On a Career of Two Halves

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Everyone evolves in their job or career. It’s different for everyone; however, not only do each of us change, different reasons initiate each bit of change. Do you have a single moment that changed your career life? If so, do remember the key components as place, date, time, and situation?

I can’t imagine a teacher getting it right on Day 1 of their career. After all, one enters their classroom from the protective confines of observations, experiences, and student teaching – but now that new teacher is all alone with the elements.

To me, my teaching career involved two halves. Content and discipline dominated the first half. After all, two of my strengths were organizing and explaining information.

I recall a story of student who came to my defense when a peer complained that I was so hard. She explained that I was easy because I presented the information well, laid it out in front them, but the content was hard – not me. Oh my, is biology ever heavy in terminology. On the other hand, I later determined that didn’t mean I was a good teacher.

The labs were OK, but not my strength. Like most science teachers, labs were done to support/verify the already-presented content.

I don’t know how it happened, but professional development was very important to me. State, regional, and national conferences were always on my radar. I tried to attend those within a reasonable distance, plus I didn’t mind providing some of my own expenses because (the way I saw it) that’s what professionals do. These conferences were learning experiences – although a side of me (like most teachers) was looking for ideas to fit into my system – after all, I (like most teachers) know what is best for my students.

Toward the end of my career’s first half, the school district hired a math-science curriculum coordinator. Although primarily a math person, I processed her thoughts because she was good at stimulating my thinking. Besides – I had already heard this information before at the conferences; but I didn’t put my knowledge into action.

I wish I would have recorded the date, time, exact setting, and circumstances of the next event. I recall being in a session at a National Science Teachers Association regional conference in Louisville, Kentucky when the light bulb became bright – causing me to proclaimed, “I’ve done a great job of doing it wrong all these years.”

Reflections can be powerful, and I wonder how many people would admit what I did – especially one with 13 or so years of experience. From that moment in Louisville, I committed myself to change. During the rest of the school year, our coordinator encouraged me to try some things – similar to test driving a car – which I did. I also identified areas where I needed training – plus where to get it – and I eagerly attended several intense classes and workshops for 6 months.

As the next school year started, my teaching approach and philosophy changed 180 degrees. I shifted from a lecture-based to activity-based – from teacher centered to student centered – from content driven to application based – from textbook driven to the textbook being an aid – from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side – from dispensing informing to students to having students learn for themselves – from me telling what they needed to know to me guiding their learning as they figure it out – from me tweaking prepared activities to me designing my own lessons that had a clearly defined instructional strategy.

There is no question that the last half of my career was more rewarding than the first half. I loved the challenge of developing and implementing a lesson. My most rewarding moments would be standing and looking at a classroom of every student engaged without me. I wrote my own lessons and was very good at it. My first-half strengths of organizing information and controlling the classroom helped immensely. After all, I had been there and done that.

The last half of my career taught me how to teach. It taught me how people learn. It taught me that change can occur – especially when driven from within. Yes, it made me stubborn with teachers I encountered who held onto the past of teaching how they were taught.

I later had some years in training development for businesses. I cringed when hearing someone say, “Anyone can teach” – well, in business it’s “anyone can train!” I knew I had arrived in my new endeavor when I was disagreeing with the majority of others in the field around me. After all, I had the advantage of knowing that telling isn’t teaching, and telling isn’t training.

51 thoughts on “On a Career of Two Halves

  1. I loved reading your thoughts on your career curve Frank – what you found in your second half is how it ought to be but I think it takes a while of learning and honest self-assessment to realise you can develop and run your own lessons. My own development curve pretty much echoed yours. I ended my career in education as an assessor and mentor of practising teachers, both new and experienced. A lot of the time I did not enjoy that role, but when I worked with teachers who had the ability to look at their classroom practises openly and honestly it was wonderful. Sadly, not everyone is capable of that degree of professional and personal development.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pauline,
      Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience, as well as understanding what I was saying in this post. Education is full of people thinking they’ve figured it out but aren’t close. Self reflection is a powerful force, especially when one is address themselves in a negative manner!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pauline,
    Knowing a bit of your past professional experience, I was hoping you would see this post. Self reflection is powerful – especially when one is honest with themselves. As you know, teachers are a very protective bunch, and I trying believe that most are not honest with themselves enough to admit “I’ve done a good job at doing it wrong.” I’ve spoken to many teachers around the country, and the vast majority don’t see that in their own professional journey. Thanks for supporting this story!


  3. It would be wonderful to suggest that teaching comes naturally to those who have chosen the profession but the truth of the matter, like pretty much any profession, one must grow and learn as one imparts. I like to think of teachers as leaders – and some have that knack of getting their students engaged. Kudos to you for having figured it out – who cares how much time it took.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this post Frank. You’re relating her to one of my favorite subjects, though I taught at the college level. I started teaching a bit late in life, and enjoyed it very much. There were two two such changes in my career. When I first started teaching I noticed that there was a little background noise in the class… maybe whispered conversations. So in order to induce maximum attention, I started lecturing at a very low volume of sound. This worked, and everyone was quiet in order to hear me. After a few years I noticed that people unregistered to my class were coming in to hear my lectures. At that point, I forgot about my ‘trick’, and started lecturing at full volume, and felt freer. I never worried about their attention afterwards. The second career changing moment was when the college demanded a written syllabus for each course. I didn’t want to give the same course each year, just as I had the year before, and so this was the beginning of my breaking the rules.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Shimon,
      Thanks for sharing your experience. Teaching is (to me) an art, and an art that not everyone understands and never achieves. So many misconceptions about teaching. Just because the teacher is well like or not, neither measures effectiveness.


  5. Thank you for sharing, Frank. It was interesting hearing about your experiences. I know teaching is very difficult–and we’ve all had good and bad teachers. My husband and daughter are very good teachers, but I was not. They both know their subjects, and they are also at ease in a classroom. My daughter is still in her beginning years, and she doesn’t know if she will stay in education because there is so much bureaucratic nonsense–one reason why my husband was ready to retire (after 37 years). He now has “retirement jobs”–working at a golf course and adjunct math professor at a community college.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Your career sounds to have been illuminating in many different areas.. You know Frank, life teachers us there are no right or wrong ways.. Some of our education systems are a habit that no one is willing to deter from..
    Science today has made many new discoveries that out date the old teaching methods in text books.. Yet no one is willing to tackle the task of ‘Re-educating’ the teachers… Because to do so would open up a whole new can of worms.. I speak here of Quantum Physics and their discoveries ..
    And to me Frank, while there are some wonderful teachers.. We are all of us still ‘Students’ and we all of us,, ALL of us, still have Soooo much more to learn..

    Loved reading more about you my friend.. Be Well..
    Hugs Sue ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sue,
      One of my frequent lines to students, teachers, and trainees … There is a difference between The Way and A way. On the other hand, the odds are that teaching as one has been taught is a negative.

      No question that one can question the accuracy and updateness of new science textbooks because the fields recognize that. During my day, I wonder how many teachers were aware of teaching research in their own discipline.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your post was a fine contribution to the legions of teachers starting up the new school year. My second career as a high school band director began in my 11th year of teaching when I heeded the advice of colleagues who built their programs on chamber music (trios, quartets, quintets, etc.) with the teacher moving around the rehearsal spaces facilitating one-on-a-part, non-conducted playing.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I had a similar shift in my teaching. Once I was more confident in my mastery of the content I was teaching, then I could start to better focus on how the students were learning the material. What I knew did not really matter. A book and corresponding workshops that helped me find ways to focus on student learning and assessing what learning was actually underway was the handbook Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross. A part of my later teaching career was to help coordinate professional development–and I used that platform to help share this focus on student learning, often referenced as a paradigm shift. As an administrator, a good part of my job was observing teachers in action. When a teacher could really help students learn, it was magnificent to see!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patti,
      Wow … thanks for sharing. I appreciate when someone understands me because (when I was teaching), few colleagues seemed to.

      As you know, evaluation is not at the end, but ongoing from day 1 … so when lessons are constructed with that thought, that is a big factor – but not the only. Ever heard of the 5 Es? …. Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate (but with the later embedded in the other four)? That was a game changer for me.


  9. Don’t know if I will offend with this comment, but not everyone is made out to be a teacher. Flexibility is essential. From this post it is evident you changed (evolved) as a teacher
    hopefully facilitating better results from the students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drew,
      No matter the profession, each person brings something different to the table … and … no matter the profession, not every person is made to be that. So your statement isn’t limited to teachers. There is no question that my change yielded better results. I recall a conversation with a colleague about changes in results. He agreed, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the past stats to compare.


  10. Most interesting, Frank. I have always been on the receiving end, not the teaching end. I can appreciate your insight that changed your teaching from providing information to participation. Never before in history has so much information been so readily available, and yet, so few seem to make efficient use of it. The best teacher, IMO, is one who can ignite a passion for learning and then direct that in a direction that fits a student’s skills. I suspect you are one such.

    Looking back on my own education I consider it mostly a case of frenetic exposure to knowledge and yet I still think of myself as an autodidact. There are so many variables to learning, I doubt there is any one methodology that applies to all. Schools that force formulaic methods fail to recognize this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jim,
      No question that no one methodology applies for you. After all, the concept of different learning styles attests to that! Interesting how some student learn how to achieve in the system – but when the system changes, some of them have trouble adapting because it is contrary to their own successes.

      Thanks for the confidence, but I never saw myself as one who ignited the passion. (But I know that type,) I was more of a tactician – one who looked at the learning process and how I could accomplish that in an active learning way.


  11. I really enjoyed learning about your “two halves” and how you embraced resilience and flexibility. I think in all aspects of life we do better if we are willing to learn from both personal experience and openness to what others directly inspire in our thinking, but in teachers, perhaps most of all! When we have the responsibility to teach others, it feels like a loss to so many if we aren’t capable of expanding our skills. I had two halves as well. I was an early childhood teacher for the first half, and then much later on went back to school to get a Masters Degree. I was intending to move into non-profit work but through a series of circumstances ended up in university research. I still worked with students, but not as a teacher. I still go to symposiums and lectures as often as possible–I don’t want to let the brain get lazy. LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Debra,
      Thank you for understanding and for sharing a bit of your journey. In life, I’m not sure how many people are willing to critically self-reflect, That’s when the most significant change can occur – even then, that is no guarantee because change can be difficult.

      For whatever reason, a conversation with a young teacher comes to mind. She suddenly says, I get it – you care more about what the program is doing than protecting your own course. Yep – that was the contrarian in me.
      Interestingly, I think about a few people who have told me that my approach here is very teacher-like! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I read this but didn’t comment at the time (phone).
    The mindset that “anyone can teach” is simple and ignorant. Teaching incorporates so many facets, and I’d love to see these people try their hand at it. For like six months. Then again, maybe not.
    My son just finished his first week of teaching. He said it was rough. So much so that he consulted one of the teachers who’s been there for a time. He was immediately put at ease when the teacher told him the first year is going to be a “shit show” as he figures it all out. But he will, figure it all out. And your passage about changing things from moving out of the “sage of the stage” to the “guide on the side” is great advice.
    Great piece, Frank.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Kudos to you, Frank. There aren’t many people who would welcome or embrace a change in their approach to a job after so many years. Stuborness, ego, whatever gets in the way from appreciating anther opinion or possibility is usually a person downfall. Teaching is tough. People who’ve never been in a classroom just don’t get it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • George,
      Thank you for the kind words. As a group, teachers are very protective – so that is one of the factors affecting them. Yes, it is very hard work – and extremely time consuming. It terms of the change, at least I figured it out. I also know it was for the best, but students (especially HS students) have been programmed “how classrooms work”, so when a class is different, some struggle, others resist, and others embrace it!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My second career was teaching adults various computer programs, I had to write my own lesson plans, and boy did I learn a lot. I was from a Social Work background, not a teaching background, so I read, researched, asked for assistance all in effort to do my job better. Learning is ongoing, sadly some people just don’t get that.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Pingback: Guest Post: On a Career of Two Halves – MiddleMe

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