Very OT: Educator Survey

Submitted by dakotapalm on December 30th, 2013 at 11:22 PM

I think it's off-season, since the football season is over, so off-topic is okay, correct?\


If not, I apologize, feel free to delete.

I'm working on a Masters' Education program that involves reading levels in the classroom. If you are in education on ANY level, it'd be helpful to have your input on this survey.


Edit: Since some have indicated a willingness to discuss this further, if you are interested to respond or engage in dialogue on the subject of classroom literacy/ reading abilities, please send me an email at the following (temporary email that lasts 24 hours)

[email protected]

Thank you all for taking time to respond to the survey.



December 31st, 2013 at 10:48 AM ^

I've been reading this site for years, but just now created an account specifically to answer you. Tell him not to do it. I know he may think that's what he wants to do, and it will be disappointing to him, but it's for the best. 

I am a teacher (secondary social studies) and I teach AP classes at one of the best districts in Michigan, and even the country, and I'm still very young. I'm probably in one of the best positions any teacher could be in. However, I have made the decision to go back to school so that I can leave teaching permanently.

I don't want to drag this on too long, but essentially it's a race to dismantle public education in most states, especially here in Michigan. There is an incentive for private corporations to set up charter schools (which usually do worse than public schools) so they can pocket funding as profit. Most states are taking teachers' rights, cutting pay, increasing workloads, standards, evaluation requirements and so on under the idea of "accountability." Accountability is fine, but they are not adding that. They are simply chasing away the good teachers because all of this trouble is not worth a career of making, at most, $60,000 a year. 


December 31st, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

Gotta respond to this.

Everything you said re: privatization is pretty true.  People need to wake up to this and realize it.  Public schools are being diminished in favor of for-profit charters who pay teachers chump change and pocket the profits from the state.  But I don't want to get into politics.

I am also in a great, great teaching position and am thrilled with life.  I would also caution about going into teaching.  You're not going to make what you're worth.  This is true.  But if you want to do it, DO IT!  Be smart about college, go to the best one you can and network network network.  There are good teaching jobs out there, but like any profession, they go to the best people.  Keep your finances in check and 60k is a lot of money.  You won't start anywhere close to 60k, but my point is if you don't come out of college with 70k in student loans then you're in good shape.

The bigger problem will be finding a social studies/history job in Michigan.  However...

Nothing says you have to stay in Michigan.  There are growing parts of the US that are in need of teachers as opposed to Michigan where the population has been on such a decline.  If you are up for it, boarding schools are great places to crack into independent school teaching where the schools are not subject to asinine standards and mandates.  Boarding schools have high turnover (because it is a TON of work for little money), however it can be a fun job for somoene right out of college since you're still used to living a college life.

tl;dr version: Tell your son to do whatever he wants in life, but be educated about that decision.  If you are willing to leave Michigan (or leave and come back) there are plenty of great teaching positions out there for great candidates.  Just make sure you're a great candidate.

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 11:30 AM ^

Agree, and I'd add, having also worked in the corporate world before teaching, that there are downsides to every job.  My corporate gig didn't pay particularly well, offered me limited benefits, and offered very little vacation time.  Eventually, as I accummulated seniority, all three would have increased, but I would have had to have gone through a pretty demanding trial period first, with no guarantee of job security.  Working 50-hour weeks for 50 weeks a year for low pay was not a lot of fun, and the work wasn't particularly stimulating.  I decided eventually to go back to school and go into teaching.  As it turned out, the company ended up going through a lot of difficulties in the recession and a lot of people were laid off not long after I left.  

There is definitely a lot of crap you have to deal with as a teacher, but really, there is crap associated with any profession you go into.  Teachers who have never worked in any other field often take a lot of benefits of this job for granted.  This is very stimulating and rewarding work (at least for me it is), and while the school year can be a grind with all we have to do, we do get a lot of time off and good benefits.  You may not get all that elsewhere.




December 31st, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

Let me clarify, because I don't want to come off as one of those entitled younger people who won't get out of bed for less than $60,000. Cuts in funding and pay freezes have essentially created two groups of teachers in Michigan public schools. The first group is those who have already worked their way up the pay scale. Those who are halfway up are losing out, but are probably living comfortably. Those at the top of the pay scale have very little to worry about.

The other group, then one we need to worry about most, is the new teachers. These are the young and ambitious teachers who are the future of education. Most of them are stuck at low levels of pay with little potential of moving up. I am in my fourth year, yet am still getting paid at step one due to pay freezes. There is currently no end in sight for this at my district, which is one of the more financially stable districts in the state. It is entirely possible that in my career, I may never see $60,000, or I may have to work 25 years to move up to that level. It is a comfortable salary, but will I ever earn it as a teacher? I don't know.

Teaching is a noble profession. I enjoy it and I'm good at it. But I was valedictorian in high school and attended Michigan. I had the potential to do a lot of things. I was willing to make sacrifices to become a teacher, but now those sacrificies are beginning to look a lot bigger than I expected. I realize the corporate world is competitive and tough, but there is a lot more potential. I'm taking a chance by leaving, just as I would be taking a chance if I remained a teacher. Would I rather my future be based on my intelligence and work ethic, or the actions of a state legislature influenced by corporate interests? The answer obviously is not the same for everyone, but for me I'd rather risk the switch.

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 3:53 PM ^

Those are all reasonable points.  I will only say that having worked in both the corporate world and the educational world (and I am a Michigan graduate, twice over), if you make the switch, there is a decent chance you will make more money.  But there is also a very good chance you will not  get the same health/dental behefits, retirement package, or time off that you get now.  (The last one is virtually a 100% certainty.)  You may never have great job security.  You may or may not find a job that is equally fulfilling on a personal level.

People who have only ever worked in the teaching field often have a myopic view of what the rest of the working world is like.  They tend to focus on money and "respect," and overlook what they do get as compensation.  The time off is something you can't really put a price tag on.  Do you want to spend 95% of your life in an office or do you want to be free to go out and see the world and do whatever you want every summer? 

I hated my corporate experience and would not go back.  There are aspects of my current job I don't like, but I am infinitely happier than I was before.  





December 31st, 2013 at 12:12 PM ^

At least the ones here in Michigan (specifically metro detroit) these schools are extremely ill equip to educate students yet they have marketing campaigns that suggest they teach students things they do not. I can see charter schools working in other places, but here in Michigan the examples I have seen, for the most part are complete failures. Terrible conditions. Terrible lessons. Few experienced teachers. And school boards that have few members who have ever had any experience in education. To me they are a joke, but I can only speak for some of them I have been exposed to in metro detroit.


December 31st, 2013 at 12:05 PM ^

I would honestly tell him not to do it. I always feel terrible saying that but I have had nothing but problems since I graduated two and a half years ago. I had to move to Kansas for a year. I have had over 35 interviews in two years. I coach two sports (football is extremely intense because I'm a varsity OC) during all this I am currently working at lower Oakland county hs in which I have a position that pays the same as a teacher (not good) but I have no benefits as we speak.

All I want to do is teach but at times it seems almost impossible in Michigan. It's supposedly a career yet as I speak I am a teacher that is eligible for food Stamps.

Sorry if I made this too depressing but it is really not fun being a young teacher. To top it all off my fiancée is a teacher as well and has faced similar struggles. Always thought it would be easy for her because she is special ed. Certified. Has not been the case. You have to really love teaching and kids to stick with it. I enjoy both so I have stuck with it but every day I tell

Myself I am stupid for doing it.

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

If teaching is what you want to do, then you are not stupid for sticking with it.  Liking what you do is very, very important.  People who take crappy jobs just for the money usually end up getting burned out in short order.

It's definitely hard to break into the profession - I was a substitute for a couple of years before I landed a permanent position - but if you stick it out, network as much as possible (get as many professional references as you can) and stay as professional at your job as possible, it will happen.  




Steve in PA

December 31st, 2013 at 1:35 PM ^


Didn't mean to pull thread off target.

The one thing he really wants to do is be a coach.  He must have a "thing" for careers that aren't particularly financially rewarding.  He's already been coaching/teaching at some summer camps and absolutely loves it.

I think his desire to teach comes from that and seeing that almost every coach he knows is a teacher as well.  He's established a mentor relationship with 2 of them and has been told he has a spot and one's coaching staff when he's ready.  Last year he was paired with a Women's D1 basketball coach at one camp was excited about how much he learned as far as teaching the game.

History is his favorite subject and I'm the one that steered him away from that career because I know there is no jobs there.  I suggested Secondary Ed/ history minor and after he researched it he decided that fits his goals perfectly.

We're not in Michigan, but the story is the same everywhere.  I do send him and his sister to a private school because after his 7 years in the local public school we realized it just isn't a good school.  Stats and anecdotal evidence supported our decision.

Like most kids he wants to move ASAP and Pa is not on his list of destinations.  I have also strongly suggested he become fluent in Spanish to make him more marketable.  He's in San Antonio right now and I think that's his ultimate destination.H








December 31st, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

When I was in Kansas there we a ton of available openings. Taught in a small town in southwest Kansas called Garden City about a hour west of Dodge. Nice place if you like remote areas, no water, tons of wind and don't mind the oder of cows. Seriously, the community was super friendly but it was just not for me. I am from the city and when the only real town in the area is five hours to the northwest or six hours to the east I knew it was time for a change. Spanish works great there because I would say at least 60% of my students spoke it fluently. But as I mentioned, fair warning, it's not a flashy place.

Coaching is a blast and honestly it is the same reason I switched majors and went into education (along with my passion for history and phys. Ed) I played two years of college ball at a division 2 university so I figured it only made sense to coach. 2013 was my fifth season coaching fb and this is currently my first season coaching freshman BBall.

If your son truly loves teaching and coaching then by all means he should peruse it. I didn't mean to go off on a rant. It's just that time of year when you begin looking at the bills and wonder is it all worth it. Jealousy naturally kicks in when your friends are all getting married and purchasing nice homes and you know you are probably two years away from that all assuming things go your way.

Your son sounds like a passionate individual though and the profession desperately needs more motivated young folks who have that drive.

Best advice... Keep plugging away


December 31st, 2013 at 12:05 AM ^

got your back buddy...


as to vocabulary...  my students vocabulary fluctuates from student to student more significantly than any other classroom skill.  By far.

I am with EYW as I teach spanish and I probably dedicate 3-5 minutes per day to ENGLISH lessons (usually around vocabulary/etymology) becuase if I didn't they wouldn't be able to learn the SPANISH language... 



snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 12:30 AM ^

Done.  I will say that #4 and #9 were somewhat hard to answer - #4 felt like a blanket statement that may frequently be true but not always, and #9 a bit like a trick question, in that getting students to be motivated/engaged is itself a huge part of effective instruction.  A "bad" teacher who doesn't use research-proven methods but is able to motivate kids to read a lot of books on their own might get better results than a "good" teacher who uses all the latest methods but has poor rapport with the kids and can't get them to buy in.

Abe Froman

December 31st, 2013 at 1:27 AM ^

Sorry to nit-pick, but you might want to adapt your survey.

Instead of saying things like "my students would perform better in school if they were better readers" (similar to "chocolate is tasty," "water is wet," and "pope is Catholic") you might want to consider numerical rankings.

It might be more informative to say for example that 87% of primary educators surveyed said improved reading skills is the No. 1 or most important thing their students require to achieve higher grades than 99% of educators think reading is important.

For whatever it is worth, reading levels at UM among college students are (in my opinion) declining and often attrocious.  I frequently teach undergraduates science, and am astounded at how few of them ever crack the textbook.  Granted science texts rarely read like Harry Potter, but in my experience these students demonstrate an inability to even approach technical writing and glean any useful information from their books.


December 31st, 2013 at 8:34 AM ^

This is why the SAT added an actual, timed writing section. Yes people complain about standardized tests, but a lot of application components that are not standardized really can be manipulated/completed by these advisors. Huge issue.

Also, forwarded survey to Fiance.


December 31st, 2013 at 1:56 AM ^

getting edjumacated for 16 years now!

Seriously though, my girlfriend's mother has been teaching HS for about 25 years, so I will pass this along. Happy data!


December 31st, 2013 at 6:28 AM ^

Surprised at the number of educators on here.  Major props to all of you.  My wife is an elementary special education teacher (k-4th).  When she wakes, I will have her complete the survey.  My mom is a retired elementary teacher (1st & 2nd grades), may I send to her?


December 31st, 2013 at 7:19 AM ^

While I am not an educator (and I know you're not looking for people who teach statistics to others in their corporation), I have about two dozen friends on Facebook who teach at various levels (in districts around the country too, from Maryland to California), so I will pass this along so you can get some additional responses. 


December 31st, 2013 at 8:50 AM ^

I teach middle school special education but have taught English for the past two years, reading comprehension issues are a problem for many, not just students with an IEP.

Doc Brown

December 31st, 2013 at 8:59 AM ^

I teach biology and physics at the secondary level. I definitely agree that my students reading levels, especially in my b level classes, impair their ability to learn. I have several students come into ninth grade biology with third grade or lower reading levels. I have one child who is completely illiterate. I believe these students are so far behind in reading, that traditional reading interventions are just a drop in a bucket.


December 31st, 2013 at 1:59 PM ^

that it does not impair their ability to learn, just to form algorithmic problem solving techniques which really aren't learning.  I don't know how much flexibility you have, probably little to none, but especially in physics the conceptual aspect of it relies so little on reading it's amazing.  

Doc Brown

December 31st, 2013 at 2:35 PM ^

If you are speaking of physics then I agree. However, this year I am teaching only ninth grade biology (two secitons of biology B and one section of general biology) along with two sections of AP biology. Biology is the one science that is REQUIRED students be strong readers. I can examine the MEAP reading scores of the incoming ninth graders and predict with very high accuracy the future grades of my students. 

Frankly what I am seeing in my district is lack of resources for reading interventions. Not just for students with IEP designation, but also those without one or may be an ESL  student. Our district of 6000 high school students only has 2 ESL instructors for the high school level. I have one student who is a native Farsi speaker, has yet to see the ESL instructor this school year. This student for the most part is illiterate (kindergarten english reading level). How am I going to instruct this student in a reading heavy subject such as biology, when they can't even read Go Dog Go? Yet, this student is data point in my evaluation. 

I totally on board with using the conceptual model of physics education. I spent my entire student teaching experience and first year of teaching using the Arizona State physics modeling pedagogy. It works for well for sciences in which you can do a lot of demonstrations and laboratory experiences. However, for more theoretical sciences such as chemistry and biology, there needs to a fair amount of instruction in technical reading and writing. 


December 31st, 2013 at 3:33 PM ^

much about biology that doesn't relate to chemistry or physics at least, what concept requires reading?  Chemistry involves little to no learning through reading depending on level in my opinion.  I would think biology would be the hardest to learn about through reading as it should be the most complex of the sciences involving so many concepts  building into understanding of something new. 

Side note, the book Teaching Introductory physics was one of the best educational books I've ever read and I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it.  The author (Arons) takes high school and college physics students and interviews them about the various topics and comes up with what they say when they think various things and how to go beyond them saying the correct thing and actually understanding physics.  It's quite brilliant.  


December 31st, 2013 at 9:02 AM ^

IMO biggest problem is kids don't read anymore. too much technology used incorrectly is killing us. i see it in my room all the time. if is isn't quick and easy, they aren't going to do it.....


December 31st, 2013 at 9:18 AM ^

Last year I taught High School History in Detroit Public Schools.  While it was quite obvious reading was a major problem (11th grade students reading at an average of 3rd grade), there was very little I could do about it.  It really takes a ground up approach with learning reading strategies/vocab/techniques/etc from a young age and at home with thier parents.  By the time they are in high school, you can try to play catch up, but it is next to impossible.  This is one of the extreme cases. 


December 31st, 2013 at 10:34 AM ^

Same in math.  It's very difficuly to get students to abstract and learn exponential functions (where math becomes amazing and financially important, IMO) when they don't know basic arithmetic and percent change.  That's stuff that begins in elementary schools and it seems so many elementary teachers are weak in math. 

I applaud the great elementary teachers.  They lay the ground work for those kids that get into great colleges, yet the secondary teachers are usually the ones who get credit.

Doc Brown

December 31st, 2013 at 3:08 PM ^

Try teaching physics which requires both mathematical and reading skills. Last year (teaching all biology this school year) I had students with vastly below grade level ability in math, abstract reasoning, reading, and writing. It is extremely difficult to teach students the difference between acceleration, velocity, and speed when they cannot do basic arithmetic or even read a fifth grade reading level paragraph on the difference between the three concepts. High school teachers get both the blame and the credit for failures and successes. All of us educators are in it together from kindergarten all the way up to AP Physics C instructors. 

Frankly I believe less focus should be brought on educators in schools, to more focus on directing social recources to students outside of school. How can you expect a student learn when they are up all night living with two drug addicted parents or taking care of their younger siblings while their parents work a third shift? 

Maybe it is just me getting burned out, but I would not recommend any young person to go into teaching unless they have a real world view of the profession. 

snarling wolverine

December 31st, 2013 at 11:41 AM ^

Yeah, as a HS teacher myself that can be frustrating.  I think schools need to cut down on social promotion, especially in the elementary years.  I know it probably would suck for elementary teachers to deal with some of these kids two years in a row, but if they don't get that foundation down in the early years, they're going to be playing catch-up forever.



December 31st, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

Done deal.

I teach fifth grade science, but we're responsible for reading and language arts for our home room kids. Our school has had a lot of success with an RTI program. It's a reading intervention program in which we test the kids at the beginning of the year, the lower readers for comp and fluency get pulled for 30 minutes a day to work with a specialist in small groups, while I keep my high readers and do enrichment stuff like novels. This is our third year and it's working well. But one thing I've noticed with the kids is that some of them will never be good fluent readers, but they still comprehend everything just fine. Reading is one of those things that every few years there's a new magic approach that is supposed to fix low readers and eventually it falls by the wayside. The RTI program has been the most helpful that I've seen so far.

Good luck with that Masters. Got mine last year and it feels DAMN good.


December 31st, 2013 at 11:04 AM ^

Took the survey. I'm in my 32nd year of teaching. You cannot imagine how it has changed since the fall of 1982. I've stuck it out, but if I was younger I'd definitely be loking at a change of career. The complete lack of respect teachers get now is  depressing.  All the ills of society are laid at our feet. We are overpaid, underworked purverors of mediocrity. I want to retire soon, but having 2 kids in college doesn't allow for that luxury. Eventually I hope to have a job where people will appreciate what I do. Pouring beer comes to mind.