Saturday, January 08, 2011

Second Thoughts on Law Grads as Schoolteachers

   Mr. Speaker, based on various offline conversations, I wish to revise and extend my previous remarks about law students as classroom teachers.  In sum, I'll stick to my guns that we are seeing more kids who do it because they have to, but I am willing to accept some nuance.

Example: true that we've seen it all along--law grads doing into schoolteaching.  I think a difference in past years was that students who did so were often making a positive career choice, rather than opting for plan B.  A lot of law students in the old days had no compelling vocation for the law: they had a somewhat undifferentiated notion that they wanted to find a meaningful job that they would enjoy.  Opting for school teaching (or, for that matter, social work, parole officering, whatever) might well make as much sense as (or more sense than) coping directly with their supposedly chosen profession.  And in those halcyon days when law school was close to free, this wasn't such a momentous decision.  These days, with the debt monster sitting on your head, plan B, even if intrinsically attractive, looks a lot less alluring.

The Wichita bureau points out a more positive possible motivation.  Very often, he rightly notes, the kid that goes into public-school teaching with an advanced degree gets some sort of wage sweetener on the front end (do they also get some sort of debt relief for taking low income jobs?  I am shamefully ignorant of the facts here, but it certainly wouldn't hurt my feelings if they did).

More: the person with the law degree who starts out in teaching  is very likely to find a way onto the fast track towards administration. Ignoto points out that one of our more distinguished grads followed some such route: she's now superintendent of schools in a prominent, high-prestige (and, I suspect, very demanding) east coast community.  One does not doubt that she uses her law skills every day.

Meanwhile, make no mistake: there's every reason to believe that teaching, for those who have the knack, may be a wonderfully satisfying career choice (Note to self: among my acquaintances, who is happier, the lawyers or the teachers?  I'm thinking, I'm thinking...).   Meanwhile, this week's Economist tells me that "Last year 12% of seniors at Ivy League colleges applied to Teach for America, which sends graduates to teach at tough schools for two years."  Could be that the old-fashioned model of teach-as-prep-for-professional school is not dead yet after all.


they call me trouble said...

It would be nice to know if you can just do it without further training. I'd think after law school a lawyer would just be raring to try his or her hand at the Socratic method on the theory that law school training was superior to anything offered in a MAT program.

Anonymous said...

What this can't hold. Law grads pushing out sports coaches from admin positions? This must be stopped! America demands it.