- 5 years ago
- Wedding: June 2016
I am teaching for the first time this semester; my class is a entry level / “101” / general education-requirement-fulfilling Political Science class with mostly freshmen and sophomores who, with a couple exceptions, are not particularly interested in the subject matter. I am a graduate student completing my Masters in Poli Sci in December. As a general rule, my university does not let graduate students teach classes; the school proudly states on its website, and everywhere else, that 99% of the classes are taught by professors with terminal degrees, and honestly, I think that is part of what makes it a good school. It is one of the higher ranked schools in the UNC System. (Most people do not realize that the UNC System has 17 state universities – 15 in addition to UNC-Chapel Hill – aka “Carolina” – and NC State. Last year the incoming freshmen at my university had the highest combined SAT scores of any state school other than Chapel Hill and State.) In order to allow me to teach, the Chair of my department had to jump through quite a few bureaucratic hoops to get special permission, and I am very grateful to him for it. He pushed for me because he knows that teaching is what I really want to do long-term, and he thought I would be good at it. And I think I am. I work really hard to do it well (maybe too hard – sometimes I neglect my work for my graduate classes in to work on my lectures), and to try to keep it interesting and relevant to current events for my students. I am getting good feedback from both my faculty supervisor and my students. And I am really enjoying it. I definitely want to continue teaching after I graduate.
Which leads me to my questions. Several of my professors are really pushing me to go on to get my PhD, and about half the time I think I want to. The other half of the time, though, I wonder if I really need to in order to fulfill my goals. The reality is that I do not want a tenure-track, research-intense position. I want to teach, even if it is as an adjunct, I’m not really worried about money – instead, I just want to find something that I can be productive and happy doing. Ideally, I would like to teach at a college level, but if I don’t go on for my PhD, that would most likely limit me to community colleges, which is fine, assuming the jobs are available and I can get them. My concern is that most of the nearby community colleges, several of which currently do have listings seeking Poli Sci instructors, list 1 year of teaching experience as a requirement. When I graduate I will only have 1 semester of actual teaching experience, plus 3 semesters experience as a teaching assistant during which I graded tests, tracked attendance, assisted with research, etc., but did not actually teach. Also, for what it’s worth, I do have 7+ years of “real world” political experience as well — I worked as a legislative aid in state legislature, as well as for a lobbying firm in DC, but the last time I worked in the field was almost 20 years ago. I then switched to a different field which allowed much more work-life balance and I worked in that field until I got laid off in the recession. So my questions for the Bees who teach at a college level: what is your experience or opinion about my chances of finding work at the college level with “only” a masters? Do you think my 1 semester of teaching experience plus teaching assistant and real life work experience be enough to get my foot in the door? My professors, who are all PhDs from some of the top schools in the country, are split on the issue and just revert back to telling me to go for my PhD too.
Another option I am considering is working toward getting certified to teach social studies at the high school level. NC allows for “lateral entry” teachers to get certified as they teach. I qualify academically, but I need a school to hire me as a sort of “sponsor.” I really believe that I would be a good high school teacher, but I’m not sure how the schools feel about people with my qualifications, or lack thereof. So my question for the high school teachers: what is your experience with / opinion about people who enter the field at an older age and different experience level? Do they generally do okay? Are schools more or less willing to hire them?
Thanks for your help everyone. For the last couple of years I’ve been saying that I’ll wait before deciding what I want to do next (PhD, teach, something else entirely), but the time has come for me to start figuring it out. I’m really struggling with this!