Expert Math Tutor
My Story

Why don't you become a teacher?

There is more than one reason I'm not interested in becoming a teacher. The following list of reasons is not exhaustive and is in no particular order.

  1. There's a significant difference between teaching a class and tutoring a student or a small group of students.

    A teacher is required to cover a certain amount of material throughout the semester. They must move forward through the material at a certain pace to make sure all of the required material is covered. The math department will not accept any excuse from the teacher for not covering all the course material. This is why in some math classes towards the end of the semester teachers start moving very quickly through the material. In some cases a teacher will cover an entire chapter or more on the very last day of instruction (the next class meeting is the final exam - inclusive of the material covered in the last class meeting). This can happen for more than one reason. In most cases this happens because the class as a whole was ill-prepared going into the class and was lacking adequate understanding of many of the fundamental principles and concepts required to understand the material being presented in the class. The result is the class repeatedly asking the same question over and over again and not understanding the answer because in order for them to understand the answer the teacher needs to go over material that was taught in classes previous to the current class. Students can not digest all the material of a previous class in a teacher's response to a question. This scenario slows the pace of the class and in the end the teacher is forced to present the remainder of the required material on the last day of class. This is why colleges have math placement tests. Many students, with good intentions, want to start with (place into) Algebra II when they are not prepared. They think prior to starting the class that they will be able to buckle down, try really hard, and pass. It just doesn't work the majority of the time.

    A tutor is almost always contacted by a student who wants help. The tutor answers specific questions the student has. The tutor does not have to figure out how to bring the entire class down the road of understanding at the same time. The tutor works with a single student or a small group of students and can focus specifically on topics where the student or group is having difficulty. The tutor doesn't have the responsibility of covering a certain amount of material in a limited amount of time. The tutor can teach at a pace appropriate to the student's level of understanding and abilities.

  2. Tutoring has almost no bureaucracy.

    You wouldn't think bureaucracy would be too prevalent in a school or college. Or maybe it's just me being naive - I didn't think it would. But bureaucracy is everywhere. You would think the most important thing at a higher education institution would be the quality of instruction - WRONG! The bureaucracy can and does override the importance of the very reason the educational institution exists. I encountered a situation where the instructor did something that was tantamount to saying 2 + 2 = 5. I contacted the instructor through email, the instructor stood his ground and insisted he was correct even when I painstakingly (several email exchanges) demonstrated his error. So the instructor ends up rewarding students for getting the problem incorrect and penalizing students who got the problem correct. I brought it to the attention of another instructor and was told they don't get involved in the grading issues of other instructors. That makes sense. I then brought it the attention of the department chair (through email). I was effectively told I was out of line. I don't know if the issue was ever discussed with the instructor, but I do know the instructor is still there. I have to assume my emails fell on deaf ears and/or were never read for comprehension. If I became an instructor, I'd be entrenched in a bureaucracy that I neither respect nor have any interest in participating with.

  3. I don't satisfy the requirements to teach at a college and I don't want to teach at a high school.

    I only hold a bachelors degree in statistics. Community colleges require a masters degree for math instructors. I could petition, but petitioning requires one to jump through many hoops with an uncertain outcome. That coupled with the bureaucracy as described above is prohibitive to me pushing to become an instructor at a community college.

    I'm not interested in teaching at the high school level. Many students have an adversarial approach to math and math instructors. Math is difficult enough to teach without having to deal with students who are rebellious and disobedient. I'm interested in teaching math. I'm not interested in baby-sitting.
In short, tutoring offers me a flexible schedule, simplicity, and control. I doubt becoming a teacher is in the cards for me. But you never know what the future holds.

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