My teaching career has been a bit unconventional. During my time in college, I was sure I’d be an early elementary teacher. My degree is in early childhood education, and I did my student teaching in a kindergarten classroom. The job market in 2003, when I graduated, wasn’t fantastic. I secured a job as an 8th grade English/Social Studies teacher because of the credits I had in my undergrad. A semester in, I realized I loved teaching social studies, so I went back to school for a Master’s in Secondary Education. After five years in a junior high classroom, I decided to pursue my National Board Certification. Fast forward to 11 years in, I decided to move to a high school, and that’s where my journey really took off. I went to many professional development opportunities and fell in love with my job. In 2020, right before the pandemic showed us what it was about, I applied for and got a job outside of the classroom, and now I work at a University as the Director of Civic Education Programs. No matter where you start, you can go in so many directions.
Four things that changed my teaching career
National Board Certification
I genuinely cannot say enough about my National Board Certification. I’ve written about it so many times I don’t know what else to add. You can read the posts below.
Accomplished teachers help create informed and engaged citizens
Professional Development Opportunities
Sign up for newsletters, ask around, and follow teachers on socials who have been to many professional developments! Go for it if you are lucky enough to have some tremendous in-state PD! The networking is worth it!
Check out this podcast episode on professional development!
This is a big one. Having mentors who wanted to see me succeed and had no issue giving feedback when I asked for it was vital in my development as a teacher. Some of these mentors I sought out, but some became unofficial mentors. I’d see something that I admired about them, and I’d ask more questions. I’d ask to observe their classrooms because they had good management. I’d ask how they’d handle an email. I wouldn’t always take the advice, but I’ll store it away to use for another day.
People will give you advice all the time as an educator. YOU get to choose how you receive it. Sometimes, it’s terrible advice, and it’s best to say, “Thank you,” and move on. Sometimes, the advice is hard to hear but necessary to listen to.
A note about this: ask people if they have the space to mentor you. They usually do it without compensation, but they will help you if they can. Be ok with some saying no. That is a boundary that is important to respect.
Check out this podcast on cultivating a positive circle of colleagues
My network is extensive. I’ve learned so much from them, received a lot of opportunities because of them, and am a better educator. I met them at a professional development workshop, through Twitter chats, in Facebook groups, and through other people, I’ve connected with. Teachers can be the biggest cheerleaders for one another and can often offer a different perspective.
My favorite is the #sschat on Twitter. Find your people! Not every group will fit your values or your vibe. That is ok. Do what works best for you. That’s what inevitably makes networking a positive experience.
A quick note: please make sure that you are doing any of these things for the right reasons. We have seasons where we cannot do more than our teaching jobs. That season for me was from 2011-2014. I had my daughter and wanted to just focus on her. You do not have to be everything all the time.