Issue Date: May 11, 2009
Demands Of Teaching
AS A SECOND-"CAREER" Ph.D. chemistry teacher at one of the schools cited in the article "Head of the Class," I was pleased to read about the experiences of my peers (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 81). Unfortunately, though, the article perpetuates some myths.
Although it correctly cites the large pay differential between industry and teaching, it incorrectly states that the benefits are "as good if not better" in teaching. While life, health, and disability insurance plans may indeed be comparable on a percentage basis, they are rated on a lower base pay. Also, I am not aware that any bonus programs or 401(k) matching funds are available in public or private schools. And pay and benefits in private and parochial schools are generally far below those of public schools. Retirement plans for public school teachers who work for many years may indeed be better than current industrial plans, especially in light of recent mergers and acquisitions in the private sector.
Also, I find that free time is nonexistent during the school year. To do my teaching job well, I must work 12-hour days nearly seven days a week, something I experienced only rarely in my many years in industry. Teaching is so time-intensive because of all of the preparation, assessments, papers, communication, tutoring, and record-keeping. This means there is very little time during the school day to take a break, to collaborate with colleagues, or even to create new experiments for class.
The article also perpetuates the myth that "you get summers off." Many teachers find they must take jobs during the summers to supplement their income. Others use the summer for professional development to comply with state regulations, self-improvement, or curriculum changes. Even if they do not spend summers this way, some teachers might just need a break for their own well-being and sanity after working 10 months in such a demanding job as teaching!
Thomas H. Witherup
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