As a CTE curriculum developer, very often our team speaks with CTE administrators to better understand their struggles and those of their teachers. A common thread to these conversations is high teacher turnover. Most of these instructors have moved from an industry career to teaching and are faced with unfamiliar situations for which they have not been trained. Here’s one example from a health science instructor in Marion County, Florida:
Note from Sarah: This is a guest post by high school business teacher, Kevin Schachter. Like many of you, Kevin did not begin his career as an educator. Rather, he brings his knowledge and experience in industry to his high school business and computer applications courses. Here's his story on teaching as a second career... As this year's first week of school drew to a close, I realized that it was probably the smoothest first week I have ever had as a teacher. After eight years, in this ninth go round, I finally knew what I was doing well enough to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I was in fact, as I had been doing every year prior, and as I'm certain most of us are, just making it all up as I went along. But at least it felt like, to an outsider at least, that it would have looked like I was in total and complete control. In hindsight, not unexpectedly, I realize that the job actually gets (or at least seems) easier as we continue to do it. The big shame though, is that it really does take some time. Much longer than the five year average that many people give it before calling it quits. It feels easier, because, like anything else, the more we continue to practice it, the better we get at it. Teaching as a Second Career: Successes Like many business teachers, having transitioned from "The Real World" into teaching, there were things that I expected would come naturally. For me specifically, having spent 20 years in the hotel and restaurant industry, I had a great deal of experience in working with high school and college age students, and thought that developing a rapport with my students would be simple; which it was. I also knew, having spent so much of my previous career involved in training and development, that the teaching part of teaching would eventually come easily as well; which it also did. I imagine that others who have made the transition have found that some parts are a natural and seamless shift, while other elements take quite a bit of adjustments and getting used to. Teaching as a Second Career: Challenges Classroom management was an issue I struggled with at first. I used to be able to enforce discipline upon a habitually tardy or potentially unruly employee with threats of suspension or termination, but there is no real equivalent in high school. Also, the hospitality field is naturally chaotic, and one expects to spend an excessive amount of time putting out fires, but that model does not lend itself well to a learning conducive classroom. So I worked on classroom management and it is no longer an issue. Grading was an area in which I had to learn from scratch. Two things have become indispensable to me when it comes to assessment. The first is the variety of online learning systems and the internal assessments that are available through them which I use to support my curriculum. I'm no longer creating everything from scratch, and constantly reinventing the wheel, when there are so many reasonably priced, often even free wheels there for the taking. The variety and versatility of these tools saves me countless hours that would be spent on planning and grading. The other concept that has become indispensable to me, is what I refer to as "Brown M&Ms." Brown M&Ms comes from a story about the rock band Van Halen, and their apparent debauchery and diva like ways. Brown M&Ms To summarize the story: the band had a reputation for hard partying, trashing backstage areas of concert venues, and even storming out without playing the shows they were booked for. As always however, there was more to the story. They were one of the first big acts to tour with a huge accompaniment of sound, lighting and stage equipment. They were finding that many of the arenas they were booked to play in were not necessarily fit, structurally or electrically to handle all of their equipment, which caused many safety concerns for them. Their contract riders were very extensive, and they believed that many of the venues were not completely reading them, so they made some easy "metrics" that would indicate such. They would ask for an odd variety of items to be placed in their dressing room, among which was a large bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown ones removed. When they arrived, rather than have to go around looking at all of the electrical and structural components, they simply checked the dressing room. If there were no brown M&M's, they knew the contract had been read, and would move on to checking more critical issues. If there were brown M&Ms, they knew the contract had not been followed and left. Since their contract entitled them to receive payment in full for these violations, they had a little fun, and trashed the dressing room before leaving allowing the cost of the damages to be deducted from their earnings, and simultaneously earning them a reputation as difficult. As word spread about the M&Ms, they changed that detail to something even more outlandish, and so on. (Read about Van Halen's contract here.) Brown M&Ms in the Classroom I have pretty much incorporated this logic into the way that I assign and grade much of the work for my classes. When I give an assignment, it may have many instructions and details that I expect the students to complete or do, but as I am grading an assignment, I am only looking for a few specific items. Since they don't know which, they are likely to do all of them. If one or two are missing, I know to check the rest for completion, but if the "Brown M&Ms are there; it is usually safe to assume all the required items are present. This, like the variety of online tools I use also saves me countless hours of grading. I teach ten preps in a seven period day. (Call me crazy! When someone complains about 3 or four, I giggle and say "that's cute.") When I began teaching, and for the first few years, it was only two or three, but now I frankly would get bored if I taught the same thing all day long. We do get better at it though, and it does get easier. Ten preps means I have a lot of planning to do, but fortunately I've devised many ways to save a little time here and there, like looking for the Brown M&M's, otherwise I probably would end up in the loony bin. My Ten Preps (for the record): Legal Aspects of Business Computing for College & Careers (3 Sections) Combined Class: Accounting I Accounting II Accounting III Combined Class: Foundations of Web Development User Interface Design Web Scripting Fundamentals Business Software Applications Medical Office Technology Kevin Schachter; MOS, ACA, MTA, QBCU, PCCS teaches and is the Business Technology Education Department Chair at Palm Harbor University High School in Pinellas County Schools, Florida. Schachter is also a District Co-Director for Future Business Leaders of America. Additionally, he is a technology coordinator and webmaster for phuhs.org. Our sincere thank you to Kevin for sharing his experience with us!
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Last week, I wrote about teaching as a second career, from nursing to health science education. In hindsight, I am afraid that only health science teachers will take notice. So I want to talk a little bit more about teaching as a second career. It's not just going from nursing to teaching. It's also going from the business world to teaching business and going from the IT world to teaching computer applications.
Many health science teachers were nurses before becoming instructors. Does that sound like you? Did you come into teaching as a second career? Quite a change, right? I recently had the opportunity to talk to one such teacher and how she's managed that transition.