Some people discover the rewards of teaching early on in life, just after college and in their twenties. For others, becoming a teacher happens much later – sometimes after another career has ended.
If you’re in the latter group of educators, you may have questions about your new line of work. Will students accept you if they know you’re new? How will you gain the insights of your peers when you’re so late to the game?
To help you make the most of this exciting and challenging career change, follow these tips and tricks from well-seasoned teachers.
Learning Your Strengths
Many new teachers believe that entering the career later in life puts them at a disadvantage.
However, you’d be surprised to find out that a second career in education is actually quite common. Jennifer Gonzalez, former middle school teacher and founder of the teacher advice site Cult of Pedagogy, says that having real world experience, both in life and from other careers, can be a great advantage.
For example, having a background related to technology can be very valuable in modern schools – even if you haven’t previously worked in education.
In fact, almost every career has an important skill that can be used in teaching. In an article at What’s Next, a resource for people changing careers in middle age, this sentiment is reinforced. From engineers and accountants to architects and finance professionals, all kinds of qualified individuals are leaving their professions for teaching. Furthermore, in a study on careers, teaching was cited as the most common profession for people aged 44 to 70 who had changed jobs.
Additionally, London-based freelance journalist Suzanne Bearne interviewed a number of seasoned teachers on the matter. As one of these teachers put it: “The skills you have gained from the industry you currently work in will give you life experience which may help you in a teaching career.”
Professional Skills and Teaching
Experience managing teams or projects also translates well to teaching, according to parenting and education writer Fiona Tapp. Managing people in an office is similar to managing students in a classroom, as it’s a matter of working successfully with different personalities and the variety of strengths they bring to the table. Knowing how to give presentations is also a great foundation for teaching lessons.
All Education Schools shares a few more teaching skills common across the business and professional world. For example, verbal and written communication skills are essential teaching strengths that are honed in almost any business setting. Being a good listener is also key, and that’s a skill practiced in almost any job where you report to someone. Plus, being knowledgeable in a specific area of expertise can give you a leg up when applying to teach a certain subject.
Your Teacher Resume
Now that we’ve explored how varying professional strengths can relate to teaching, it’s important that you articulate your skills on resumes and in interviews.
No matter what your previous career was, it is key that your resume highlights those skills applicable to teaching, according to Candace Alstad-Davies, a teaching career expert and founder of the blog A+ Resumes for Teachers. She adds that teachers should use their cover letter as an opportunity to explain why they’ve made the switch. This is an excellent opportunity to explain your talents and strengths while showcasing your excitement for your new career path.
Knowing Your Advantage
Aside from your professional strengths, entering the teaching profession later in life does offer a few advantages.
For one, independent writing and editing professional Joanna Hughes stresses that universal teacher shortages can be used to your advantage. Due to a rapidly aging population in the US, a large number of teachers are retiring at the same time and there aren’t enough teachers to take their place. This means second career teachers have increasing opportunities for employment.
Another benefit of entering the career later in life is that you’ll likely have experience of being a team player. In a profession where getting along with co-workers is essential to a positive environment, this is certainly a plus.
Boston-based writer and speaker Manya Chylinski explains that colleagues are a wealth of wisdom that are most likely willing to help you. Whether you have questions about lesson planning and tests, or you’re just curious about school culture and administration, use these people to your advantage. Chances are, asking for their help will make them respect you more and see you as a friend and equal.
Tips for Getting Started
For advice on how to get started, look to veteran teachers. Writer and editor Rachel Gillett collected 18 helpful tips from educators, sharing what they wish they had known before they began teaching. One educator says it’s important for new teachers to know how rewarding the job can be. Despite the fact that teaching is difficult, and that you’ll sometimes experience challenges beyond your control, the benefits outweigh the cost for most veteran teachers.
Acquiring the necessary certifications is another thing you should accomplish before applying to new teaching jobs. FlexJobs staff writer Adrienne Bibby explains that many colleges and universities offer shorter courses in the specific area of expertise you’re seeking.
Leaning towards your natural strengths can help you decide what you’ll be best at as a teacher. You may also be able to complete this degree online, which can ease the transition from your previous career into teaching.
Teachers Who Made the Switch
Looking at examples of other teachers in your situation may inspire your path.
In an article from The New York Times, journalist Motoko Rich follows second-career teachers from a variety of professions. One is a horse ranch owner, who pursued a yearlong teaching degree program at the age of 57. She now teaches English as a foreign language. Another is a retired Air Force Chief, who entered Teach for America in his late 40’s. Using his leadership skills from the military, he plans to become a school administrator.
Teacher and author Jeremy S. Adams adds that teachers who are in their forties have the perfect balance of both energy and wisdom. They know enough about life to feel confident in their goals and abilities, yet they still have the stamina to keep up with kids in class. He calls this the Golden Age of a teaching career, and he believes that teachers in their forties have absolutely everything going for them.