Teacher Shift

Here's Why Teaching Is a Great First Career

November 15, 2023 Ali Simon & JoDee Scissors Episode 76
Here's Why Teaching Is a Great First Career
Teacher Shift
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Teacher Shift
Here's Why Teaching Is a Great First Career
Nov 15, 2023 Episode 76
Ali Simon & JoDee Scissors

Ali always says that teaching is a great first career. But what does she mean by this? Today, Ali and JoDee unpack why teaching is a great first career, the benefits of beginning there, the skills that will last you lifetime, and you’ll even hear what led Ali to get into teaching!   

Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teachershift
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teachershift
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/


Episode Transcriptions

Show Notes Transcript

Ali always says that teaching is a great first career. But what does she mean by this? Today, Ali and JoDee unpack why teaching is a great first career, the benefits of beginning there, the skills that will last you lifetime, and you’ll even hear what led Ali to get into teaching!   

Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teachershift
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teachershift
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/


Episode Transcriptions

Ali  0:06  
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, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning, who am I if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Ali Simon.

JoDee  0:29  
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.

Ali  0:32  
And this is Teacher Shift.

JoDee  0:43  
Making decisions about your career can come with a lot of challenges. But one thing we've learned here at Teacher Shift is that even if you're not in teaching for the long haul, those years in the classroom are invaluable. Today, I'm chatting with our very own host, Ali Simon to unpack her infamous phrase: Teaching is a great first career. Hey, Ali.

Ali  1:07  
Hey, JoDee, it's really exciting to be the guest today on the show. It's kind of unusual.

JoDee  1:13  
More, moreso, a conversation between the two hosts. 

Ali  1:16  
That's true. 

JoDee  1:18  
We were trying to get the hang of that intro without Ali's lead there. But yeah, Ali's been saying this for a while, in many episodes, that teaching was always a great first career and that she learned so much from it. And I really wanted to unpack that because it resonates and it sticks with me so often, especially when we are talking to guests that are thinking about transitioning outside of the classroom. I'm going back in time, and I'm thinking about the moment that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. And for me, it was long term plans. I really couldn't see anything else other than being a teacher. There was nothing else in sight for me. I visualized my whole future just being around children learning, collaborating, tackling problems with them. And the one thing when I was my young self as a teacher, that I didn't envision, or that I thought was possible to envision was, how sometimes the job can be very laborours. There are struggles. I came along, along a lot of struggles when I started having family. And then some of the more positive things like I learned that I was going to grow as a young adult so much in this profession, in very incredible and unexpected ways. So Ali, why do you think that teaching was a great first career?

Ali  2:52  
So I think that there's like the known perks of teaching, which we should start off with, and saying that they're a good first career for these reasons is important. So you started us off, JoDee, with telling us about making a difference in children's lives. When we're young or out of college, or we're deciding what we're going to study in college, we usually want to change the world in some way, shape, or form. So education is a place that allows you to really make a difference in society, much like, you know, a calling that you might have, we talked about that also on the podcast. So if you want to serve, being a teacher can be a great way to do that. Another perk is that you get a lot of time off, there's time to travel. Now, what they don't tell you is you're like completely exhausted during that time. But I really, I really think you have to say when you're, you know, 22 out of college, there's very few jobs where you are going to automatically have that much time off. Another perk, now specifically, is job security. So we're losing teachers. And so jobs are pretty secure right now in education. Another thing is that when you graduate from college, or if you're maybe going through a different type of program, like an apprenticeship program, you're usually going to start off at like a lower pay. And that's okay when you're first getting started in any career. So I think that going into teaching for first career is ideal in this way, right? You're not used to making a higher salary. So I hear people say like, Oh, I just wanted to be a teacher, but I joined the military instead. And now I'm going to be a teacher, but then they look at being a teacher. And it's hard to leave whatever salary you might have in your other job. So if you want to be a teacher, I think you should be a teacher. Start off by being a teacher, you can always be something else later on. You can always change careers, like we've talked about on the show. 

JoDee  4:37  
And vice versa. 

Ali  4:38  
Yeah, and vice versa. And then, you know, usually we're younger and we're either uncoupled or newly coupled and I do think that teaching is easier to balance pre family. So I think that's another benefit of it being your your potential first career if you're in that life stage right where you're able to devote a little bit more time. So those are like the typical reasons why, you know, people might go into teaching. They, they want to make a difference, the time off job security, etcetera, etcetera.

JoDee  5:08  
I just want to like, say that the salary going in as my first career to me was amazing. Because before that I was, you know, a college student working at the Student Union or in the team shop, and I had these like, $8 an hour or maybe even less jobs. And when I had my first paycheck, I just remember feeling like such an adult. And the fact that there were pay scales, and I could see the trajectory. And it kind of motivated me to like, go to grad school and get on that other sliding scale. So yeah, I'm glad you brought that point up.

Ali  5:48  
Yeah. And I think you're right, you can see just like other jobs that are pretty secure, like government jobs, there's a salary. So you know, your pay will increase over time, which is really reassuring. That, you know, your hard work is being valued. And I do agree that, yeah, the money that I made in college actually did have one really great part time job that paid me probably more than average. But, you know, it's exciting. And it also really varies where you are going to teach because, for example, DC starting teacher's salary is one of the highest in the country. And so that is, that is like very good money to start off with. Other states might pay less, but also the cost of living is less. But the other thing that goes along with salary, which I forgot to mention is the benefits. You will have access to health care whether you have to pay a portion or not depends on where you teach. You know, we've taught in lots of different states between the two of us. But generally, the health care coverage that I received when I was teaching was excellent. And I had to pay little to nothing for that coverage. So that is also really nice, when you you know might be coming out of not having as great of benefits. You will have access to good health care benefits. So those are the typical reasons. But I think that we don't really get a chance to step back and say, Why was teaching great for me? Why did I love it so much? And why was it a great first career? I say it, but I don't really get to go into the details of it. And I think one of the big things that I have was like my first point that I want to share is community from day one. I think it can be really overwhelming when you're going into your first real job. You're nervous. You're not really sure what it's going to look like. If you went to, you know, to college to become a teacher or a teacher prep program, you're ready for that. But from day one, when you're a new teacher, you usually get paired with a mentor. You're in a new teacher preparation program in your district. You get a lot of support. And you have a lot of community. And, you know, as someone who really valued that, I just got so much from teaching, as my first career that I don't think I would have had, if I'd gone into a different field.

JoDee  7:50  
I think part of that community piece is huge, especially because it's different than your family circle, your friends circle. So for me, having that community was more diverse. I was able to work with kids from many, many different backgrounds, socio economic backgrounds. And it really teaches you about the world. It teaches you about the makeup of what your community actually is. And for me, that was one of the best takeaways because it, it was kind of like a, Hey, this is what reality is. This is what real community is. Like you may be live in your little bubble of community, but when you go into a school, you really get to see the differences in people's lives. And I feel like you become a little bit more empathetic, more compassionate, more understanding of differences. And I think that my view of the world has changed because I was a teacher.

Ali  8:54  
I 100% agree that my view of the world was impacted so much by my teaching career. And the students that I had, but also the people that I talk with. You know, I didn't know anybody in my school when I first started teaching there and and we all came from different places. There were some people who actually went to the middle senior high school that I first taught at. Like they were students there, which is crazy. And then there are people who like me, who were new to the area who had never lived there before and became teachers. And so I think you have, you have doubled community you have the community of the students that you're teaching. You have the community of your peers and colleagues. And then depending on if you're at a public or private school, both of those communities are beautiful, because I've taught it both private and public. Public gives you a lot of institutional support. Private schools tend to have a very welcoming, in my experience at least, I was very fortunate, like a very welcoming and loving community that they want you to be a part of from day one because that's great for the school, right? If you're going to the different events, the games, things like that, that really bring you together. And it just it makes you feel like, for me, at least, like I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only one who didn't know what I was doing because I was with other people who were new. So the other thing that I would say, my mom said this to me, when I first became a teacher, you're gonna be so organized. You're gonna learm such good organizational skills. And she was very true. She was right, like you have to be, for the most part, you have to be super organized when you're a teacher. And I think that goes deeper into, into management. I do project management now. And I think that part of the reason I can handle my job is that I'm so used to like dealing with five things at one time, or multiple things at one time from when I was in the classroom, that I had to prioritize things quickly. I had to make decisions, like what's most important thing that has to happen right now? And then, you know, where am I going to fit in these other things. So it goes like organization, project management, and then communication skills. So that's something that I definitely learned being a teacher. And I'm not just talking about talking to people like we're doing right now and being a good public speaker, which not every teacher is a great public speaker, but you learn how to speak in your classroom. But I just mean things that I worry that young people aren't learning anymore. Young people don't use email all the time now. They send like DMs and messages. You know, when you become a teacher, or if you're on that track, and you're going to college, like you have to send emails. You learn about professional communication skills, right? How to write a professional email, how to call someone professionally. Those are things that I I wonder if those soft skills are being left out. And I know that if you go into education, those are things that you're going to have to do, that you learn how to do really, really well, because you have to respond to all sorts of parent emails. You know, it's not just what times are meeting going to be on Thursday? No, it's a parent who's reaching out to you for help for their child. It's an administrator that needs support for something that initiative that they're starting. And so you're learning how to communicate in various ways. It's not just administrative, which I think in a lot of other jobs that are entry level, it tends to be a little bit more entry level administrative tasks.

JoDee  12:21  
Yeah, well, you also learn intergenerational communication. So you have to learn to communicate with young people, which is, you know, I was mostly an elementary school teacher. So you're learning to communicate with young people, then you're learning to communicate with your peers who may or may not be around your same age. And then you're learning to communicate with the parents who are probably as you, if you start your career right out of college, they're generations ahead of you. One or two generations ahead of you. So the communication has to be clear no matter how they value communication, whatever type it is, whether it's phone call, or email, or texting or whatever, you know, like there's like Dojo, there's the app that teachers use. So it's really intergenerational, that you learn how to communicate with people. And I feel that as someone who's not in education anymore, that is invaluable still, because I continue to communicate with different generations of people.

Ali  13:22  
I love that. And I completely agree. I think that that's something that as you're doing it as a teacher, you don't realize that it's happening, but it's in reflection of, of our years spent in the classroom, that you're realizing all of these skills that you're learning at the time. And I think as teachers, we're lifelong learners, right? We're excited about learning, about sharing new practices, about sharing new ways to learn, new topics to talk about. And so I love about teaching that professional development is encouraged. We're always working on ourselves, working on learning more, being better. And I didn't initially have this in there, but you got me thinking about your journey a little bit as you were sharing some of your experiences: technology. So you know, a lot of times, we're piloting new software, new programs. I know you were a leader in your school. How do you feel like that impacted you by you know, having that as a part of your first career as a teacher to bring into your your next career?

JoDee  14:23  
Big time. I really have to thank one of my principals for kind of holding me accountable for kind of being this like technology pioneer, a very young teacher in the building. But I was always kind of a little tech savvy as a high schooler and college student. But I did learn quickly that school districts are gonna roll out new things on you. And if you can just adopt it quickly and you can get the hang of it before everybody else then you become this mentor and you and you kind of take on that responsibility too. To be the go to person. So I know that now, I mean, I'm getting tools thrown at me all the time, like, right? Like, if you look at my computer right now I've got like, Zoom, and I've got Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. And I've got the Adobe program and Teams, like all of these things that I've been running just today to do my daily responsibilities. So I mean, like Slack. Slack is a very simple tool for communication, but like, it's a tool I have to learn to use, and I have to learn to use it effectively to be able to communicate with my teammates. So yeah, technology, huge. And being a teacher really sets you up for being able to learn quickly and adapt and share with others.

Ali  15:42  
I think that's really key adaptability. You know, in all of these areas that we've talked about, whether it's technology, whether it's about communication, organization, we have to adapt really, really quickly. And I would say that is probably the best trait that I've learned as a teacher is adaptability and being able to pivot in situations and, you know, reprioritize things, but definitely adapting. I also want to say for the, the teachers or former teachers that are listening, JoDee was the pioneer, the leader of the technology. I was not. I was not that teacher, but it still served me well. Because I, I took advantage of those leaders, those mentors, and I would learn the programs. I wasn't always the first one part of it's probably because I moved schools a lot. So I had to learn a lot of different systems. And I knew probably by my third school, okay, I'm going to have to learn these programs and these systems. Who's going to be able to help me with it? Or did I know enough to like to fiddle around and figure it out? And I found that I'm more of like a Tinkler. Like I can tend to figure things out pretty easily. And sometimes I do go to JoDee for help, because she's definitely our resident guru. 

JoDee  16:54  
You're a quick learner, though, like, I can send you something you're like, got it.

Ali  16:59  
I am, because I'm a lifelong learner. And I like to be taught. I enjoy that experience. So, you know, I think the biggest thing about education is that people don't see this, but it really challenges you intellectually, creatively, and even emotionally to be the best that we can be. And I think it's because we also have that extra purpose that we're not doing it just for ourselves, right? We want to be the best because we want to help the most amount of people as possible. We want to help all of our students, but feeling challenged every year. It wasn't like the same mundane task. There was always something new, whether it was, you know, something that I was trying to revise in curriculum, whether I was excited to start some type of new project based learning, or whether I knew I was going to be dealing with a different group of students that I hadn't had before. And there might be some challenges there. It really felt like it was always new and not boring. And I like that. I don't do well, when I'm in something and my day to day is like the same over and over and over like a groundhog day. 

JoDee  18:08  
You know I do not like to be redundant, that? No, that is like when I start going really downhill.

Ali  18:16  
Yeah. So I think that's one thing that it's hard to see on the outside if you're not in the school, right?  Because people just think that teachers have really easy jobs. And all we do is babysit kids all day. I mean these are narratives that we hear. But it's not like that at all. And I think that's why it's such a great place to start professionally is that it gives you all have these different skill sets and opportunities to learn. And then this was not necessarily the case for me. But I did want to throw in there. Like if you're more of a casual person, that you're a professional wardrobe can be filled with clothes that you actually like wearing on a daily basis. You could probably get away with wearing sneakers to school most days. And it's really just like a fun place now, more so I think than when we started where you can be yourself. You can dress the way that you want to dress. You know, when I first started teaching, you didn't really see teachers with different color hair, or facial piercings, or it just wasn't the thing. You know, we were kind of more, I don't know, all in uniform. I feel like I would wear like slacks and some sort of a button up shirt. And everybody was dressed in that way more like business casual and like we had school T Shirt Day on Friday where we had to like pay money to wear jeans. But now it's not like that. We have a lot more freedom, I think, to express ourselves as individuals, which I really value now more than I think I did when I was younger. But I know younger generations they value that individuality.

JoDee  19:45  
Yeah they do because you just never know when a child is going to see themselves in a teacher. You know somebody that is a role model for them, something that they really how they just like identify or whatever that is. I worked in a lot of schools and many of them had different dress codes or whatnot, but also the organizations I work with now have different types of expectations. But yeah, there is a little bit of liberty in, in that because I mean, you're working with kids all day, you got to be able to hustle down the hallways. And when I was a primary teachers, you gotta get on the floor. And, you know, you have to be able to be comfortable in what you're doing. Also, like, if you're standing all day, which I was a big, like, I was a big mover, like I like to move around. So had to have those comfy shoes on. So I could just, you know, be comfortable. 

Ali  20:36  
Yes. And that's one of the things I miss the most about teaching, I would say compared to what I do now is that I was moving a lot more. So I was up. I was on my feet. I was working with students. I was getting up to walk around the hallway to go make copies to go to the library. I don't do that as much, if at all in my current role. 

JoDee  20:57  
I don't know if we've talked about this on any of the episodes. But when I made my first transition, and I was in an office, and I had a desk, I was like crawling out of my skin. I was like, Am I just gonna be like right here all day? And I was literally like that first week, like having like a meltdown. Like what? I'm just here is this, what people do is they sit at their desk? You know, 24 hours later, I was like, Okay, I'm going on a lunch walk, I'll be back in 20 minutes. Like, I'm going to take the stairs instead, up and down. Actually, I started walking and biking to work because I needed that type of exercise. It just wasn't in me. And still to this day. It's not. Yeah, I will go into meetings, and I will stand or I'll be like, I have to go, you know, walk around. And you know, I do pretty rigorous workouts in the morning. But yeah, I get my exercise in, you know, I guess comparable to what I was doing before, but for some reason. Now I just don't feel as exhausted because it really is pretty laborous.

Ali  22:02  
Oh yeah, being a teacher is, is really a lot of physical and emotional labor and exhaustion. So yes, I understand. I mean, there's trade offs, right? And I think that we tried to be transparent on the podcast about the trade offs. That, you know, you do get more time off in the summer, for example, but you know, during the school year, you might not have any too little flexibility. So I think that we have to reframe this idea of teaching, being only a forever career. I think that young people need to understand that you can go into teaching for five years, for seven years, for 10 years. And you can learn so many valuable skills and bring those to a new role, to a new profession, to something similar, but maybe not fully in the classroom. And the idea that you're going to be a teacher for 30 years. That's not the reality anymore. And so I just want to bring value to the fact that teaching is a great first career, it can really help you. 

JoDee  23:03  
And you, you did that. As you were naming some of these things that you learned as teaching as your first career. You named collective and individual skills. Like when you're a teacher, you learn to communicate, you learn how to use technology, you're a lifelong learner, you're communicating with all kinds of people. And you have these kinds of like, norms, I guess, I want to say requirements, that you have to have, these skills you have to have as a teacher. But then you also lean in, and you start to learn these new skills that are kind of individual to you. That make you flourish, that set you apart as like that person on the team that can do this, that person on the team that can say this, that can take on this responsibility. And for me, you know, I did have all of those kind of collective teacher skills that that you pointed out. And but then you also brought up, you know, the technology piece. Yeah, we all learn technology, but that was kind of like my individual thing that I really wanted to thrive in. And I leaned into it more than something else that someone may have leaned into. You know, teachers get really specialized too. So like some teachers leaned into mathematic instruction. They wanted to be a specialist. Some leaned into counseling, or maybe being a media teacher. And that's okay, because you find the thing that you really want to just learn more about and you want to hone in on and we have all of those things. And as you were saying, you know that list, you just built a resume. You literally just like bullet, a resume for the job that you're going to be applying for because you can be really specific about all of those things. And I really liked that you touched on all those reasons why it was a great first profession. So before we start to like close out I do you have another question for you. That I think sometimes like, you know, as we're transitioning, and we're thinking about what do we want next. I do you think it's okay to reflect on the past and think about why you wanted to be a teacher in the first place. So what was really like that deep reason that you wanted to go into teaching? 

Ali  25:21  
So I didn't have that instinct, like you did, actually, the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a teacher when I was in kindergarten. I had a great kindergarten teacher. And I also really looked up to my high school Spanish teacher was definitely, you know, the reason why I ended up becoming a Spanish teacher. But I didn't start off majoring in Spanish, I was actually an international business major, minoring in Spanish. And then I kind of realized that the type of life that I envisioned, probably wouldn't work in that type of a career. Like that I did want to have a family, I probably didn't want to be traveling a lot for work. And so I started to rethink. And I loved my Spanish classes so much. So I switched my major to Spanish. And I went to an information session for you know, what you can do after you graduate with your language major. And there were a few different things. And they had someone of the, from the Department of Education come in and give a talk to us. And what they've shared was that in the state of Florida, which is where I went to college and lived, you could get a temporary teaching credential for three years in whatever your degree was in. So mine was in Spanish, so I could get a credential based on my Spanish degree to teach Spanish for up to three years. I had to fulfill certain requirements. So I ended up doing an alternative certification program to be able to get those requirements. And I was like, Oh, great. This is like the perfect backup plan if I don't do the other two things that I was thinking of. So I was actually thinking of like, my top three was Foreign Service, obviously, use my Spanish skills interpreter, or teacher. And actually, I don't want to say in that order. I would just say they were all like the three things that I considered doing. But when I went to grad school, I ended up getting a fellowship and not a teaching assistantship. And I still really felt this call to teach. And I didn't get to do it in graduate school for the year that I was in. And I thought, I'm gonna give teaching a try first. When I left grad school realized that wasn't the right path. I wasn't going to go get my PhD in Spanish Literature after all. I took a break from school. And I started teaching. I applied to teach in Florida, got my temporary teaching credential, within a year had the full teacher credential. And within the first month, I knew it. I knew that that's what I wanted to do. And so within that first month, I was all signed up for all those alternative certification classes at a local college. I spent the next year taking classes like every Saturday, one other night a week, teaching, coaching soccer. I mean, I just went like, all in and I loved it. 

JoDee  27:53  
You did. 

Ali  27:54  
I just was like, like, I just took like a dive off the diving board into the education pool. But yeah, I don't think you knew that about me that like, that's how I ended up going into teaching.

JoDee  28:05  
I didn't, but I liked that, you know, you took something that you're passionate about, and you connected it to professions. And you kind of had this, you could go any of those different directions. And what I can say is, if you had gone another direction, you could have gone back to teaching. You could have done both of those and done teaching. And I think that sometimes people find their calling at different times in life. But what I love the most about what we've talked about today is that you have highlighted a lot of the positive aspects of how you grow as a professional in the teaching profession. And sometimes we get bogged down with some of the things that really challenge us that make us tired, or we struggle or we stress over. But if you are thinking about shifting, you really do have to lean into what have you learned and how have you grown? And what are those skills that you have collectively, you know, in your professional learning community developed? But also individually What have you learned and flourished and or want to get better in? Because it really will help you look at job descriptions and decide, I think I can do that. I already have those skills or I'm willing to learn those skills. And it's an opportunity now to reflect on yourself and decide what you want to do next. And I want to close out with I recently read an Edutopia article about bringing podcasts into professional learning. And I know that we are here for you all to talk about how you can grow and develop yourself as a classroom teacher or whatever you want to do next. So if you want to explore what you want to do next, listening to podcasts can give you some of that industry information and motivate you and help you understand another industry as you are closing out your career as a classroom teacher or specialist or admin or whatever you are. Because you know, if you want to get into cybersecurity, there's podcasts about that. Literacy, Ed Tech, nonprofit, whatever the industry is, there is literally a podcast for everything. And it's just a sneak peek into that industry. And I think that we should take a note from that, Edutopia author and take it as an opportunity to use podcasts as professional learning. 

Ali  30:33  
Yeah, and I think that even our podcast, we've heard from people who are thinking about making a shift into teaching, and they came across our podcast. So I think it works both ways. Like if you're interested in teaching, this might highlight some things of you're interested in other industries. I enjoy podcasts, obviously, or else we wouldn't, wouldn't have been making a podcast but I think that's a really great tip that you shared with our listeners. And it was really fun to be able to share you know, my story about being a teacher for my first career today.

JoDee  31:03  
Let's thank Ali for letting us dive into her mind for a little bit to understand why teaching was a great first profession, and we'll have the article, that Edutopia article linked in the show notes, Bringing Podcasts into Professional Learning. And that's it.

Ali  31:19  
That's a wrap

Are you interested in suggesting a topic for Teacher Shift? Being a guest or recommending a guest? Please see the episodes page on our website to make a submission. And if you'd like to write for us, see our blog page. If you liked Teacher Shift, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple podcasts, Spotify and Amazon music. Today's episode was written and recorded by me, Ali Simon and my co host, JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Shift. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr.