Teaching is a time-honored profession filled with its own list of widely varying pros and cons. Those who embark on the journey that is educating America’s youth trade higher paying, lower stress careers for long summers and the emotional satisfaction of enriching future generations. And certainly every teacher has a favorite subject. Art teachers love art, English teachers love Shakespeare and so forth. Implying any one subject is superior to another would be an opinion game. That is, if the answer wasn’t so empirically Science. Every great conclusion needs data, so here are ten reasons Science is really the only way to go when considering a career in the classroom.
10. Lab coats
Dexter has one. So does Doc Brown. And even if you’re coat rack doesn’t come equipped with keys to a time-travelling Delorean, it’s pretty hard to argue against the advantages that come with wearing a lab coat. Lab coats make you look cool. Very cool. They also boost the wearer’s perceived IQ and competency by a few points. Don’t believe me? Put on a lab coat and pick up a clip board and try walking into ANYPLACE you aren’t supposed to be. Go ahead. Give it a shot. We’ll wait. Barring your arrest for taking us so seriously as to seek out Fort Knox or Area 51, I’m willing to bet you enjoyed at least casual success, not to mention a few worried expressions from people who thought you were there to check up on them. That’ll serve them for goofing off at the office.
In addition, lab coats come with pockets. Loads of them. So if a student needs a pencil, tissue, eraser, paper clip, hall permit, extra living white mouse, you’ve probably got it on you already, which leads into number 9…
9. Animals allowed in class
Historically, the closest pets have ever gotten to the classroom has been when they eat, piddle on or otherwise destroy homework. And we teachers have a nasty habit of not buying that excuse. Really, we are jaded cynics, all of us. Except Science teachers, who wear lab coats, are cool and have snakes. Unless we have hamsters. Or maybe it’s lizards, frogs, beetles, mice, rabbits, termites and let’s not forget Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Actually, we pretty much guarantee you won’t forget the hissing cockroaches.
Fact is, no other subject quite embraces live animals as part of honest-to-God class lessons so much as Science. Sure, maybe you just get to look at them behind glass, but the really good teachers (the ones with a degree of comfortableness wrangling said creatures – yes, I’m tooting my own horn here) will actually let students touch, play with and occasionally experiment on said creatures, barring acts of animal cruelty. And I’d pretty much pit teaching termites to navigate an ink pheromone-filled maze against dissecting Shakespeare’s Macbeth any day. But let’s not lose our heads over this. The real issue is…
Yes, Science teachers get paid a little extra money on top of their regular salaries just to, well, do what they’re already supposed to do. The figure varies from state to state and district to district but can fall the neighborhood of anywhere between an extra $500 to $5000 dollars a year, money that comes in one lump sum paycheck either at the beginning or end of the year. The stipend is meant to encourage educators to teach in high-need areas, Science and Math being two of the most common. Sorry, Art and Drama are not on the list. Ever. Forget about even looking around. There are plenty of people willing to dive into those classes. Which leads to…
7. Core subjects are taken more seriously by parents, students and the administration
Landed that dream job as an art teacher? Good to know that liberal arts degree finally paid off. Classes like Art, Speech, Band, Drama, Home Economics and Wood Shop are known as electives, classes aimed at broadening a student’s creative horizons. Which sounds like a lot of fun and IS a lot of fun. Until you have a handful of students who just aren’t into it (as every teacher does) and decided they’d rather slack off and goof around in your class instead (which every teacher deals with) and then you try to crack the proverbial whip, only to find out that Mom and Dad don’t really care that little Timmy doesn’t want to learn how to draw forced perspective, that Sandra refuses to memorize stage cues and that Andrew, darn him, would much rather beat his wood blocks loudly against the walls (or heads of other classmates) instead of pick up a soldering iron. And that lack of support is frustrating. Extremely frustrating.
Because electives don’t count against a student’s grade the way that core subjects do (Language Arts, Math, and, here it comes, Science!) they aren’t taken as seriously. And that becomes a big issue when discipline is on the line. In short, you’re far more likely to get help and results when a disruptive or struggling student knows he or she could get held back a year, a danger that only looms in core subjects. To add insult to injury, electives tend to be “dumping grounds” for extra students with class sizes ballooning faster than in core subjects. Don’t think that’s true? Ask any school how many Science teachers they have on staff to teach any one grade level. Now ask how many Art teachers instruct that same grade. Not as many, right? That’s because state funding, which is often tied to student progress in core subjects, turns a blind eye to electives. Which makes it that much easier for administrators to ignore them as well. And if the parents and the admin don’t give a damn, then, well… you can figure out the rest. Which leads to the next sobering thought…
6. Job security
There’s a reason Science and Math gets the stipends – both are considered high-need areas: ergo, areas that don’t draw a lot of prospective employees. And didn’t I mention core subjects get more teachers and smaller class sizes? More teachers required add up to more available jobs which equals better chances of actually keeping said job. Ain’t math grand? Almost as grand as Science and it’s seemingly never-ending supply of…
Can’t have a lab coat and a lab classroom without actually labs, right? Think hot plates, explosive oxidizing agents, and Erlenmeyer flasks. Chemistry not floating your boat? Try Physics and substitute in gears, pulleys, Rube Goldberg devices and the occasional paper airplane. Yes, Physics may be the only subject in which you could potentially make an F on an assignment for not making the best paper airplane. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Or perhaps you’d prefer Biology (see #9) or Earth Science (skip ahead to #3). The possibilities for great and awe-inspiring labs are not contained to just one branch of Science. If you’re like me and you teach at the intermediate level, you get to dabble in all of the above, which is pretty darn Bill Nye-esque amazing.
4. Access to Science storerooms
You might be able to make an argument against teaching Science by pointing out how much space is required to store all those gears, pulleys, explosive agents and hissing cockroaches (see — you didn’t forget about them) except that Science teachers have access to particular areas known as Science storerooms. Science storerooms have sinks, electrical outlets, refrigerators (yes, we sometimes store our lunches in these private fridges – O.K. – we ALWAYS do) the occasional microwave oven and LOTS of shelves and cabinets. You can put whatever you like in these shelves and cabinets so long as it’s stored properly. And if you want to put a few personal items that don’t have scientific relevance in there (see Microwave Oven) then nobody really minds. Probably no one is even checking. Is that abuse of power? I’ll get back to you once my frozen Panini is done.
3. Excuse to go outdoors
Outdoor classes aren’t the norm. That’s because they invite liability. And in an age of attorneys and budget constraints liability is a serious issue. Which means that when you say you want to teach your class outside today because the weather is particularly nice administrators will most likely tell you no.
Unless you’re a Science teacher. Because how can you be expected to teach a unit on Earth Science without kids digging up earthworms? And it turns out that Physics lesson on potential and kinetic energy just won’t sink in without a few labs involving the track outside. And that chemistry experiment involving rapid oxidation (blowing stuff up) could excite the asthmatics in your class unless it’s performed outdoors. And we don’t want an asthmatic episode. Remember those attorneys? Damn attorneys!
2. Messes encouraged
Maybe this should go with the labs. Or maybe not. I mean, when you think about it, you don’t have to have messy labs. Certainly your average principal would frown on spills or funny odors coming out of Algebra. But in Science spills and funny odors are kind of the order of the day. And if little Timmy comes home with an iodine stain on his trousers, it’s just because he was learning how to test starch levels. You see what a genius little Timmy is? Mom and Dad should be proud of that trouser stain. Which sort of goes right into…
1. People think you’re smart
Ever seen those bumper stickers obnoxious types sometimes put on their cars which say “Why yes, in fact, I AM a rocket scientist!” There’s something about the mystique of Science. Maybe it’s because Science represents the great unknown and anyone learned enough to actually teach it must have a leg up on everybody else. It’s complete nonsense of course. All the balanced equations in the world won’t add up to a nicely balanced checkbook, which accountants would argue is a greater sign of intellect and forward-thinking. But that doesn’t change the reaction I get (and doubtless a lot of Science instructors get) when I say what I do for a living. “Oh, I don’t think I could be smart enough to do that!” Really? Let’s check my bucket list… day just made… check… very good. Next I need to unravel the mysteries of cold fusion. And go grocery shopping.
Author: Dina Havranek