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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Write Your Own Ticket with This Career

Welcome!  Today's financial literacy installment is meant to encourage Millennials and people looking for a career change on their future job prospects.  Do I have a job for you!  Let me tell you...this career is already currently in high demand and with the right advice, you can practically write your own ticket.

The job is not easy; though it can be very meaningful sometime after the third or fourth year of employment when things start to make more sense.  You will always have mental stimulation.  In fact, with this job you can learn something new almost every day!

I'm talking about being a teacher.  And if this makes you immediately sick like the smell of sulfur on a hot day, put on a gas mask!  Teachers in the U.S. are a commodity right now, with employers like school districts and charters fighting for them left and right, especially in certain parts of the country.  Not to mention, there are countless of Baby Boomers leaving the profession every single year and this trend will not abate for quite some time.

Now, I understand that there is a whole lot of negativity out there about being a teacher.  Reasons people cite to discourage others from being a teacher include:

1.  Low salary/pay
2.  Under-appreciated by the press, politicians, and segments of the population 
3.  High stakes testing interwoven in the evaluation process and also taking curriculum choice away from individual teachers
4.  The workload expectation after school hours
5.  Student misbehavior enabled by administrator's need to reduce disciplinary statistics




Doesn't sound like fun, does it?  But let me tell you, as an educator on his 15th year, I can assure you that many of the reasons against being a teacher are exaggerated, and often times, comparable to what other professionals face in their own private sector world, i.e., routine stuff.  I have advice for anyone out there that is thinking about becoming an educator.  This advice will make your reaching veteran status a lot more likely. 

1.  Don't start your career in an urban, low-income setting if you want improved odds of making it past year three in the business.  It takes experience and excellent classroom management skills to thrive in this type of setting, and frankly, new teachers just aren't cut out for it this early in their career.  Instead, start out in an environment where students will be forgiving of your errors.  Once you gain teaching experience, you can move your career to the inner city if that's your passion.

2.  Do your homework and read the teacher's contract of the prospective school district where you want to be employed.  Immediately check the section on evaluation.  Find out what criteria is used to evaluate teachers.  If there's a mention of testing performance anywhere, click the "X" on that site and look elsewhere for employment.  The last thing you need as a new teacher is to worry about student performance on state tests affecting whether you get to make it to another year.

3.  Have a system to make the workload manageable.  For example, I come in one hour before the start of the day and grade notebooks or quizzes, enter grades, and find PowerPoint lectures/YouTube videos via Google on the content I need to cover in the upcoming lessons.  After school, I spend one hour taking down labs, setting-up new labs, grading, and planning curriculum.  I NEVER TAKE WORK HOME!  In fact, I haven't taken work home in over ten years.  I work about 10 hours a day now as a teacher (Monday through Friday...I don't do work on weekends) compared to the 11 plus hours I was putting in daily (M-F) as an administrator.

4.  Stay away from the Toxics.  The Toxics are the jaded, constantly complaining and whining staff members at every school.  Too much of them and your week will be depressing.  You're better off finding the people who look like they are enjoying what they do.  The positive energy you get from healthy, well-rounded, and balanced teachers will inspire you to model your own career after theirs.

5.  Win the hearts of your students before trying to win their minds.  Beginning teachers stress about staying on pace with their veteran counterparts, and indeed, sometimes they are pressured to move fast.  This is a recipe for disaster.  New teachers need to establish professional, yet caring relationships with their students as a necessity.  Only when students feel they can trust who's in front of them will they be willing to respect their teacher.  And since new teachers don't yet have the management skills needed to keep student discipline at bay, they will suffer the consequence of trying to put learning as a priority over relationships.  Explain this rationale to your evaluator and see them smile.  Trust me.
 


How to write your own ticket as a teacher

Once you get your credential and are a free agent, so to speak, research the state you want to work in.  Find places and employers that will offer signing bonuses.  They do exist!

Negotiate your salary.  In states like Arizona, Nevada, and Indiana, where they are hard up for teachers, I would suggest every teacher new to the area negotiate for a better step on the salary schedule then where they would normally start.  Why not?  If they don't want to place you on step three (normally reserved for a third year teacher) see if they will settle for step two.  Don't sign anything until you get the best possible deal for yourself.

Get credentialed in a highly sought after subject area like Special Ed, Science, and Math.  If you have one of these three types of specialty credentials you will always have employers courting you.

If you move and will be working in a place that is begging for teachers, tell your future employer that a condition of your employment be that they take all of your years of teacher experience in consideration of where to place you on the salary schedule.  Certain districts only accept between five and seven years and will want to place you as far down as they can on the salary schedule to have less of their operating budget going to salary.  Tell them no thanks.  Find ones willing to give you what you deserve and these I suspect will be more abundant in the near future.

Look, there will always be challenges in someone's work life.  The corporate world/private sector is not immune from politics, top down management, and people with ingrained ideas about how things should be done.  As an administrator the past ten years, I interviewed many people who had left the private sector, frustrated by what they had encountered in the corporate world, who wanted to pursue their lifetime dream of working with young people and sharing of their knowledge.  Back in the classroom, I can tell you that I am much more relaxed and in control of my daily work functions.  I can't believe I did admin work for ten years!  Teaching is great when you don't let it define who you are, are flexible, and have a strong union helping to keep evaluation fair.  If change scares you, however, please don't become a teacher, because professional growth involves change.  One's the image, the other is the reflection.    
  
Thanks for reading!  See you next time.

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