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Switch To Teaching?

Posted April 22, 2008 8:36 AM

The U.K. government has come up with a brilliant idea to encourage more students to take up engineering careers — ask engineers to switch their jobs and start teaching in the classroom! The "Pass on Your Skills" initiative aims to recruit hundreds of engineers who can help to inspire young people through real practical experience of the workplace and bring subjects such as math and science to life. Should engineers get involved in teaching?

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#1

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/22/2008 11:10 PM

Yep. I can just see the American Government (any government) pay an engineer at least $100,000 to teach students.

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#2

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/22/2008 11:49 PM

If the pay is competitive they might.

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#12
In reply to #2

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 9:01 PM

I remember during the late 1970s and early 1980s when Cape Canaveral/Cape Kennedy and Houston NASA had major cutbacks in scientists, they gave any science PhD the opportunity to get an MD degree with a few months medical training, so they wouldnt have to drive taxicabs for a living.
If they want math/science teachers so bad, let them pay for retraining the engineers that they are laying off, and give them a decent salary while they are retraining. Then pay them well. If science and engineering were so darn eassy, those fields wouild have been overcrowded. I dont remember there being a long line of students waiting to enter engineering, school because the studies were intensive. We made many sacrifices for our schooling. Now some lawyer or educator wants to lump education into being the same level. You want it, you work for it.

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#3

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 12:42 AM

The smart, hard working kids are a pleasure to teach (and hopefully inspire), unfortunately they're often a minority. Real teachers working in classrooms with different levels of student do a difficult job, I doubt I could handle it full time (or take the drop in pay).

I occasionally do a bit of maths, physics & chem tutoring and I differ from many teachers, in that, I've actually used the stuff I talk about. The kids certainly pick up enthusiasm for the subjects and appreciate them more when they discover they're "real".

So yes, as a public service, engineers should get involved in teaching.

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#4

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 2:34 AM

As Buzz Aldrin suggests in his novel "Encounter With Tiber" the simple answer is to recruit retired engineers back into work teaching.

Doing this does not have to be particularly expensive since all you need to do is allow them to retain their pensions tax free and only tax their "new"earnings (preferrably at a reduced rate).

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#11
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Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 8:48 PM

Except for altruistic reasons, why would a retired engineer want take the grief for teaching students the skill he spent years learning.
Lets face it, if the pay rate were where it belongs for engineers, the government wouldnt need to motivate the kids to take engineering-they would be fighting off the applicants. Money is a great motivator.

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#5

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 9:16 AM

Funny that this issue popped up. I graduated in Guatemala and have been working for 10 years now. Much of what I have learned over the years I have passed on to workers or engineering students that have needed practice time for them to complete their degree. I would like to teach the few things I´ve picked up over the years, because like many of you guys who have spoken before, I barely had teachers who really worked in industry. How simple it is to calculate things when measurements are given and all is written down for you. What about the way people ask you to do things that you haven´t thought of and you have to explain to these non-technical personnel (usually your boss), that this might do the trick without hurting their feelings? There are other issues also, but I would enjoy to teach young people AFTER retirement, because teaching payment just doesn´t cut it to keep my expenses afloat.

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#6

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 10:02 AM

The thought has crossed my mind. It would be the case of being able to retire from engineering and then use teaching as a way to keep sharp, have the summers off to travel, and get a little money to keep beer in the fridge. Perhaps a way to ease into retirement. But the real thing is to convince the school boards to accept technical personnel without having to spend a year or two in school to get the teaching certificate. We can do without the psycho-babble crap and get down to the task of teaching. I suspect the areas we have the most trouble is with middle schools and high schools in math and sciences. Retired military personnel represent another tremendous pool of experienced and talented people who understand the concepts of objectives, tasks, and standards, and the ability impart knowledge to others.

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#7

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 10:47 AM

I looked at teaching years ago when I wanted to get out of the Army. It would have required about 2 years of full time schooling to get my degree and certificate. And that to take a job with a significant cut in pay. Years later, when working for a defense contractor, I looked at it again. Same situation.

Some states in the US are allowing retired military to teach. Most of them seem to be teaching history or civics though. I think they also have to work towards some sort of certification at the same time.

The key points I see coming out of this discussion are:

1) There is a real need to bring experience into the classroom in order to enhance the learning and curiosity of students.

2) Teachers need to be paid better. (That's probably the #1 reason folks stay out of the field.)

3) In spite of experience, there needs to be some sort of training for retired/former engineers/military/etc. before they enter the classroom. An abbreviated course/series of courses should, be adequate. As part of this a provisional certification part way through the course with final certification upon completion and some experience -- 1 or two semesters and an evaluation.

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#8
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Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 11:00 AM

Agreed on all points. After 11 years in the Army, I got out and went to work for a major defense contractor. Again, until I am financially prepared to retire, teaching just doesn't seem to be feasible. Like you, the two years of school full time to get another degree and certificate is a non-starter. And I have the benefit of teaching for three years although some would say my students were model students. I couldn't disagree because they were cadets at USMA. But none the less, a combination of a probationary period with a modicum of part-time teaching courses should suffice and give the school system a chance to dump the duds before they get 'tenure' and entrenched within the union rules, etc.

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Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 11:08 AM

I neglected to mention one other point: my wife balked at the whole idea. I had wanted to be a teacher for a long time and was excited at the prospect -- in spite of the financial loss (call me idealistic). She was very supportive of me until she found out that she would have to work in order to support us. Then she decided the Army was still a pretty good place and would hear nothing of me becoming a teacher.

I have a new wife now.

Still, it is a shame that there is no incentive for people experienced or qualified in their fields to enter teaching.

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#10

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 11:28 AM

well i doubt i'll wanna make the switch. i enjoyed instructing people at work, but taking on a class is another story. as mentioned above, in an average class not everyone is really all that keen and serious about learning, which isnt the same with people you met at work.

but i still have a long way to go before my retirement so well.

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#13

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/23/2008 10:29 PM

Of course it would be good to get people from the "real" world into teaching. In most subjects it is possible to get advanced degrees by "book learning" and become an "expert" without ever having been employed doing the actual job. There are mechanical engineers who have never worked in a machine shop and have no idea of the limits of the machines. There are teachers of science and chemistry who have never been employed as scientists or chemists.

There is the other problem, those who have worked in a field, but are unable to teach what they know. Teaching is a learned skill too. Take a successful artist who sells his work for thousands of dollars each, yet is unable to draw a barn that looks like a barn, a person that is recognizable as a person. He cannot draw reality, because he deals with abstractions. Abstractions need to be based in reality, as shown by Piet Mondrian and others who could do reality first. The artist cannot teach art because he has no mastery of the basics.

To teach you must know how to communicate what you know effectively to the little mush-heads. How to start simple and work from there. How to handle the little brats and would-be delinquents so their parents won't sue you for every penny you have while the school administrators look away whistling in the hope they can stay out of it. Yet if you are a real teacher you will stick with it, because having even one student say, "Oh, I see it now." is almost reward enough. The other reward is being paid for your expertise.

Ex-professionals who teach in their fields should get the higher pay.

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#14

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/25/2008 4:37 PM

And who said that a brilliant engineer would make a brilliant teacher?

As a matter of fact from my experience the better the engineer is, the worst teacher he will make.

As a retired one I am a shame to admit, but I won't have the patient either...

Wangito.

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#15
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Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/27/2008 2:01 AM

That's why they have to take courses in how to teach. Patience is learned, like any other skill.

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#16

Re: Switch To Teaching?

04/29/2008 6:17 PM

Here in Canada, it is quite common for engineers and those with significant industry experience to "instruct" at the college level.

I personally feel this is how it should be. I think it is too early at the high school level, as opposed to college, where the students have made a commitment (with their tuition money, borrowed or otherwise) to a field and/or direction.

As mentioned earlier, in the case of some high school students, the knowledge an engineer would have to impart would be a case of "pearls before swine".

They would also have to "dummy down" in order to allow the lowest common denominator to keep up, an ever growing prevalence in public school systems. No doubt this would prove to be frustrating.

I do think there would be a value in having engineers and industry specialists as "guest" teachers or lecturers in high school, to lend some some real-world insight into the various possibilities and realities of their respective fields, so that their post-secondary choices are more enlightened and informed.

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#17

Re: Switch To Teaching?

05/01/2008 4:54 PM

There's not enough money out there to pay an engineer to teach. If taxes don't kill you, the students will...

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#18

Re: Switch To Teaching?

05/27/2008 5:04 PM

In Texas they are desperate enough for teachers that you don't need a teaching degree to teach. As long as you have a bachelors degree and are willing to take night classes to learn the administrative BS, you can be teaching in a matter of months. They are especially desperate for math and science teachers, which would be a breeze for most engineers to teach...

The pay still isn't that great though...

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#19

Re: Switch To Teaching?

05/30/2008 10:35 PM

Many years ago I taught the evening machine technology class at the local technical school. I began this partial career as a substitute instructor for my former instructor who had fallen ill and unbeknownst to him or any of us was not long for this world.

My students were apprentices and skilled craftsmen alike who were there either as a requirement of their apprentice programme or to learn special skills for certain types of machining operations. As you all know, elementary engineering mathematics is a considerable part of a four-year course such as that.

That is where I saw young men and older men master the application of trigonometry, geometry, and basic Algebra. These men had no formal mathematics education, and were dismayed by higher mathematics due to their fear of it. When they saw how these calculations worked to render a physical, rather than theoretical result they were much more interested and curious. It was a good thing to see them leave with skills of that they were very proud.

I enjoyed my part-time job at the school, but several years later I decided to no longer be a bachelor and I resigned my position. Would I consider doing that job, or a similar job again? Of course I would, if I had the financial means to allow me to do that. Ah, desire and reality-so often two (2) very different things.

Practical experience and academia are unfortunately two (2) very different worlds most of the time. When I was a youngster I disliked mathematics very much, but matured to enjoy it when I became a toolmaker and later a mechanical engineer.

I think it is a good effort to try to place seasoned real-world (careful here-no disrespect intended) professionals in the classrooms, but as has been repeated here, paying enough money to make it happen is probably the thing that will always prevent this from occuring.

Best Regards,

Ing. Robert Forbus

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#20

Re: Switch To Teaching?

06/02/2008 10:46 AM

The U.K. Government has it right but if they try the U.S. alternative of classroom only math and science and little if any pratical work with machine, chemical, design, research and computerization methods then it will be a strain for all envoulved.

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