Education Opinion

Paths in the Woods

By Hanne Denney — February 05, 2007 3 min read
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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.

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