Teaching is essentially learning in disguise. As we teach–as we learn–often our ambition magnifies. We find ourselves reaching for the stars, just as we encourage our students to do. If you’ve found yourself with a burst of ambitious energy, chances are you’re thinking about ways to advance your teaching career. Like many things in life, improving your teaching career will involve a lot of personal reflexivity, and a bit of hard work. The evolution of your career is a lifelong pursuit. It is important to think in terms of the long game, to carefully envision what you’d like to see for yourself, and to be open as that vision may transform in time.
Charting a Course
In order to effectively advance your teaching career, you need to determine what your ideal job looks like. This will require a bit of soul-searching. What is it about your job that you enjoy? Do you thrive in administrative roles? Would you be happy conducting and publishing original research? Are you happiest at the front of the classroom? Once you can imagine the ultimate job you’d like to have, seek a mentor who already has this type of work. You might connect with someone you already know personally, or you might contact someone via email who you’ve never met (LinkedIn can be a good source for this). You might even just follow someone’s career from afar. The point is to find a model, and to use that model to help determine what your possible next steps could be. Pick your mentor’s brain, learn from their mistakes, and benefit from their successes.
Getting Better at the Job You Have
If you want to move forward to better job opportunities, one of the tricks is to excel where you are right now. Exemplary teaching performance can lead to awards and honors, positive student evaluations for your portfolio, and internal advancement opportunities. Do some deep reflection on the areas where your teaching practice can improve. Evaluate your classroom, your lesson plans, your office: what are the emotional reactions you have to these elements of your work? These reactions will help you figure out how you can improve. If you can identify your shortcomings, you can make a plan to grow.
Improving Your Resume
It’s no secret that adding more lines to your curriculum vitae can have positive effects on your career. If you are interested in pursuing further formal education and/or specific teaching certifications, this can only help. However, you can also think outside the box in terms of brightening your resume. As the world goes more and more digital, for instance, technical skills are in high demand. If you’d like to improve in this arena, you might take online courses to become a certified Google educator, enroll in a Tech JumpStart course for educators, or attend a conference for online curriculum development. There are all sorts of skills that could aid you on your journey, and make your resume pop to potential employers. Think about what tools for educators that are available to you. The trick to keep learning, and to be creative with the process. Building your resume is crucial, but you shouldn’t feel like pursuing a doctorate is the only way to do so.
If you’ve done the personal and difficult work of determining the job you want, finding a mentor, figuring out how you can improve, and building your resume in creative ways, you are off to a great start. Now you’ll have to dig in and do the long and arduous work of improvement and change. Fortunately, you’re a teacher. You are no stranger to hard work.
Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball. Connect with her on Google+and (@LizzieWeakley).
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