Mid-career job changers to education don’t often work out

September 2, 2010 at 10:00 am 8 comments

New study shows that people who switch into teaching in the middle of some other career, don’t often work out.  We definitely see some of these problems among people who switch into teaching CS from an IT career.  Sometimes they do it because it’s a second or third choice, and they’re not too happy about it.

Many people assumed that mid-career job changers would prove the salvation of public education by bringing their content expertise and successful work experience with them.

It turns out that many have neither expertise nor great success.

“When we looked at these alternative or lateral entry teachers, many of them were quite young and were simply frustrated in getting a job in their chosen profession,” said Gary Henry, director of the UNC Carolina Institute for Public Policy. “The folks switching from high-performing private sector jobs are a very small minority.

via No superheroes to the rescue of schools. Good teaching seems to depend on good supports. | Get Schooled.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  September 2, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I made the switch to teaching when I was in my 40s and it worked out pretty well (I like to think). I have mentored a couple of other teachers who came from industry to teaching high school. In these cases teaching was not a fall back or a second choice but something they decided they really wanted to do. A life style change to be sure but not an “i’ll never make it here so I’ll teach” decision.
    As I see it the two keys to second career teaching success is a) hiring people who really want to be teachers and b) giving them good mentorship and support once they get in the classroom.
    Good hiring – making sure they know their stuff, that they like kids, that they want to teach rather than just a job – comes first. Then send them to some workshops. Have them be observed by experienced teachers and have them observe good teachers as well. It can work but it is not a silver bullet.

  • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  September 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I especially agree about the mentoring support, Alfred. I think that’s what Barb did especially well with “Operation: Reboot.” Each IT worker who is coming into teaching high school CS gets three mentors. There’s the business teacher with whom the IT teacher-candidate team teaches for the whole first year. There’s the mentor that the State assigns, to help the teacher-candidate with learning how certification works and how to file the right paperwork for student teaching, etc. Finally, Barb teams up each pair (the business teacher who wants to learn to teach CS better, with the former IT worker who knows the technology but now how to teach) with one of her most expert CS teachers. She says that that last mentoring has been the most successful, both in terms of helping the team, but also in spreading best practices. Those expert-teacher mentors are rarely in the same district as the pair, so everyone is learning about what others are doing, which leads to greater knowledge and more sharing.

  • 3. Justin  |  September 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

    IBM has a successful program for transitioning IT workers to a teaching career.

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  September 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

      I don’t know anything about the IBM program, and it may very well be terrific. The information that IBM provides doesn’t dispute the claims of the study in the blog piece. For example, do the IBM teachers stay in their jobs for multiple years? I don’t know, but I do believe that that’s a problem with job-changing teachers.

  • 5. Mark Miller  |  September 5, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    This gives new meaning to a phrase I haven’t liked, but here goes: “Those who can’t do teach.”

    • 6. Alfred Thompson  |  September 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      In general if you can’t do then you can’t teach. This may not be true of physical activity – there are some coaches who can train great players in sports they themselves did not excel at – but for academic pursuits you really do have to be a subject matter expert. The teachers who make it after moving to teaching from industry are generally those who can do and how have a track record of training or mentoring others..

  • 7. Sheri Sch  |  September 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I totally disagree with the results of this study. The researchers state that they looked at people that were not successful in the business world, and tried to switch over to education. If they looked at people who were successful in the business world, and left to focus on their family and children, the researchers may find that that success carries over into the education world as well. Someone in their 40s carries a lot of wisdom into the classroom, both from the real-life experience of the business world and as a parent who can relate to children’s struggles.

  • 8. Sumit Kumar  |  May 1, 2013 at 8:02 am

    I beleive there are primarily two things, when switching to teaching during mid of another carrer, that need to be looked into.
    First is the motivation/passion for teaching/ for kids, and a good deal of patience, and of course to teach ones favourite subject (that is it should be by choice and not by chance), secondly one should be content with a drop in the pay/perks that big organization do offer.


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