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Village Elders

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When a new college graduate presents his credentials as a teacher, he shows a bright diploma still wet from the presses. His mind is full of education theory, teaching methodologies, and student teaching experience. All very good credentials. When a career-changer presents her diploma, it’s wrinkled and a bit faded – hard to tell what the study track was. Her experience is not in front of the classroom, but may be in front of corporate leaders, media representatives, work crews, or customers. She may not have been “in front of” anyone at all, but may have worked at home coordinating a team around the world through a networked computer, or writing freelance stories. She may have been the salesman, the professional, the reliable worker with a degree which turned out to be in a field she didn’t really want to be in.

Well, that’s kind of my story. I am a career changer – coming from several other careers – including public relations, childcare, construction management, sales. I’ve been a parent, read thousands of newspapers and books, talked to lots of people, tried a lot of new activities, asked a lot of questions, and gained a lot of experience. Useful experience. Valuable experience.

My school valued that experience highly, and welcomed me warmly as a new teacher last year. I’m sure there were some concerns. I remember my interview, when I was asked to explain my ideas about assessment for special education students, and my answer was, “are you referring to tests or homeowner taxes?” But I was hired, so I must have shown something.

Through the Resident Teacher Certification program, I receive a great deal of support and instruction. I began my teaching career with great humility, acknowledging how much I needed to learn about teenagers and educational theory, and teaching methods, and school policies. But I refused to act as if I didn’t have any valuable experience, or pertinent knowledge, or strength. And I will continue to advocate for career changers.

I believe our schools need career changers. We will especially need people who are retiring from other careers, with intact retirement programs, who won’t mind working for so little money. Unfortunately, that’s not my case, I need the income – and I would not be able to live on my salary were I not married. We’ll need teachers to serve as mentors to our children, as leaders of our school system, as change brokers. We’ll need teachers who are there because they believe they have a calling, and have thought about it a lot. We’ll need teachers who already know how to learn something, how to analyze knowledge and apply it elsewhere, and who are not afraid to try something new because they know the joy of fresh experience. We’ll need more career changers.

I believe we need to create support systems for ourselves, so that when one school system is not supportive, you can find out which ones are, and move. We don’t have time to continue where we’re not appreciated. We’re needed too badly. Every village needs its elders. Don’t let your school forget it.

8 Comments

Hi Hanne,

I just wanted to let you know how enjoyable your blog is to read. I was an elementary/special education teacher for 3 yrs. and decided to change careers because it was too stressful. I am now an editor for an educational publisher. Your feelings and expereinces are much like what I went through. Best of luck to you!

Alicia

I enjoy reading your comments. I agree that the education system needs more career changers. I will contemplate on doing the same as soon as my oldest child finishes high school and I finish my master's in educational leadership (I'm in a different profession now, but opted to pursue a masters in education because of this calling). You certainly don't do it for the money. I also concur with you that experienced and/or older professionals from outside of education have a lot to contribute to teaching, moreso because they bring in real-world experience and perspective, not constrained to the classroom and what was just taught in the books. I look forward to being part of that career changer support system someday and will follow your progress. Good luck.

Education needs career changers, but it also needs career re-thinkers. After 27 years of teaching, I looked at the younger teachers I was working with and what they had to offer both myself and our students. I re-evaluated what I was doing, adjusted my philosophy, completely re-wrote my curriculum, wrote a wealth of new curriculum in my field. The last 9 years I taught were the most effective and most rewarding of my career and has led me into post teaching career as a leader in my community and in my state. You can teach old dogs new tricks, you just have to do so in an encouraging, non-threatening fashion. We have to convince many of our veterans that it is safe and valuable to leave their comfort zone and join the modern world because they have a great deal to offer education.
Joe Herzog, Chair, Region 28, CAHPERD
Pres Fresno Alliance for Phys. Educ. and Athletics
1998 Calif. Assoc. for Health, Phys. Educ. Rec. and Dance Honor Award/middle school PE/Sports

I am currently in school pounding away at the books in hopes of receiving my degree and certification in elementary ed after years of working in the corporate world. After spending time with my own classmates, I can honestly say I have never seen more dedicated people. It is the career changers that have stepped up to the plate to make a difference in the classroom. Hats off to you Hanne, my classmates and all those who have decided to take the risk!
Michele

I am right with you! I am on my 3rd career and have my degree as a special ed teacher. I am also transitioning with moving to a new state to begin the next chapters of my life and begin my teaching career. I have seen my share of teachers (as a substitute and through my college career) who NEED to get out of the classroom and refresh themselves or GET OUT OF THE CLASSROOM! We are dealing with a very different kind of kid plus with this NCLB stuff, we need to be collaborating a whole lot more from the administration to the teacher! I have seen way to much narrow mindedness and our youth are BORED in many ways.... "STEP OUT OF THE BOX!" Time for a change in education and I believe that those of us who have come out of other careers will be the ones to help develop a more substancial educational system than the one we have. Kids want to learn. They NEED teachers who WANT TO TEACH AND EXLOPRE RIGHT ALONG WITH THEM! Education is no longer just book, read, take notes, test.. it is MULTISENSORY~!

I work with a federally-funded program called Transition to Teaching in which we recruit these valuable mid-career changers. We assist them in finding an appropriate fast-track Alternative Licensure program (with strong pedagogy and no fluff), pay for the tuition, books and licensing fees, and support them with a trained mentor when they begin teaching.

I urge qualified, motivated, potential teachers to seek such a program in their area. Students can benefit greatly from teachers who bring broad, real world experiences to the classroom.

I am also teaching after a lot of other experience in the world. I am in my 2nd year of teaching and am enjoying your positive attitude and your resolutions, as well. I love the little notebook idea. There are way too many things to remember while teaching!

Dear Hanne:
My name is Sandra Kelly and you give me courage and you inspre me. I am 48 years of age and I am currently in an alternative program persuing a Master's Degree in Education. After I complete 18 credits this summer and I will begin teaching in September. For the past 18 yrs I have worked as a caseworker but I've always wanted to be a teacher.

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  • sandra kelly: Dear Hanne: My name is Sandra Kelly and you give read more
  • Anne Hendrickson: I am also teaching after a lot of other experience read more
  • Carol Carpenter: I work with a federally-funded program called Transition to Teaching read more
  • Patti: I am right with you! I am on my read more
  • Michele: I am currently in school pounding away at the books read more

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