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I have been teaching math at HS level for some years, for this Fall I am applying for instructor job at local community colleges. Because of my background, I anticipate that the interviewer will ask me the difference between secondary and post-secondary math teaching.

  1. In a non-interview setting, I would answer there really is no much difference considering that vast majority of HS graduates are deficient in math skill. I was even told that community college is just an extension of high school. The upsides are that I do not have to deal with the pesky parents, students are more matured and motivated since college is not free. Are these assessments correct?
  2. But in an interview setting, I think that this honest answer won't be politically correct. Any suggestion on a politically correct response?

Thank you for your time and help.

  • I think its a misconception that number 1 is true. Many students have parents that pay for their education, get federal funding, etc. You will still have parents paying for education that get angry at something you do. It wont be constantly, but it will happen. – user-2147482637 Mar 11 '15 at 1:26
  • "students are more matured and motivated" Nice when it happens, and it does (especially with non-traditional students), but far from guaranteed. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 11 '15 at 2:49
  • This would be better at matheducators.SE. – Chris C Mar 11 '15 at 3:26
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There are several pretty big differences. Perhaps not all of these would apply, and not all of them are appropriate to mention in an interview context, but here are a few:

  1. You will likely be teaching students older than yourself (depending on your own age). This can be intimidating if a lot of your classroom presence and authority derives from age. You can't use lines like "because I said so" or "you'll find out when you're older" - not that you should in high school, either, but you're more likely to get away with it there.

  2. Discipline might be different. You can't send adults to detention (and adults includes both mature students returning to study to reskill, and 18yo kids whose parents are insisting they get some kind of an education despite their protests).

  3. Academically, you may be required to teach a higher level of maths. Not all classes offered by the college will be high school remedial level, and the college may want to know if your own mathematical knowledge is sufficient.

  4. "College is not free" can lead to students expecting more of you than you believe is appropriate academically: "I'm paying a lot of money to be here, so you have to give me more notes/help/assistance/marks..."

  5. Nobody has to be there (depending on attendance requirements at your college, but they can always just not take your class). Attendance may vary significantly more than in high school, with some weeks being almost empty and others (near due dates) crowded with students with a months' worth of questions each. Controlling this can be difficult.

  6. You might need to hold office hours outside of class times, and depending on the needs of your students, possibly have classes or office hours outside of regular business hours (such as evening classes).

  7. Students are much more likely to see you as being "on their level", and you may feel the same. It's nice to be friendly, but the boundaries between teacher and student are a lot more blurred and it might take more effort to avoid friendly or romantic relationships.

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  • @kman : Pretty darn awesome insights from an insider! I am very amused by #7, but should not an issue for me since I am about the age of the average student's parent, so this will eliminate #1 too, hopefully. Thanks again for your insight. – A.Magnus Mar 11 '15 at 12:07
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With regards to parents: in the US there are laws that prevent you from discussing anything about your students with anyone (including parents). But this is not an important issue, as any employer will likely believe that you will comply with basic privacy laws.

One major difference between high school and community college teaching is the diversity of the student population. At a community college you will have a wider range of age/outside responsibilities/life experiences among your student population, and this may require you to adjust how you conduct yourself in the classroom.

Also, unlike high school, at a community college you may have students who already went all the way through high school feeling like they will never "get" math. So you may want to think about how you would help such students.

It may also be helpful to note that some community colleges teach courses that go beyond the usual level of high school math.

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  • Pretty good inputs, will note them down for interview. Thanks! – A.Magnus Mar 11 '15 at 11:58

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