Teaching in Private or Independent Schools
There are four main reasons why people choose to teach in a private school over a public school:
Because private schools are independent, they're not at the mercy of a giant school district. In a public school the chain of command is Teacher, Department Chair, Assistant Principal, Principal, District Superintendent, School Board, and Superintendent. There are even more people in the chain when you consider the fact that each of these upper level managers has a secretary that you have to go through to reach them. If things go sour, you may have to get the teacher's union involved to make sure you are represented.
In a private school, you can walk into your principal's office and know that he or she has the final word in decisions that affect the school. It's a one-stop shop for everything you want to know.
- Small Classes
Private schools strive to keep class sizes small - between 10-15 students. Parochial schools may have larger classes. Public school classes average from 22-30 students with some teachers having to squeeze as many as 38 students in a classroom. With classes this size, your main job becomes classroom management, not teaching. Public schools are forced by the government to shrink their class sizes while private schools understand that small class sizes are necessary to ensure quality student/teacher interaction.
- Small Schools
Private schools are generally smaller than their public counterparts. Even the largest private schools are about half the size of public schools. Private schools strive to build community and know that a smaller-sized school is the best way to get to know each of their students and help them succeed.
- Teaching Conditions
Public school teachers are held to the state mandated curriculum for their subject. It tells them what to teach, when to teach it, and in some districts, how to teach it. In many districts, a certain textbook is the only textbook you can use to teach your subject. Adopting a new textbook involves going through all the management structure, which will take no less than one school year.
Private schools recognize that teachers are professionals and will teach their subject in a way that is both engaging and exciting for their students. They know that teachers will teach what matters, so they step back and let teachers do their jobs. You choose your textbook, you choose the things you want to teach, you choose the way in which you want to teach them. You have the freedom and flexibility to meet your students' needs the way you see fit.
- The Downside
There is a downside to teaching in private schools. The salary is generally lower than public schools. Because of the small number of staff members, health insurance benefits may not be as good as public schools. You may have to deal with students with entitlement complexes and parents who think their child can do no wrong. (You'll get those in public school, too, depending on the neighborhood in which you teach.)
In the End
In the end, this is your decision. When choosing between a job in a public school and one in a private school, weigh out what is important to you in your career. Do you want a higher paycheck for more structure and less freedom? Would you prefer a smaller environment where you're able to actually teach, but receive a smaller paycheck?
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