As the old saying goes, “Those who can’t, teach.” In my experience, that’s just not the case. Successful professionals, individuals who found lucrative and challenging careers but feel that something is missing, make some of the best teachers. They’ve experienced the work world’s challenges and demands, and they have thrived. However, as I can attest, sometimes it feels more like surviving. For those who are invested in their industries but find “traditional” career paths lackluster, teaching might be the solution to finding a passionate, rewarding profession.
It’s Awesome for Professionals
When I left my job as a successful veterinarian, I was burnt out. I had spent numerous years studying for my profession and many years practicing, yet I knew that I couldn’t keep going. I wanted something more rewarding, and I’d discovered I liked working with young people when they shadowed me at work or stopped by at career fairs.
Teaching was the right decision. When the kids “get” the concept I’m trying to teach, when the outcast feels safe in my classroom and begins to develop social skills, and when kids with learning disabilities who have been told they can’t do something learn that particular skill, I know I made the best choice personally and professionally.
Teachers who previously worked in the public sector are able to positively impact students’ lives by teaching skills to attain success in school and the working world. Because many of them had professional mentors or mentored others throughout their careers, they know how to give thoughtful and encouraging advice that will help young students gain confidence and determination.
It’s Great for Schools, Too
This should be obvious, but post-real-world teachers will know their subject areas very well, and they have been exposed to ideas, opinions, and viewpoints not taught in textbooks. These teachers will also be more likely to know what’s truly valuable in the real world, and they’ll focus on building skills that are applicable outside of the classroom.
Because they’re used to hard work and multitasking, their standard of teaching will also raise the bar in schools. They can be an example of professionalism, timeliness, and collaboration. Newer teachers haven’t been ignored by policy makers for as long, so they have more energy to raise objections.
Veterinary experience personally helped me approach teaching in critical ways:
- I gained a lot of experience working with different personalities, both clients and staff — and the conflicts that arose as a result of those different personality types.
- I had to educate clients on various diseases and treatment plans, and I also had to ensure that my staff was well-versed on proper procedures and care methods.
- I learned how to adapt to an ever-changing schedule — which, as most know, kids deliver as easily as animals do.
- I became accustomed to physically and mentally demanding work.
Post-Real-World Teaching — Is It for You?
Of course, teaching isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering it, here are some questions to ask yourself before taking the leap.
- Why do you want to teach? If you think it’s going to be an easy job, then the job definitely isn’t for you.
- Do you have the patience to work with kids?
- Do you have the determination to finish something once you start it? The first year is rough (but rewarding), and the kids will test you.
- Can you be strict with kids? Are you willing to be the “bad guy?”
- Can you adapt when things don’t go as planned? (Most people with experience in corporate jobs are good at this.)
- Do you have the physical stamina to work long hours?
- Do you like people, especially teenagers?
- Are you good at not taking things personally? Kids can really be hurtful sometimes.
- Can you afford a pay cut?
- Will your family be supportive when you work 80 to 100 hours per week during the first year of teaching?
- Can you tolerate people thinking you’re nuts for becoming a teacher?
Teaching isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re a professional looking for a change, few transitions will be as beneficial — or as rewarding.
Dr. Karin Rader is a science teacher at Sycamore High School in Pleasant View, Tennessee. She participated in Teach Tennessee to gain her certification to teach after realizing her true calling in life was to influence young people. With Teach Tennessee, professionals can turn their college degree and professional work experience into a rewarding teaching career in the high-need subject areas of math, science, or foreign language in grades 7-12.
Category: Career Change