I’ve had this blog since college — a decade ago when blogging was really just for kicks and a journal of sorts. I kept it up through getting my Master in Teaching, my career as a teacher, and my transition out of teaching last year, though I never wrote in-depth about these topics. I still work in education, but now with teachers, administrators, and the district regarding professional development, instructional tech, and curriculum.
The first year of my new role was during the pandemic, so in March, we all started working from home and I helped onboard staff with instructional tech for remote teaching. This year, we’re working on everything online: professional development, racial equity, inclusion and access, etc.
So all this to say: I’m totally disconnected from fashion, travel, and beauty right now — things that used to be fun hobbies and topics of my blog are so far from my mind during the pandemic. My 2021 posts will reflect my current reality, starting with a career series on education, and branching into mental health, book club/reviews, hobbies, relationships, and more.
Now more than ever, we need empathetic, passionate, and equity-centered teachers, so I hope these posts can be a resource for those wanting to pursue a career in education!
1. How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I didn’t, and I was very resistant to the idea because people always assumed I would be one when I told them I was an English major haha. But I tried journalism and also worked at a law firm for a couple years in college to explore other career paths but neither felt right. After graduating, my dad asked me what I wanted to do and I said, read and talk about books, travel the world, and empower young people, and he was like…that sounds like an English teacher! Long story short, after more serious consideration, I looked into graduate programs and got the ball rolling.
2. Why did you decide to teach English?
I immigrated to the US in 1st grade and didn’t speak any English then, but eventually when I learned, I couldn’t stop reading. I escaped into books and loved the worlds inside them. It’s strange that a once foreign language has now become my dominant tongue, and that these English words could move me and make me feel so much. So I always knew I wanted to do something English-related and I declared my major as soon as I could in college.
3. Do you need to go to graduate school to be a teacher?
You don’t, but I decided to get my Master in Teaching from the University of Washington, my alma mater, because I loved my undergrad experience there and wanted to be taught how to teach. It was a 1-year long program and I found some of it really helpful. Plus, it’s a state school so the tuition was more manageable, and practically speaking, you’re higher on the salary scale if you have graduate credentials, you’d look more competitive for hire, and you’ll most likely feel better prepared with studying current research on education, having student teaching experience, etc.
4. How did you decide between elementary or secondary?
I had an idyllic college experience and thought I wanted to teach at a university one day, so I chose secondary to work with older students. I knew I wanted to teach English literature and talk about abstract concepts, literary criticism, and current issues that would fit more with developmentally older kids. You do have to choose an endorsement when you apply for a grad program — elementary is K-8 and secondary is 6-12, which means you have to teach in the range of those grade levels depending on your certification.
5. What is the teaching hiring process like?
You submit your application for various districts and wait for a school to call you. It’s not often you can apply to a specific school, unless you have connections. I applied for a few districts I had researched (based on location, demographic, pay, etc.), in the summer I got a call from the principal of my current school to interview, interviewed, got a call that afternoon and was offered a job. It was my first and only interview — kind of a match made in heaven and I still love working at this school! This is not always the case, as novice teachers are hired last from the pool and often right before the start of school or even during the school year. You could also make connections during student teaching if you like the school and district you’re at and they have an opening. Otherwise, you could go to job fairs — they interview and sometimes hire right away there.
6. Can you make a livable wage as a teacher?
It depends on the district you teach in as various districts pay differently and also where you live. In some districts, you may have to spend your own money on supplies, copy paper, pens, etc. In others, the school provides the supplies, there are PTSA grants, you get additional stipends for committee work, release time for grading, have a district mentor for years as a novice teacher, etc. The experience varies really inequitably. After a few years of teaching, you could get a National Board certification, which gives you a salary bump every year — the discrepancy of pay again depending on which district you work in. So I did that, am a part of a few paid committees, and work on my blog as a business for additional income. Anyway, depending on all that, the state, and the district, salaries can be very varied. Pay is definitely one of many issues in terms of teacher retention, and I’ll speak to it more in future posts.
Next in the series: my best and worst parts of being a teacher [part 2] + why I stopped teaching and other career paths in education [part 3].
There’s so much I could share but the post is already so long. If you have any questions (student teaching experience, hiring interview, which district to choose, etc.), ask away in the comments and I’ll respond!