Figure Out What's Next

The Teacher's Lounge

back to school career advancement career change gina plaitakis Jul 20, 2009

by Gina Plaitakis

photo by Jason Goodman

You can learn a lot about becoming a teacher gabbing with the other teachers on break.

One great thing about substitute teaching is that you get to eat lunch in the teachers' lounge. Besides the local gossip, there's a wealth of information one can learn from the staff teachers, student teachers, aides and other substitutes. I had the opportunity to discuss at length the differences between taking the “alternate route” and going back to school to get a master's degree in teaching. Both routes will give me the same end result of becoming a certified art teacher for grades K-12.

The pluses of taking the alternate route are that it's cheaper, it's quicker, and you start getting paid a salary as soon as you find a job and begin your mentorship. The negatives for me regarding the alternate route are that it can be tougher to find a job, and the majority of available jobs for alternate-route candidates are located in urban, inner-city school districts. One of the reasons I want to be an art teacher is so that I can be on the same schedule as my daughter. I would rather work in the surrounding suburbs than commute to the city; therefore, I'd like to have more job options available to me.

I've been told that some schools regard alternate-route candidates as less valuable then someone who has gone to school to get a degree in education. In other words, if there are two resumes for the same position and one is someone starting the alternate-route program and one is someone who just graduated with a master's in teaching, the person with the degree is going to appear as the more qualified candidate.  Of course, I don't think this is always true because I happen to have friends who are excellent teachers who went alternate route. They are working in urban schools with some very challenging students but they love their jobs. Both friends have told me separately that they find the suburban schools boring in comparison and they prefer the students they teach. Another job option is to apply for teaching jobs in private schools. I'm told that they are easier than public schools. I guess it really depends on the individual and what works for them best.

I have applied to a few local jobs in my school district but haven't had one interview. I heard through the grapevine that there were more than 2,000 applicants to some of the teaching positions. This makes me think that perhaps I should go to graduate school and get a master's in education. The pluses of going back to school are that I get to learn about child psychology, how to teach and how to develop a curriculum, and I'll be a student teacher. Last but not least, I'll get paid a higher salary when I graduate. I did some research and found that art teachers with a master's degree make from $20,000 to $30,000 more per year in my district.

 So as of now, I think I'm going to pursue both options. I'll look into graduate programs, continue searching for art teacher positions, and substitute teach.

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