I am in my first year of a PhD. The only thing I look forward to in the morning is grading/prepping lab/office hours for my twice a week TA assignment.

The nature of my program is very stressful, and I am not sure I will make it to the fun part (research). I am very likely to never pass my qualifying exams to get to the research part of the PhD. Which is a shame because I have loved my past research experience in undergrad and the Fulbright.

And so I'm looking into teaching residency programs for HS physics teachers. Should I ask my TA supervisor for a letter of rec? He likes me and I'm sure would be able to supply a letter of rec with some nice "show don't tell" anecdotes. The risk is that he is a part of the PhD program I would be leaving. Given the nature of STEM PhDs in the US (Im not paying tuition) leaving seems a slap in the face, like I stole their money by taking courses without paying.

However I have always been under the impression it's best to get recent letters of rec.

Should I just stick to undergrad letters of rec?

  • Do you know any professors well enough to ask?
    – Buffy
    Nov 8 '20 at 20:00
  • Who is the TA supervisor? Faculty? Nov 8 '20 at 20:30
  • Is it possible for you to switch to a less intense programme, or perhaps work part time? It seems a shame to give up on research given you enjoyed it in the past. Have you spoken to your supervisor/mentor/colleagues/a counsellor about your stress and overwork, to try and reduce it or develop coping strategies?
    – astronat
    Nov 8 '20 at 23:39
  • 1
    You also taught their classes for a very low salary! Universities save a lot of money with grad student teachers. Part of the stress of first year is meant to test your commitment, so I doubt anyone would take it badly.
    – Well...
    Nov 9 '20 at 2:49
  • @buffy only undergrad professors unfortunately, just started here
    – Lopey Tall
    Nov 9 '20 at 22:02

If the TA supervisor knows that you are leaving the program to find a (high school) teaching job, and can speak to your ability or potential as a teacher then their letter will be a plus.

As for feeling you cheated the program - better to leave now than after taking their support for a few more years and leaving then. Some fraction of students leave without a degree - it's expected and not shameful.

Finally, I suspect high school physics teachers are in demand.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.