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Myths About Teaching in a Private School

Elitism, Salaries and More


Some people think that you have to wear an academic gown when you teach at a private school. At least that's the impression you get when you watch the Harry Potter movies. That's just one misconception people have about teaching in a private school. Myths abound concerning teacher salaries, teacher certification, faculty housing, same sex partners and the impression that private schools are elitist. Let's find out the facts.


Myth: Private school teachers make less than their colleagues in public schools.

As with most things, that's not necessarily true. A lot depends on the kind of the school we are talking about. For example, a third grade teacher in a parochial school will make about 10-15% less than her counterpart in a public school. Why? Parochial school budgets are traditionally the slimmest in the business because their tuitions are among the lowest in the business. Now, put that same third grade teacher in a Montessori school and the salary gap closes significantly. Why? Montessori schools typically charge what the market will bear.

Highly qualified teachers with terminal degrees working at the top prep schools will make very close to what their colleagues in public education make. Ditto for administrators.


Myth: Private school students are spoiled rich kids or n'er-do-wells who have been packed off to private school for remediation.

Yes, there are day schools in many parts of the country where you will see more luxury cars per square foot in the school parking lot than you can possibly imagine. Yes, it is impressive seeing Josh's dad land on the soccer field in his company helicopter*. The reality, however, is that most schools are remarkably diverse, inclusive communities. Ignore the popular stereotypes which Hollywood loves to perpetuate.

Same Sex Partners

Myth: Same sex partners are not welcome in private schools.

That probably still is the case in most conservative religious schools. On the other hand some of the top prep schools including Andover welcome same sex couples on their faculty and staff. They enjoy all the rights and privileges which heterosexual couples enjoy.


Myth: You don't have to be certified to teach in a private school.

That most definitely was the case a couple of decades ago. While some private schools will hire a teacher who is not certified by a state licensing authority, they usually do so because of mitigating circumstances such as a critical need for a teacher in a particular discipline. Typically the new hire is expected to earn her certification within one or two years.
The same is true of teachers who have had other careers and decide to become teachers later in life. The school will hire them in order to get teachers who are passionate about their subject. Certification will be required within a year or so after employment. It is a practical approach to hiring which is usually successful.


Myth: Private schools require their faculty to live on campus

Some do and some don't. Boarding schools typically want their junior faculty to be dorm masters. In other words you are required to live in an apartment in the dorm and be responsible for supervising the students who board. Senior faculty and staff generally live in school-provided housing located on campus. Day schools don't require their faculty to live on campus as a rule.

Dress Code

Myth: Private school teachers have to wear academic gowns.

American and Canadian private school teachers 'dress up' in their full academic regalia for state occasions such as prize day and graduation only at schools which have a tradition of such formality. Personally, I think that an academic procession with faculty wearing their gowns and hoods is inspiring. Some English schools such as Eton have a very formal dress code. Gown and mortarboard are de rigeur in the class room. (Considering how cold and draughty English classrooms can be, that's probably not a bad idea.)

What is the dress code in most schools? Generally it follows the lead of the student dress code. If a blazer, shirt and tie are required for young men, male faculty will dress similarly. The same applies to women faculty. They will wear clothes appropriate to the young ladies' dress code.

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