Budding New York City Math Teacher - what's the best course?
April 14, 2008 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Life after high school? How to decide?

My son who is a senior in high school is trying to decide what to do next year. Here's what he knows: he's gay, he wants to live in NYC, and he wants to be a math teacher when he grows up. For now though he doesn't have an idea of what grade level he's interested in teaching.

He has two choices, each of which presents an opportunity to dive right in:

The first is CityYear. This is a year of paid work with elementary school kids in NYC schools, after which he'd go on to college to pursue his career.

Another possibility is enrolling in The Teacher Academy at Hunter College. This looks to be a pretty rigorous but satisfying program, focused on preparing middle & high school math & science teachers.

Anyone out there have any experience with these programs? Help my son make a decision!
posted by pammo to Education (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
CityYear looks really interesting. It would be a good way to test out the career choice. However, there are ways to test out teaching while you're still in college. He could volunteer, do co-op, intern, tutor, etc...and many of those would pay more than the low stipend you get with CityYear, although that doesn't consider living costs or the wonderful life experience.

I recommend majoring in math within a BSc, rather than going into a B.Ed program. Although I'm not familiar with NYC, many colleges offer opportunities to take education courses while you're doing a bachelors in any subject. By pursuing a BSc, your son will keep his options open, perhaps allow for co-op or internships in other subjects, and still be able to take education courses and go on to a program where you do one more year to become a teacher.

Why keep your options open? Your son may get halfway through a B.Ed and discover that he doesn't like teaching. If he changed his mind, he might not be able to transfer all his courses -- and he might have to change colleges. He'd also be more limited in paid experience during college -- co-op jobs pay better than unpaid practicum experiences. Your son might also teach for 10 years and decide he wants to do something else. A BSc may be more portable to high paying careers.

I am not trying to quash his passions. It's just that teaching seems like a reasonable career path to many young people because it's the only career they've seen up close. I was planning to become a teacher until I got a job while waiting to get into my teaching program. I discovered I liked business more than I liked teaching high school. I had a BA in a teachable major, which gave me a lot more flexibility in applying for jobs. And I can always go back and teach. In fact, I teach adults.
posted by acoutu at 5:34 PM on April 14, 2008

Nb. I just looked at Hunter. Four years of free tuition may outweigh what I just said. If college is free, he can always study something else later -- you can catch up in 2 years for many fields.
posted by acoutu at 5:36 PM on April 14, 2008

City Year is great. If he's going to do such a specialized program, it might be a good idea to do City Year for a year first and see if working with kids in schools every day is really, really what he wants to do. And I would encourage him to make sure he gets a broad enough education while at Hunter in case he decides he wants to do something else. The turnover rate for new teachers is very, very high.
posted by lunasol at 5:54 PM on April 14, 2008

Additionally, your son has a few math teachers at his school he could sit down with and chat about the career. Seeing a teacher up in front of a classroom a period a day is one thing, but seeing what they do with the other 90% of their time is another.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:05 PM on April 14, 2008

i know very few people who are doing what they wanted to do when they were seniors in high school. i think he would do fine majoring in whatever subject he wants to teach (he would increase his job options if he could double-major in math and a science) and volunteering during the summers.

then if he is still interested in teaching when he graduates, he could become a new york teaching fellow, which would pay for his master's in education while he teaches at a needy school.

but i would caution against getting into a career track at this age unless this is a lifelong dream. you learn so much about what you want to be and do in college, and can do a 180 between freshman and junior years.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:24 PM on April 14, 2008

He wants to be a math teacher in NYC=he better be brave, strong, willing to be ridiculed for his sexuality, appearance, and everything else by his students. That's how students are, esp. city kids and esp. high school students. I'm going to teach elementary school there and I've been talking with a lot of current and former NYC teachers who have told me horror stories. I'd suggest majoring in something that will allow him to pursue other career options in case he discovers teaching's not for him. A lot of people are natural teachers but not effective disciplinarians/classroom managers, which leads to feelings of failure, depression, and possibly resignation or termination. If he discovers he loves it and is perfectly cut out for it, then great.

I'll also add that teaching is the most rewarding and challenging profession one can choose, IMHO. If he's cut out for it, he'll know it quickly. He should try to get a job in a school so he can see what it's like for himself. I'd also suggest going to schools and asking math teachers if he can pick their brains.

Have him Google "NYC, teacher, blog" and he'll find lots of good ones that detail daily life as a teacher in the big city. I wrote to some of the bloggers and asked questions, which they promptly answered.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:31 PM on April 14, 2008

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