Sunday, April 19, 2015

Should I go back to school to be a teacher?

I am asked time and time again about my move aka career change from computer science to teaching.  For me there were a lot of factors to consider.  My foot in the door of teaching was interesting and not initially planned. 

What did I DO in computer science? 
I was first a programmer and worked with programming database programs using SQL and Visual Basic to customize the database, forms and queries to individual business needs.  I worked on various projects for a company that eventually closed, as the sales were not solid.  I quickly picked up substitute teaching while looking for another job, it paid well, there was a need, and I had the qualifications.  I then worked for a consulting company that tested company’s software before they put it into production.  I wrote technical manuals, and documented errors in what was expected versus what actually happened.  I apparently was very good at it and quickly slid into a training position aka shift supervisor. I was offered several jobs but they were 90+ miles from my home. This is important!  In May of 2001 I checked into getting my teaching license for the first time.  I planned to work at a career tech center as a teacher.  I wanted hours more suitable for my family. Eventually, I chose not to enroll in classes that started in June. THEN the consulting company eventually went under for sales… too bad I didn’t know it was coming, to get unemployment while going back to school would have been ideal, but I missed the teaching program’s window. Here’s the thing, I could have worked for an established company 90 miles from my home but I was recently married, already had a 4-year-old and just bought a house in the middle of a corn field, a corn field not very close to established tech companies. I wasn’t interested in picking up and moving, moving away from our babysitters and a commute longer than 45 minutes was NOT feasible. While looking for another job I found that I was expecting another baby and well…it made sense to stop looking for employment for the moment.

Career Changer
At this point, I went back to substitute teaching.  I could pick my jobs, they weren’t every day but I could pick what jobs I accepted and could be home when my daughter, now 5, got off the bus.  That was the most important part of being a teacher, the schedule matched my school-age daughter’s schedule.  It’s not fantastic to say in an interview.  Why did you go into teaching?  The schedule. But remember above, …trainer,  …back to teaching.  There was likely more to it than I could see on the surface. I spent a couple years at home running an in-home daycare and soon found a job at an adult tech center.  I trained adults to find jobs and to learn computer skills to make them more employable and I could be home by 3:30. I continued teaching as an adjunct at a local college but then I wasn’t making the income I needed for our family versus the time I was putting in.  That’s when I started looking into other corporate training jobs or the idea of getting a teaching license again.  At this point, 10 years after the first attempt at a teaching license, I’d been teaching longer than I’d been in the computer science profession.

Being Prepared
The recommendation was to get my math license and get a computer science license as a supplemental as none of the universities in Ohio outright provided the CS license as an option. NONE of them. My initial degree was not in mathematics; it was computer information systems so I had fewer math courses than many in my cohort. I did struggle to catch-up and remember concepts, it was 12 years since my undergrad graduation and I had not used higher-level math throughout those years.  I did get the assistance of a tutor and watched videos on Youtube.  Specifically Khan Academy on problem sets I needed assistance and Shawn Teaches on YouTube.  

I found the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship on accident. <More here> When I was offered the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship I realized this was an opportunity I was practically forced to go along with.  I could not put it off any longer. They were going to help me go back to school and my stipend would allow me to quit my job so my family would be fine! 

The Student/Parent

I commuted to Cincinnati from near Springfield, OH everyday.  180 miles round-trip. I was previously very involved with my daughter's school and gave up ALL volunteer efforts while in the program.  It was enough to teach, go to college courses, and come home to feed my family.  My husband was supportive and my kids understood that when I came home I would be doing schoolwork.  I got through it by saying it's only one year, and I pretty much made it a one-year commitment.  Nothing since have I allowed to take so much time but I did leave my house before 7:30 AM and not get home until after 8:30 PM except for Fridays when I generally got home closer to 6 PM.  I worked on classroom prep every Sunday so my "day off" Saturday was generally spent on my college coursework. This did not allow for time to work on my kids’ school projects with them, or participate in taking them to practices.  I did get to pick up my youngest daughter from gymnastics on Mondays at 8:30 PM and sometimes take her, and my other daughters were in marching band that was thankfully mostly on Fridays, and the occasional Saturday contest.   I had to ask my kids to take on a lot more responsibility including teenagers making dinner but it didn’t kill them.

The payoff
I have a job now that I LOVE!  This program helped me get through it quicker with less of a financial burden but please know that it is A LOT of work.

I actually talked some about my experiences with the program in a talk at the Ohio Statehouse in 2012.  Details can be found

Best Wishes on what you decide.

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