Real Work, Real Life

Teacher, Middle and High School

July 10, 2024 Emily Sampson Episode 58
Teacher, Middle and High School
Real Work, Real Life
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Real Work, Real Life
Teacher, Middle and High School
Jul 10, 2024 Episode 58
Emily Sampson

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On this week's episode of Real Work, Real Life, I’m talking with Meagan Tehseldar, a high school English Language Arts teacher. When I first envisioned this podcast, teacher was definitely a career that was high on my list, and Meagan was the perfect guest for this because she’s had experience across different states, public, private, and charter, and now is teaching virtually, so if you’re curious about what life as a teacher might be like, we get into so many different paths you could take. I also appreciated how candid Meagan was about the challenges in this career right now, like some of the other fields I’ve covered, teaching as a profession is in a  tough spot right now. If you’re considering going into education, you’ll be in incredibly high demand, but that’s partly because it’s so hard to find enough people that want to fill the roles, which is definitely something to consider as you consider your own ability to cope with the specific challenges in this field. On the other hand, it’s a chance to positively impact your community in a way that few other fields offer.

To learn more about Meagan, follow her Instagram:@loveoverlabelsadvocacy

If you like the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify  (linked below) and please share with a friend! You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Tiktok. And if you’d like to be interviewed here, or there is a particular job you’d like to learn about, please reach out at



Transcripts are now available here:

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

On this week's episode of Real Work, Real Life, I’m talking with Meagan Tehseldar, a high school English Language Arts teacher. When I first envisioned this podcast, teacher was definitely a career that was high on my list, and Meagan was the perfect guest for this because she’s had experience across different states, public, private, and charter, and now is teaching virtually, so if you’re curious about what life as a teacher might be like, we get into so many different paths you could take. I also appreciated how candid Meagan was about the challenges in this career right now, like some of the other fields I’ve covered, teaching as a profession is in a  tough spot right now. If you’re considering going into education, you’ll be in incredibly high demand, but that’s partly because it’s so hard to find enough people that want to fill the roles, which is definitely something to consider as you consider your own ability to cope with the specific challenges in this field. On the other hand, it’s a chance to positively impact your community in a way that few other fields offer.

To learn more about Meagan, follow her Instagram:@loveoverlabelsadvocacy

If you like the show, please rate and review on iTunes and Spotify  (linked below) and please share with a friend! You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Tiktok. And if you’d like to be interviewed here, or there is a particular job you’d like to learn about, please reach out at



Transcripts are now available here:

Meagan Teacher

[00:00:00] Welcome to real work, real life, where I talk to real people about what they do for work and what that means for their lives. Today, I'm talking with Megan TESL, Dar a high school English language arts teacher. When I first envisioned doing this podcast, I really wanted to talk to a teacher. And Megan was the perfect guest for this because she's had experience across different states. Across public schools, private schools and charter schools, and is now teaching virtually. So, if you're curious about what life as a teacher might be like, we get into so many different paths that you could take. I also appreciate how candid Megan was about the challenges in this career right now. Like some of the other fields I've covered, you'll be an incredibly high demand, but that's partly because it's so hard to find people that want to fill the roles. Which is definitely something to think about as you consider your own ability to cope with the specific challenges in this field. On the other hand, it's a chance to positively impact your community in a way that few other fields offer. I really [00:01:00] enjoyed this discussion and I hope you will too. 

So let's get into it. 

Emily: Thank you so much for being here, Megan.

Meagan: Of course, I'm so excited. Thank you so much for having me.

Emily: So what do you do for work?

Meagan: So I actually do a couple of different things, but my main title is teacher. And then I'm also a full time mom and an advocate, but yeah, most of my, my job that I get paid for is teaching.

Emily: That's great. So tell me a little bit more about it. What sort of ages are you teaching? What sort of classroom setting are you in? Things like that.

Meagan: Yeah, so I have been teaching for about 10 years. I've always taught ELA, high school I usually teach 11th grade, but I just actually switched to virtual teaching. So I teach from home which is amazing. And then I teach 8th grade ELA. So this is my first year ever teaching 8th grade. But that's what I'm currently doing is eighth grade ELA.

Emily: Wow. Okay. So is most of your history, are these public schools, private schools?

Meagan: I've kind of bounced around. So I started in public [00:02:00] schools working in like predominantly lower socioeconomic areas and more like with at risk students. And then I switched over to working at a charter. And then when I moved to Texas, I actually went and I worked on state level teams, writing curriculum, and then I worked for HISD as a teacher development specialist, and now I'm back in the classroom.

So I've kind of been through the whole thing, charters, private, public, the works.

Emily: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Okay. So what interested you about it initially? How did you get into this line of work?

Meagan: I don't think I really had an option. my great grandparents all the way through me have all been teachers. So, my great grandpa actually has a school named after him in Los Angeles. He was one of the pioneers of the special education world and really like making education accessible for everyone.

And so I just kind of always knew the day I turned 18 I started working at the YMCA as an after school teacher and I've, [00:03:00] I've been in it ever since. So officially I've been in the teaching world for about 10 years, but unofficially since I was 18.

Emily: Wow. Oh, that's, that's so cool to have that kind of family legacy, family background. Can you talk a little bit about what education did you pursue after high school? What certifications have you found have been required to continue in this line of work? Kind of anything else in that vein?

Meagan: Yeah, so if somebody was looking to get into education, it's really important to look at what your specific state requires. So I actually got my credential in California. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in literature, and then I ended up getting a master's degree in digital teaching and online learning, which, you worked out perfectly because now I teach virtually.

Um, But the master's degree is not a requirement. And then I did get an English credential which was about like a year long process, but in California they have some of the strictest Like expectations for teachers. And so because I got my credential in California, I can [00:04:00] take it anywhere in the United States, essentially, and teach where, like Texas, where I am now, there's different types of programs, like alternative certification, where you learn on the job and things like that.

So it really is going to change based on where you live and what age level too, because elementary school has different credentialing standards than high school. So you have to know what you're going into, and then you can kind of make your roadmap from there.

Emily: Oh, that's interesting. so let's say for example, you knew you wanted to be a public school teacher in a particular state and you started a bachelor's degree to do that. At what point would you need to decide, you know, I want to go to elementary or I need to go high school and what would it look like to ever make a shift between the two if you wanted to?

Meagan: Yeah, so, again, it's crazy because, like, I, I kind of feel like there should be like nationwide standards for educators, seems reasonable, but okay. Yeah.[00:05:00] 

So it is going to differ like that process. So in California, if you know, like I knew I wanted to teach high school English. So I had to go into the program and sign up to be a high school English teacher.

And so my classes were very specific to that role, where in Texas, my husband is actually a teacher, but he got his credential in Texas. It's the same program for everyone. Through the alternative certification program, which is what he's doing. And so he really can do anything.

All he has to do is pass a test. So, like, he's currently an English teacher, but if he wanted to wake up tomorrow and teach math, he could just take the math test. And if he passed it, then he could teach math. become a math teacher. And then I know in like some states, like in Florida, you like if you're married to somebody who's in the military, you are able to teach just with that.

I believe it's just a bachelor's degree and then married to somebody in the military and that's your teaching qualification. So it's really going to differ based on where you [00:06:00] live.

Emily: Wow. And I, I think, I guess, to be fair, I think that's to address nationwide teacher shortages, correct? That there's such a high demand for teachers and, and presumably, you know, so many challenges with teachers leaving the profession that they're, that's the choice they made. But yeah, it does, it does feel like nationwide certifications would be wise, but

Meagan: Yeah, without getting too political, I definitely agree. Um, The, the standards for teaching, I do think differ based on how many people are going into the field. But there are, I know, like we talked about talking about salary and stuff. So I'm totally transparent on that if you ever have questions about it.

But yeah, so I think that also has to do with it, too, because a lot of the states that have lower expectations for their teachers they also have lower pay scales. So

Emily: Oh, that's so odd. It's almost like there's a correlation between how many people want to enter the field and how much it's paid.

Meagan: I'm so glad that I'm not on camera right now because I [00:07:00] feel I feel like my face would just show all of my feelings, but yes, But yes. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's fair. So could you talk a little bit about how someone might look at those options of, public school, private school, charter school, or even if it's easier just to do public versus private, what might lead someone in one path or the other?

Emily: Are there kind of particular pros and cons of each one that you have experienced that might, someone might consider if they were thinking about those two paths?

Meagan: Yeah so charters in private school they from my experience they tend to operate very similarly in that they well, it depends on a charter organization and who it's under because charters can operate under public school districts and then they're more held by public school like rules, but you can also have charter schools that operate more like private schools with different, like entrance.

Requirements and things, so I'll kind of lump charters and private [00:08:00] together so public school I think is It's a great place to teach. It's also depending on your state much more stable because there is such a high turnover of teachers So if you're looking for like a stable job, you know, you want to stay in it forever I would say that public schools are usually the way to go, but the downside of public schools is that you're also kind of at the whim of whatever your local and state government are, so there's a lot of changes.

 Budget is a lot of the time. A huge factor that whenever I've worked with charters and private schools, I haven't noticed it as much where public school funding was something that constantly was on the forefront. So in a public school, you're going to have more stability you actually get paid better in a public school most of the time as well People would think that you get paid better in a private or a charter But really public school they do pay a little bit better from what i've seen Because they're very [00:09:00] transparent with their pay scales 

Emily: they're often unionized, correct, well, at least I know in our state, teachers are typically unionized,

Meagan: So in California, we were unionized the entire state, all public schools had one cohesive union in Texas. They are a right to work state. So they are very much against unions. So you do have some unions, but it is way less protection. And it's multiple unions within the same state. So you. Kind of pick and choose and then they lose some of that bargaining power because they're not one big cohesive unit which again kind of comes down to the state the vibes of the state so So when you're in a public school, you're just going to be more at the mercy of public school funding Where private and charter you're really?

Like it's going to differ based on what kind of private and charter school you're at. So I worked with one charter You Organization, and we're one of the largest charters in the nation. And so I was [00:10:00] shocked going into our schools, how much more access they had to resources. So the teachers, every teacher was given a full library, like a full library for their classroom, there was a lot more freedom.

But they also got paid less and then their pay scale was much more dependent on like test scores so you could make this amount of money if your students scored this. And so I found that there was a yeah. And so they call it like incentives. But for me, what it really. Incentivize teachers to do was focus more on teaching to the test.

And so you lose. Yeah, you lose a lot of that creativity. And charters and privates tend to run more like a business. So the directives that are sent down are much more. strict and you, because you're graded on like such a concrete output of things like standardized testing, it's a little bit harder to maintain the job if, you know, your [00:11:00] students aren't performing at expected levels, which honestly none of the students are these days.

So it's a lot more difficult to kind of maintain the prestige of the role in a private or a charter.

Emily: Interesting. No, that, that was super helpful. I, was just thinking of two other things that I, I feel like I've heard over the, Years about the difference between the two, and maybe you can confirm, is it true that, or, my understanding is that in many public schools, at least in our state, you have to have a certification.

But in private schools you often don't necessarily, like, I feel like I knew people who graduated with a bachelor of Arts in something and got a job teaching at a private school right away out of college. Would you say that's accurate? Yeah.

Meagan: right on that and I can't speak for all states, just in case there's like a random one out there that has different rules, but I do believe the majority of the states to be a public educator, there is certain [00:12:00] requirements. You have to have a bachelor's degree, you have to have a credential How that looks to get that credential is going to differ by state, but you have to have that certification, or you have to be in the process of it.

So there is a way to get like a one year emergency credential, but that still says that within the year, you'll have finalized your project or your credential program where charters and, you know, Private schools. They do not have to have teachers that have credentials. They, they try. they want to make sure that they maintain that competitive edge.

But but it's not a requirement. So you could have a teacher that has no certification in the subject that they're teaching.

Emily: Yeah. Okay. And I want to get into pay next, but this is kind of an adjacent question, which is around benefits, which is it. I think in our state teachers like healthcare is really good in terms of they're not paying very much out of pocket for healthcare. And also they're working toward a state pension.

Is that, do you find that that's true in other [00:13:00] states and what does that look like for private school teachers? Teachers are kind of the benefits typically pretty good or is it a little bit more like you might find in a private company kind of a situation.

Meagan: Yeah, so when I've worked with because the company I work with currently I think they are technically a charter because we're under the umbrella of like an organization, but we also work with the local school district. And my insurance. This is not great. Um, But I think that has less to do with the school that you're at and more with the union.

So, California, we had much cheaper out of pocket pay just because we were so heavily unionized. Where in Texas, I've been four different school districts with Texas. Two charters and three publics and every single one of them has been Like i'll give you an example currently right now.

I pay 900 bi weekly for my insurance which to me [00:14:00] is insane. 

Yeah, and so 

I do have a daughter on the autism spectrum, so I pay a little bit more, but I mean, it's not that much, like it's not that big of a difference. So on average, I would say since I've moved to Texas, I've paid between 700 and 900 bi weekly for insurance, and the insurance is much worse than the insurance we had in California.

So I think really it's just going to depend on. Like the strength of the union and also how large if you're working with a private or a charter how large that corporation is because I've also worked as a virtual teacher in a different capacity, and that was the best insurance I've ever had they were based out of Arizona, but because it was such a large corporation, it was easier to get cheap insurance because they had so many people.

So it's going to be different. But if you're going into the field of education, 100 percent that's something you have to look at is like, what are your maximum out of pockets? What [00:15:00] are you going to be paying per check? Is it bi weekly? Is it monthly? All of those things a lot of people getting their first job they don't realize and it's super important to figure that out because you are going to need your insurance at some point.

Emily: yeah, I mean, a benefits package when you factor in retirement and health care and all those things can be the difference of 10, 20, 30, 000 a year. And if like effective salary, which I think is true of kind of any, any job. But one thing that is really sticking out to me is how different the experience will be.

You know, if you're thinking about becoming a teacher, your lived experience will be so different based on the state you're in, the district within the state, public charter, private, all of those things. So I guess that's kind of, if people are considering this, probably talking to somebody working at working as close to what you want to be doing is.

Is a value because it can vary so much by area and type of school. Wow.

Meagan: Yeah, and a lot of the, a lot of the programs [00:16:00] actually they require teachers to go into the schools and like do observation hours. So that's a really great time to kind of like sneak in some of those questions. Like, how do you actually like where you're working? How do, what do your days look like?

Things like that, because On top of all the other factors, there's also so much dependent on your administration. So, I mean, you're, it literally, the experience of a teacher differs from site to site. It's, and, honestly, team to team, because even as a, like, a ninth grade teacher, I'm going to have a completely different team lead than a tenth grade teacher.

So, it, there's really no one shared experience in education, other than that it's, you know, amazing and difficult. 

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Okay. Oh, we've covered so much already. I, I just have only have more questions, but this is really helpful. So can we talk a little bit about compensation? I mean, again, I know this is going to vary a lot, but I would love to just hear whatever [00:17:00] you're sort of willing to share 

Meagan: Yeah. So I have had such a wide range in pay from my different jobs because I have worked from a site level all the way up to a state level. But definitely again, those union schools, like I was getting paid significantly more. So when I was in California Before I left, I was making 85, 000 and that was as a third year teacher, which for me, I, I mean, and that was about 10 years ago, so that was really good and then moving to Texas, I did take a pay cut, and you do have to take into account cost of living and everything, but in Texas, because there isn't that strong union, or in, in a lot of other states that don't have strong unions, they not only get paid less, but the, they The yearly increase is much less as well.

So in California, I was seeing about a 1, 000 increase every year on my paycheck, or on my, on my pay scale, because we would renegotiate [00:18:00] contracts every year, where without that union in Texas, scaling that I've seen across districts, most of them go like starting pay might be like around 50. And then you would cap out at like 85.

when you retire, that's the most you could make is 85. And those yearly steps are closer to like a 500 increase. And there's some ways to get increases in public schools like higher education. It depends again. Sorry, there's like 

No, real concrete answers. 

But so in those more unionized schools and those more unionized districts, they do pay more for teachers to have more education, where from what I've seen in the multiple school districts I've worked with.

in Texas. My master's degree has gotten me a thousand dollar extra bonus a year as opposed to in California. I think I jumped the scale and I think my first year that I switched from a bachelor's to a master's I ended up getting about a [00:19:00] ten thousand dollar pay increase that year. 

So, yeah, 

Emily: That feels more what it should be probably, but I mean, a master's degree also often costs a lot both in time and money, so you have to, yeah, interesting,

Meagan: Yeah, and so, like, in the unionized schools or schools that do steps based on education, they tend to have, like, if you're looking at a chart, like, let's say an Excel spreadsheet, a Texas school is going to be, like, year one, this is your pay, year two, this is your pay, year three, this is your pay.

We're at California school, it would look like year one, this is your pay. But if you're year one with a bachelor's plus 30 bachelors plus 45, so you can go down and over where a Texas school, like you're just going down and you're just getting that 500 bump every year.

Emily: yeah, that kind of just the availability of open pay scales like that, like I know a lot of government jobs have that and there's other roles where that, or fields where that exists. There is something. I imagine it has some real downsides, but [00:20:00] there's also something a little appealing to me about that, that it's like, no one is going to negotiate better, no one is going to somehow get some like better deal than you have it just is what it is.

And everybody knows what everybody else has. but I could also see on the other hand. Perhaps that could be a little demotivating that doing better doesn't necessarily get you more. It certainly, you know, might have you more likely to keep that job and all of those things as well too.

But I could see how that could sort of go both ways.

Meagan: Yeah, it does give you at least like when you're looking for jobs, it does help because you can kind of figure out like how much will I actually be making ahead of time because when I went over into more like private sector and I worked at the charters it was very much like, Oh, like we don't know exactly what it'll be.

And I was like, but how do I know if I'm going to survive or not? So it is nice to just be like, how much am I going to make? And looking at this chart, that's very well laid out. I do personally, I like that transparency. I want to know, I want [00:21:00] to know what everyone's making. I'm nosy.

Emily: Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about like your average day hours, work life balance, that sort of thing. Can you talk a little bit about like, what do hours look like for you typically? And are you actually able to take a summer vacation off? Or are most teachers really working all of their summertime?

Stuff like that.

Meagan: Yeah, I think like for me, currently I'm teaching virtually. So my day is going to look very different than a teacher that's in, like, a brick and mortar school. So as a virtual teacher, what my day looks like is, I wake up I get my daughter ready for school. I drop her off at school. I come home. Our first class doesn't start till like 8:45 AM so I'm supposed to log in at eight, but I just kinda like pop in on teams, which if anyone's listening that works at my company, they said it was fine.

Um, Yeah, so I kind of pop into teams at eight, make sure there's nothing happening. I start my first class at 845. I teach virtually I [00:22:00] do for 45 minute class sessions. And then I do like small group instruction for students who did not pass the star test, which is our standardized test in Texas.

And I'm done teaching. By 1230 every day. And so the second half of my day is really for like administrative tasks, reaching out to students. We have like specific metrics we need to make with how many calls we make per month and everything. So the second half of my day is more administrative, but it's great because I have my two offices, my one office is more like a real office, and then my second office is this old chair um, that I'm sitting in right now that's in front of my TV in my bedroom, and I get to just kind of fire off emails and watch Love Island, so it is, it is a much cushier job than it was when I was in the classroom in Frick and Mortar, but I also took a significant pay cut to do this, so for me it's really a trade off, and I felt like [00:23:00] that work life balance was worth it, but not everyone may have that privilege, so it's you're definitely gonna have a much more difficult day in the classroom, but you're gonna get paid more as well, so it is a trade off.

Emily: Yeah, yeah. Oh, my gosh. So thinking about let's, let's talk a little bit about classroom teaching. When you were a classroom teacher, did you generally feel like you had a, a good work life balance or was it really challenging to maintain that?

Meagan: I think it was, it was challenging to maintain that, and I see it in my husband too, since he's working currently in brick and mortar. I was always really great at leaving work at work, but I mean, it's almost like, Being a performer so you're truly on like if you think about like when you are doing an interview or like when you're trying to and I think it's really important to like, be interesting.

Maybe you meet someone new for the first time. Imagine like that feeling, but for eight hours a day. So, you're literally just on all day long. So you come home and it's [00:24:00] so, there's a lot of sensory overload. It's just tiring. Physically, you're walking around the classroom all day but really, I think that that work life balance, it's like, in theory, it's there because you have that time.

You're home by like 3. 30, 4 o'clock every day but physically and emotionally and mentally, it's very straining and especially teachers, we get very connected to our students and to our classrooms and It's, it's a large part of our life. So for me, it's like, I might be mad about an email I received from a parent for hours, and then like, it'll be midnight, and I'll still be like, I can't believe so and so's mom isn't doing this.

And so I think it weighs a lot heavier on teachers because you do have such a personal connection with Essentially your client if you want to look at it in more like technical terms, you're very invested in their individual growth and then you also have about 250 students every year. So, I [00:25:00] mean, some schools might have less but on average I would say you have between 200 and 250 students every year.

That's 200. Yeah, so that's, you know, 200 to 250 people you're coming into contact with every single day and that you're having to keep mental track of, you're trying to make decisions, you'll have 35 kids in one class, half of them need special accommodations, you know, and so there's so many moving parts, like, I think that work life balance doesn't really exist for teachers because when you get home, your brain is just done, it's done making decisions and it's, you know, It's hard to move past that, that work time.

Emily: Yeah. Wow. That, this is going to get pretty tactical, but just to think about it a little bit, you know, teachers, if they're working on a typical school calendar, they're going to have, you know, allegedly the days off that are school holidays and then the summer off. Do you have more like [00:26:00] vacation time than that?

Or is it really just, if you are ill and you cannot come, you don't have to go that day? I

Meagan: So we get like 10 days, just, I think like that's like the, the norm in corporate. You get like, corporate America, you get your, your 10 days. I think it translates to like 5 days of sick time, 5 days of personal. And then anything over that they dock your, your entire paycheck for the day. So you really have to be strategic with it.

Because you do still get those like Thanksgiving breaks and stuff like that. But it is hard because To when you're like a regular job, you might just have to like check in, you might have like a task that you need to get done. But for a teacher, like you have to create lesson plans, you have to make sure everything's in place.

If you had an emergency and you weren't planning to be out, you're having to be in contact with administration or other teachers so they can make sure that your class has what they need. So there's a lot of Stress and then usually the [00:27:00] kids too will tend to email you all day. Like if you're not there, they will email you and they'll be like, Hey, Ms.

T, like I didn't understand the assignment or my computer kicked me out. And I'm like,

Emily: Oh my gosh, this is so, I, I only have elementary school kids and I graduated from high school long enough ago that I never would have dreamed of emailing a teacher. Like, this is such a fascinating change to 

Meagan: yeah. 

And a lot of the schools now do push that teachers have multiple modes of communication. So like Remind is an app that our, my schools have always pushed. But it's a two way communication. So like I will get text messages from students at midnight. I just got one two days ago. Grades were already submitted and a kid texted me at midnight saying, Urgent in all caps.

How can I get an A in this class? And I was like, bud, it's midnight. Like The grades were submitted two days ago. Yeah, so there is [00:28:00] definitely a breakdown in like being able to leave work at work because we have our phones on us which are connected to our email and those emails are blowing up 24 7 with kids, parents, admin, like, so it is hard to just kind of like walk away and ignore it.

Emily: Yeah. Wow. Okay. This is interesting. I often ask people about like prospects in this field if there's a lot of demand, but I don't need to ask you that. Cause I know the answer that it's incredibly in demand, but is there any are there any kind of caveats to that? Like, are there any sort of particular fields in teaching that aren't as in demand or their fields that are extremely in demand more than the average anything to add there?

Meagan: Yeah, so just like that. Typical, I think, the way our world is trending, STEM is super high demand. Sometimes you can actually get stipends for teaching STEM, so science, technology, engineering, and math. And then some, I would say those are your big ones, is more science and math. Math, [00:29:00] actually, particularly, and then special education is a guaranteed job.

Which is kind of unfortunate as someone with a special needs daughter. It is tough to know that basically they'll take anyone in that field at this point because so many people don't want to go into it. And so there is a little bit of a lack of trust on a parent side with know if it's the math teachers or special education teachers, but I mean, it's a solid job. Like you will get that job. They will never fire you unless you're like the worst person ever. But I would say science, math and sped like those three are essentially guaranteed English, they'll always need English teachers, but there's a lot of English teachers, and then any of the like arts electives, those tend to go by the wayside.

And they're also the first to get cut when there's budget cuts. So, yeah. It's definitely more stable to go in with core subjects.

Emily: Yeah, okay, that is, that makes sense. Helpful to know, also a little depressing, but yeah, I hear that.

Meagan: I know, I feel like I'm kind of turning people off from teaching, like,[00:30:00] 

it is an amazing profession. Yes. It's going through a tough time right now.

Emily: Well, well, let's get into that. Let's talk about the positives a little bit. You know, what are some things that you love about your job? 

Meagan: My favorite part is Exposing children to content or ideas that they might not have gotten outside of school. So I know like, It gets a lot of heat in teaching people say like, oh, they don't teach things that students really need to know like taxes or mortgages, but what we are teaching kids are things that they're not going to learn outside of the school system.

And it is so important to expose them to things like critical thinking analysis reading between the lines. And then also just. Exposing them to things like literature, and poetry, and things that are beautiful. Not everything in the world has to be clinical, and like, this is something that's going to make me money in the future.

Sometimes you just need to expose [00:31:00] children to things that are mentally stimulating for them. And so what I always told kids was it doesn't matter in 30 years. Like if you read the great Gatsby, nobody's going to care, but those skills that you learned while we were doing it of analyzing, you know, different texts, understanding what these words mean, seeing pros, those things are so important.

And when kids make that connection, it is amazing, especially working in a lot of lower socioeconomic areas. I had a lot of students who Did not really see the value of an 11th grade English class and as a teacher I just kind of had to be like, yeah, you're right. Like it's what we're doing in class is not that important But, it's something that can really enrich your life, and if all you're looking for is like a baseline life, then that's fine, don't really pay attention, turn your work in, go through high school.

But if you really want to kind of delve [00:32:00] into the world of beauty, English is the place for it. And so I am, I love English, 

Emily: No, I don't want to delve into the world of beauty. And you can tell them there's at least one person who will care if they read The Great Gatsby. And we'll I 

Meagan: I love The Great

Emily: mean, yes, I think you're taking such a pragmatic approach to it, which I think is really helpful for, for kids and critical thinking and all those things you learn is important.

But also even just understanding the references that people talk about in everyday life and they'll encounter in all types of, you know, all areas of their career and the themes that run through great literature. It's like, I think there is just. Actual real value to those things, and yeah, maybe we should add a class in personal finance.

I support that, but I wouldn't necessarily. I would challenge anyone who would be like, but let's get rid of English, 

Meagan: Yeah, and it's definitely, it's actually crazy. So it has been a shift in the educational world to [00:33:00] push away from literature and to move more towards non fiction texts, which I think you should have both. But literature has such an important place. And. Back to like that point of like what's my favorite thing about teaching when you see the kids connect with a piece and you never know what they're going to connect with like some of the kids that i've taught they love catcher in the rye and It is my least favorite book.

I hate 

it and they 

Emily: favorite 

Meagan: is, that's why they like it. I think they're like, 

I too am angsty, but just like seeing them connect with it. And I'm also a very big proponent of project based learning. So we always did like tons of art projects, very like abstract concepts and seeing kids that. Maybe never speak in class, maybe act like they don't care, and then they would turn in this stunning project that had put so much work and effort into it.

I still have boxes in my garage of art projects that students made for me [00:34:00] 10 years ago, and they've gone with me classroom to classroom. And it's just seeing kids create for me is probably the most beautiful aspect of teaching and I think that that balances out all the negativity is seeing kids come into their own and be confident and create and put beauty and learning and education back into the world.

That's where I find my joy in it.

Emily: I love that. And yeah, I, you know, I've talked about that with my daughter a little bit. Like you just have to keep trying reading things and eventually you're going to find an author or a genre or a book or something that. You cannot put down and that is such a good feeling and you have to like keep trying and trying and trying until you find it.

And it's such an amazing thing when you do. So 

Meagan: yeah. I would always, I would always tell my students like, it's not that you don't like reading, it's that you don't like what you've read. And so you just, yeah, you just got to keep reading because there is something that you'll connect with. [00:35:00] You just, if you never read a book, you'll never know. So I, yeah.

I love what you're teaching your kids because that's how I feel. I'm like, just keep reading.

Emily: Yes. Yes. The bad guys. That is the latest series that's taken off

around here for, uh, second graders. Okay. So flip side, and we've talked about a few, few of these things, but what's tough about your work? And especially I would add, if it's something that you didn't really anticipate when you started or you didn't anticipate how challenging it would be

Meagan: Yeah, I think currently the most difficult aspect of teaching at least for me is the, politicking that happens. 

Emily: Yeah.

Meagan: The, the politicization of education is something I Never thought of, never anticipated, and I don't think it was, I either wasn't as aware of it when I got into education, or it just wasn't as prevalent as it is now. I think we've seen a huge shift. I, I agree, and I, I

do [00:36:00] think that politics, both sides of politics have really found that education is a place that parents are kind of required to be passionate about and there's a lot of leverage in education and they have been really wielding public education.

as a tool for politics and getting what they want, getting it approved, doing all these things. Currently, we're in the middle of a battle with our state where they're trying to push private school vouchers, and it's a huge contentious topic. And It truly feels like public education is being used as a leveraging tool to get politicians what they want.

And we have funds being withheld from public schools until these decisions are made. And so things like that, I never thought when I was in school, like, Oh, I can't wonder how people are going to leverage, you know, education to, push [00:37:00] political concepts. It just, it was so far out of the realm of what I thought of at 23 when I started teaching.

And now just seeing it so much, and especially moving from a extremely blue state to an extremely red state, the, the politics is wild. And so for me, that's the most difficult aspect is when you're You know, what can I teach? What can I not teach? What's getting taken out of schools? What can I get in trouble for?

What am I allowed to say? What could somebody be offended by? And so, it is very much in brick and mortar, I think it's a little bit more because There's so much more that can happen. Virtual teaching, if a kid says something, you can just kind of like mute them. Classroom control is much easier virtually, but like in a regular classroom, things happen all the time that you're not prepared for and we're human beings.

Sometimes we might say something or especially for me, I'm very passionate about teaching history along with my literature literature tends to Yeah, and literature [00:38:00] tends to be born out of struggle, or great literature tends to be born out of struggle, and so to not be able to teach those two things cohesively and concurrently, that for me was really hard, and it's actually why I left working in a public school, because we got to a point where, you know, we were teaching this novel Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry a play, actually, And the whole thing is about segregation in the 1960s in Chicago, about the The black migration, all of these things, and I'm not supposed to be talking about redlining districts and gerrymandering and the reason that the entire novel was written about, like the whole basis of it.

And so when I ask, what am I teaching this book for? And I get the answer back, like, you need to be focusing on vocabulary. And. literary elements, like metaphor and simile. I'm like, but the metaphor and simile is referencing, it's a metaphor for [00:39:00] these civil struggles. And so really the silencing and censoring of teachers was shocking for me.

And that was, you know, The hardest part of the job is still the hardest part that I'm, that I'm working on. I'm a talker, so sometimes I just say things and then I'm like, oop, so I've got a little bit of fear in me.

Emily: Wow, that is really upsetting, honestly, I mean, it's like, how do we expect to deliver a generation of critical thinkers, you know, and people who can think for themselves and can hear different messages and try to intuit, you know, what is correct or what they believe it with, without that. Instruction, but yeah, I can see how that would be very challenging.

I don't think I would do very well in that circumstance,

Meagan: Well, I think this like, this conversation right here is so like indicative of the state of education. I mean, I came on here just to talk about what it's like to be a teacher. And [00:40:00] how do you, you can't even avoid the politics of just talking about what it's like to be a teacher, there has to be a conversation about politically and, like, the state of education in the world right now, you just can't leave it out when you're talking about it because it is a huge deal in the United States right now so.

Yeah, if I can barely keep it together in a podcast, how am I going to keep it together in a classroom?

Emily: I mean, it feels like a, yeah, gosh, that's a real challenge and I'm hopeful that this is going to be, we'll look back on this moment as a moment in time and not the beginning of how it is forever. But you know,

Meagan: I do think that I do think that parents are starting to, whatever side of the political spectrum, parents are, Not happy with the fact that their children are being used as pawns in a, in a political argument. Like, doesn't matter where we stand. We want what's best for our kids. And [00:41:00] so I do hope that parents do start kind of coming together across the aisle and saying like, Hey, we might not agree about this, but we definitely want what's best for our kids.

Let's get a little bit of educational reform in here. Cause that's where children spend the majority of their day is in school. So it should be the best environment that we can give them.

Emily: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. That's a good answer for what's tough that you didn't expect how challenging it'd be. So I have, this is my last question I have for you. And then I want to leave time at the end so that people can know where to find out more about you. What is one piece of advice generally about work that you would give your younger self?

Meagan: I, think for me, because I grew up in the world of education, my advice to myself came from generations of other people. So I was, lucky in the sense that I entered the workforce. I entered teaching so ready that it wasn't as much of a struggle for me. But if I was going to give any advice to somebody going into the field, it's [00:42:00] really that you have to learn to let things go.

Like things are not going to work the way you thought they would ever. Even on something as small as like a lesson plan, Especially high school, you have like seven classes. Class five could be off the rails, but class six and seven could be great. So just being really, being adaptable, being flexible, but also whatever subject you're going to be teaching, become an expert in that because you can't be adaptable and flexible if you don't know any other directions or any other routes to take that's a big one.

Cause people get stuck. They're like, well, I don't know what else to do. My class just. went wild. It's like but you don't know what else to do because you don't have any other options within that. So just really become an expert in your own field and be adaptable. 

Emily: That's great. That is great. So where can people find out more about you?

Meagan: Do advocacy for our local community for special needs students. And the Instagram is loveoverlabelsadvocacy. Uh, [00:43:00] So just at level Love Over Labels Advocacy. It's a little bit of a tongue twister, but I just really post resources there for special needs parents, informations on IAPs and 504s, and then we talk about mental health a lot as well.

So, come check it out and join our little community. That'd be great.

Emily: I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I really enjoyed this.

Meagan: Thank you so much. This has actually been really fun, so I appreciate you.

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