How hard is teaching?

Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post is one of my favorite sites for a diverse range of posts concerning education.  One of her recent posts, titled “How hard is teaching?” is well worth a quick read.  It includes a raft of responses to the question in the title of her post, leading off with a quote from Ryan Fuller, whose post at Larry Cuban’s site I recently re-blogged.

As any aspiring blog writer desires a larger readership, and with hopes that my responses to Valerie’s question might be selected for a follow-up post which Valerie mentioned, I submitted the following comments.

I hope they make the next set of responses.  If not, no problem, they are posted here!

First Submission

Hi Valerie: Here’s a few snippets from blog posts I’ve made since becoming a mathematics teacher after working in high-tech for 25+ years.

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher,

“As a teacher, no matter how hard I work to plan, create, deliver, assess, reflect and repeat this process, I’ve learned that many other factors impede students’ ability to attain the outcomes we desire for them. 
In spite of this seemingly insurmountable challenge, much of which is out of our control, teachers need to find ways to stay invigorated, passionate, and committed to reaching every student in some way to help them improve in some amount, even if it is simply in believing in themselves enough to keep on attempting the course content in spite of what seems an impossibility to them. 
While teaching is one of the most arduous, draining, and sometimes thankless jobs ever experienced, teachers continue to give their best effort every single day even if they sometimes consider leaving the field.” 
adapted from… 

“A lifetime of intensity in startups, Fortune 100 companies, and high-tech powerhouses provided plenty of opportunities for me to hone my patience, deal with adversity, and make sound decisions under pressure. Yet, in the span of less than thirty seconds earlier today, I found myself caught in what seemed an unsolvable situation…” 
“I still teeter on the edge of wanting to quit with such an overwhelming set of tasks every single day. Making this statement does not come easily for I thrive in challenging work environments. At the same time, in my three decades of work experience, the job of a new teacher is the most demanding, least supported, most taken for granted, and near lowest compensated one I have ever held. While passion called me into the fold, dispassion may drive me out.”…

Second Submission (not accepted by the site’s comment verification software for reasons unknown)

Here are a few more snippets…Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher,

“As someone new to this field, why so many rail against teachers escapes me.  It is the most challenging job emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually I’ve ever held.  It’s also the most honorable; I am not chasing after material gain, as I make around 20% of what I made in high-tech.  Truth be told, I made more in 1991 than what I now make as a first year teacher, not adjusting for inflation.  While I sometimes worry that I am not being financially responsible to my family in my career change, I believe I offer my two young sons insight into what it means to follow your passion, to serve others, and to persist through challenge, in spite of the vociferous attacks waged upon teachers, or their unions.”


“The sad reality of teaching is it is nigh impossible to work at a sustained level of energy both while in the classroom, for a nominal eight hours, and outside for anywhere from an extra one to four hours, without losing the passion that drives one to teach in the first place.  It’s the paradox of teaching, which few understand if they have not taught at the primary or secondary school levels.”

“Teach Where the Students Are At:  This saying evokes the paradox of teaching in today’s standardized test obsessed world.  I agree with the essence of the saying, it just makes sense, especially with respect to meeting the needs of each student, so I continually adjust the pacing calendar I originally envisioned for each course.  At the same time, it makes no sense with respect to the mandates placed on states to have all students reach grade-level proficiency in mathematics and English language arts when many are two, three, or more years below grade level.”

both from

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, 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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