Having taught in both the college and high school settings, I thought I would share some insight on the major differences. I’ve talked to people who don’t understand the differences between the settings as they have only worked in one or the other.
First, teaching in the college setting is comparable to a loose handshake. Friendly, community-focused (getting to know those around you), collaborative. You exist to build a sense of belonging within the community at large– through research, service work, or excellent teaching.
Colleges provide all the resources you could possibly want or envision to support your goals. If you can justify the expense with data or student need, you will probably receive your request. You may have to wait until next budget year, but you will get what you need to teach, research, serve, etc…
Of course, there are still standards you must meet in the design and teaching of your courses. But the standards are often vague, and how you meet them is up to you (the content expert).
Finally, in the college setting my salary was $52,000 per year (non-tenure track instructor).
High school is having nothing and losing hope quickly. There is a lot of burnout and turnover for teachers. In the high school setting, this national trend makes sense. I am expected to spin gold from straw.
One major lack is in the positive attitude of students and teachers alike. Beginning elementary students are happy and excited to go to school. My nephew would smile when talking about the upcoming school year. By high school, students are burnout or tired. Most don’t want to be here. If they do want to be here, it’s not for the purpose of learning. They want to see their friends, get away from home… always something else. Something happens between their educational start and high school… something not so great.
I lack resources to be a more effective teacher. I have a SmartBoard in my room but can’t use it for lack of a cord (that somehow will cost $1000!?!). Copy paper is kept locked in the head teacher’s room, and I must disrupt her class to ask for it if the copy machine runs out. These barriers become exhaustive to navigate and expensive.
I’ve written about it before, but teachers are expected to meet these costs and they add up. I know there exists better, more efficient ways to meet my teaching goals, but can’t access or afford them.
We are also fighting social trends that actively harm our environment and teaching. Specifically, TikTok trends encourage stealing/vandalism of teacher bought materials (computer gear) or the physical space itself. The bathrooms are constantly being locked and repaired due to TikTok vandalism.
In high school, standards (and teaching to them) are KING. We are given weekly lesson plans to follow; deviation is discouraged. We are not to act as content experts. I could walk into the social studies class and probably still know what I was expected to teach.
Another interesting trend, there is no or very little homework assigned to students, even to Juniors and Seniors. Students are not learning time management, self-management, or study skills as they are not explicitly taught. There is no time given the strict lessons provided to teachers (or testing time).
In the high school setting, my salary is $46,000 per year.