following excerpt as it captures my struggle.


“In teaching, a person can be extremely competent, work relentlessly, and still fail miserably. Especially in the first year or two on the job, success can seem impossible. For people who have been so successful up to that point in their lives—failure is a difficult thing to face, especially when that failure involves young people not being able to realize their full potential in life.”

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Ryan Fuller, a former aerospace engineer, is a high school teacher in Colorado Springs, Colo.This piece appeared in Slate, December 18, 2013 A version of this post originally appeared on TeacherPop, the blog of Teach for America corps members.

 In 2007, when I was 22, I took a position as an aerospace engineer working on the design of NASA’s next-generation spacecraft. It was my dream job. I had just received a degree in mechanical engineering, and the only career ambition I could articulate was to work on something space-related. On my first days of work, I was awestruck by the drawings of Apollo-like spacecraft structures, by the conversations about how the heat shield would deflect when the craft landed in water and how much g-force astronauts could withstand. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t just watching a documentary on the space industry—I was inside it.

I was…

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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3 Responses to Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder (Ryan Fuller)

  1. JIm says:

    Trying to teach under the chaotic classroom conditions Fuller describes is hopeless and a waste of everybody’s time. Disruptive students who are not interested in learning should be expelled so that those who actually have a desire to learn have a chance to do so.


  2. Dave your senior ( experience and age only) says:

    Jim, As someone who worked in industry in several different industries for 35 years before teaching in urban schools, it doesn’t go down like that. It takes severe multiple infractions to expel, even to suspend temporarily is more and more difficult to implement. We are supposed to differentiate lessons so that all are engaged and learn, otherwise it is our fault that all do that learn. if I am exaggerating please so inform. Impossible ? So was putting a man on the Moon.


  3. JIm says:

    What you describe is Mission Impossible. There is no evidence that anyone in history has been able to teach effectively under the conditions that exist in many urban schools.

    Few informed people at the time of the Apollo project regarded going to the Moon as impossible. Rather the question was simply was it worth the price. Since no one has ever tried to go back I guess the answer is no.


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