Career Story: Eighth Grade Math Teacher

Eighth Grade Math Teacher

Job Title: Math Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a middle school in the greater Boston area.

Education: BS, Electrical Engineering, University of New Hampshire •• MBA, Northeastern University •• M.Ed., University of Massachusetts

Previous Experience: I worked in the computer and networking industry for 12 years as a network designer, strategic planner and manager of a marketing group. I then stayed home to raise my kids and then went back to get my Masters in Education in order to become a math teacher.

Job Tasks: I teach 8th grade mathematics. Teaching is a challenging but very rewarding job.

On a typical day, I arrive at school at least 20 minutes before the students come in. I use that time to be sure I have the classroom set up and the materials I will need ready. (This includes copying any handouts I intend to give the students). By 8am I am in the hallway to greet my students as they come down the hall. I watch them while they pack their things into their lockers and get the materials they need for their first period. I then take attendance once the principal has led the school over the intercom system in a moment of silence, the pledge of allegiance and announcements. After homeroom, we move into our math class. I teach the lesson, which I have planned in advance. I teach four classes a day. Three classes are Math 8 classes and one is an Algebra class. So I plan two different lessons for every day.

When planning my lessons I need to be sure I know what my goal for is. What, specifically, do I want students to be able to do after the class? I also need to think about what kinds of confusion or difficulty students will run into as they do the work. I plan specific explanations or mental math problems to be sure to raise and address these potential misconceptions so that the students can avoid them during the lesson. If a student still encounters a misconception, I can point him to what we did at the beginning of class. Most often, this helps get them right back on track.

Aside from being sure that I will address potential misconceptions at the beginning of the lesson, I make sure to plan the questions I will ask. Questions are very important and serve several purposes. Some questions will help me to assess student comprehension. Others help students make connections between what they are learning at the moment and what they have learned in the past. Finally, I plan questions that help students think more deeply about the concept at hand.

Teaching requires a lot of patience and a lot of work before and after school. The pay is not great. But when a student gets a test back and says, "I've never gotten an A on a math test before," you know all the effort is worth it. These kids are the future of our country. What an honor it is to be one of the people helping prepare them for their futures.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The worst par of the job is al the time you have to spend on your own preparing lessons, grading papers, etc.; the pay is not great, though it gets better as you teach more years.

The best part of the job is having an impact on so many lives; having a work schedule that lines up with your kids' schedules so you can be with them during vacations; getting to do math all day long!

Job Tips: Observe as many classes as you can before teaching. Watch teachers' classroom management techniques -- what works, what backfires -- and observe how the classroom is organized. There is no science to this. You get better at both as you gain experience. But you can get a good head start by observing many other teachers' ways first.

Additional Thoughts: I used to make really good money when I worked in the computer networking industry. I loved the work but something was missing. Now that I am a teacher I know what was missing. I was missing the feeling I now get from work -- that I'm having an impact on my corner of the world by helping to prepare the next generation for successful adulthood.

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