University or High School teaching ?

Discussion in 'College' started by AxiomAnn, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. AxiomAnn

    AxiomAnn New Member

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    Apr 30, 2015

    Hello everybody,

    A 2013 graduate with a B.A. in French from SFSU, I am currently doing my first year (of a two-year) Master degree in French didactic at a university in Paris, France. I plan to end my 4-Year habitation here in Paris to complete the 2nd year next year through my French university's online program while completing a California single subject teaching credential, in the hopes of being well-employable in my home state in little over a year.

    I know I want to instruct a subject in the French linguistics/philology/literature field, yet I am not 100% sure if I would be best suitable as a CA public high school French teacher or continue my studies and aim for university teaching/research in linguistics, French literature, or education.


    Here are some questions I have:

    1. Is it possible to participate in university research/study while working full-time as a foreign language high school teacher?

    2. Do the costs of (behavioral issues and low motivation typical of) teaching high school students outweigh the rewards of being a 'teacher'/'educator'/'mentor'?

    3. Is the stability of holding a public high school job, and its subsequent financial benefits more attractive than a more 'prestigious' position at a university which is initially unstable and typically less-paid? (Enlighten me if I am wrong here, please!)

    4. Are teachers in both high school and university granted a relatively similar amount of autonomy and time for independent work?

    ***Could someone (preferrably some people) here who has (have) taught at both public middle or high school AND university (community college or higher) please :D lend me some relevant insight or advice?

    Do not hesitate if you need more information.

    Much appreciated,

    AxiomAnn
     
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  3. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Apr 30, 2015

    Warning: this is going to be a long post!

    Bonjour! I also graduated from SFSU with my MA in French in 2012 -- I wonder if we had any classes together? But it sounds like you may have been abroad for most of my time there.

    I went through some of the same soul-searching that it sounds like you are going through now. I also seriously considered going on with a PhD in French or Comp Lit. I had previously taught middle school and online high school, and during my MA, I TA'd at SFSU, being completely responsible for teaching French 101 and 102 two days per week. I personally made the choice to go back to teaching high school for various reasons, although this is not necessarily the right choice for you!

    The main reason as to why I chose to go back to high school had to do with the realities of the current job market. I was told by many people in academia that there are very few positions in French at the tertiary level, and that new PhDs who are lucky enough to get a position anywhere should be ready to pick up and move wherever the job might be. I have a husband and a whole life here in the Bay Area and potentially moving across the country for a job was not something I was willing to do.

    The alternative would likely have been to adjunct at local community colleges, working part-time for pay equal to or lesser than what I would make teaching HS in a good district in the area, and teaching classes that are not all that different in terms of content from what I would teach at the HS level (French 101, 201, 301 are not that different from French 1-3. The chances of teaching upper-level courses at a community college are small).

    I also personally did not want to spend another 4-7 years as a student, racking up student loans and barely squeaking by on a stipend in this very expensive part of the country.

    And finally, I was not convinced that I personally wanted to spend my life reading, writing, and researching, something that is expected of college professors and which makes up a huge part of their job. I decided I wanted to teach, and at the secondary level, that is your sole responsibility.

    But.......

    If I had been single, in my 20s, not set on living in the Bay Area, and with no background in teaching, I might have made a different choice. I still have those sneaky moments of doubt and I still toy with the idea of going back for a PhD or EdD at some point.

    Now to address some of your questions more directly:

    1. Is it possible to participate in university research/study while working full-time as a foreign language high school teacher?

    It is theoretically possible, but it would be very difficult. A new HS teacher should expect to work long hours and weekend hours until they get the hang of the job (for me, that took at least my first two years!). A HS position is just not arranged to allow for the depth and quantity of doctoral level research, and PhD programs are not typically set up around a HS teacher's schedule.

    2. Do the costs of (behavioral issues and low motivation typical of) teaching high school students outweigh the rewards of being a 'teacher'/'educator'/'mentor'?

    That completely depends on the person. If you are truly passionate about reaching your students and making a difference, then working with struggling students can turn out to be the best part of the job. If someone just wants to be the "sage on the stage" and expect students to magically fall in line, they will likely end up frustrated and burnt out.

    3. Is the stability of holding a public high school job, and its subsequent financial benefits more attractive than a more 'prestigious' position at a university which is initially unstable and typically less-paid? (Enlighten me if I am wrong here, please!)

    For me personally, the answer was yes. I don't know how much more prestige university teaching holds than secondary teaching. I do know the salaries at the university level end up being higher once you get into a tenure-track position.

    4. Are teachers in both high school and university granted a relatively similar amount of autonomy and time for independent work?

    Not in my experience. HS teachers in my district spend about 35 hours per week in instructional time. This does not include planning, prepping, grading, meetings, parent contacts, etc. University teachers, in my understanding, typically have fewer instructional hours, with the understanding that the bulk of their time should be spent on research.

    One final thought: If you do plan on going the secondary route, please be sure to get a second credential in something other than French -- there are very few full-time French positions left in California. I am certified in French and English and I have been fortunate to find positions where I teach both subjects. If I had just a French credential, I would probably be underemployed. The situation might be different elsewhere, but in CA at least, French is becoming more and more rare.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015

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