« Answering the Call | Main | Core Values »

Community Development


Community Development

When I was a kid, I spent summer exploring my suburban neighborhood. My friends and I migrated as a herd from house to house, yard to yard, woods to river to library to pool. No matter where we went, mothers made food for us and fathers set up backyard games. In the summer I became a better bike rider, a stronger swimmer, a more creative artist, a practiced game player, a knowledgeable naturalist, and an experienced reader. That is really how it was in my neighborhood. I’m not making it up. Kids went home at the end of the day tired and eager for tomorrow. That’s community. Summer was great.

I just finished a one-week professional development opportunity for English teachers. The “Governor’s Academy” goal was to improve instruction by developing specific links between state-wide Core Learning Goals and assignments and assessments. It was a great class for me, because I was surrounded by teachers who had a lot more experience and knowledge. I’ve only been teaching English two years, and my college degree is in Anthropology. I am well-read, and can discuss literature easily. I love language. I’m a writer. But I have had to learn the appropriate and correct use of academic terms like style, tone, synthesis, and theme. During this four-day training I refined my knowledge and expanded my methods for sharing this knowledge with students. I became a better English teacher.

When I go to these kinds of professional development programs I look like a really experienced teacher. I’m almost 48, so my status as a “young” teacher isn’t obvious. Sometimes I wonder if people think “Wow, she isn’t very smart, because she’s asking very basic questions”. Of course I am smart because I ask basic questions. And sometimes I just gotta laugh and admit that I have no idea what the other participants are talking about, and explain how I became an English teacher. I took the road less traveled to high school.

This professional development program was worth a summer week. You know what I mean. Teachers need the summer to rest and frankly, to take care of other things we don’t have time for during the year. I have boxes of stuff to go through. I have family to visit. I have books to read. I’m sure you do, too. So when I am asked to attend a workshop or class in the summer, I want to know it’s worth it. Will I learn something new and useful? Will I get copies of graphic organizers and lesson plan materials? Will I bring home new books? A program is worth it if I can use what I learned with my students. This program was worth it.

We worked hard, and I met teachers from other schools and districts. We were friendly, and shared ideas and tips and struggles. We worked in teams to develop a basic lesson plan to use this year. We’ll meet again to review how the lesson went, and improve it. Eventually this lesson plan will available to other teachers to use.

We explored, we exercised our minds, and we shared creative ideas. We even ate lunch together. We went home at the end of the week tired, but eager for the new school year. That’s professional community. Summer is great.



I would like the opportunity to communicate with you directly regarding how you switched careers. I have a BS in Business, a Masters in Information Systems Management. Worked primarily in systems with PC support, Training and Technical Writing. Left the work force for a number of years and now I am employed as an Outreach Specialist in a "Magnet" style public high school. I work in the central office for the District Supervisor of Curriculum. My challenge is to find a degree or certificate program that will add some Education training to my professional qualifications. However, I don't think I want to work in a classroom. Any suggestions or ideas of places/people to contact?

you have my email my work number is (201) 343-6000 ext. 2219 I would appreciate your thoughts on the whole transition process.

Thanks, Peggy

Great post Hanne. That's one of the things I miss about being an educator - flow of ideas that happens when great teachers get together. Luckily I still get to experience it when I facilitate inservices. I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!

Kelly Curtis

Hanne, I enjoyed your article. It sounds like you were inspired. I am 45 and am considering becoming an educator. I have worked in schools for many years as an Occupational Therapist and am feeling a need for change. How difficult was the transition to teaching?

I guess there are a lot of us out here. I, too, have been in the business world for 20 years and have been wanting to switch careers to teaching. I think I've researched it enough to know about most of the challenges. I've also taught college classes as an adjunct business professor for several years. I just don't know the best route to take to become certified and get into a classroom full-time. There seems to be so many options. I'd also love to hear others' experiences in making a mid-life career switch to teaching.

Thank you again Hanne for your insights on being a "new" teacher. I think you are well past the "new" catagory at this point.
To Neil: I went into teaching at the age of 51 after careers in parenting and retail. First, I became a teaching assistant, which helped me decide that I truly enjoyed working with students and would feel comfortable in a classroom setting. It helped that I worked with a teacher who offered me a lot of encouragement.
In my state (NY), you can become certified by enrolling in a Masters-level teacher program, doing student-teaching (or in my case, observations because my assistant work became my student-teaching), and taking the certification tests (LAST, ATS-W, and your field of what you are going to teach).
For more specific information, you might want to contact a local college, or your state education department. Good Luck, Neil.

I am starting my first year as a middle school language arts teacher. I am 54 years old so I know exactly how you feel about being a new teacher. I managed hotels for over 20 years and I have already been called everything but a "Christian", LOL. Hopefully this will help my chances when it comes to classroom management. One hundred kids compared to one hundred employees should be a breeze, right?
I have always wanted to teach but the opportunity to continue my education had to be put on hold for many years. I had a good rapport with students during my student teaching experience as well as with my substitute teaching job for a semester after graduation. I am excited but nervous about having my own classroom and my own students. I will be teaching 7th and 8th grade language arts.Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I am excited but nervous about having my own classroom and my own students. I am 42 and in the same boat. I am a first year teacher and I will be teaching 6th grade all TAG students all day everyday. I would love to be a community of new old teachers. I think that we must keep the importance of community alive in our classrooms as well! I am an idealist, best practices, Alfie Kohn advocate who would like to correspond with others of similar ilk. Email me! from Josie [email protected]

I am a former nonprofit director who went back and finished my degree, then got my certificate and now completion of my masters in school counseling. I have been looking for a job since I finished my cert 2 yrs ago. Michigan has an abundance of teachers and tough cert requirements. There are no real alternative programs. You must student teach without pay which was really tough. I recently was hired and am to begin 2/3 time in fall!!

I have really struggled with feeling like a novice when I have been the leader for so long. My masters program was great and gave me a great deal of confidence that job searching tends to strip away since you rarely get feedback. It is hard not to take it personally when you are not chosen for a position you really want. Life experience is not always valued and hard to show in a resume. Despite the struggle, I am thrilled to be starting this fall!!

Dear all,

I found this blog really interesting. Hanne, I think the best teachers always consider themselves 'new' teachers, as learning never really stops.

I have had two years of teaching experience and later worked on professional training programs for teachers. Unfortunately, in Pakistan certification is not a requirement for teaching... especially in good private schools.

But I would love to join a community of educators to share ideas and seek advice. Feel free to write to me at [email protected]

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Shaista: Dear all, I found this blog really interesting. Hanne, I read more
  • Sandee B: I am a former nonprofit director who went back and read more
  • Josie Gribskov: I am excited but nervous about having my own read more
  • Dayle Biba: Hi I am starting my first year as a middle read more
  • Marlene: Thank you again Hanne for your insights on being a read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here