Do I want to teach science?

Every once in a while I get the idea that I’d make a great science teacher. I have a great background for it, having worked in microbiology, forensic DNA analysis, and medical genetics.

From time to time, the fond memories of some of my favorite science class experiences come into my head:

My 8th grade science teacher, Mr P, inspired me first in science. I ended up choosing for my science fair project Rollercoaster Physics and used a hot wheels race car track to show demonstrate the forces at work needed to keep the car on track when they looped in a circle. It got first place in the school fair and I was able to go to the state finals and got second place there.

Then I was encouraged by my high school biology teacher, another Mr. P, to join the Scholastic Bowl. It was an academic quiz competition and we participated in tournaments among other high schools. Of course, there were the math and history specialists, but I did really well in the science areas. I also got the highest score in biology for the National Science Olympiad in the school. It was pretty neat.

You can say when it came to science, I was fairly consumed by it and while I never had a competitive bone in my body when it came to sports, when it came to science, I was thrilled by the possibility of winning.

In college, I focused on biotechnology, because it had the most hands-on labs. I loved my summer intensive course on microtechnique-where we learned to mount mouse organs in paraffin and make slices using a microtome. I also loved the microbiology labs where we played with bacteria and molds and the biotech lab where we DNA typed our own cheeks cells and karyotyped our chromosomes.

From time to time, I get this pull towards teaching. Especially when I do science experiments with my kids, like I do at my other blog The Exploration Station. And I think I’d make a fantastic and inspirational science teacher. I don’t know of any of my science teachers in elementary school or high school that actually worked in the fields they taught. I have such enthusiasm for my field, that I think I’d be really good at inspiring kids to go into science.

Every once in a while, I really get excited about the prospect of teaching. The biggest drawback, the bureaucracy of public schools and the lack of effort on the kids these days and the parents who make excuses for their kids who don’t want to work hard in school.

I have a sister and two friends who are teachers in the public school system. Not one of them really speak highly of what they are doing, now that they have been doing it for 10+ years. They only speak of the amount of grading they have to do after teaching kids who don’t want to learn and having PT conferences with parents who blame them for their kids not learning. Of course, it’s gen elementary teachers who teach under 5th grade, so they don’t specialize in one thing. And that’s all they’ve ever done.

A friend of ours who studied engineering in college ended up working for a while, then some time after having her kids, decided to become a high school math teacher. She complains a little too. In fact, it worries me quite a bit that more teachers than not complain about their classes. I have had some positive feedback from two elementary school teachers – my daughter’s kindergarten and first grade teacher, who still seem to have retained their enthusiasm for their jobs after being in it for a number of years. But I’m afraid they might be in the minority.

Still, I have this idea in my head that I can reach some kids and inspire and encourage them like my science teachers inspired and encouraged me. In my head, it all plays out pretty well. In reality though, I worry about making a huge mistake and having my ideals be trampled by bureaucracy and my enthusiasm for science being snuffed out.

This is where I wish I knew the homeschooling circles around here or wish there was alternative educational choices nearby. I have been told on a mother’s message board a while back that they were looking for a science teacher for their charter school and my background would make me an excellent candidate.

I don’t know what to do. I’d hate to spend the money on going for my teaching certificate if I’m going to end up hating it when I have to jump through the hoops and play by the rules and be constrained by the system. But I also hate the idea of turning away from a dream I’ve had for a while (being the kick-ass cool science teacher that everyone hopes they get in school).

Any thoughts out there?

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6 Responses to Do I want to teach science?

  1. lucy says:

    I’ve heard you can substitute teach in some places without the certification, if you have a degree in the subject. That might be a way to see if you like it before you commit. You’d probably experience the worst of teaching that way, but you’d know what you were getting into, at least.

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Lucy – thanks for that suggestion! I ought to look into that and see how I can find out about substitute teaching. I don’t know what would be required, but one of my teacher friends does work in my state (the other two across the border from us in another state) and would probably be able to tell me who to talk to.

    It would also get me started talking to middle school/high school science teachers as well and see if I can’t find out what it’s like for them and see if it’s something I’d really want to do.

    I think it’s time to look into that for real and stop just thinking about it.

  3. Papa T says:

    The desire to teach is commendable. The potential for frustration on the path to “teaching” is immense, and, as your anecdotal evidence shows, likely does not end once one “arrives.” My experiences in the field of education have made it clear enough to me that the course is strewn with stumbling blocks…in an ever-increasing fashion.

    I have been the parent of children in public, private, and homeschool settings. I have taught in homeschool and private school settings. Now I’m groping my way through graduate school on my quest for my M.Ed. All of my experiences have proven well enough for me that there is no way that I could teach in the public school setting and would have difficulty in the private school setting. The homeschool arrangement holds the greatest promise for me, but presents its own set of “problems.”

    There is something to be said for the gratification that comes from being the “kick-ass” teacher that everybody hopes they get in school. Experience has shown me that this is a two-fold (at least) dynamic that consists of (1) my wanting to be the teacher that I (almost) never had, and (2) my seeking validation as a “worthy” human being.

    The closest that I have come to this on a practical level was in my law enforcement career. I loved the work. I cared about people. I wanted to help the department be the best it could be. I wanted to give and receive deserved respect. Guess what. Most of the people didn’t care about me. The department didn’t want to be the best it could be. People didn’t respond to my respect. And respect for me was rare. I got the opportunity–comparatively very early in my career–to be promoted to sergeant. I took it…saying that I wanted to be the sergeant that I had never had. Well the department (i.e., the system) wanted me to be just like the sergeants that I had always had–lazy, compliant, complacent “yes men.” I just couldn’t do it.

    This was a long, tough, personally taxing educational experience for me in the intricacies of bureaucracy. I hoped that it would “be different” in Education. It’s not. My intense, complex, and driven (gifted?) view of and approach to life is not compatible with “the system.” The Machine is a behemoth…I am a gnat. Gifted, insightful, intellectual visionaries plant the seeds of great institutions, but marginal, blind, stilted peons end up reaping the harvest. That’s just how the numbers play out in our present societal arrangement.

    I’ll stop here. I realize that my observations may seem quite morose to most people. Sorry. Here’s one way of looking at it RSG…You’ve been reading about Tesla and Edison, right? The greedy, profit-grubbing aspects of the stories notwithstanding, think about how many (truly countless) ways their (Tesla & Edison et al.) inventiveness has been and is applied…how many times each day people “hit the switch”…and how few even stop to think about any of what goes into the light coming on or the computer booting up. I hope Tesla found personal gratification in the expression of his genius, because that’s about all he ever got. I hope we can find that too.

    Frustrating times indeed.

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks for the perspective Papa T. That’s exactly what I am afraid of, that my ideals will not be met in that environment and I would just be wasting my time and money on it.

    However…that being said, I did talk to my daughter’s principal today when I went to pick her up from science summer camp that she’s in for four weeks. It is possible for me with my qualifications to substitute teach for the school district middle and high school science classes. All I’d need to do is submit my transcripts and resume to the school district and undergo a background check, but that I’d be able to do that and at least see how things are in our school system. Maybe in the science classes, things aren’t so dismal.

    The other thing I half-way thought about was asking the principal if there would be any way if I could start up a science club at school in the fall. I know there are after school, extracurricular art classes to take right at the school one day a week for 8 week sessions because my daughter has taken them, but I wonder if my principal would go for an afternoon science club I could host once a week.

    I have no idea if he’d go for the idea, but I think it would be wonderful to do it and any school would be silly for a principal not to want to offer something like that if a parent was willing to work on it for next to nothing.

    The art classes aren’t free, and even though I wouldn’t necessarily need to be paid for my time (would be nice though), I would need to buy more supplies so that each kid would be able to participate in the hands-on experiments.

    I ought to at the very least take the pictures of the experiments we’ve done at home and pitch the idea to him.

    There’s got to be a way to work this into some kind of teaching gig that I can do, even if it’s a non-traditional type of thing.

  5. Papa T says:

    You have some excellent ideas there RSG. It seems like you might be onto something there. There sure ought be be a way to put your expertise to work. I’m sure you will work something out.

    There are places that one can substitute teach without any certification. Having subbed quite a bit, I would say that it is not the worst of teaching.

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks. I will definitely get started on some ideas and see what bites I get.

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