How To Get Out Of Teaching

So now that you’ve gotten into teaching you want to know how to get out. Teaching can feel a little bit like one of those expensive, fancy haunted houses that pop up around Halloween. You want to go into it because it seems exciting and different and your friends say it will be awesome and then a small child runs at you with a knife and you scream and look for the exit.

If you’ve kept up with this website at all you know I was a dedicated classroom teacher that made the huge leap of faith and entered the tech world. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t mean that flippantly. I truthfully mean that it was as difficult as a breakup. In fact it felt just like that. When people ask me how my teaching is going a year after I left, it’s like they’re just finding out a friend is newly single and they give you that look like “Should I high five you or hug you?” My entire identity was about to change (or so I thought) and I had no idea where to start. I felt the need to do something different creep over time until it was simply time. The hard part was that my internal metric of when it was time did not align with the rest of the world and I had to navigate a lot. I didn’t know where to start. I went to friends for help. And now friends are coming to me for help. So that’s where the advice for this comes from. I’ve had about a half-dozen educator friends talk to me about my process and about twenty strangers reach out via the Internet. This is that initial advice.

  • First things first- stop telling yourself “I’ve only ever been a classroom teacher. My resume is nothing compared to people that have been doing other things.”
    STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. You need to start looking at the bigger picture here. Most jobs that are entry level have a ramp up process for new hires. No one expects you to hit the ground running and know everything on day 1. I’ve also heard the following stupid sentences “But my degree is just in History. They wouldn’t care about that.” “I only taught basic subjects like Algebra I. You taught Statistics!” We should all stop comparing ourselves to the fictitious competitor to our perfect job. It matters less than we think it does and our stupid brains should never be the reason we don’t reach our goals. You will get hired because you have soft skills beyond compare.
  • How do you get your soft skills noticed? Well, the first thing I did when I started to look was show my resume to my sister. She lovingly tore it apart and told me nothing in it made sense to her. I had to translate my teaching resume into world resume. My teaching resume had something to the effect of:
    • Geometry and IB Math Studies
    • Created Problem Based Curriculum
    • Committee Member – Head of School Search
    • Committee Member – Strategic Planning

      Which translated to: 
    • Develop problem-based learning curriculum for Geometry and IB Math Studies
    • Member of Head of School Search Committee – Interview Head of School Applicants
    • Member of the Strategic Planning Team – Dream and plan future of the school, develop 5 year plan

So look at your resume and see where you can further explain your soft skills. Teachers lead and organize anywhere from 3-6 meetings a day with groups of people that need to be inspired. They plan and deliver presentations. They think big picture while somehow still having the ability to pick up on the details. They can read rooms and understand human connection. They can cater content and think on their toes when the situation changes. They can handle pressure and intense situations. WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO HIRE THAT PERSON?

I had to explain to the rest of the world what I did using verbs that connect to the jobs I wanted.

  • How do you know what jobs you can do?! Well that’s a really good question. I didn’t start with that so much as “What companies fit with the reason why I want to get out of teaching?” If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why?” I highly recommend it. You’re more likely to get hired when your application makes sense. When you say “I taught for X years until I realized _____ and that’s what led me here” then people think of you differently. The mistake a lot of people make I think is the _____ part. They think it has to be deep and grand and poetic. You know it could be as simple as “I realized I never worked much with adults and as I developed things with my team I realized how much joy I get from leading and developing with my peers. I think it’s time I give myself the opportunity to grow in that realm.” Find a company that interests you and monitor their jobs until something fits with you.
  • Explain yourself in a cover letter even if there isn’t one required. According to government statistics there are 3.2 million teachers in America. That includes the bad ones. Assuming you aren’t a bad one you’re going to want your future employer to know the difference. A cover letter makes all the difference. The cover letter should address why you are looking for such a big change.
  • It’s whom you know not what you know. I had coffee dates with around a dozen strangers in the process of getting my first job out of the classroom. One of them claimed to have plenty of “recovering teachers” on his team. That phrase struck me. All teachers need someone to stand up for them and say “This person deserves a shot at something new.” I would HIGHLY recommend finding people on LinkedIn that used to be teachers who now work in your prospective industry. I hit up tons of strangers and each of them helped me out in some way. Reaching out and saying “I saw you were a teacher but now you do X, I’d love to hear your story. Can we meet up for coffee?”
  • You won’t have to completely start over. I was worried that I’d have to get a job for the same teacher pay but now work 12 months out of the year. I will say that’s not what happened at all. I’m extremely lucky but people need to know that it’s possible to double your salary in your first job out of the classroom. It may not be possible at your geographic location but simply knowing that it’s possible to have a rewarding job that improves your quality of life can be encouraging. You can do it too.
  • Be patient but get over the idea that the timeline will be favorable. I know a lot of teachers who say “Yah I look for jobs every April-May but nothing really ever works out.” The part that made my job transition so difficult is that I had to quit 3 weeks into the school year. I went to the Meet the Teacher Night with my replacement and then started my new job the next day. That was incredibly stressful and I felt like I was abandoning my students. But I tried looking for a job in April through June and got no bites. The job I ultimately got and love didn’t get posted until mid July and by the time my final interview came around I had to start class the next Monday. If you’re open to the idea of moving on but don’t open yourself up to the idea of quitting mid year, you may be missing the best opportunity. Businesses aren’t going to operate on a May-August hiring calendar. If you really want a new job you may have to accept that the timeline will be less than favorable for both you and your school.

So that’s it. My story is just an anecdote and I have no idea how replicable it is. I’d love to hear from others. It took me 4 months to get a new job and I applied to well over 30 positions. I got about 6 phone screen interviews and only two in person interviews so be patient. I think the most important take-aways are that you (the teacher) deserve a job that fulfills you and you can make it happen. When we (teachers) spend all of our energy wishing the best for our students and wanting them to reach their maximum potential we can sometimes forget that we deserve the same. Sometimes that means teaching for 50 years. Sometimes it means leaving.

But no teacher can be great with one foot out the door. Good luck.

How To Get Into Teaching

I get two questions all the time. The first comes from non-teachers -How would you recommend I get into teaching? The second most common question comes from teachers – How would you recommend I get out of teaching?

I figured it would be a useful resource for those people to come here to read and then we can have a more in-depth discussion about their specific life and goals. So here it goes.

How to get into teaching:

Most people ask this are in 1 of 3 life stages. The first is that they are in college and are thinking of how their degree or major fits into education. The second is you already have a degree but you want to get into teaching. There are two options for this situation. One involves going back to school and the other doesn’t. I’ll address these options in that order so you can skip down to what applies to you (except the 3rd could use the advice for the 2nd).

  1. You’re currently in college and majoring in X and you want to teach upon graduation. The problem is your degree is not in education. What to do? Well in Texas if you want to teach 8-12 you have to major in your content area. But what if my major still isn’t in my content area? There are a few options for you. Most universities recognize the need to produce educators and have options for how to get certified without changing your major (or maybe it’s as simple as adding a minor). At the University of Texas, where I went, there was a program called UTeach. It provided training for current UT students majoring in things besides education to become certified in STEM fields along with their degree. This is a great option because you get the more dynamic opportunity to major in something besides education. If you really want to keep your major and it’s not what you want to teach (like engineering but want to teach physics like as was my situation) then you can always do option 2 or 3. So wherever you are in school, ask an advisor for how this works at your school. There may be an option for you.
  2. You have your degree. What to do now? There are two options but the one I see often for the more recently graduated is simply going back to school. However, this option is open to anyone. The thing to google is “Post Bacc Teacher Certification Programs at (insert school in my area).” Almost every university has a masters program or post bacc program that involves one year of classes and one year of “training.” Often the training is you being a classroom teacher but with a mentor that guides you through the year. Your lessons and projects for class and your classroom are intertwined. Sometimes the courses for the Post-Bacc can count towards a M.Ed if you choose to continue. This is a great option for getting extra credentials and building your resume, especially if you’re competing for social science/humanities teaching jobs. I thought about getting certified this way at UTSA but decided against it. I don’t really remember why to be perfectly honest. I was 23 and I don’t know why I did half the things I did.
  3. Last option is to do a private certification program. This is what I did. There are tons of options for this from for-profit certification companies that have billboards asking you “when you can start?” I don’t know how these operate because I did mine through the regional education service center. This is a branch of the education realm that holds records for certifications, school evaluations, general data holding, etc for the state. I felt like this was a good option because it was a branch of the education system that was well connected to the school districts. I don’t know how this works in states beyond Texas but I imagine there are similar opportunities. I took night classes twice a week from 6-9 pm that prepared me for curriculum content and one class every other weekend that covered classroom management and teaching pedagogies. I liked this option because I was working during this time. It was about 3 months of this in the spring of 2010 before schools started looking for candidates. The agency helped us prepare our resumes and for interviews and even had a career fair. It only cost about $800 upfront and the rest was taken out of your paycheck only if you got a job (Something like $2000 over 12 months).

To be honest, a lot of the content in my program felt like a waste of my time but as far as hurdles go – it was pretty easy. I didn’t mind that this is what it took to become a teacher and it proved useful in that it helped me get my first teaching job. I wish I had done the M.Ed program as it would have been more valuable to my long term career. I already had an MS in Engineering so I think that’s why I didn’t bother.

This is a very unsexy post but all career changes or decisions are scary and even the bold require some assistance, hand holding, or high fives.