We’ve Only Just Begun!

We often think of ‘retraining’ as something mature workers have to do to stay employed.  Their careers have come to a crossroads: get retrained or get fired.

Yet, retraining is not just for the veteran worker anymore.  In addition, it doesn’t have to be a dismal fork-in-the-road event, either.  Retraining or relearning can give any professional the opportunity to reinvent his/her skills and share those skills with a brave and brand new world!

My career in mentoring started rather inconspicuously – I asked the assistant principal if I could mentor someone (I had earned a mentoring certification).  Within three years, I became the co-director of the mentoring program; creating once-a-month workshops that focused on classroom environment, family relationships, using instructional data, and so on.

My favorite part about being a mentor was meeting and learning from new teachers.  One of those teachers was Jessica Gall.

Jess was a part-time teacher in the Social Studies Department.  She was easy to talk to and easy to get to know.  Also, as we began to share personal stories, I learned that we had mutual friends; she was soon to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s daughter’s wedding!

As Jess’ mentor, I observed her teaching and was impressed with her seamless ability to multi-task while making sure her students were engaged, entertained and energized to learn!  Even though she was just a few years older than her students, there was no doubt who the authority figure was in the room.  She created a safe environment where courageous risk-taking was the norm!

However, as happens with most young professional educators, Jess was part-time, often subbing throughout the day to make a full-load, but after a while, that wore thin. Paying off student debt meant living at home and never quite being able to have or save enough.

Jess asked my opinion about her next career move.  My advice:  if you’re going to stay in teaching, you must specialize.  One can no longer be just an English teacher or just a social studies teacher.  Get a reading license.  Get an adaptive license.  Get a mentoring certification.  Get something that will set you apart from all the other teachers out there.  What makes you different?

Jess decided to relearn, retrain and revitalize her options.  She went back to school to earn a license in special education.  Reinventing herself was not only hard work, but well worth it since she got a job this fall as a Special Education teacher at a suburban school district!  I am so proud of her!  We need teachers like Jess in the secondary classroom and losing her would have been dreadful for those students who haven’t had the good fortune to be in her classroom yet!  Instead of bemoaning her educational fate, she did something about it and realized that she is so much more than a specific content area!

As you look at your next career move in education, remember you have options!  Give yourself the opportunity to create exciting challenges that lead you to that fork in the road . . . you have the chance to make it whatever you want – be brave in your brand new world!