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Best Careers for Teachers: Introduction (page 4)

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Updated on Aug 12, 2011

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

Saying Good-Bye

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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