Can I teach high school?

I went to the job fair yesterday for the school system. I know they desperately need math and science teachers at all levels. I gave my resume and talked with the high school for a bit. I think they are very excited about me because after I left the table, I was tracked down by one of the teachers and he gave me his card. Before I made it to the next school (middle school) I was also tracked down by one of the assistant principles. He was trying to lure me into teaching their program for students needing special help in graduating. Not slow learners or disciplinary students, but students who need extra help because life has not been kind to them. (They may have children already or a non-supportive home life.) He gave me his number and asked me to call him next week if I would like a tour or to sit in on a class.

The downside is that all of the certification tests are expensive! They have a general test and a professional teacher test (why they have two is beyond me) and then there are the subject tests. At $100-$150 each, that adds up quick, plus there are fees. To qualify for just one subject, I would be spending about $400 all total. Is it worth it for essentially a job application? Granted, I would have my certification for 5 years. I wouldn’t make very much money, but I would be “in high demand” as they put it. Teaching school here would be a nice, easy commute but teaching high school is hard. Very hard.

However, I like the idea of touching lives. Of making a difference. I have no children and I’ll never win a Nobel Prize, so basically I have no legacy. Once my life is over, who will remember me? I will have left no footprint on society or this planet. Only a lot of empty pill bottles.

I am getting maudlin. I need to keep an open mind. High school might be the place for me after all. Or is it only my lack of self-confidence telling me that I can’t teach at a level higher than that? I don’t know.

Also, how will my mental illness figure into all of this? I have to take a drug test – how will I pass it with my Klonopin?

Anyway… do you think I should hand over the money and go for my certification?

11 thoughts on “Can I teach high school?

  1. How long do you have to wait on following up on certification? Is there a time limit? Maybe you could wait on the decision from your recent interview.

    Re: drug test and prescriptions, prescription medications don’t count against you. I don’t recall what the procedural aspects of that are, but it applies for stimulants that are essentially amphetamines. I’d recommend doing some searching to figure out what’s involved with disclosing prescriptions that may affect test results. It also depends on which screening test they use – not all of them check for benzos.

  2. I don’t think my state allows for checking of benzos, but it concerns me just the same. (I’m paranoid that way.) I have until the end of next week in order to apply for late registration for the next test. (There are two before the school year starts.) I was thinking of just going for the regular tests and intermediate math. Then I could wait and see about the science certifications. (One science job is still pending budget approval.) The schools don’t need my specialty and I don’t know if I qualify for the advanced certifications in the other science areas. I’m going to let the idea percolate for a few days before I decide.

    BTW, the worst part is that I made a typo (a big typo – a partial phrase typo) in my cover letter for the high school. How’s that for dumb?

  3. You’re right – it is worth investigating! DeeDee is right…Rxs don’t count in the drug testing. Last time I had to take one for my employer, there was a sheet to fill out with your prescrptions before they handed me the cup. If you think you will enjoy the job, why not see if it will work out? The worst thing that can happen is they might, *might* say no. Although I doubt it, since good teachers are so hard to come by these days. Good luck!

  4. From what I know about drug screening, depending on what they do there is a chance that Klonopin could show up. However, I know that by law, you are not required to disclose what you are taking or why. Rather you can provide the company doing the screening with your prescribing doctor’s contact info, then someone will call him/her, he/she will also not disclose what you are taking, but rather confirm that what they have found is consistent with what you have been prescribed. The screening company then tells your potential employer you’re good to go, all (theoretically) without disclosing specifics.

    It varies some from state to state (I think), but even if Klonopin somehow shows up, you could be taking it for epilepsy or a number of other things, and the school district can’t ask you about it. Don’t fret!

    • Yeah, I’ve always been afraid of drug tests. I don’t do drugs, but I am still afraid. (I rarely even drink alcohol!) I’m also afraid of authority so I am terrified of being pulled over or of bosses (usually) which often leads me into trouble. Thanks for the info!

      • Here’s what they instructed me to do. They told me to take all of my medications, in the bottle, with me to the test. I filled out some kind of form telling them what medication I was prescribed, the Rx number, and the prescribing physician. I never got a call, so I don’t know if anything showed up. But, there are some medications out there that can throw false positives for the strangest things. My mother takea a thyroid one that throws out a false positive for THC (marijuana)!

        Don’t sweat the drug test. I didn’t like it either, but I had all of my medications with me, on my person, to prove I was actually prescribed the medication. And I didn’t have any problem.

        I know in the state of PA, if a positive does come up and the MRO calls you, then you have the right to demand a retest.

        My husband worked in worker’s comp, so he was able to tell me about preemployment drug screens. Most employers do the 5 panel test to save money. That’s for THC, Cocaine, PCP, Opiates (codiene and hydrocodone) and emphetamines. Benzos don’t show up on those. But it does show up on the 10 panel.

        Oh! And avoid poppy seeds! False negative for opiates! It will show a trace amount, so an MRO might not consider it. But, it’s not worth the hassle.

  5. If you think it’s something you love, and you’d be in extremely high demand, do it. You’ll have it for five years, so it doesn’t matter what school system you go to. You’ll have some parts of the summer off (which I think is the coolest part about being a teacher), and you’ll always have a pretty set schedule. Oh! And snow days!

    I think teaching is great. It has given me a greater satisfaction in my life than any other job. And, the best part is that teaching allows you to be yourself. You’re not expected to be anything else but a great teacher. It doesn’t matter if you’re particularly moody during a period of time, and you get prep periods during your day that allow you to be completely alone. It’s really a versatile job, that’s generally low stress, and has worked perfectly with me and my bipolar disorder.

    And going home every night with the satisfaction that you are teaching kids, paving the way for their future, and in some instances, helping them with personal things, well, that’s worth it. Some days, when everything is going wrong in my life, it’s the only reason I walk out that door. Because I know the staff needs me. The kids need me. And where I work, a substitue isn’t really enough to cut it.

    What do you think?

    • I certainly can see the appeal since I know there is a need. I don’t know how it works in terms of prep-time, class schedule, etc. How many actual classes does a person teach? How long are you spending outside of school preparing and/or grading for class? That’s the thing about college, it’s easy to spend 70 hours a week working. I dread that part about college. That and the fear that the students are smarter than me.

      I got a semi-rejection letter from the high school this morning because I don’t have the certifications in hand. I can take them next month and have them by June. But the hiring process is now. Is it still worth dropping $400-$500 in test fees on a maybe if they haven’t filled the position?

      Perhaps my thought process is a bit selfish in this but I don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t know where my path should lead. It might be that high school is the place for me. I am thinking of taking the tests anyway, although I am terrified of failing. I don’t even know what is on the professional teaching exam!

      I wish there was a test to tell me what I want to be when I grow up. BTW, Lulu, do you have any other suggestions as a school teacher?

      • Well, I know in the state of PA, you can fail the teaching cert and infinite amount of times until you pass. So, check the requirements in your state. That way, you’ll have a safety net. Also, see what your state requires in terms of standard for teachers at that level.

        I do elementary music, so it’s a little different. I have to have proficiency in music in theory, at least one instrument, and vocals. That’s on top of knowing K-8 developmental domains, stages, and typical and atypical developmental patterns. Oh, and a couple of other things. Mandated reporting – child abuse and neglect. Pediatric first aid. Fire safety. Act 33/34 and FBI clearences – I don’t know if you have them, and I’m not sure how much they cost, because my work paid for them.

        Then there’s the basic knowledge domains, English, writing, math, history, science – but that’s only because I do some general tutoring.

        The teaching cert requirements will be different at the high school level. You might only be required to demonstrate knowledge in your area and proficiency in other areas. Maybe some developmental stuff for teen years. It might be pretty basic, though.

        Now, I don’t teach full-time, so I can only give you what has been in my experience and those of my friends. Some teachers, like those that have classes all day in a whole lot of different grades and ability lervels, can easily put in ten to eleven hours a day. It depends on how you do your classes. You could eliminate grading papers if your school has a machine that does it by score sheets. (You know, the bubble sheets). That would take some pressure off.

        How large is the school and what would you specifically be teaching? Lesson plans eat up most of the time. Teachers in academic subjects do have state curriculums and textbooks to rely on. So, lesson plans might be a little easier.

        I know teachers in PA are required to have one prep and one lunch. I work after lunch, so I have one prep, sometimes two depending on my class schedule that day. I use the prep exclusively for lesson plans, because I am still developing one based on PA standards for my program. There wasn’t one I could go from.

        The teachers who teach the broadest amount of classes, meaning several skill levels and several grades, are the ones I see most often putting extra time in their classrooms after hours. Those teachers are also responsible for tutoring sessions and extracurricular clubs (math club, science club, science faires, etc). I think some of that is optional.

        So, I’d say this. At the very least, you could give it a shot. If it’s too much, then just power your way through your contract, and don’t renew.

        Keep in mind, not all schools are the same. I’ve done some student teaching in public school versus the charter school I work at now. The charter school is better. But, it requires parents who actually care about their kids to go through the hassle of enrollment, waiting lists, etc. The students are more focused with less behavioral issues (although they still do occur. Ugh, I had to break up a serious argument that nearly turned physical between two kids and send both of them to the director. Gawd! My least favorite part!)

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