So you want to be a Shop Teacher part 2: Pros and Cons

Before we get into the Pros and Cons, I feel like I need to tell you a little bit about myself.  I taught Construction Technology and Production Systems in Prince William County Virginia for 13 years.  I would tell students we don’t have woodshop, but these courses are the modern equivalent.  Two years ago I moved in to Administration.  I supervise the CTE programs and Governor’s STEM Academy at Osbourn High School in Manassas.  Now I recruit and hire teachers to teach in many different areas including shop.  Additionally I have guided several individuals through the career switcher process in Virginia.

Every job has pros and cons, if these pros really speak to you, maybe you should be a teacher.  Also to be objective and accurate I received input from several colleagues in different school systems that would consider themselves shop teachers.  These pros and cons are not just my own.

  1. Pro: You get a full shop with expensive tools at your disposal.  Con: Care, maintenance and repair is your responsibility.  Repair and maintenance varies on location, I would rather fix a band saw than grade English essays. However getting the kids to keep things clean and respect tools that is 100% on you.  
  2. Pro: You get paid to be a shop teacher. Con: The pay could be better.  You need to be selective about where you teach, compensation, location, benefits, factor it all in.  I personally think that many localities compensate teachers well, I said many not all. 
  3. Pro: You get summers off and paid vacation. Con: see number 2.
  4. Pro: It is a steady pay check and a secure job.  Con: see number 2.
  5. Pro: You get to work with kids. Con: You get to work with teenagers. Working with teenagers is great, as a teacher need to understand your pupils.  I have had awesome students that I trust with my children and I have been called every vulgar name in the book.  
  6. Pro: You get to help young people learn.  Con: You get young people to help learn discipline.  Classroom management is part of the job, if you haven’t been a teacher you will have alot to learn.  Best concise advice I have leave your ego at the door-don’t take it personally when a kid doesn’t follow your rules and/or lashes out at you.  Nine times out of ten its not you, there is something happening in that kid’s life that is making them behave that way.  The good news is that you will be the most popular person at social events, everyone will want to hear stories about your classroom.  
  7. Pro: You get to use tools all day everyday.  Con: Students use tools all day everyday too.  Teaching and maintaining safety is the most important part of the job.  I knew I had taught safety well when I did not feel nervous when students about any student using tools.  This job isn’t for everyone, if you can’t be comfortable with a trained student using a saw find employment elsewhere.  
  8. Pro: I don’t need to wear a tie.  Con: Shirts come in one color-plaid, anything else is a blouse.
  9. Pro: You get a budget for material and tools. Cons: It is your budget to manage and it needs to last the whole year.  This is planning and management, spend on one item or project pinch pennies on another.  You need to learn what Perkin’s Funds are and you want to teach in a location where you get say on how Perkin’s Funds are spent.  
  10. Pro: You get to choose the projects.  Con: Good projects require good curriculum.  You can choose the project or activity the students complete in class.  You need to develop good plans, notes, and instruction so its a learning experience for students.  
  11. Pro: You get to choose the projects.  Con: You better make sure they align with division goals or standards for CTE.  Just because you get the job doesn’t mean you can turn the class into Mr. Sawdust’s school of Queen Anne furniture.  
  12. Con: As technology progresses you may be antiquated.  Pro: As technology progresses you can be on the cutting edge. When I was in school I cut things out on the bandsaw.  In this day and age you need to have students using technology-you better have students cutting things out on a CNC mill.  
  13. Pro: You will be the shop class guy.  Con: You will be the shop class guy.  Being the shop class guy is great, but teachers will ask you to fix things and say things like “Sawdust is man glitter.”  You will want to vomit.  
  14. Pro: You get to build your own stuff.  There is no Con for to building your own projects, you just need to carve out time to do this.  I cut all my kitchen cabinets on my school’s CNC router, but I did it over several Saturdays.  
  15. Pro: You get autonomy. Con: Autonomy requires more planning.  CTE or shop teachers have more voice and choice in curriculum than anyone else except for maybe art.  This autonomy requires more planning.    
  16. Pro: No SOL tests. Con: See number 15.
  17. Pro: You get to work with other shop teachers.  Con: You get to work with other shop teachers.  My best friends are shop teachers we drink beer and go fishing.  We also dump 5 gallon buckets of sawdust into each other’s trucks when the windows are left open.  
  18. Pro: You might be the only shop teacher. Con: You are the only shop teacher.  Being a singleton in a school has benefits but it can be tough.  
  19. Pro: You will get to be a valuable part of a school community.  Con: You need to demonstrate your value to the community.  You want people to know why your class is valuable-building projects for the school or community, forging relationships with employers, placing students in the workplace and most importantly getting some type of press or recognition for your efforts.  You will not be able to hide out in your shop class all day.  
  20. Pro: Everyday you see the fruits of your labor through project progress and completion.
  21. Pro: The shop is yours. Cons: Getting it the way you want will take a lot of work.

There are many other small benefits that add up, it might be the day new machines get delivered or when a supporter donates lumber.  Teaching shop is an excellent job for the right type of individual.  Finding CTE or shop teachers is very difficult, if I can convince one person to pursue teaching-mission accomplished.

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