I got a call from a teacher friend yesterday. She calls a lot, actually. She likes to use me as a sounding board as she plans out her curriculum and lesson plans. Yesterday she was formulating a plan for an independent reading project, but over the years and countless phone hours we’ve hashed through job applications, challenging students, and administration difficulties as well as mountains of curriculum ideas. Truthfully, she’s very good at her job, so my end of the conversation usually ends up sounding like various forms of the phrase, “yeah, that sounds good.” Occasionally I offer ideas or raise a concern or two, but mostly, I think she just needs to talk through whatever it is that she’s planning, and I’m an understanding ear willing to listen.
I like it. I feel like it keeps me fresh, keeps my brain engaged in a field that could have easily passed me by time after time. It’s funny when I compare our career trajectories, though. We like to say we’ve had some very similar experiences. We met in college and went through our first year teaching at the same time. A few years later we found ourselves job hunting again at the same time. We’ve both worked in an urban demographic for a year, and both left knowing that it wasn’t the right place for us. We have a similar way of relating to teenagers, both enjoy teaching literature more than writing, and share many pedagogical perspectives.
But there are plenty of differences. Her experience is in public schools, while most of mine is in private. She’s been laid off from jobs (budget cuts), whereas I walked away, following my husband. And if you were to compare our resumes, she leaves me in the dust. As we begin our 8th year in the field, she’s actually been teaching full-time every year. My career has been a conglomeration of subbing, maternity leave fill-in, SAT prep classes, and tutoring mixed in between the non-consecutive years of full-time teaching. If that weren’t enough, she’s now department chair, AP trained, and on committees planning curriculum for the whole district. And she’s calling me, the unemployed stay-at-home-mom, for teaching advice?? All I can say is that I hope I never have to compete with her for a job!
I want to stay fresh in the field, though, so I’m glad she calls. Through those phone calls I’ve vicariously thought through lesson plans for way more books than I’ve actually taught. I’ve gleaned ideas for teaching writing in new ways that I hadn’t considered. I have a better grasp of scope-and-sequence than my own piece-meal career has given me. I benefit from her experiences, which in some small way helps make up for my hodgepodge resume. And I like to think that I have helped her, too. Otherwise, why would she keep calling me?
I’ve entertained other ways I could stay fresh in the field this year, too. I applied and interviewed for an online teaching position, but that fell through. I’ve also revisited the early days of this blog, back when I was engrossed in the concept of strengths-based education (check out my archives if you want). A part of me would love to use this year to pursue the Certificate in Strengths-Based Education, but that involves $2000 that I don’t have, and I don’t have a guarantee that a school would be interested in using my training once I have it.
The idea keeps percolating, though, and maybe if I put it down in print, it’ll gain some substance. I loved teaching College Discovery classes in Boston. I also loved teaching the career research project at my last full-time job. Those discussions are some the best I have with teenage students – planning for their futures, helping them explore their own interests, strengths, and possibilities.
So here’s what I’m currently envisioning: Expand on those ideas and combine them with the StrengthsQuest program to come up with a semester-long Strengths and Careers course. We’d begin by doing the StrengthsFinder assessment and talking through what that means for each student. Then we’d use that as a launching point to explore career options, do research, and even some job shadowing. Then, with the career ideas in place, we’d begin researching college choices that would help prepare them for that career, work through the details of college applications, and write the application essays. A class like that would also be a great venue for teaching the things that often get by-passed in high school, like writing a resume, applying for jobs, and what it means to be “professional” – from attire to communication to dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers.
*Sigh* It sounds great on paper, but there a lot of logistics involved with making it a reality, the least of which being that I don’t have a job. I need a school not only willing to hire me, but also to make the financial investment needed to bring strengths-based education to the classroom. I think it would be great, but I can’t do it alone. Especially not from my living room.
So this is me, tossing the idea out there, unsure if it will come back to me in tangible form. But the gears keep on turning and I keep hoping for the day when it’ll be more than just conjecture. In the meantime, I’m happy to be the sounding board for any teacher friend who needs to bounce ideas off someone. 🙂