Job Title: High School Science Department Chair
Type of Company: A high school in a suburb of Boston.
Education: BS, Chemical Engineering, Northeastern University MS, Educational Administration, Cambridge College Ed.D., Science Education, Boston University
Previous Experience: I worked in the fabricoating industry for a year and the electroplating industry two years. During this time I also served as an assistant coach at our local high school and volunteered in a variety of youth organizations. I started my high school career primarily as a chemistry teacher, but have taught all of the basic disciplines at every level. I continued as a head coach of two different sports and served on a variety of committees within the school and community.
Job Tasks: As department head at the high school I am responsible for hiring new science teachers. This may constitute a major portion of the summer. I review up to 50 resumes per year and interview over 10 candidates for approximately three new staff positions. I observe and evaluate staff on a rotating basis: each of the twenty-five teachers are on one of four steps of a four tiered cycle. Professional development is designed and implemented by each department chair at our high school. There are monthly meetings and half-days that must have relevant curriculum development. Within each of the three science domains, teachers are responsible for submitting equipment orders for books, labs, and instructional materials. I am required to monitor the spending of this $60,000 budget. Both staff and I write grants for additional instructional support and these are monitored by me. There are a series of meetings each month at the system and school level that concentrate on formulating policy and following procedures. Each department chair sets the teaching schedule for their staff. Each department chair selects one course to teach each year. And last but not least is the need to communicate effectively with parents.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the interaction with students and staff. There is ample time to meet with students who are selecting courses or having difficulty with their studies. Parents are usually very thankful for advice regarding their children. In our case the staff is very hard working and a pleasure to work with. There is a high degree of competence and a willingness to share ideas among the science teachers and across disciplines.
The worst part of the job occurs at those times when the best decision still alienates a portion of your clientele.
1.) Choose coursework wisely. do not just take courses to move up the pay scale. Study those things that will challenge you. Work on shoring up what you perceive to be your weaknesses.
2.) Definitely practice your ability to communicate. Effective oral and written communication is necessary.
3.) Explore as many teaching strategies as possible. Effective inquiry-based, student-centered learning usually takes time to master. It is worth taking advantage of other teachers' ideas, you do not need to recreate them yourself.
Additional Thoughts: I was not surprised to find dedicated teachers, but the amount of work that dedicated professionals bring home is amazing.
For quite a while I was not sure if my job would be stable due to declining enrollments. It was therefore tough to rationalize spending additional money on graduate school. I eventually got a doctorate, which allowed me to have a much broader understanding of the reasons why specific educational philosophies developed. Looking back I am glad that I had taught for several years before going back to school because it enhanced the experience.
Teaching is both a profession and a craft. You have to be willing to work hard at it. The effort definitely pays off.
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