School Teacher

School Teacher


Chicago, IL

Female, 33

Changing lives and saving the world. I've taught various grade levels in MA, CA, and IL., always at schools with progressive education philosophies. So I've done zip-lines & ropes courses, traveled abroad with students, taught Sex Ed, done service work, performed in teacher-student talent shows, and initiated lots and lots of dialogue about friendships. The longer I taught, the more I realized it's the emotional and social lives of kids, rather than the subject I teach, that I really dig.

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44 Questions


Last Answer on December 22, 2012

Best Rated

What's the most difficult parent-teacher conference you've ever dealt with?

Asked by Greggers3 over 12 years ago

My most challenging conferences are ones in which the parents have expectations of what a 7th-grader should be, and yet they don’t see the child sitting in right front of them. Trying to gently guide parents to see who their child is can be heartrending. Some parents are reliving their issues as middle schoolers onto their kids: wondering why they aren't more popular, talking about other kids, wanting their kid to be The Jock or The Intellectual. No 7th-grader needs to be taking SAT prep classes (and I've had ones who are) and no 7th-grader needs to be feeling like they need to specialize in things already. High school might be the time for that, but a middle schooler should be all over the place and trying on different interests and identities. The most specific difficult one was a student whose parents were both alcoholics. I had been made aware of the situation before I taught the student, but he did not know that I knew. His attempts to polish over his parents’ failings were devastating to watch. All he wanted was for his family to look normal to me.

Why isn't personal finance a mandatory part of the U.S. curriculum? Wouldn't we be far better off if we started educating kids about saving, debt, and credit cards early on?

Asked by lauren buffet over 12 years ago

Yes. And yes. YES! Funny thing? I'm teaching that exact course this summer! But it's not for credit and is not required. Sigh. I totally agree and think anyone over the age of 18 agrees. So then, why isn't there a mandatory US curriculum? There isn't a US curriculum. Each state mandates the curriculum required in schools and required for graduation, so it would need to be a push at all 50 state levels (and DC too). For a while, only Utah and Missouri had personal finance requirementsI Now Tennessee and Virginia do as well. Indiana and Kansas, Ohio, New Jersey and Colorado are all also considering adding it. You can check out JumpStart, a financial literacy non-profit to see how standards are changing. And I found this bit from US News in August: One recommendation? Write your state rep and ask them to push for it in your state. Because the other thing I think is as important as financial literacy is civic engagement.

If teachers are underpaid, what do you think would be the appropriate salary range?

Asked by moolah talks over 12 years ago

My gut response? MORE. I'll say a starting salary of 65,000 (assuming a certificate to teach and perhaps an advanced degree). Bear with me as I explain. Stealing from a Dave Eggers' editorial, the average teacher salary has sunk for 30 years (I'm 34, bummer). Average starting in under 40K. Average ending (after TWENTY FIVE years!) is 67,000. OUCH. He goes on to say that in over 30 cities in the US, that would make home ownership impossible. I'm not saying I should have a yacht and a butler. But a house? Seems reasonable. It leads to a few things. Many of us work extra jobs. That makes us tired. Not good for a room full of kids. And it leads to a talent drain. If you had a great brain, a degree from a good school and were being told you'd get a less than cost of living increase each year, would you stick around? If you were noble, maybe. He goes on to talk about Finland, which was JUST mentioned in an Atlantic article for its awesomesauce schools ( They pay for teacher training. I graduated with a 400/month loan payment (remember…40,000 a year). So even though their salaries aren't insanely higher, their teachers aren't in debt and they are granted wide curricular freedom rather than being forced to teach a narrower and narrower curriculum. Would more quality US teachers stick around with lower pay if they were given the chance to really, truly teach? I think yes. And would it be a more competitive market to get the jobs? YES (They have way more qualified applicants per teaching job than we do, even in this crap economy). A McKinsey report showed that the best performing students from the best performing colleges would be much more likely to consider teaching if it paid just 65K a year. Not 650K. Remember my starting salary was 40,000. And that's with an undergraduate and masters degree from Ivies. Not trying to be a snob, but I am wondering if I had gone into consulting or business or real estate what that starting salary would be. And yes, I chose this career. And social workers choose theirs. So we knew what we were getting into. And we still did it. Perhaps we're suckers. Or maybe we're deeply Finnish. My sources?

What are your thoughts about kids being prescribed Adderall, Ritalin, or other "smart drugs"?

Asked by Kyle over 12 years ago

Hmmm. There are a few parts to this question. "Smart drugs" generally refers to medications/herbs/supplements that purport to improve memory and brain function. There are varying opinions about efficacy and when/how/why/if some of them work or should be used. Heck, even nicotine could be classified as a smart drug because it is a stimulant. Do I drink caffeine to improve my function? Yes, I'm a new mom. I'd be borderline incoherent without it. Did I take NoDoz in college to finish papers? Yup. But I also know another teacher who has a buddy prescribe Ritalin when he has no diagnosed ADHD so that he can stay up late to finish work during times of stress (if I am getting this right, Ritalin works differently in your body if you do not have an attention issue so that instead of helping you calm, it hypes you up.). Do college kids pass meds around like candy? Yup. Is that good? Nope. Rather than learn time management or to not over commit it can become cool to be on meds. That kind of use is irresponsible and ultimately not beneficial to anyone. In terms of treating folks with diagnosed conditions like ADHD with proven medications? I'm all for it if it's done ethically and responsibly. I have seen students transformed by medication. Two years ago we got a boy into treatment and he was transformed. He was so much happier too as it helped him with his self-control and impulse control. Many kids with something like ADHD are not comfortable in their skin when they're undiagnosed. Most want to pay attention. Most want to feel like the are in total control of themselves. A good diagnosis by a qualified doctor can be a gift for a child who truly wants to pay attention. We treat illnesses. If a student had diabetes I would want the best care available to them. Same with something like ADHD (or a mental illness like depression/anxiety). Ideally, it's also paired with education, awareness, and strategies for the student, parents/guardians, and teachers. One thing that we struggle with in the middle school arena is that kids are growing so quickly their meds can need regular adjustment as many are weight based. Or, they are changing so quickly that strategies and plans need to be altered. Now, that being said, do I think some meds are over-prescribed? Yes. Do I think parents want an easy fix sometimes rather than deal with a kid who has self-control issues or keep seeking out different doctors until they get the diagnosis they want? Sometimes. Do I think students use/abuse them to gain an advantage or trade with friends? Sometimes. But I think on the whole it's best to assume most parents, doctors, and kids are doing the best they can and making good decisions. At least, I have to keep believing that in order to not lose hope in humanity!

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about teachers?

Asked by CantHearU over 12 years ago

Our schedules. Friends would joke that I worked 9am-3pm. That's classroom hours (and for the record every school I've worked at starts at or before 8am). I leave for work by 5:45/6:00am and get home after 5:00pm most days. Prep work, grading, reading, learning more about content, working on committees, being available to students and their families, and being a part of the life of a school is truly beyond a full-time job. Or, maybe I'd change the early start-time! I get cranky when I drive by people out for morning runs and I already feel like I'm running late to work. It's also hard not to punch someone who wonders aloud why I went to "good schools" to pursue education as a profession.

Are teachers underpaid?

Asked by LizChiTown over 12 years ago

Absolutely. It’s all about the "9am-3pm” perception of our hours, which is grossly off-base. I've read that, on an hourly basis, teachers make the same as parking lot attendants. The emotional aspect of our job is also something to consider. What we do is tremendously taxing and exhausting. I think the underpaid aspect of the job comes from a general attitude in the US towards teaching. In some countries, teaching is considered a very high-status job, while here in the US it is not. We undervalue teachers and then wonder why the education system is broken (this is a problem in other areas as well, such as social work). If we paid teachers well, we'd attract more rock-stars in their fields (there are lots of rock-star teachers already ... we'd just have quite a few more). Considering what a valuable resource each generation of children is, it's surprising -- and sad -- that we don't invest more in education and in teachers.

Did a lot of teachers hook up with one another in your schools? Is that allowed?

Asked by athena75 over 12 years ago

Ahem. It happens. A lot? That's a good question. I'd say no more than any other workplace environment. We have holiday parties. We have happy hours. Stuff happens. I've worked at 3 schools. There were couples that met and married while working at all three of them. There were couples that dated. There are two affairs I know of. There were a couple epic break ups. At one, there were at least six sets of teachers I can think of that were married. Two married while I was working there, one was hired as a married couple. I dated a teacher at that school (briefly, and dating is a generous word). Most schools seem to be ok with it so long as it doesn't impact your job, just like most jobs. Some schools have a disclosure policy...that you have to alert the administrators (blech). I worked with one very, very young and inexperienced teacher who didn't quite get that you can't pout at your desk or run out of the room crying if you are rejected or if it ends. She was ridiculed by everyone in the building--kids and grown ups. Most handle things very professionally that even I, a gossip maven, couldn't always get the straight story. So, most of the teachers who dated kept it on the way, way DL until they were practically engaged. "Oh, we just carpool" is heard a lot. A break up with kids asking questions is pretty heinous. The key to kids, especially middle schoolers, is that if you give them even the briefest glimpse into your life they want more, more and more. I didn't let my students know much about my now husband until I was pretty sure he was in for the long haul. If you need kids to think you are cool because you have a boyfriend, you have other things you need to deal with. So if a teacher were daft enough to tell students he/she was dating another teacher or had hooked up, I say they have whatever intense adolescent scrutiny they've got coming. So yes, hook ups happen. Not as many secret trysts in the copy room, I imagine.