“Application – pen” by Flazingo Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
I’ll take any and all advice connected to finding a first teaching job for a person who is older and career switching. I’m in my late 40s, male, and am now student teaching; I will be officially “on the market” in January 2016. Both my work experience and my degrees prior to earning my teaching certificate are in the same content area for which I’m getting certified. My student teaching experience will have covered both high school and middle school.
Some are telling me that my chances of landing a job could be better if I concentrate on middle school because I’m older and a guy. I start my student teaching experience at a middle school soon, and I’m hoping it goes well. That being said, I find myself more naturally interested in high school. Maybe this will change. I do plan on making myself available as a substitute teacher in the district I’m student teaching in now, but I’m looking for advice on securing a full-time teaching job.
I think you’d be surprised by the number of teachers who entered the profession as a second career, and even more surprised by the number of administrators who do not see extra “life experience” as a liability. To begin the discussion of how to best approach your quest for a teaching job, I offer the advice of two administrators and one second-career teacher.
Insights from Administrators
Earlier this year, I interviewed five administrators to gather job interview advice for teachers. In one of these conversations, middle school principal Penny Sturtevant talked specifically about a second-career applicant who presented their late entry into the field as a plus: “They talked about the enthusiasm they were bringing that a beginner would bring, but they had that experience of someone who had been in the field,” Sturtevant said. “And I thought that was a great line, that I’m getting the best of both worlds, experience and newbie enthusiasm in one person. So if that fits anyone’s bill, I’d take that to the table, because I thought, wow, that’s not something everybody can do.”
Dennis Schug, Principal at Hampton Bays Middle School in Hampton Bays, New York, advises second-career applicants to demonstrate two key skills: (1) the real-world experience they can bring to the classroom, and (2) their expertise, however new it may be, in quality instruction.
“The world is in desperate need of teachers with a vision and skill-set that transcends the classroom walls and the courage to share it,” he says. “Second-career teachers have the potential to add a truly diverse approach to teaching and learning. Think about the premise of Genius Hour. Second-career teachers understand the world needs problem-solvers.
“The challenge I’d expect would be for that person to skillfully balance being a learning specialist as much as, if not more than, being a content specialist; to demonstrate an appreciation for standards and for learning targets. Second-career teachers understand the authentic application of learning that has typically not happened in the traditional school setting. So to me, this means they’re not going to just “stand and deliver.” They have a better understanding of motivation, project-based learning, and arriving at outcomes that demonstrate high-quality work. They could even design meaningful lessons and units in partnership with businesses and companies.” If you can demonstrate this kind of instructional philosophy, your late entry into the profession will more likely be seen as an advantage.
Schug also noted the value of experience with technology, and how this can set one candidate apart from others: “If someone can hand in a digital portfolio, it would stand out as a showcase, setting it apart from the pile of papers. If a 21st century applicant is applying to a 21st century school, then the school leaders who are screening these materials would scoop this right up.” [To learn more about creating a digital portfolio, see this excellent Edutopia piece by Edwige Simon: Do I Need a Digital Teaching Portfolio?]
Advice from a Teacher Who’s Been There
Jay Thompson, a high school English teacher in Licking, Missouri, was hired for his first teaching job at age 45. His advice for getting the job offer?
“Two things,” he says. “First, recognize that whatever else you have done is not even remotely the same as teaching. Humility goes a long way. You are crossing a bridge into a world you don’t know and it’s going to be different on the other side.” Demonstrating that awareness in an interview shows future employers that you’re willing to learn and grow, and it may assuage concerns they have about an older candidate not being teachable.
“But not too much humility,” Thompson is quick to add. “After all, we bring the kinds of real-world skills that schools are trying to develop in their students. So the second thing is this: Bring to bear and take full advantage of all of the previous experiences that brought you to teaching, because they will impact the lives of students in the classroom, they will impact your pedagogy, they will impact everything you do in terms of building relationships, making connections from classroom content and standards to real-world practices. I have leveraged that myself to great advantage. In my own job interview, I emphasized the idea that I know what the real world is like. As a high school English teacher, I can authentically bear witness to the relevance of what we do in the classroom to the corporate world. I was a regional sales manager, covering nineteen states for a nationwide company providing services to major Fortune 500 clients. I know what the 21st century skill demands are. And if you have a track record of real-world experience, you can back up that kind of a statement with concrete examples.”
And Now a Word from Everyone Else…
The posts on this site are made richer and more valuable every day by the people who take time to add their expertise in the comments. So let’s hear your advice! If you are an administrator, tell us what qualities you look for in a second-career teacher, and what these candidates need to focus on. If you yourself are a second-career teacher, talk about what you feel was instrumental in getting hired. Thanks for your help! ♥
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I did the same thing at the same age. Depending on the state it may be easier working at a private school instead of a public school. Tenure and longevity make public schools harder to get into, depending on the state.
Your experience outside of teaching gives you the ability to present content in a way that students will like. Class room management will be your toughest challenge, because success rests on knowing your students.
Your age and experience will make you a valuable commodity.
Bruce, thank you, and good advice to broaden the search to include private schools. I believe an older teacher has just as much chance of getting to know his students as a younger teacher, as long as they put the effort in. There will not be the easy access to music, movies, TV, etc., that Julia speaks to, but a genuine interest in students as people will go a long way.
As a retired career teacher and now a school board member in our county, I want to encourage you to go for it! In our county we have many who have chosen to come into the teaching profession after raising children or after working hard in another career field! I applaud your desire to join the ranks of a profession of which I am very proud. There are many challenges in our profession unlike any other, but there is quite a lot of support-seek it out ; ask for assistance ; work collaboratively; and, first and foremost, keep an eye on the prize-that light that radiates from a student when something you have been working on with him/her finally is grasped. Welcome to the ranks
Sharon, this is fantastic and encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to write this!
This is inspiring. I have been in the medical field for 11 years and I am thinking of applying for a medical career instructor teaching job at a local high school! I’m nervous though! I’m also a mother of a 2yr old and 4yr old. I know it will be tough. It’s a big change and requires me to take classes and tests to get my occupational teaching certificate. Is it worth it though in the long run??! I appreciate your feedback. Thanjs
I began teaching in my 40s, after a career as a professional musician, so a “day job” was really quite an adjustment. I learned that I had to grow as a disciplinarian by winning the students’ respect while also learning that organizing the class time was critical to keeping the lid on! I would advise new but older teachers to diversify a little more, and have some extra arrows in the quiver: for example, dual certification might attract some schools who need to utilize their staff in more ‘creative’ ways due to budget cuts, etc. I got my first job by agreeing to oversee the yearbook (a dub), and my second by agreeing to run the school newspaper, which began an 8-year stint in the journalism area
(the average high school newspaper advisor lasts about 2 years). I learned things about the writing process that transferred to academic and AP courses later. Mainly, my advice is to believe in your students. If you don’t, you need to find yet another profession…
This is great advice, J.J. Love the idea of having extra arrows in your quiver! I think people have more arrows than they realize from real-world work experience. Thinking about it that way could help when preparing for interviews. Thanks!
As a young–and I mean YOUNG–straight outta college, young, female teacher–I feel like being a 40 year old male teacher is an ADVANTAGE. You have so much more life experience (and age and probably height over them) that you just being firm but kind will work wonders. I have to be firm firm firm all the time for students to respect me, and sometimes I WISH that I would have waited till I was older to become a teacher. My advantage is that I know the things they like–music, food, clothes–and I can relate to them on a lot of levels. So, my advice for you is to be firm but kind, ENJOY the advantages you have, and look to decrease the disadvantages that you face by being up to date on technology, style, music, and culture of the children of 2016 and beyond.
Julia, I’m with you on that! When I first started teaching, I was 26, so not quite so young, but I looked like I was about 17. Plus, being 5’2″ and female didn’t help much in the “commanding respect” department. I was always envious of older teachers and males who could get kids’ attention without even seeming to try very hard. I agree that age is an advantage in that area. Thanks for adding this reminder!
I have had tremendous success hiring second-career teachers in our school! I often find that these people have tried something else, and then have decided to pursue the passion they avoided for whatever reason the first time around. I am always cautious to ensure I am not getting somebody who is “falling back” on teaching, but that they truly have the passion. It is important to show that you are willing grow and learn as a new teacher as the profession is experiencing rapid change. Doing things “the way you were taught” will not cut the mustard. Be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked before (and, likely, for less pay!) My employees have often remarked that they worked harder in the coursework to become a teacher than ever before, and once they got in the job, the work doubled! Teaching is not for the faint of heart. It is way too hard to try if you do not have a strong commitment. These traits are the keys to gaining employment as a teacher in your second time around.
Tripp, thank you for this, and I’m glad you added the part about “falling back” on teaching. I think that’s an important thing for prospective second-career teachers to remember as they go into the interview process, that this question may be in the back of the admin’s mind, and it’s up to them to convince future employers that they are going into the field with passion, not as a fallback option.
I too will be re-entering teaching after 8 years. I am 54 years old and taught for just 3 years in my forties. In a lot of ways, I am a beginner teacher. Any advice is welcomed.
I am 53 years old, and just returning to full-time teaching after raising and home-educating my four children and teaching in private school. I wanted to broaden my job prospects to include public schools, so last year I quit my part-time private school job and went back to school to get my credential. I am now completing my student teaching with one hour of Spanish, plus two hours of Japanese (paid internship), each day. I am absolutely loving my placement, and I am reasonably certain that I will be offered a full-time position next year. My advice:
1) Get your credential (I found that even the private schools I interviewed at all wanted credentials now; a change from 15 year ago!),
2) Pace yourself. Teaching means being on your feet all day, and sometimes skipping lunch. I try to get enough sleep, but that is like the holy grail right now!
3) Be willing to change your methods. I have actually had master teachers comment on how refreshing it is that I am willing to try just about anything this time around in the classroom. As a result, I am having a lot of fun in class!
4) Get training in classroom technology if you haven’t already. My previous employer was a private school with 1980’s technology, so my learning curve has been steep, but fruitful. I have learned the benefits of Google Docs and Google Slides, and am signing up for a district workshop on creating a paperless classroom and using online assessments and work sheets. I even get paid for that one! Take advantage of any training you can get.
5) If you can, try to double up on your credential. I am completing a credential in two world languages, which I think makes me more flexible and therefore potentially more valuable to a district.
6) Let your enthusiasm for teaching and passion to work with young adults show in your interview. You can’t miss with that.
Best Wishes at your new career!
Cheryl, this is wonderful advice; all of it! Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.
I entered the teaching profession in my mid-forties as an alternate route candidate. I’ve seen administrators who embrace teachers who take an alternate pathway into teaching, and I’ve seen administrators who have a bias towards us. I’ve also seen a definite shift towards embracing the alternate pathway teachers because of the wealth of real world experience we bring as well as the success we’ve had in the classroom.
My advice to teachers who are worried that the mid-career thing is a liability is this: If administrators at a district to which you are applying look down on alternate route teachers, then you don’t want to work there. Period.
It’s been my experience that good teachers are good teacher regardless of how they entered the craft.
Yes! I have noticed in myself that with age comes a greater ability to steer clear of people who don’t appreciate what I have to offer. At a younger age we are more likely to take whatever offer comes along; this includes relationships, friendships, job offers, etc. My hope is that older candidates can carry that same wisdom into the job search and recognize that you are interviewing the schools as much as they are interviewing you: Both of you need to believe it’s a good fit!
My first career was in non-profit administration. I went back to school in my mid-fifties, got a Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate, and moved to China to teach in a post-secondary institute. I agree that this should not be a “fall back” second career; I see it as a career I can continue, perhaps part time, for as long as I want to work. When looking for countries to work in I was shocked to realize that I was too old to apply for some countries! Luckily China has such a high need for teachers it didn’t matter. I think teaching is very suitable for a second career. I wonder if my age has made it more difficult to memorize the names of all my students and impaired my ability to pick up much Chinese, though. But my age has also given me wisdom and maturity to roll with the punches and relax and enjoy the adventure. Dang, I’m old enough to remember when Nixon visited China, which is ancient history to my students….
Lona, I’m glad to hear you have found satisfying work, and yes, I think age can often bring a level of patience and perspective that we simply don’t have when we’re younger. If there’s a profession that requires the ability to roll with the punches, it’s teaching!
I entered the K-12 teaching profession in my 40s as a “calling” after working in the business arena for a number of years. Now that I am in my 50s, and working in higher education (in educational leadership), I have both personal and professional experience on this topic. First, I commend you for entering this noble field despite your alternative route in arriving at this destination. Second, I recommend teachers with lived histories, especially at the high school level because students are nearing their own real world pursuits, because of their ability to authentically connect theory to practice. Because the profession is dominated by females, you will have an advantage in getting your foot in the door as a male teacher. Along this line of thinking, today’s increasingly diverse demographics of students need culturally responsive teachers in the classroom. My best advice to you is to incorporate the cultural capital of all of your students throughout your instructional practices.
Teresa, thank you for offering this. I agree that being male is probably an advantage, rather than a disadvantage. And yes! Culturally responsive teaching is essential! I have a couple of resources on this site that speak directly to that. You may want to start here: http://cultofpedagogy.com/culturally-responsive-teaching-strategies/
I, too, chose teaching as my second career. I was in my upper thirties and left the world of accounting to become a High School English teacher. After working in the classroom for nearly 15 years, I became our District’s Director of Teaching and Learning, and as such have become more deeply involved with our high school’s efforts to infuse more relevancy into the coursework of our students, as well as creating internship opportunities and academies within our school. All of these efforts work to answer the age-old student question, “How will I ever use this?” as well as get and keep them highly engaged in their studies. Your real-world experience in the content area you teach will prove SO valuable in this regard–SELL that to potential school districts. In this age of career an college readiness, folks who have lived different lives outside of the education arena are viewed as an asset–GO BOLDLY into your new adventure!
Christine, I love your encouragement here. Thanks for contributing!
Hi Christine, I am an accountant currently seriously considering a move into the big wide world of teaching. Id love to hear more about your experience? 🙂
Currently I’m right in the middle of my Grad Dip. in Primary Ed at an online Uni. and I turn 50 at the end of the year. This will be career number 3 for me (although I argue that it is a return to what should have been career number 1). Oh and I’m male as well.
At least in this country upon (Australia) the Grad Dip. is not looked highly upon and is being phased out (I will be amongst the last to do it). Online study is treated with suspicion by some in the teaching community. So 50; Grad Dip.; online = 3 strikes? Wrong!
All your words and those of your interviewees ring true.
For the two pracs I have done so far I have had to step up and sell myself to the Principal/Deputy, that is assuming I get past the front desk. My Uni requires us to organise our own pracs. So I have to demonstrate the level of organisation required in the class room to get in the school.
Dennis Schug touched on it, but mature entrants to teaching will have a much better idea of your own teaching philosophy and the resultant hidden curriculum than someone straight out of school themselves. You know why you want to teach (all the mature aged students seem very clear on this).
Lifelong learning is big over here. We are not just advocating it, we’re living it.
The life of experience is invaluable. For me it is the breadth of my experience that calls me to primary ed., rather than as some expected to high school (middle school is split between the two here). I am currently a computer programmer (have been for 20+ years), but I don’t just want to teach programming.
Humility (or in my case self-deprecating humour) goes a long way. I find that my willingness to learn from those older/younger/the kids themselves, shows the respect they all deserve, and helps to build the relationships that are the building blocks of teaching. That said a willingness to contribute/toss ideas in without being offended if they don’t get up earns respect. Having been on committees since I was 13 means I have seen many things work and fail.
Being a bit older and having doubts means that I (and my other mature aged students) are always on the lookout. It’s why I’m here and have been since before I started my course. (Jen – the marigolds article went down a huge treat at my last prac. Was presented with some marigolds and walnuts by a couple of staff at the end).
Will I be totally ready to teach in 11 months and 15 days? I’m willing now, but even after my course is finished I will still have a whole heap of learning and growing to do.
PS. Finally started on my portfolio about a week ago.
I did a career change to teaching at 35 after a dozen years in marketing/graphic design. In addition to the good advice that has already been offered, one thing that I believe really helped, and that was an asset to me, was that I was a peer to the parents of my students in a way that a fresh-out-of-college 23-yr-old is not. It has also worked out that I have, roughly, taught grade levels that have paralleled with my children’s ages. I started in early primary, then switched to fifth, and now teach eighth (with some high school play direction as well now). Only recently has this meant that I have had my own kids in my classes/plays a couple of times, but that isn’t the benefit I’m referring to. What it has meant is that I have credibility in the minds of my students’ parents as someone actively going through the same things with my kids. It is easy for parents to dismiss a ‘kid’ straight out of college as a person who doesn’t really understand a parent’s struggles, but when you sit with someone who is an actual peer, you have some instant connection on a number of points, and that helps a lot.
As long as we continue to stay curious and innovative, I think we remain an asset to our schools. Those who become set in their ways are often the old-timers like us, and so we need to maintain our energy and continue to grow and find new and better ways to do things. Expressing this enthusiasm is a key.
I hope you enjoy middle school. I love it. It’s funny – a lot of EL and HS teachers say they could never teach MS students, but those of us who do it often love it. We remember the awkwardness that comes at this age, and our empathy and desire to ease this period of time a bit causes us to embrace kids at this challenging stage instead of (or while we are) going crazy about their all-over-the-place nature.
I am a career changer who went into teaching at 40+, after a 20+ year career in marketing. I prepared a digital and physical portfolio, taught part time on a sub license and taught an online college course while getting my masters/teaching certification. I invested in a teaching resume service to write my first teaching resume. I used the summer after grad school to pound the pavement and found my teaching position after a 2 month search. What helped me was the lesson plans/curriculum that I developed during work, student teaching and grad school. Also, business experience is helpful when teaching in a data driven education environment, as you need to be able to work with data as well as teach content. Teaching is the hardest work, I’ve ever done, but also the most meaningful. By the way, I am teaching HS and love working with this age group.
I started teaching high school at 47 after primarily being a stay-at-home mom. I have a business degree, so I teach business classes — real life content that I promise my students will matter in their futures! I am able to bring personal experience into what I teach – mainly personal finance and how to find a job and get ready for college, which matter greatly to my high school kids. I think I have a tremendous advantage over young, fresh-out-of-college teachers when it comes to dealing with the students – having already raised a few, I have a better understanding and appreciation for their … well, their “quirks.” What I lacked was the pedagogy and education-speak — but that has come with learning and experience (and Google). Many of our teachers are coming from industry – we had a retired NASA physicist teaching Math on our campus for a few years. What he found — which surprised me, too! — is that this is a really, really hard job, and takes many more hours and much more effort than we expected. If you’re expecting a “cush job” (we had a new teacher this year very disappointed to find out it’s not) you’re out of luck. As an electives teacher, I’ve taught as many as 5 different courses at a time (that’s 5 sets of lesson plans each week). The upside of all this hard work: the kids. If you don’t love kids, don’t teach. If you love kids, you’ll love the job.
As a 48 year old man, I was in the exact same position one year ago. I had been in the construction field for over 25 years and I was transitioning to education as a second career. I was fortunate to find a position after only 7 months of looking. I also thought I would be at a high school, but here I am at a middle school and I love it! It was definitely a plus that I was older and has “life” experiences, but what it came down to, as it does for all jobs… experience. I am in a larger metropolitan area and, while there were plenty of job listings, I had no experience teaching. It took going 2 – 3 hours outside my house to find someone that would give me an interview, and then a teaching position. Be patient, substitute, get your name out there, make connections and look outside your comfort zone.
I’m in the same boat, and the age discrimination is real. Administrators look at you and see all the older, more experienced teachers who intimidate them, who have much more teaching experience than them, and who are not easily pushed around by them. I could see it happening in my interviews this year. The teachers on the panels often loved me but the administrators would not even make eye contact. I don’t know what the solution is, but I have turned to substitute teaching. I found a school I like where the teachers like me and value me as a colleague. The department chair has already indicated that she wants to hire me. So this is one way that you can prove you’re a pro when all the see in interviews is your gray hairs.
I became a teacher, 5th grade Dual Language, at the age of 53. It was my first full time job since my twenties. I was stay at home mom for the bulk of those years then a full time student (earning my MA and credential) till I started my teaching career. I was nervous about being so much older but ultimately it wasn’t an issue. I had one job interview and I got the job! I am currently in year 4! At times, it is a little odd socially that I am so much older than my coworkers. I really think my wisdom and maturity had helped me grow faster as a professional. My next goal is a Ph.d!
Don’t discount substitute teaching as a both a way into a school district and a way to garner valuable and varied experience. Depending on the situation where you live, it sometimes will take a fairly lengthy stint as a substitute before a job opens up. I went back into teaching at 35, and wound up working very regularly as a substitute in several schools for five years before I found a position in a nearby district. I learned so much more from being in different teachers’ classrooms at different levels than I did when I had done my degree ten years previously. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see how excellent (and not so excellent) teachers run their classes. While I was in a school, I made sure that I did not have one single moment to sit down–I volunteered to oversee other teachers’ classes for them if I had a free period, I stepped in to do peoples’ duties, I coached drama groups, I attended sporting events, and did everything I possibly could to make myself a valuable member of the school community.
Once you are known and valued in a school, the principal will do anything he or she can to keep you on a permanent basis. I got hired on several semi-permanent contracts and to do several projects before I was able to work my way into a permanent position. Best of luck in finding a good placement. (PS Middle school kids are a hoot and a half–it’s “full body contact” teaching, but once you get them on board with what you are doing, they are unstoppable!)
Ruth, you make substitute teaching sound pretty wonderful! I doubt whether many really see it for the opportunity it is, but YES! In what other field do people have so many opportunities to get in front of multiple prospective employers, “try out” schools, network like crazy, demonstrate and practice our skills, learn from dozens of potential mentors, and get paid all the while? Oh, and getting to choose your own schedule isn’t a bad side benefit, either. Thank you for sharing your experience!
So I belong to India and things may be different for us in terms of requirements for teaching and so on.
But I can tell you this much – I had, from the time I was very young, always wanted to be a teacher. However, circumstances led me to a very different career path. It was only in my 40s that I took the plunge and started teaching Spanish at the school I am currently working at. I have now been teaching for the last 6 years and last year I was appointed the IBDiploma Programme Coordinator of the school.
I think the traits that helped me experience success was my eagerness to learn and my deep desire to make a difference in the lives of my students. I don’t feel that my age has come in my way at all. I think my maturity and previous experience has helped me immensely.
The only thing is that teaching today has changed from what it used to be when I was a student. And teachers have to constantly “up skill” themselves to keep up with the huge developments in technology and pedagogy itself. In fact, the move from pedagogy to androgogy and now to heutagogy is something we have to be aware of. Teachers are no longer mere dispensers of knowledge. We have a responsibility to work as hard as our students to learn.
Nita, thank you for your comment. You make the point beautifully that it is ultimately our skills, character, and attitude that make us desirable employees, and what sustain us through a satisfying career, regardless of when we start.
I’m glad you mentioned pedagogy, andragogy, and heutagogy. I’d seen these terms referenced on TeachThought but didn’t take the time to learn more about them. Here’s an overview, for those who are interested: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-primer-in-heutagogy-and-self-directed-learning/
First I would like to say thank you for all the encouragement from your readers. I too have decided to follow my dream of becoming a teacher after raising my children. I have always wanted to be a teacher, but life happens and went into accounting and then health field (neither career was satisfying) I became an education assistant in 2005 and loved every minute of it. I then returned to school and now doing my student internship and will be certified in spring 2016. I am nervous and scared because of my age but feel that yes we do have life experiences to bring with us as well patience, understanding and love for children as well learning. I see us older returning students as role models for our students because we demonstrate that learning is a life long process. I look forward to finally beginning the career that has been calling me all these years. I wish you all the success in this field that not only educates the minds of our youth but the older minds as well.
I work as a faculty advisor in the CalStateTEACH teacher credentialing program which is a blended learning environment. The majority of the teacher candidates I work with are second career people who are now pursuing their teaching credential. The selling point for older teacher candidates, in my opinion, is the richness they bring to the classroom, their experience and their maturity. However, the most important aspect is being able to connect with, inspire and motivate students to learn. Older teachers must make a strong case for how their experience and passion with enrich their classrooms and contribute to the school as a whole.
I began teaching at the age of 50. It never occurred to me to worry about being older. Focus on being passionate about teaching and articulate about your skills and knowledge. I substitute taught for a few months, landed a long term sub position, then was hired over the phone for my first job, and I’m still at that school today! Practice interview skills. Learn to use every question as an opportunity to convey what you bring to the position, rather than worrying about what “they’re looking for” and trying to be whatever that is. You have experience, perspective, knowledge and skills that are valuable. Best Wishes!
I was a nursery teacher for a few years.But I got the seven year itch and decide to switch careers. At 41, I completed CELTA and went on to training adults. I later joined an IB school and now I take ESL and language B at the DP level. I am so blessed an happy I found my niche.
Happy teaching , an enjoy what u set out to accomplish.
I recently switched careers to become a teacher at age 44 and never got the impression that my non-traditional approach to licensure was a liability. However, there were some things I kept in mind throughout the job search:
1. Never forget *why* you are seeking to become a teacher at this point in your life. Everyone has a story; be true to yours and develop a concise and coherent way to communicate your drive so that it can flavor an interview without having time to repeat itself or to bore your interviewers.
2. Remember that you don’t want a job. Anybody can get one of those. You want an opportunity to make a difference; that means joining a community that needs what you have to offer and that will present you with the types of challenge on which you thrive. Unlike younger applicants, you should have enough real-world experience to know what kinds of problems you really enjoy solving (your student teaching time should also go a long way to helping you refine this awareness, too).
3. Each school is a unique combination of educational needs, staff culture, and community of parents and students; know which schools fit the kind of person you are and the kind of teacher you are working to become. Only apply to those schools. You are doing yourself and your students a disservice if you take a job for no reason other than it is available. Teaching is a pursuit of passion, not assembly-line work.
4. Effective teaching starts with relationship-building – teacher-student, teacher-teacher, teacher-support staff, teacher-parent, and teacher-administrator. There are no inconsequential relationships in this job. Start building those relationships the moment you walk into the building for your interview and never stop investing in the people around you.
5. If you ever get the feeling that your mid-life entry into the profession is hurting your interview, shrug it off. That is not the school for you, anyway. If they disagree with you over the value of your life experience they are unlikely to let you be you in all your glory. If you have to leave half of who you are at home, you can be only half a teacher in the classroom. Your students deserve a whole person in the room with them and you deserve to be respected for all that you have experienced.
6. Never doubt that you made the right choice. Every teacher experiences frustration, strain, and anxiety from time to time, and you will, too. But those experiences are our best opportunities to grow as teachers. Embrace every one for the gift it offers you; do not dwell in the momentary ugliness of defeat. Remain committed to your students and do the best you can. Eventually, your persistence and positive attitude will propel you past each obstacle (and, thanks to pointer #4 above, you’ll never have to solve those problems alone).
Michael, this is wonderful advice. I especially like #3, which takes some soul-searching and self-discipline to follow. Thanks so much for contributing this; I know it will help many job-seeking teachers (of all ages) for a long time!
Michael, your advice is absolutely dead-on. I am also a first year teacher, just turned 44. I went back to grad school when I was 40 because I wanted to live the rest of my life doing something meaningful = teaching. I am an ESL teacher and I LOVE what I do. I couldn’t be happier. It was a little rough interviewing but it all panned out in the end!
This is extremely relevant and wise advice. I liked reading all the comments, but Michael Sullivan really hit all the salient points to remember, both when going for interviews and walking into the school each day. Gratitude and blessings!
As a teacher and then principal, I learned about the importance of school culture. Try to find out the reputation of each school in the district to which you apply. Read the teacher union contract. They differ from district to district. And don’t just apply to the district and sit and wait. Go meet the principal and talk to him or her. I called a district daily looking for a job and they said, “no openings.” When I went to visit schools and talked with the principal I received 5 offers! Good luck. Your maturity will be welcomed in most districts.
I am 58 and trying to break into teaching high school business classes. Worked the last 10 years for a software company in marketing and training recent college grads. I always wanted to teach and I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to give. Any advice.
Check with Social Security. You may lose benefits accrued in your first career.
I’m glad you found it helpful. What is the greatest hardship you are currently working through?
I’m 55 and looking to move into teaching and coaching. I have 30 years in start-ups and Fortune 50 companies, an MBA from a top school, etc. I’ve contacted nearly 50 schools this spring and have had ZERO interviews or interest. I had one Principal who called me back and essentially told me that I’m still a “first year” teacher and that schools in the area don’t really value outside experience, he said I would likely get some activity in July and August when schools become desperate!! I live in the North Texas area. As a father and taxpayer I feel this is a sad commentary on who we are hiring and what the values of these school districts are in hiring teachers. Outside and life experience is not valued, sad, but make sure the standardized test is covered!
I have homeschooled my five children successfully for 15 years. I see this as a huge asset, but I fear others may see it as a liability. Is this something I should include in my resume?
Just my opinion, but I think it would definitely be an asset. I would give a summary of the kinds of approaches you used, the content you taught, etc., so you can demonstrate a level of expertise.
I found this post, and the comments, so encouraging and helpful. I am starting my Master’s with Teaching Certification this fall. I will be 40 when I am finished and am looking forward to spending the remainder of my working years as a teacher. At times, I wish I made this decision sooner; however, I also feel that my level of self-awareness and life experience is at a place now that will only help my effectiveness as a teacher.
Thank you all – teachers rock 🙂
I became a teacher in my 40s. I have been a contracted teacher for eight years. I was fortunate that my supervisor valued the maturity and life experience an older candidate brings to a position. I think whenever one is passionate about teaching that shows in an interview and goes a long way with administrators. They know that both passion and pedagogy are necessary to be an effective educator.
Hi, I love the article and comments so much because I am getting my certification in ELAR for middle school, and I learned so much.
My only question (if anyone sees this): is there a good resume template of reference for second-career teachers that anyone knows of, by chance?