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Paths in the Woods


I am not a “new” teacher any more, this being my third year at Arundel High School. And I am certainly not a “young” teacher, this being my 49th year of life. I began my education career through a career-changer program. I figure I’ve got twenty years left before I’ll retire, so now I’ve got to decide what to do with those years. If the paths diverge, which one should I take?

I’ve enrolled in an administrator certification cohort. At first I thought I would NEVER want to be an administrator, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve been active in school committees, attended seminars and summits, talked to our district’s leaders, and read a lot of current literature on the future of America’s schools and America’s school kids. I could be part of shaping that future.

We who entered education from other careers have a lot to offer that hasn’t been tapped in our school positions. For example, as a child care provider, I became an early childhood specialist. I am not “certified”, but I know a lot about child development. I’ve worked with babies who had developmental delays and children who were gifted. I’ve worked very closely with families who needed childcare – the wealthy and those who used government vouchers to pay me. I worked with childcare professionals across the state, and I have good connections with those who get our children ready to learn. But my high school and school district don’t know that, and don’t use my skills in this area.

As a business owner (of the childcare business) I learned the importance of organization, and planning, and efficiency. When you work alone you are efficient. Materials are organized and available when and where you need them. Files are current, and needed papers are ready for use. If you need something, you get it. Meetings are scheduled in advance, and much is done by telephone rather than by face-to-face committees. When I had a question, I knew someone to call and ask. A business owner is a problem solver. I am frustrated by the lack of business-like organization I deal with every day in my school. As an administrator, could I help solve these basic problems? (Which copier is working? Where do I get a cord for my computer? Which phone line can I use to reach a parent? Where are transparencies? Why can't I have the books I need for my students?)

I bring a history of community involvement to my new career. I served my neighborhood association as an officer. I know how to write letters and make phone calls to find information and solve a problem. I can pull a group of people together to create an event or a task-force. But I don’t have time in my school to be an active link to the community. My school is not where I live, so I don’t even KNOW this community. So this skill is not used.

I’ve also been a writer, published in local newspapers and of course, on-line. I can write a mean newsletter, letter, feature story, survey. I’ve taught adults, through the community college, and know the difference between classes for preschoolers and workshops for career people who want something to take home and use now. So should I become a staff development trainer? An education writer? Volunteer to write the school newsletter?

The skills I have developed in past professions may translate to my life as an educator, but I haven’t quite figured it all out yet. Perhaps as an assistant principal I could bring it all together. Or maybe I need to move to the “central office” as a mentor, or resource teacher. I am a good teacher, and maybe I belong in the classroom for the next twenty years. If only I could afford to do so. If I want to retire with a livable income, I have to increase my income. Sad but true, I don’t think I can afford to be a classroom teacher for my whole career.

Several people have told me recently that it’s important to have varied experiences as a teacher in order to keep all options open. Is it time to move on to a different school assignment? More on that later this week as I think it through. Which path? Don't know yet.


Thanks so much for your comments. I find a sad lack of respect for the work of child care professionals. They, like you, have a terrific skill set. In this county, we are starting to work on building bridges so that the teachers of young children in public schools and the teachers of preschool children in licensed child care can learn from each other. That can only happen if each group respects the other and believes that the other has valuable things to share.

I question the assertion that you are not using your skills as a problem solver and community leader in the classroom. You are most likely using them within that microcosm of society, your classroom. No skill goes unused by a classroom teacher. We build communities within our classrooms; we solve problems that seem insurmountable to young people. We lead without even thinking about it.
On the other hand, I certainly know where you are with your thinking as it becomes more global in terms of helping others. I must warn you, as one who is currently making the shift from classroom to administration, that once you move out of that classroom, something important changes. As you begin to make this decision, please consider the things that brought you to the classroom. There is something gained when you become an administrator, professional development trainer, or curriculum specialist, as I am. But there is something lost, too. Often, I miss using my skills directly with young people. Moving away from working with students in a classroom will force you to examine how you are still making a difference in a child's life every day. It's more difficult to see, so you must look harder at your work.
Good luck with your decision. I don't envy you the work of making it, but I certainly know the ache of knowing that you have talents that could help a broader spectrum of people.

Ms. Denney:
Trust me, you are still a "new" teacher. Three years on the front line does not qualify you as an experienced teacher. Especially, in the special education department. Try being a regular education teacher with 30 kids of their own in class that has been told to have the maximum 8 more kids added from a special ed. class to promote the idea of inclusion (or, intrusion, which is more accurate). Of course, those 8 extra come with a special ed. teacher, so the numbers look like 19:1 ratio. But, what actually happens is the children play the game of if one "parent" doesn't give me the answer I want, I will go to the other "parent(teacher)". And, PLEASE, don't even consider going to the central office to become anyone's "expert" mentor. I think NO one should be allowed an administrative position without 10 years experience behind the teacher's desk. Who am I to say all this?
-18 years Public school teacher - 9 yrs reg. ed, 9 yrs connections teacher
- Ed. S. Middle Grades Math, Sci. and SS
- adjunct instructor at nearby University
- 5 years banking experience in past
- 25 yrs. broadcasting experience
- own two businesses currently on the side to allow me to make enough money to stay a teacher since I love it so much (as you proclaim you do). Believe me, with all respect, you have much more knowledge to acquire as a teacher before you move to the administrative level. Sounds more like you are hoping to "pad" your retirement check with an administrative position instead of staying in teaching.

Thanks for listening to my viewpoint.

Hi Ms. Denny

It seems that you have many portable skills and should not keep them "under a basket".

"But my high school and school district don't know that and don't use my skills in this area". I wonder why this is.

Have you put together a career development plan with a S.W.O.T. analysis and shared it with the leadership. I am sixty nine yrs. young with degrees in business, chemistry, and education with over forty years teaching in Andragogy and Pedagogy. As a lifelong learner I have found that when one becomes proactive and constructs a career developmet plan and works toward the goals and objectives, exciting things happen.

I highly recommend that you share your thoughts and ideas with your mentor and the person to whom you report.

Semper Fi! Paul

As a teacher of 32 years, I have also been a computer consultant, a coach, a youth minister and for 15 years owned a computer store. All of those skills made me a better teacher. Despite having a degree and cert in counseling, I am glad that I stayed in the classroom. Administrators "get out of the game" quickly. The adults who see me at the grocery, at UL games, at church all thank me for those years and the quality of instruction due to "what I brought into class". The real world is a powerful in-service. Don't, for a second, think that you can change things from the top any faster than from the bottom. "Bottom-up" change is always more permanent and more gratifying. Unless you want a fatter check, don't leave the classroom. You got into educating, not administrating. You haven't hit your stride until year 7. Stay at it. The kids and their parents need you. One last thing.... don't lose focus on the many because of the few. While I remember the hard-heads more vividly, I impacted the majority who wanted to learn. They are the ones who come back and say thanks. They are the ones who went to college and became computer engineers, and CEOs and authors and teachers. They are the ones who "got it" Here is a school that is a great example of "bottom up". They did most of what they cheer about without district or administrative help........ http://www.easternhs.org/

I say, go for administration. It is a myth that being a good administrator requires vast amounts of time in the trenches. The added money will come in handy, and the increased challenges will stretch your learning capacity. In the end, you will find yourself a broader person mentally as you cope with blizzard of challenges that come with administration.

This is actually directed to Jeff. While I agree with your assessment of Ms. Denny's teaching experience, or lack thereof (I agree that administrators should have significant classroom experience), you seem a bit bitter. I don't think it's fair of you to doubt her love for teaching just because she is concerned about her financial health. I left teaching in part because as a single woman approaching 40, I knew I could not afford to live much longer on what I was making. There was no time to work an extra job; I already was working 6 days a week, as you most likely know is the situation when you're a dedicated teacher. I had no savings and really had to assess my financial situation. So I'm pursuing a doctorate in education policy, where I stand to maybe double my teaching salary, which still will not qualify me as "rolling in the dough," so to speak. I loved teaching; I miss my students. But I also will love getting out of debt and having enough money to afford a vacation so I can de-stress from work. And I don't think anyone should be judged harshly for that.

Hi,Ms. Denny,
Three years in the classroom and already looking for an out? I agree that you won't make any money at the job. After 36 years in the classroom, I still can't support myself on my salary alone. And yet...
It is the "and yet..." that keeps me working and coaching my 120 teenagers year after year. And yet, I love seeing that moment when a child suddenly understands or makes a connection that will last a life time. And yet, every other path that I have tried leads me inevitably back to my need to be with and shape the next generation. And yet, my relationships with my fellow faculty uplift me and make me connect with a community of incredible people who strive constantly to improve their practice. And yet...
Before you move on to administration consider the isolation that you will encounter and remember that rush that you feel when one of your "rug rats" grabs your hand and hugs you. Teaching is like that-- wonderful, annoying, satisfying, and yet...

I agree with Ms. Denny. I entered the public schools 3 years ago after 15 years at the instructor level at a SLAC. Sure, I ma making about 75% more money now, but it is not worth it. I am moving back to the university setting where learning is valued, students actually care, and I do not have to follow cookie-cutter lesson plans, NCLB absurdities, and act as a social worker for a bunch of disinterested, sullen adolescents. I considered public school admin., but realized I belong in academe, where intellectual pursuits are the coin of the realm.

I skimmed Ms. Denney's post twice. As a professional recruiter I found nothing in her narrative that indicated to me that she loved teaching kids. Only a summary of peripheral experiences and talents that made her think that she should be doing something in the education industry on a higher plane. I see that in people's resumes all the time.

One of the points made in articles that aim at identifying what makes good teachers is that those who would attempt the job need core knowledge, and effective communication skills. Ms. Denney would be advised to grow her child care enterprise and inject it with some learning opportunities -- so to speak value added stuff. There's a large market for that kind of service in this world. And she exhibits some knowhow on running a small business. She certainly doesn't seem to have the passion for "teaching" that marks the good ones.

Proverbs defines the job: "train a child in the way he should go" and assigns it to parents, not outsourced vendors. If individuals want to be teachers they certainly need more inside them than organization skills and the ability to write good minutes for the neighborhood group.

They need values, virtues, wisdom, faith and reason. All possible but not likely in the systems that form today's teachers.

As a teacher of Home and Career Skills (formerly known as Home Ec.) and Technology for the past 23 years I would encourage anyone who cares about children to become a teacher. Kids need direction and information taught by those who want to be in the profession. Unfortunately, sometimes those of us who want to teach are denied that. I lost part of my job in budget cuts a few years ago and have been unable to secure another position because I teach courses schools cut in budget crunches, and because I've been doing it so long. Districts in my area prefer to hire teachers right out of college so they can pay them the lowest level on the pay scale and keep their budgets in line. That often pushes good teachers who have a love of teaching out of the profession. I am considering other career choices if the rest of my job is cut in the next wave. Being good at what you do does not guarantee you will be able to do it long term. There is no loyalty to the professionals anymore. Only the bottom line on the budget sheets matters!

This is directed back at Kathleen. Where did you read that I doubted her love for teaching? I do not state that anywhere. Also, if I am not mistaken, did the original blogger ask for opinions on her options? Don't post blogs if you can not handle opposing views. As far as bitter for myself. No, I am not bitter at anyONE person at all in education. I am just tired of people that come in to my school system (or any school system) that has only taught for five years, and proclaim themselves as experts in educational issues. Most of the time, these people (that land these administrative jobs, or better yet, hold seminars and professional learning meetings that I am FORCED to attend) have went to school to obtain a Master's, Specialist's (which I have) or a Doctorate degree, and use their thesis as this new innovative method of teaching what a rock is. I am all for anyone researching and trying new things to reach the kids (our main goal), but give yourself more time in the classroom before you start telling me how well it worked the 3 or 5 years that you taught. As a side note, if I am bitter, it might be because of being required to take a new assessment this year to prove I am Hi-Q in my present area. Keep in mind, I have taken and passed in my career the TPAI, Teacher Cert. Test, currently teaching the subject I am teaching the fifth year (but all of a sudden I am not Hi-Q?) out of my 18 years of teaching, and teach the same subject as an adjunct instructor at the local university. I am qualified for the university job, but not my middle school. That is the result of people making requirements that haven't stayed on the front line long enough to know what goes on in a classroom. So, don't even get me started on why I might be read as "bitter". As I always have said, I LOVE TEACHING...all 45 minutes of the day I feel I get to without filling out paperwork to keep administrative people a job at the upper levels (yes, start at the St. Dept. of Ed. and trickle down). I bet if you weeded out salary and benefits for the paper pushers, Nancy Bissell (in an earlier blog) would find her class being cut due to budget problems.

To Nancy,

Last week Charles Murray wrote three articles for the Opinion Section of The Wall Street Journal. In the series he bemoans the tendency of our school curricula to aim at preparing every student for college prep without realizing that college is not where every student belongs. Even C. S. Lewis in essays to numerous to list, leaves it clear that neglecting the preparation for the world of work that is found in the technical school or what used to be called trade schools is a horrid thing.

It is criminal that shops [metal, print, wood, auto] and Home Economics are not offered in school. Murray estimates that nearly half of the kids in school are turned off by the college prep courses but have no recourse in the monopolistic system we have for them in public school. It is a terrible shame. And coincidently that 1/2 statistic just about equals the number that drop out and never graduate. Interesting isn't it?

I can so relate. Although this is my third career (after teaching two years out of college I went into business, raised two kids, returned to teaching) my husband 'supports' my teaching career. We loose far to many great educators because they can't make a living and the business of education is so weak. Sad, but true.

Ms. Denny,

As a second year teacher, I certainly understand your frustation and wanting to move up to administration. Coming from a similar background, I notice many educators are intimated by the various other professions I held in my "former life."
Yet, as I watch my students learn, I know that the place for me at this time is in the classroom. My students are amazing. I can't imagine being anywhere else. I think as long as we remember what brought us to the classroom, we can help change the system together.

I think you were so honest. That's great.

I really liked your honesty. I just found this blog via a story in the electronic Teacher magazine. I am 48 and teaching is a third career. I am just entering the fray after a very eclectic life. I would hope to become a part of this community. I am short on time like all of us. But I want to learn and grow!



Ms. Denney-
I too am a “new” teacher changing careers at 38. No longer a rookie in my 2nd year teaching 9th grade science in an urban high school, I am still very “green”. I have 14 years in the labor union where I was in charge of multimillion dollar projects, hiring and firing…. I have been told by fellow teachers and principals in the school that I should go into admin. b/c I often see many practices that are view as pointless or “child enabling” and being “new” I often voice my opinion about those practices to fellow teachers and administrators. I don’t care if I step on admin. shoes b/c I can always fall back on construction, make more $$ and work less hours. So why teach? B/c like many experienced teachers have told me, it’s the “light bulb effect”. You know the one where a student says “Oh! Now I get it!” In my class that’s about 2%. I feel that I could be a good admin. but know that if I feel the pressure from the top to turn on 150 lights, the pressure they feel trying to get 1800 lights turned on must even greater. If you do decide to “move up” I offer some points to consider:
1. running your own business is not the same as managing another’s business- you have to answer to someone other than yourself
2. another man’s trash is not always your treasure- kids that are kicked out of other schools will bring in more $$ for your school but will ultimately bring down your school’s AYP through attendance and test scores
3. “(crap) rolls down hill” -but responsibility flows uphill
4. remember the 3 “D’s” of leadership-decide, delegate, and disappear

Thanks everyone for the comments on my recent entry. This particular posting may not be "all about the kids", but I hope when you read through the archives of this blog that my love for teaching shines through clearly. I wouldn't have made it through these first years without that love. I'm an educator, but I also must consider the realities. No matter how grateful my students may be for my efforts, I don't expect any of them to step forward and support me in my old age. Thanks for listening, thanks for all your comments. So much to consider ...

After reading your article, I feel you need to look around your school and notice that other teachers have many talents as well. Unfortunately for you, you are under the misconception that after 3 years of teaching you are considered an experienced teacher. You are still a novice teacher and need to hone more skills so that you have an appropriate background to become an effective administrator. As a special education and regular education teacher, I have spent 15 years in the classroom, both public and independent schools. I've also consulted internationally for 10 years, establishing early childhood programs in developing countries. Prior to these education positions, I worked for several other organizations, which allowed me to develop writing and critical thinking skills. I hope you realize, like many of us do, that teaching is more than a job that demands one set of skills.

If it's the money you are after, you might take another look around and realize that there are no million-dollar teachers in our classrooms. Good luck figuring out what you want to do with your career.

I have been teaching for nearly twenty years and I can only write one thing: I don't know everything. Sometimes it feels like I knwow nothing. I learn more from my students than I learn from my colleagues and I definitely learn more from them then I ever learned from teachers. But I consider myself a very good teacher. My point, I don't think you need to look at yourself as an expert to do very good work. You don't need to have 10 years of teaching experience to go into administration. I did the doctorate thing and I know you don't need a doctorate to be in administration. What do you need? You need the common sense attitude that yoiu can learn from anybody and everybody You need to have the ability to ask the right questions and listen to the answers. Ms. Denney, you are asking the right questions for you. Now, you need to identify the right answers.

Andrew Pass

Wow! What an interesting forum to locate! I think I have comments on just about all of it! First,I've taught for many years,I chose not to say, because I DO think we have some young teachers who can do circles around teachers who have been teaching for years. I do not think number of years equates to level of compentency.
Next, I DO believe that we have too many people too far removed from reality! I NEED a good mechanic, plumber and carpenter. I also enjoy dining out upon occasion, and count on people trained in food service. We, society, have done a TREMENDOUS disservice to our world by creating a one-size-fits-all educational system. Shame on us all for not rising up and speaking LOUDER. Somehow, I think if all were a bit more politically active, out hands would not be tied with the issues I read here. NCLB is forcing kids to drop out of school with no skills. I see an alarming rate of disinfranchised kids committing felony crimes.....Hmmmmm.... maybe, just maybe, if they felt worth something and were given opportunities to achieve success, they would find fulfilling careers...... Maybe? One more kid employed, one fewer cop shot.
I say, go for it, Ms. Denny! Please, however, go with clean ears.. ready to listen to those in the "trenches" and with passion to make a difference in our educational system. Good luck!

Wow! What an interesting forum to locate! I think I have comments on just about all of it! First,I've taught for many years, I choose not to say, because I DO think we have some young teachers who can do circles around teachers who have been teaching for years. I do have my administrative degree and do teach teacher preparation courses. I do not think number of years equates to level of compentency.
Next, I DO believe that we have too many people too far removed from reality! I NEED a good mechanic, plumber and carpenter. I also enjoy dining out upon occasion, and count on people trained in food service. We, society, have done a TREMENDOUS disservice to our world by creating a one-size-fits-all educational system. Shame on us all for not rising up and speaking LOUDER. Somehow, I think if all were a bit more politically active, out hands would not be tied with the issues I read here. NCLB is forcing kids to drop out of school with no skills. I see an alarming rate of disenfranchised kids committing felony crimes.....Hmmmmm.... maybe, just maybe, if they felt worth something and were given opportunities to achieve success, they would find fulfilling careers...... Maybe? One more kid employed, one fewer cop shot.
I say, go for it, Ms. Denny! Please, however, go with clean ears.. ready to listen to those in the "trenches" and with passion to make a difference in our educational system. Good luck!

Ms. Denny,

Thank you for your article. Several things that you wrote struck a chord with me. I am a career-changer, too, and a bit past 50. I became unsatisfied with work in Silicon Valley computer companies and decided to try something that would have lasting social value.

Sometimes (after two years of teaching) I think I am doing good, making a contribution, helping shape young people. At other moments, I feel as though I've become part of a bumbling bureacracy.

I find myself frustrated with the extreme lack of behavioral support here in California. Crowded classroom (35 teens in a room meant to hold 28-30), little support (9 ADHD kids and 8 resource students in my first period) with limited support from a special ed teacher and mainstream children with no IEPs who are as much as 5 years behind in reading and math.

Oh, yes, and after completing my bachelor's plus my ed school, I make about 40% of what I earned a few years ago.


Ms. Denny,
Your post was very interesting. Before you decide what you want to do you need to sit down and think long and hard. Do I want to make a difference in my life or do I want to make more money in my life? In the teaching world there is no way you can do both.
I must agree that people in administration soon forget where they come from. For 28 years I worked in government. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to management. That is where I thought I wanted to be. The brass ring. I found out very fast that the view from the top of the tower was not what I thought. The people up there had forgotten what it was like to be at the bottom. Most of them had never been on the bottom. They started up there. So the bottom line was the most important thing for them, not the bottom employee.
All that to say, I retired because I was dissatified with the entire dog and pony show.
I started working as s sub-teacher to see if it was something I would like to do. I quickly learned that our children today NEED people who WANT to teach. They do not need teachers who are there just because it is a steping stone to a higher paying job, like administration. There is no way you can be a good administrator with only three years in the classroom.
If you are not happy in the classroom, get out. There are enough unhappy teachers that our leaders of tommrow have to put up with.
I have gone back to school to get my degree in teaching to become a full time teacher. I have a degree in phychology, but know that I have much more to learn about the inner child. With the world changing as fast as it is and our children being exposed more bad than good on a day to day basis it is important for us as educators to show them the good. Televison, the internet, radio, music, movies, etc. that is where they see all the hate and negitive. Teachers need to show them all the love and positive. Teachers may be the only love and positive some of these children ever see and receive.
Bottom line stay if you have the love of children. Leave if you don't.
Jeff-keep on going. I believe in what you say. TOO much paperwork, not enough time to teach. As a teacher, we can work on changing that, not as an administrator.

Jeff your and idiot!!!!

This may or may not be an appropriate response to the overall theme of Ms. Denney's comments.

THERE still appear to be two kinds of teachers: THOSE who teach 36 years one year at a time and those who teach one year 36 times.

AS you reflect upon your experiences, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, ask yourself about the type of teacher you are. The teacher who looks at each year as a new year each year IS the best teacher.

THEN again, it is important to realize that the children and society are changing. The majority of the students in high schools now were born after the start of the Internet and the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Whoever would have thought of China as an up and coming financial giant who could easily put the good old USA in a third world economic position fairly quickly. Yet that is happening fast!

Teaching today requires flexibility beyond what any classroom teacher was trained to face.

I am a second year teacher and I used to be a graphic designer. At one time, in comparison to my salary at an internet startup, I took approximately a $30,000 pay cut. Why?? I get that question a lot.. Honestly, if happiness is money, then I would've been happy right? but, it isn't about the money.. I teach high school English, and honestly the one thing that would cause me to leave teaching is the sheer amount of papers that I have to grade.. The sheer amount of grading compared to all other teachers who do not understand that a 4-5 page paper is usually times 150 students and then there are still journals, homework assignments, and planning. People in the corporate world do not understand the workload or the lack of pay.. I didn't. But, when it comes to the relationships and the impact you are making on a teens' life, that far outweigh the other.. It will be worth it in the end..But, it is hard. Especially if you compare yourself to the corporate world. Don't sell yourself short or sell your soul to make corporations BIG money.. Save a life. Teach.

A recent Wall Street Journal piece covered a recent study by two economists who demonstrate that teachers actually make more, per hour, than most other similarly educated white collar workers, who, contrary to popular opinion, also work long hours beyond the contractual day; in addition, public pension plans are the safest in the nation. Our Congress allows corporate raiders to come in a capture private pension funds as companies are bought, not so for public pension funds.

My wife, who has a B.S. in Psychology, worked as an adult case manager, making far less than a starting teacher while working year-round and weekends to keep up with the state paper work required. There is nothing more useless than people in education complaining about how little they make. If the grass is so green elsewhere, please go. As a former principal, I once had a science teacher leave the profession to sell pharmaceuticals because the "school improvement" work was just too much to keep up with. After only a couple of months of bottom-line, work all day to make quota work just to raise the quota, she called to say that she had made a mistake. I invite any other teachers out there who feel like teaching and education isn't enough to have the courage to leave. My guess is that education won't look so bad after all. We are blessed to work in education, and if we don't feel that way then for the sake of the kids we ought to leave.

I too am a career changer and am working my way through the certification program in college right now. I'm also working full time as a business analyst in a high-tech company. I'm well aware that I will be taking a huge cut in pay but am willing to make the sacrifice and feel it is the right thing for me to do. The joy that I feel when I'm with children keeps me going. I know that I have much to learn and that it will be a life-long committment. My first year will be tough as will many years to follow, but I'm very excited and will attempt to leverage everything I've learned in my life so far, to be the best teacher I can be.

Ms. Denny:
I think you and I should write a book! I too am a career-changer; I too did an alternative licensure program; and I too bring a breadth of skills and work experience to the classroom. I agree that it's extremely difficult to bring your "real world" skills into a school. Yes, I use them in my classroom every day, however, I find schools to be extremely isolated. But, I'm not letting that stop me from connecting my classroom to the outside world. I don't know any other way than to bring in speakers and link up my h.s. students with community organizations and radio stations, etc. to do their projects. After an incredible 22-year career in journalism, public relations and public advocacy, all I know is collaboration and building community. Like you, I have served on many committees, task forces, etc., and I certainly don't walk in with a sign on my forehead stating "here's what I know how to do other than teach." But, I feel like I have to use great caution in mentioning my "other" work experience, if at all, and in fact, I often feel like it's better left unstated. I know I'm not alone. In talking to other career-changers, they have found the same sentiment - that once you're in a school, teaching, you're now a teacher and that's how it is. I've decided to be a listener and observer in my new world, my new career. I've accepted that even though my colleagues and supervisors know my resume, they are immersed in one thing only - teaching kids; hence, their isolation. They're just doing what they have to do and do best - teaching and fulfilling NCLB, making a difference. Education is a very primitive model compared to the business model that us career-changers come from. That in itself is a huge transition (and shock) for us career-changers. Gradually, I know that my "other" skills will be tapped and utilized outside the classroom. For instance, a just-out-of-college teacher/colleague approached me the other day, stating she heard I used to work in magazines and wondered if she could pick my brain on teaching the school newspaper. On another day, the school dean approached me about a possible pr campaign to keep 9th graders in school. I'm a teacher first in my new world; I'm a career-changer second. Like when I first got out of college, I have to learn my new trade, slow but sure, as well as be open to learning from the masters who've been at this a long time. Challenging? God yes! However, I love that no one knows that I was a vice president or that I was a magazine writer. The anonymity gives me a fresh start and makes me feel like a student - and that helps me empathize with my students. I'm learning, sometimes at a faster speed than I can keep up with, but I'm learning and listening and observing every little thing around me. I drive home each day thinking about Jose or Jorge or Nadia - what they said or didn't say, how their eyes looked; I wonder if Roberto and Maria will show up tomorrow and if they're okay; I'm smiling, often wiping a tear. Many days I get a wave of that warm, tingling feeling. I know it's my heart reminding me that I'm where I belong for now - teaching youth. I'm completely in the moment. Ah!

(A note: I'm not slighting teachers for whom teaching has been their sole career. In fact, I admire them more than I can say. I don't know how they've survived. It's the most humbling, challenging, exhausting work in the world. I don't make money; I make a difference! I also know I have a long way to go to hone my skills as a master teacher and I'm not embarassed about that. Afterall, I've only been teaching 3 years.)

I am a new teacher in New Mexico and I am about to take the New Mexico Assessment of Teacher Competency. I was wondering if anyone knows of any type of study guides or practice tests that are out there, other than the actual ones the website that you sign up for the test has.

I have browsed this site off and on since it was made part of Teacher Mag, and have often found many amusing things to share with my colleagues at school. I know this is an old posting - I haven't read it for quite a while - but i still feel I have to add my two cents worth. I taught right out of college, then changed careers for many, many years after 10+ years in the classroom. My experience in silicon valley and as a stay-at-home mom taught me I wanted to be back in the classroom again, and here I am. Now, with an accumulation of over 20 years in the classroom (yes, I'm an oldie), I look at the young teachers coming in who want to jump right into administration (young referring to their teaching time, please) and I shake my head. Our schools are being run by young administrators who are clueless about classroom situations. I'm sorry, even with a world of experience in the so-called real world behind you, if you haven't dealt with classroom (and parent) issues for several years - perhaps 10 is a reasonable number to experience most things - you are of no help to your staff. I too am well-qualified to step into administration - 3 BA's. two master's and a PhD plus years of experience in regular ed, special ed, and in public schools, private schools, and teaching at the college level. I understand the ins and outs of administration on all levels, but I also appreciate that an administrator is not going to be able to lead a school or district in the right direction if they do not fully comprehend what happens in the classroom. You can't understand that in three years. You get a taste, but it is the proverbial tease. Give yourself time to grow as a teacher. Don't discredit your past experience, but don't allow yourself to think it can replace actual time in the classroom because nothing can make up for that experience, and without it, you may find your staff going elsewhere for assistance instead on listening to you.

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