Best Careers for Teachers: Introduction (page 3)
If you're looking through this book, you are either thinking about becoming teacher or you already are one (or someone you care about is!). Take a moment and read the next few paragraphs. Do any of the people described here sound familiar to you?
You have finally graduated, and in your hand is a brand new college degree with the ink not quite dry yet. All your years of hard work, from studying and taking tests to standing up in front of a classroom as part of your student teaching, are over. You are an official, certified teacher … but where do you go from here? Do you want a job working in the same school district you once attended as a student? Are you hoping to find a job on the other side of the country? Are you even sure you want to be in a traditional classroom setting or are you considering other, more out-of-the-box options? Maybe you have thought about teaching in a foreign country or virtual classes online. Decisions, decisions!
You have been teaching a couple of years now and, while you are enjoying it, it somehow feels like something is missing. You feel like you either need to change what you are doing or add something different to your usual schedule. Perhaps you're considering an entire change of pace—a new school, a different grade, another subject—or maybe you just want to supplement what you're doing with something different and exciting. It's time for a change!
You have been in the classroom for what sometimes feels like forever. It has been a rewarding career but you are ready to move on. You want to use the skills and knowledge you have accumulated over the years, but in alternative ways. You are positive that you could be excellent in another role, one that is related to teaching but not the same-old-same-old routine that you've maintained for a decade or more. What else is out there for someone like you?
Perhaps you love your teaching job and feel that it is one of the most rewarding professions on the planet, but you simply are not earning enough each month to make ends meet. You want to supplement your income—but it has to be in a way that doesn't interfere with or complicate your day job. How can you fit something else in that fits your talents and schedule and earns a decent paycheck?
Whether you are a graduate, a novice, a veteran teacher, or a satisfied teacher who needs a few extra bucks at the end of the week, you may find yourself looking for options outside the traditional classroom. This book can act as a guide to some possible career choices to mull over and maybe pursue.
"Approaching one-half of those who begin their training to become a teacher have left the profession before they have completed three years as a teacher."
—Margaret Adams, How to Take Charge of Your Teaching Career
Taking a Closer Look Inside
Let's start with a look at why you think you want to leave the classroom. There's nothing wrong with wanting to change the direction of your career. But before you make any big decisions, it is essential that you think through your reasoning and motivation and make sure your desire for a major career change is not just a momentary notion.
To get started, sit down, grab a piece of paper, and start jotting down answers to these questions. See what you learn about yourself in the process.
Why Do You Really Want to Leave the Classroom?
It is important that you can clearly articulate the reason—to yourself and to others. What specific details and/or examples would you include? How would you explain your decision to your parents, spouse/partner, best friends, or coworkers? How do you think they would respond? How would others' reactions affect your thoughts—if at all?
What Is Missing in the Teaching Experience for You Now?
Can you point to what it is you want but are not currently getting? If you can, is it a single factor or two that, if changed, would keep you in the classroom? Is this change within your power? If so, what can you do to change it. Is it worth the effort?
What Part of Your Teaching Job Brings You the Most Stress or Dissatisfaction?
Is it dealing with parents? Colleagues? The administration? Students? The paperwork? Is it the subject or grade level at which you are teaching? How could you change any of these factors?
Are You Sure You Want to Leave the Traditional Classroom?
What would happen if you could change schools, grades, or subjects? Would that be enough to make teaching in a classroom continue to be your first choice? If the answer is a possible "yes," then pinpoint which area has to change: Can you find another school district to teach in? Which one and why? Can you move up or down a grade? Can you switch subjects? What steps do you need to take in order to make any one of these things happen?
Has This Feeling about Changing Jobs Grown over Time or Is It in Response to a Recent Change?
If your dissatisfaction has been gradually increasing over months and years, it probably is valid. Make sure, however, that it is not a sudden response to a new curriculum, colleague, or administrative change. These factors often require an adjustment period and shouldn't spur you to a life-changing decision without adequate time to acclimate.
If Someone Told You Right Now That You Never Had to Step Inside a Classroom Again, What Would Be Your Initial Reaction?
If you immediately felt relief and a sense of freedom at this thought, it is a strong clue that you are truly ready for a career change. However, if your first response was regret and a profound sense of loss, you need to give this decision more thought and do more soul-searching.
Now that you have asked and answered these questions, you should have a clearer idea of where you stand professionally. Assuming you still want to pursue some type of career change, let's take time to evaluate all the skills and abilities your teaching career has taught you so far. The majority of these talents can be applied to a variety of other jobs—and they look great on the resume you will be constructing by the time you finish this book.
Who Am I?
Let's start with character traits. Some you were born with, some you acquired, and some you had to learn to survive as a teacher. Look at the list below. On a piece of paper, write down the traits that you know you have. On the other side of the paper, list the ones you may not have, but would like to work on developing. No one is looking, so don't worry about being modest. Instead, just be honest.
I Consider Myself to Be
optimistic diplomatic enthusiastic trustworthy communicative observant reliable self-disciplined punctual energetic personable detail oriented organized attentive committed self-confident motivational a leader compassionate resourceful empathetic a negotiator flexible tenacious perceptive open-minded knowledgeable encouraging creative friendly patient a skillful time manager humorous determined a team player a good role model healthy intelligent
How does your list look? Which side is longer? If you gave this list to someone who knows you well, how might it look different? What might they add or delete?
Want to know more about your abilities? Go online and put "aptitude tests" in the search box. You can find some insightful and fun tests. Check out the Career Assessment at www.careerexplorer.net/aptitude.asp or Career Tests at www.funeducation.com.
An Array of Skills
Next, ask yourself, what are your strongest skills? What are your areas of expertise? Naturally, the subjects you have taught within the classroom to students will come to mind first, but be sure to go beyond that. Think about workshops you have taught to others, fun classes you have shared with friends or your community, or even skills that you have shown your own children or your neighbors. How many areas do you actually specialize in? Every skill you have is one you can potentially teach to someone.
- Communication: Can you write a great essay? Letter? Research paper? E-mail? How about poems or short stories? Are you a master of punctuation, spelling, and grammar?
- Speech: Do you enjoy getting up in front of a crowd and talking? Are you clear and articulate? Can you keep an audience entertained and educate them, too?
- Mathematics: Does working with figures come easily to you? Do you know bookkeeping? Accounting?
- Computers: Are you a computer whiz who understands and enjoys learning about the latest developments in technology?
- Science: Do you have a solid working knowledge of basic scientific principles? Are you comfortable in a lab or even concocting things in a simple kitchen?
- History: Do you know what happened when, where it happened, and who was there? Can you make history relevant to modern students?
- Sports and Fitness: Can you play games well? Which ones? Do you know all the rules? Know how to teach them to others? Are you frequently at the gym or the track?
- Arts and Crafts: Do you know how to make things? Paint, draw, sculpt, and create? Are you able to help students find their inner creativity?
- Foreign languages: Can you read and speak another language? Can you sign?
- Music and Dance: What instruments can you play? Can you sing? Do you know various types of dance? Can you teach others these creative pursuits?
- Cooking: Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Can you bake or cook well?
- Interior design: Do you know what colors do and do not work together? Do you know the terminology of design and design history, like art deco and early American style?
- Mechanics: How are you at keeping the car in top condition and repairing appliances?
- Construction: Can you not only create a blueprint, but then also build what you designed?
- Electronics: Do you enjoy tinkering with both old and new forms of electronics? Do you know how things are put together? Can you take them apart?
- Gardening/Landscaping: What do you know about flowers and seeds? Planting fruits and vegetables? Can you design a backyard?
- Photography: What do you know about using a special telephoto lens or framing a photo when it is done? Do you know about different types of cameras? How familiar are you with both film and digital photography?
- Environmental/Outdoor/Survival skills: Can you pitch a tent in the pouring rain and prepare a three-course meal over the campfire? Do you know the skills needed to survive if you get lost in the process? What can you teach others about helping the environment? Are you familiar with the environmental problems facing the planet, and the steps we need to take to solve them?
- Film and theatre: Do you love drama on the silver screen and/or the stage? What do you know about lighting, props, and costuming? Are you familiar with the history of cinema and the theater? Are you really a closet director who can picture fantastic scenes before they happen?
- Sales: How adept would you be at selling a service or product? Do you have skills of persuasion and demonstration? Most teachers do, whether they know it or not.
Taking time to focus on your strengths and talents is the first step in pursuing additional work or a new career pathway. Keep them in mind as you read through the possibilities listed in the coming chapters. Also, have the list handy when it is time to come up with an updated resume.
"Poor earning potential, along with added stress caused by larger classrooms, and increased responsibility in and out of the classroom, have led to record numbers of teachers seeking work elsewhere."
—Margaret Gisler, 101 Career Alternatives for Teachers
If you decide that you are going to leave your current position, whether to go to a different school or on to a completely different career, be sure to leave on a positive note. Give your school administration at least 30 days notice so they have time to find a replacement. If appropriate, talk to your students as well. It is respectful to let them know what you're planning to do. How much you explain is up to you and how you connect with your classes, but don't just disappear.
Be sure to read your contract and follow whatever it says about quitting procedures and policies. If you aren't sure what they are or how to follow each one, talk to someone in human resources for clarification. You do not want to accidentally break a rule or cause a problem for anyone in the school (most importantly, the students).
Consider asking for reference letters from some of your coworkers and others in administration. They could come in quite handy when applying for another job. Also be sure not to burn your bridges behind you when you leave your school. Even if you happen to be leaving because you were unhappy with colleagues or the administration, do all you can to make it a friendly departure. You never know whether you might be returning in the future, plus networking is one of your biggest job search tools so contacts are important.
The decision to leave traditional classroom teaching is not an easy one, but it is the right one for many teachers. It is not a sign of failure of any kind; instead, it is a sign that your career is vitally important to you and is undergoing some adjustments. When learning something new—like finding another career, do just what you told your students—do your homework. Let's get started.
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- Nature and Nurture