This week Ali and JoDee chat with Cecily Williams-Blijd, an educational leader in K-12, higher education, and at the corporate level. Together they discuss the classroom to corporate transition and the ways to tell you need a change. They'll unpack the benefits of modeling career change for not just you and your teacher peers, but your students as well.
Connect with Cecily:
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Teacher Shift LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/teacher-shift
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible, questioning who am I if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
Thank you so much for joining us today on The Great Teacher Resignation. I'm gonna turn it over to my co-host, JoDee to introduce our guest for today.
All right. Thanks Ali. So today, we have a dear friend of mine, Cecily Williams-Blijd. And she is an accomplished professional with over 30 years of leadership in roles at the corporate level, K 12, and higher education sides. And she brings to us the perspective of someone that has gone back and forth through that. She is also someone that I got to know because I taught her sons. And we found a friendship during that. And she has mentored me through many parts of my life professionally and personally. And she is always has words of wisdom. And she's very insightful. So I'm glad to introduce you, Ali, to my friend Cecily.
Thank you so much for being here today, Cecily.
Thank you guys for having me. I'm very excited about. This is a wonderful opportunity to join you.
Well, I'm really glad to have someone who has so much experience with making these different transitions. And I know that our listeners are really interested in hearing about that. How do you know when it's time for a change?
How do you know when things aren't going smoothly any longer? Then you start realizing why am I waking up? And why am I in this role? And am I bringing my best to the job that I said that I wanted, and who that impacts. So when I was teaching, and I realized that I loved it. And I brought my best and love working with students and other teachers, it was exciting. You wake up and you wonder, you know, what your students are going to do? what you're going to share with them? And the joy that you get from when they understand. For me, I teach literacy and special education. And so I would really get excited when I saw a reader who I knew struggled with reading, that all of a sudden I would hear them and then they're struggling with fluency any longer, or they're actually coming to class on time because they're willing to put in the effort and the work. But once I started waking up, and I'm like, Oh, my goodness, I really do I have to? And I feel like there's too many demands of my time. And I'm losing myself in the world to the point that it's beyond work. I'm just kind of completing tasks, then I start realizing that it's time to start thinking about what am I meant to do next. And it's always with that thought process, before starting the action of looking for something new to do.
I think all of us have probably felt that which is why we've made our own transitions at different times. When you're looking to make a transition. And I'm really, I'm really thinking particularly about from the classroom to another profession or another career or another job. What did you find to be your biggest obstacle when making that transition?
The biggest obstacle I would say is that I didn't know what I didn't know about what do you do next after teaching. and then being open to serendipitous type of experiences and meet people. And as we're doing now, talking and networking to learn what else is out there. For me, it just happened to be, per chance that I was traveling down to the Maryland area. I was out with family and we were going out to lunch and one of my cousins was running late. And I met a woman who became my mentor now. But at the time she was just a friend and we started talking about education. And she was a warden of a youth facility, but she oversaw Title One programs and the literacy program at prison for youth. And I was like totally floored by her experiences at that because I thought Title One within the school system in New York City. And we started comparing notes. And it just came up she was like oh, well, you know, I need someone just like you to be a consultant to train and take under my wing over at a computer curriculum corporation. You know, to bad you don't have your masters. And I did. And she was like, I would love for you to take the opportunity to interview and learn more. And I think it was just the biggest fear of like, you don't know. Like, you don't know. And with me taking that calculated risk going, why don't I just at least find out? So you know, the biggest challenge for me, I think, was that fear of the unknown. And not understanding what that would have been. When you teach, you know what to expect. It's one of the longest running professions out. You kind of know you're in the classroom. You're going to be with your students, you know, you're going to grade them. You know, you're going to create a test. You know, you're going to teach them whichever subject matter. When you start talking about, you know, you're going to be a consultant or go into something on the corporate side, that's a world that's unknown. And there's a huge learning curve. So it's really having the confidence within yourself to know even if I don't know this, I'm willing to find out.
Absolutely. And what I hear from you is that change can be scary. When we think about making a change in our lives and leaving something that's really comfortable and unknown variable. It's scary, and it takes guts to do that. So it sounds like you went on that job interview, after all.
I did. It was amazing. And I was scared. I mean, I was only 25-26 years old when I made that first transition out of education. And the first job interview actually happened in a IHOP. So that was scary, because how do you prepare for this?
First you eat pancakes, and then you prepare.
This is so wild. And I remember, you know, I was learning about what the role would be and you know, your shadowing and learning about at the time, it was computer assisted instruction. And I happen to use that at the school in the classroom that I was running. And it was on the other side of it, I was training other teachers to do the same, to use computer assisted instruction. And then it turned into, you know, we would really like you to do a second interview and fly you out to Chicago. So here I am, 25 years old. I'm in Maryland. And you know, I'm out of New York, and I took you know, the bus or train, I can't remember it's been some many years ago, down for this first interview, they're like, Okay, when you go home, you turn around and fly back out. And we just want you to go to the airport and do the second interview with our vice president. And I'm like, what, like, you're gonna do what, how am I gonna get there? And they're like, Well, we're gonna FedEx your airline ticket, and we're gonna fly you in, because we're really interested in furthering this conversation. So I mean, there were just so many things that were fearful for me, it sounds like you're paying for me to fly to...
That's what... meanwhile, you know, teachers are trying to get pencils. And somebody's buying you an airplane. That's so true. Like, I remember, when I first started my job outside of teaching, the director I was working with, he said, what do you need? Like, what supplies do you need? And I was like, looking up used stuff, like, refurbished. And he was like, well, is that the one you want? And I was like, no, this is the one. And he was like, just get what you want. And I was like, okay, but like, look how much it is. And he's like... I wanted like a standing desk. And he was like, just buy it. And he was like, we should get the one with the warranty anyways, and I was like, okay.
That's the wild part because you get so trained to be frugal, right? You use every little penny and you're using your own money to get what students need. When someone's like, no, go splurge and we're gonna treat you to lunch too, by the way. And I'm like, what? So it was like, What is this? What's gonna be behind door number one, Alex?
Yeah, that's amazing. You know, one of the things that I think is also scary or intimidating about leaving the classroom, is figuring out how to get that next job. And what I really love about your story is that it happened organically. It happened from a conversation with someone that you knew. And I think that's how a lot of us ended up getting jobs. That's actually how I got my job now. I knew someone who worked for the company. They knew my background, my experience, they suggested I apply for an open position. And I love my job now. And so I guess I really want our listeners to to hear that your network, your own network, your friends, your colleagues, your spouses, friends wife or husband, like that's a very large network.
But if you think about a teacher's life, though, everyone that they need is in the building. So if you need a reading specialist, a counselor, a principal, if you need someone to help you with a math strategy. I remember when I was teaching, for my whole career, everyone I needed was in the building. So if I had a work issue, I could go to someone in the building, and talk about it. And they could walk me through what the next steps were, which was very different. Like when my husband would come home, he would tell me all these things happening at work. And I would have nothing to share, because the people I was in the building with, were helping me solve everything. So I didn't have as much to share. And then when it came to this, like, stop, where I was, like, I need career help. But no one in the building can help me. These people that I have relied on my whole life, aren't career coaches. This was my network for how to improve my repertoire as a teacher. So who was going to help me with my repertoire as a non teacher? And I had to find that network. And honestly, Cecily, you're probably one of the first people I talked to, because I was like, what am I doing?
I think it's also who's watching you. You never know who's watching you as a teacher. So since I was a teacher, I think there's certain skill sets that should be valued, if they're not. You know, the multitasking, being able to keep up with families, and the students and administration and all the expectations that happen at once. That's such a skill set to have when you're looking at other organizations and thinking about what can my skill set offer to another organization. So like, when I met with Ms. Scissors and she taught both of my sons in the fourth grade. So I've experienced how she would bring technology into the classroom. That's a very unique skill set, and how excited the students were to have a project with them being taped for you know, poetry, or the one that was always my favorite was with the students interviewing one another. And they were the news channel. And it was the news of the future careers, if I remember correctly, and we had the future female president and the kids, you know, were newscasters. All that, to me had such a high level of creativity, which signifies someone who's thinking outside of the box. Someone who's willing to try something a new way. And imagine all of the companies that are innovating and looking for that new way, because there's a world out there, that's evolved, because we're not just creating people to work in an office anymore. We're not just creating jobs, where you're going to do manufacturing, or anything that is like farming. We're into green energy. We're into all these types of roles that do not exist. So those are conversations that companies, and there's probably conversations happening every day. And we don't know what our students are going to do in the next 20 to 30 years. Because I was one of the first my friends use email and have a cell phone, I was given a corporate card to travel around. All of these things were like amazing to me, when I look back at it now.
I think you touched on the fact that you observed JoDee as your son's teacher, and you saw all the amazing things that she was doing in the classroom. You never really know who's watching you. Whether you're in the classroom, as a teacher. Maybe you're coaching an activity after school. Maybe you're running another club or an organization. One thing I've been really involved with is I work in the Sunday school at my synagogue, and I do a lot of education stuff there. And you don't know who's going there who's gonna be dropping off their kids or what they're doing. And so I think that's what you're maybe touching on that, that when someone sees the amazing things that teachers can do, they might see more than what first meets the eye. That we have all these, these teacher brain skills that translate so well into other areas. Because if man, if you can deal with 30 parent drop offs, or 50 parent drop offs. You know, however many. And you can calm all these nervous parents down on the first day of school. Imagine what you can do with adults. You know, without the kids.
I do want to ask one last thing. So we had a listener reach out to us who wants to leave the classroom, but she's afraid to leave the kids. It's about the kids. And you and I've talked about guilt. And that's I think a common feeling that educators feel is the guilt of leaving the kids. Because at the end of the day, who are you there for? You're not there for the curriculum or the standards. You're there for those bodies that sit in those chairs at those desks. What are your thoughts on that?
I would say that it's still about being your best self, and you're actually modeling to the students on there's always in next step. You know, regardless of the grade level we teach. When it's K to eight, we have transition grades. So you have your students that have gone from fifth to sixth, or from eighth to ninth, or 12 to college. And there's always that next step in growing as a person. And I think it's good for students. And for us not to feel guilty because we're actually showing them that there's always some type of promotion into continuous improvement. How am I improving and still learning as an individual, and bringing my next best self into what I'm ready to learn? And then if you think about it in terms of me, like I'm back in the classroom again, and although I've been in out of the classroom, all the things that I've learned over the past 15 years, I'm bringing to new bodies in the seat.
Well, thank you so much for your time today, Cecily. It's been amazing having you on the show to talk about your experience transitioning in and out of teaching. And for our listeners. If you'd like to learn more about Cecily, you can follow her on Twitter, at CWBLIJD or on LinkedIn as Cecily Williams Blijd. Thank you so much again for being a guest today, Cecily. And much luck.
Again, thanks for coming from the classroom. I can't think of something more symbolic, then... then you just like wrapping up your day in the classroom and meeting with us in the classroom.
Thank you guys for having me. This was awesome. And wishing you and your podcast all the best of luck. I think it's a great, great tool to get the word out.
If you liked the great teacher resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Audible. This episode was written and recorded by me, Alexandra Simon, and my co-host JoDee Scissors. Produced by JoDee Scissors. Original Music emoji by TubeBackr. Special thanks to our sponsor, Paper Planes Ed.