Window into Teaching: A View into Needham Public Schools•
WINDOW INTO TEACHING
What’s it like to be a middle school teacher in Needham Public Schools? We talked with one who has found her fit.
Nancy, Middle School Science Teacher
Needham Public Schools in Greater Boston area
900 students across 7th and 8th grades
Experience: 14 years. Masters degree in Education with 15 extra grad credits.
Besides the obvious passion for working with kids and a rewarding opportunity to mold the future generation, Nancy says teaching takes a lot of patience, humbleness and ability to be very flexible. “You have to understand you don’t really know what’s going on with the kids outside of school,” she explains. She also stresses, “you should also be quick on your feet as you’ll be making nonstop decisions all day for your students.”
What’s her favorite part of teaching? Every day is a new adventure with a lot of room for creativity. It’s a rewarding career filled with opportunity to mold young minds and give kids experiences they don’t have in a home setting. In the Needham school district, the generally affluent community is highly engaged and invested in education. As a result, teachers will find a great supply of resources to implement effective lessons. It’s a very supportive and collaborative academic community as well where teachers have the mentorship to succeed. According to Nancy, the support of a strong mentoring program is a more attractive tradeoff to higher pay.
Also unique to this district is support of music, the arts and diversity. “It’s a highlight of our district as well as athletics,” says Nancy. And as a multicultural school, Needham Middle School voluntarily participates in the Metco program, a way to integrate students from inner city or more racially diverse neighborhoods.
A highly engaged community means there can be a lot of new initiatives every year. For example, in a recent schoolyear Nancy felt overwhelmed by new evaluation processes, a new cluster model and new curriculums all at once. Also due to high expectations by both parents and administrators, the students can feel a lot of stress, and teachers must deal with the student worry as well as parents pushing for more things (like more homework) to ready their kids.
Nancy’s workday starts at 7:30 a.m. and though classes end at 2:40 p.m. there’s barely more than a 20-minute lunch break all day as the students don’t necessarily clear your classroom at the bell. She goes on to say, “We take a lot of work home and never stop thinking about how to make lessons better.” That and a 35-minute commute make her days unpredictably long.
Summers off can be a draw but most people don’t realize that this time away from teaching is a chance for teachers to take courses themselves, gain new credentials and boost their earning potential. In addition, where June is spent wrapping up and grading and a few weeks in August are spent gearing up for the new schoolyear, the idea of a lazy summer is far from reality. As a parent, Nancy does find more time to spend with her family, have a little me-time to read and do hobbies she can’t get to while teaching. But it does take some creative planning since some coursework can last anywhere from a week to 10 weeks depending on the credit hours.
Another challenge to summer? Planning your finances. Paychecks are paused for a period and distributed as five separate checks at the end of June—something Nancy experienced across school districts in California as well as in Massachusetts. If you’re a parent and have daycare, being home with your kids for the summer has its advantage but many daycare centers require payment to hold your child’s spot in the upcoming year so that expense doesn’t just disappear in summer.
THE NET NET
Like any job, teachers have their personal preferences for choosing a school or district. Sometimes it’s proximity to home or population served. Nancy’s only resource for learning about her workplace was through another friend who had previously worked in the same school. She recommends asking about teacher resources, mentoring programs and community involvement during your interview process. Pay scales are typically posted with contracts.
Do you have a different view of teaching? We’d love to hear them. Or if there’s a job you’d like to learn more about, tell us in the comments and we’ll consider it for a future “Window Into___” profile.
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