Taking time off from teaching high school to pursue a PhD in English?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Iris1001, Mar 4, 2021.

  1. Iris1001

    Iris1001 Rookie

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    Mar 4, 2021

    Hello, everyone.

    I am a high school ELA teacher in New Jersey, and I have been teaching for about five years now. For the past year, I've been working as a long-term sub in a wonderful district. My assignment will be finished in June, and although my heart is broken over this, I'm trying to stay positive.

    I got into a PhD program in English, and I was hoping I could attend it while working as a high school teacher. Luckily, the program is flexible, so I can take classes part-time at night. However, life has other plans for me it seems. I'm just feeling so worried about my resume. This is my third high school. I just want to settle down in one school and start working towards tenure. I'm 30 years old. :(

    For background information, my first two years were as a long-term sub (to get my license through alternate route), and the following two years were in an urban district (I left after two years to teach college full-time). Now, I'm here as a long-term sub at this school, and I feel like I lost it.

    Anyway, my biggest question is this: if I take some time off to pursue my PhD, will it look bad on my resume? Or should I continue to search for a new high school and pursue my PhD on the side?
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
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  3. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Mar 5, 2021

    Iris,
    I have to ask -- what do you plan to do with a PhD? If your answer is continue to try and teach high school, I have to tell you that you will price yourself out of a job. With a Master's degree, you are already more expensive than other first year teachers. With a PhD, you would be even more expensive. If a school district is hiring a new teacher, and they can hire one at a bachelor's rate, or you at a PhD rate, which would they hire? All other things being equal, they would hire the less expensive.

    Having a PhD without several years of having your own classroom would be of no benefit -- and it would be a determent to getting hired. You have to understand -- principals without PhDs don't like to hire PhD teachers, as a general rule. Having a Master's degree is a typical progression for classroom teachers -- getting a PhD means you wish to be a district level specialist or director, and those positions require at least 5+ years of successful full-time classroom teaching first. Others with PhD become administrators -- but again, to be a principal you have to have significant full-time classroom experience. It is extremely rare to have a PhD as a classroom teacher, and in my experience (which may not be everyone's experience) I've known two classroom teachers with PhDs, and neither was a good classroom teacher -- they were just putting in their time until they had worked the 5+ years in the classroom to make them eligible for district jobs. They were not highly regarded by the other teachers, and administrators hated having them because they "broke the budget."

    I think you will be making yourself impossible to get hired by doing this. You see, there are many jobs for PhDs in teaching -- and all of them require 5+ years of successful full-time teaching first, so you would be knocking yourself out of the running for those.

    A better course of action is to get a full-time teaching job first, get at least 3 years full-time experience under your belt, and then consider getting your PhD. Otherwise, you are pricing yourself out of the market.

    If being a tenured classroom teacher is your goal, getting a PhD right now would be shooting yourself in the foot.
     
  4. LimaUniformNovemberAlpha

    LimaUniformNovemberAlpha Rookie

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    Mar 5, 2021

    Yeah, unless you intend to teach college, I'm not sure why you need a PhD at this point. (Actually, depending on the college and the course, they might let you teach with "just" a Master's degree. And you don't need a PhD to work as a high school principal either, as I've known those who do so without one. Also, prepare for shouting matches with the kind of irate parents you don't typically see at parent-teacher nights.)

    PhD or no PhD, you're probably already well ahead of most high school students as far as knowledge goes.
     
  5. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    Mar 5, 2021

    Getting your PhD can take as long as 10 years if you just do it part time. I would not want to be starting a brand new job and also working on my PhD so if it were me I would probably wait. If you are just subbing next year you can definitely start some part time work on it but I wouldn't want to be totally done with it until I had some years of teaching under my belt. If by the time you're 40 and finally get your PhD and also have 10 years of teaching experience then you can very well look for college level jobs at that point. I do agree with most of what the others have said.
     
  6. Pisces

    Pisces Companion

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    Mar 5, 2021

    I replied to you in another thread about your panic attacks and your situation. I remember you. You used to post here under another name. Mediocre Public schools will not value your PhD. I would look into independent schools (go to the NAIS career website). They value candidates with PhDs. If I remember correctly, you struggled a lot in each district where you worked and they were rough districts. Try working in a better environment where you are valued. There are good independent schools that will match public school salaries all over the place and offer very good retirement plans that are matched - including in your state.
    Why work for an employer who wants to uphold mediocrity? Why work for a place that really doesn't value your education or what you have to contribute to a work place? This is what makes the public sector inefficient and very mediocre.
     
  7. Iris1001

    Iris1001 Rookie

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    Mar 5, 2021

    Thanks so much, everyone. I guess I’ll try to keep looking for a new school.
     
  8. Pisces

    Pisces Companion

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    Mar 8, 2021

    Think about the advice you gave the OP and think about your students. Imagine one of your students came up to you and asked you about going to further her education? Would you give the same advice to your student? Would you tell her not to pursue more education because it would "shoot her in the foot"?

    Let that sink in for a minute. You are an educator telling someone else not to pursue her dreams of furthering her education.
     
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  9. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Mar 8, 2021

    I saw nothing wrong with RainStorm's advice. If OP's desire is to become a high school teacher, getting a PhD while not having a track record of consistent teaching will do just what RainStorm said - limit her ability to get her dream job. If OP wants to get the PhD to teach college, university, or high-class private school that only employs teachers with PhDs or apply it in a different profession, that is a different conversation. RainStorm just provided a factual account of being overqualified for a job when you don't have the resume to back it up.
     
  10. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    Mar 10, 2021

    I think that's the crux of the story. Is high school teaching the goal?
     
  11. Iris1001

    Iris1001 Rookie

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    Mar 10, 2021

    Hi, everyone!

    Thanks so much for your feedback. I would love a PhD in English, as it has been a personal goal of mine for quite some time. I do love teaching high school, but I want the opportunity to move up someday. I wouldn't mind teaching high school for the rest of my life, as it is truly my passion to teach literature. However, I would like the chance to move on up to college teaching if I ever wanted to.
     
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  12. CaliforniaRPCV

    CaliforniaRPCV Comrade

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    Mar 10, 2021

    And college might be the better course since it is more likely you would have students as passionate about learning as you are about teaching.
     
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  13. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Mar 11, 2021

    OP speaks of wanting to get on track to gain tenure, and in the context of her writing, it seems like she is talking about finding a high school that will allow her to be content and productive in that school so that tenure will be achieved. I, personally, did not feel like her sentence indicated tenure at a university. I see no problem with working towards the goal of a PhD, but believe that Rain is right about how the acquisition of that degree might price her right out of a lot of really good HS teaching jobs which could lead to tenure. OP has worked in three schools in five years, and is, I'm guessing, looking for school number four to be employed come fall. I would suggest that OP look into tuition reimbursement policy going forward, since each of those courses needed for the PhD have a price tag that starts to get burdensome as they accumulate.

    I kind of get the feeling that OP has one foot in and one foot out of her desire to teach HS English, and that indecision could spill over into trying to earn tenure for teaching in HS while trying to attain stellar grades in difficult courses at the university level. I would suggest, respectfully, that OP get and keep a nice paying job teaching HS where she is a good fit, allowing her to attain tenure, and probably greatly increasing the odds that her graduate credits may be paid for by her employer either in full or in part. This is something I know a bit about, since I have a master's acquired right after obtaining my BS, a second master's acquired when my place of employment needed ESL teachers, so it cost me less than $5000 to acquire the MEd. I have another set of 21 graduate credits that the university would like to use to create a doctorate program for me, since I have the master's degree that would support it. Honestly, I see so many college instructors who have doctorates, but they basically teach from community colleges as adjunct instructors, and although I am grateful they have had some of my courses, I can't think it is quite the doctorate experience they were dreaming of.

    OP, you need better planning, well spelled out, including how much time you believe it will take for your courses at the university, the cost of these courses and travel expenses each semester, the physical toll that trying to take courses, even the ones you love, while still working as a high school teacher full time, to pay the bills. The university will always be there. I think that possibly accumulating a lot of debt pursuing your doctorate might be better served and acquired after finding a school where you are a good fit, which means a steady paycheck, the possibility of tenure, and tuition reimbursement. Trust me when I say that not all dreams expire just because you hit 30 - the university will still be there when you gain tenure, and maybe you can stick you toe in the pool by taking a summer course each year to begin chipping away at meeting all of the requirements.
     
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  14. Iris1001

    Iris1001 Rookie

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    Mar 18, 2021

    Thanks for your advice. I actually found a PhD program tailored to teachers. The classes are online and take place in the evening. It's a PhD program in English, specifically geared towards K-12 and higher education. It's definitely something I was interested in. The PhD has always been a personal goal of mine. A few other teachers in this district have PhD's in English as well. It's pretty cool to have the best of both worlds.
     
  15. Mr. S

    Mr. S New Member

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    Mar 18, 2021

    There is so much good advice on this thread.

    The biggest flaw with individual's seeking Ph.D is for higher pay or seeking tenure. I would like to share that you do not need a Ph.D to do research or be published. I learned this too late in my graduate studies. I wish someone would have told me. The cost of the program is quite steep and even with teacher incentives and grants, one can plan to make minimum payments for at least 10 years as long as you remain teaching. Many with Ph.D's leave teaching to seek better pay elsewhere (of course the major of study is a major factor here).

    Best of luck! please take my survey for educators to help complete my research on teacher stress!
     

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