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Opportunity Calling

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When an opportunity arises we have three choices: jump at the chance, delay making a decision, or saying “No thanks”. I am one of those people who tends to procrastinate when making decisions. But after two years of teaching, where there is never a moment to spare, I have learned to jump at every opportunity. There’s no time to procrastinate.

That’s how I began writing this blog. Anthony Rebora, Editor for Teacher Magazine, posted a notice on the web site that he was looking for ideas for a new teacher-written blog. I wrote back and suggested that he have a “career-changer” write about the experience of becoming a new teacher. He responded by inviting me to become that writer. I jumped into it right away, and I have really enjoyed it. I have heard from a lot of older “new” teachers, people who began teaching after various other careers. Some are doing it alone, by taking classes in education to become certified. Others, like me, are participating in programs that sponsor new teachers. My program is called the Resident Teacher Certification program. Most of these programs are recruiting people to become teachers in high demand fields like math, science, and special education. If you are considering making such a move, call your state’s Department of Education and ask for information about alternative certification programs. Or check with the colleges in your area, because many institutions are forming cohorts of students in agreement with area school districts.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I have learned some of the basics of teaching, and now I want to become an exemplary teacher. As I enter my third year, I am certified, highly qualified, master degree’d, and tenured. I’ve had many opportunities offered to me, and I’ve taken them. I’ve attended lots of professional development programs and conferences. I have joined several committees in school, and I’m serving as a Senior Class Sponsor and Diversity Club member. I’ve written this blog, and I’m working on a couple of articles, which I hope to publish one day.

After two years of experience, I know what I don’t know – and it’s time to improve. I am turning this blog from its current focus on becoming a teacher to a focus on becoming an exemplary teacher. I’m going to examine the topics of special education (battles and victories), professional development (how does one become a better teacher?) and teaching methods. I am really interested in the theory and application of co-teaching, so that will be a strong focus. I’m going to talk about opportunities for growth in teaching. I’m going to listen to your responses. I’m going to be very open about problems teachers face, in the hopes that our professional community will contribute solutions. I hope you’ll continue to share your ideas with me and your colleagues.

Educators are most incredible professional community. Never before have I worked with people who share so easily, even with people they don’t know personally. Thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Here’s the thought I’m carrying with me this summer, borrowed from my principal: “It’s time to go from good to great!”

17 Comments

I believe the journey from good to great is an ongoing process that occurs daily, weekly, and monthly through your entire career. I seem to learn something new or am reminded about something I had forgotten every day.

The journey from good to great is never over. One must have a desire to be a life long learner and be open to new and different ideas.

The upward climb from good to great is continuous throughout our lifetime in all aspects. By looking upward, we are enlightened by the potential available to all. It is a continuous journey of joy. Who deserves this more than our students?

In the past thirty years, I have been in many professional and non-professional settings in which I have gained a wealth of knowledge on handling and teaching people of all ages. I have been a supervisor over 80+ employees working for Eastern Airlines right before it folded. How do you keep people’s spirits up and focused on their work even with the lost of jobs looming over their heads? I have been a Girl Scout Leader for 10+ years handling girls and snakes. I have taught kids from all over Georgia about rocks and fossils that can be found here. I have handled hundreds of kids in teaching them about Georgia History at the Atlanta History Center. I have been in the Middle East and China teaching children of all ages English and the Sciences. I have learned many techniques and methods on catching and holding a child’s attention. I am always looking for that next idea to help me further along with my students. And I have just finishing my teachng degree! I will start teaching this fall a fifth grade class. I will also continue on with my schooling for the Masters Program. I understand the concept of good to great. I will be 50 this year. I am in the prime of my teaching career and it can only get better.

Thanks for blogging. At 48-and-counting, I'm back in school working on my master's in elementary education. This after 18+ years in the veterinary healthcare field and 6 years before that in experiential education through parks & rec at a living history farm in Texas. You folks are very inspiring. Please stay with it for all of us out here! :)

Thank you for this blog. I am 33 years old and will be entering the teacher training program in January. My plan right now is to teach high school math. I would also one day like to teach at the community college level after getting my Masters. It is a real encouragement to be able to read what others have experienced in this world of being a teacher. Please keep up the good work!

I too enjoy this blog. It's comforting to hear from those in similiar situations. I made a career change from many years in the human resources field to elementary education. I have just completed my first year of teaching First Grade while earning my Master's at age 38. This has been the toughest year but at the same time the best. I look forward to continuing with my journey from good to great! Thanks for sharing!

You might find John Taylor Gatto's books and essays interesting. He has a very different and thought-provoking take on things, after 30 years of teaching and winning awards. You can find many of his essays on-line by Googling him.

Thanks for this blog. I too am a career changer after so many years of working in healthcare. I have just earned my masters in educational leadership and I am not sure if I would like to become a principal, but the experience of completing the program has taught me so much about how the school should operate and what excellence in education requires. The learning and growth never stops. Keep going!

Thank you for writing this blog. I,too, am a career changer, 39 years old entering my third year as a fifth grade social studies and reading teacher. Having completed an Alternative Certification Program and my first two years teaching just struggling to find my way, it's time to move from being a good teacher to a great teacher. I'm working on my masters in curriculum and instruction and am also very interested in professional development and educational theory. This is a great profession, but the most challenging one I've been involved in. I look foward to reading about your journey to exemplary teaching.

I applaud your initiative with the blog! I had a similar idea because I wanted to hear from other mid-life career-changers. At 49, I am starting my second year teaching middle school Language Arts. Previously, I worked as a part-time teacher in elementary school; although, I wasn't responsible for designing the lesson plans. I like the creative part of teaching. I really like "child-centered" teaching and I'd like to design all my lessons around small groups. I think this model allows for flexibility and allows me to cover more information. I am on the verge of changing my whole classroom to suit this model. Since I also struggled through my first year of teaching, I'm a little nervous. I am enrolled in a Masters program and I look forward to taking my teaching to the next level.

Dear Hanne,
We are very much alike. We have similar background experiences and started a career change at the same time. I am confused how you could be tenured after two years of teaching and how you had the time to be involved in so many 'opportunities'(joined several committees in school, Senior Class Sponsor, Diversity Club member and writing!). Before changing careers I was a home daycare provider & later returned to my career with the USDA as a Soil Scientist. After some time, I decided I was bored and unfulfilled and changed my career to teaching. I learned that knowing your subject matter is just a very small part of teaching and I have been working 24-7 to be the exemplary teacher I want to be. This takes ALL my time - I work on grading, lesson plans, getting to know my students, professional development on brain based teaching etc. - and I am still learning. I read your blog and I think, how can you (with only 2 years of teaching experience) be so confident? Are you a 'natural' in the classroom? Is it possible you don't have the pressure of after school classwork to grade perhaps because you don't have as much as a special education teacher / social studies teacher? I find myself not just teaching science but language arts, math, and citizenship. I am preparing students to pass their CAPT's and/or CMT's in science. At the same time, I tutor students that are below grade level at lunch, after school, in the morning...I strive to encourage my students to challenge themselves and try to match each student's unique interests to a field in science. I think you must be superwoman to have time for anything else. (And I don't mean that sarcastically.) I believe, after five years of teaching experience - I certainly hope I will not be putting this much effort and time (until wee hours of the morning)into my students and classes. On the other hand, unless you are a gym teacher, art, music, special ed, I can't fathom how I could devote any less time to my students. Don't get me wrong. I attend every professional development opportunity that presents itself -but I know getting involved in any extra curricular activities before now (I've been teaching 3 years) would have been taking on more than I could handle. Perhaps next year, or by my 5th year...? I'm very impressed.

Enjoyed this entry. I very much second your striving for exemplary teaching and refocusing your blog in this direction. Two resources you may be interested in: articles published in the National Business Education forum entitled "From Good to Great: How Teachers Grow" (Februray 2004) and "Career Switchers: Those Who Can, Do, and Then They Teach" (February 2003). Full disclosure: I wrote both of them (and my background's in teaching) and they connect to a number of the issues you brought up. NBEA's website is www.nbea.org--Good luck!

I am currently working as an Assistant Director of a Huntington Learning Center, though my ultimate goal is to become a school adminstrator. I spent 12 years in the US Army and began teaching two years ago. I am currently pursuing a master's in education specializing in curriculum and instruction. I am stating all of this because I need this kind of forum for the encouragement it provides. I look forward to reading every chance I get. Thanks for sharing.

Entering my first year of alternative of certification, I am happy that edweek introduced me to your blog. I'll be reading the archives, I'm sure.

I am glad that I found your blog. I have one semester of classes left before beginning my student teaching semester in January. At 50 this will be a challenging year. After years in the corporate sector I made a decision to get a degree in elementary education and teach. I am excited to have this opportunity and encouraged to hear from older "new" teachers. Thanks.

I am in my third year of teaching. I just turned 54 in August. I am a special ed teacher in a learning support class for 4th and 5th graders. I love it!!! I wish I had done this years ago. I do feel weird sometimes, but I know this is where I am supposed to be.

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