[Thanks to KC for sharing her informational interview report about being a middle school teacher.]
What is your current career goal? Who did you interview and why? How do you know this person?
My career goals are different than the person’s whom I interviewed, but I was interested because she isn’t only a teacher but she is also my personal trainer. Also because I had always loved working with kids, and she always talks about her kids at school. My interviewee is 33 years old and she teaches and is an athlete who does body building.
What was your main goal for the informational interview?
The main goal for the informational interview was to explore the person’s experience in the field they are in. Perhaps the way they describe their career could light a sparkle in me and guide me through the same path.
What were the questions you asked? What were the responses from the person you interviewed?
The questions I asked and the responses are below.
How did you get into this career?
I got into teaching about 9 years ago after I completed my Masters in Education degree at UC Santa Cruz. My degree had an emphasis in Social Justice. I knew early on in my academic career that I wanted to be part of education. It took me a few years of my undergraduate studies, and inquires, to decide which avenue within education I wanted to be part of.
Eventually, I decided that I wanted to get a multiple-subject credential to teach students in grade Kindergarten through 8th grade. I focused on social justice reform, English Language Development and Language Acquisition.
I knew that I wanted to be part of system where I could help people obtain the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to empower their lives.
I come from a family of educators and my grandmother told me something very wise one day. She said, “In life you can loose your house, your possessions and your money; however, you can never loose your education, your wisdom, or your intelligence.” I have never forgotten that lesson and it is something that I try to offer to others: education. For education is the most powerful tool to create change, and to advance a person’s life.
What do you do at work on a typical day? What are your responsibilities?
Within public education there is no real typical day, except that students arrive and I manage how they obtain information.
I have 5 periods of instruction. I teach World History and English Literature for 7th graders. I have one prep period and a thirty-minute lunch. Sometimes I have yard duty (either before or after school for 15 minutes). I often have meetings after school, and sometimes on my prep I meet with other teachers or with parents to discuss a myriad of matters (usually the progress of a student).
I also serve on several committees. For example, I am on the Curriculum Committee where I help my district make decisions about curriculum and instructional material.
Being an educator requires me to be multifunctional. I sometimes console tears; sometimes I have to be a disciplinarian; other times I have to be like a cop; sometimes I’m more like a nurse. I have to ensure student safety. I have to help students obtain skills. I am a motivator. I am a time manager. I am my own secretary.
I grade HUNDREDS of essays. I have to model integrity, respect, responsibility, humility, and more.
My typical day is about not thinking about my needs; rather I’m constantly putting the needs of others first.
What majors and/or minors do you recommend for someone interested in this field?
I would recommend studying what you love if you want a multiple subject credential.
If you want a single subject credential then get a degree in your area of passion. Example: English teachers need a degree in English. A second grade teacher can have an undergraduate degree in anything (though I think a major like Liberal Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Community Studies, American Studies, Latino Studies, etc. are best for multiple subject people). A great minor would be Education.
Then, you need to find a teacher-credentialing program (preferable not online). I recommend getting a Masters and your credential.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being “A LOT” and 1 being “NOT SO MUCH”), how much do you enjoy your job overall?
I love my job! I do not like how rigid the day is, but it’s a great schedule for my life and life style. I love learning new things and every day I’m learning. I love people, and all day I’m helping and working with people. I’d give my job a 10 despite the stress.
If I wanted to start in this career area, how would you recommend that I go about pursuing this career path
First, you absolutely need a college, 4-year degree. Then, you need to enroll in a credentialing program.
Prior to going into a program though, I suggest volunteering in a school, and with various ages and subject matters.
I also recommend asking yourself “why?” Why do you want to teach? If it is for the summers off then it’s not the job for you. I spend my summers writing curriculum, going to workshops, and trying to recover from the stress that is placed on teachers.
Also ask yourself if you are good at handling stress, lots of paper work, and if you are patient.
I also recommend getting a mentor; someone you can talk to who has been in the field for a long time that has words of wisdom to pass along.
How did you get into this organization/industry? What other organizations have you worked for?
I already answered that….but I went from teaching at an elementary school to middle school because I have found that my niche is with the unruly, awkward pre-teens. I think it is because my early teen years were so intense that I can offer a lot of empathy for them. I’m also “hip” and I talk to my kids like adults, and I have found pre-teens and teens respond well to that. Most adults are afraid of teens, but I love them.
Before teaching, I worked with adults with disabilities and I was a live-in care-giver for a man with Down Syndrome. This was how I put myself through school at UCSC.
Prior to that, I worked for the Santa Cruz State Parks as an aid and I volunteered as a Docent for Natural Bridges, where I took school children on Tide Pool Tours.
Before that, I worked within forestry. I had an internship with the Tahoe Conservancy on their forest habitat restoration crew.
I got that job after completing my years of service with AmeriCorps, where I worked with the U.S. Forestry Service on various environmental projects in eastern California and all over Nevada. During my years with the forestry department and the Tahoe Conservancy, I did everything from invasive species removal, urban restoration, tree removal, prescribed burns, trail management, public safety, chainsaw trainings, and ecological education.
What do you like most/least about the work you do? What is your work environment like?
I love that I learn all the time, write all the time, read all the time, and get the opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life everyday.
I love that I have autonomy when it comes to my curriculum.
I love working for a principal who believes in me.
What I like least are my short lunch breaks, the pace of the day, how much I have to repeat myself, and having to enforce behavior norms all day.
I also dislike amount of students I serve compared to the amount of time I’m given in a week to serve all of them with equity.
I dislike how violent many of my students are, and how little support we have from many families to help our students be successful.
I teach in East San Jose and it is rough. Kids are pretty poor and many struggle with English since it is a second language for most of them. We have gang problems, drug issues, early teen sex, lots of fights, and more.We have a police officer on campus daily. I, however, am used to this type of environment.
I have a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Social Justice. My M.O. in college was to help make a difference for our Latino/Chicano students and other marginalized populations. I come from a broken home that is now blended. As a minor, I endured alcoholism (my father and two of my brothers), a father who was incarcerated when I was young, domestic violence, and times with poverty. My family managed to recover from some of those things, but not all of it. My past struggles allow me to relate to my kids.
I’m also a person who managed to use education to advance my life. With that being said, I believe that a country is only as strong as its weakest link and I feel that it is my moral obligation to help my country be the strongest that it can be. The weapon I want to arm young people with is their mind, so that they can make healthy and responsible choices to get out of any negative circumstance. I love my country, and my way of giving back is to educate and empower others regardless of color, gender, nationality, or language. I want to help spread the teachings of MLK and Ghandi by being a vehicle for radical, peaceful change.
What is the economic forecast for this industry?
Teaching provides a stable, monthly salary with benefits.
What are the employment prospects for someone entering this field?
California needs teachers! Finding a job should not be too difficult. Obtaining it is the hard part.
What is the growth and promotional potential in your field?
There are always opportunities for advancement. Education is a great field because it is a field that focuses on lifelong learning.
Currently, how secure are positions in your field?
Job security is high once a person obtains tenor, but getting tenor is not that easy for all people.
What is a typical starting salary in this field?
I think it might be around 60-64K with benefits for starting out teachers. Might be a bit less if you don’t have a Masters.
If you had a chance to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing!
Share and discuss the information that was interesting and/or new to you?
I have known my interviewee for less than a year, we have had one on ones about our lives and share some of our experiences, but I never knew what was the “X” factor what kept her going day by day.
I am very amazed by how much she enjoys teaching and how motivated she is to help teens and give the best she can for them to succeed.
I have always wanted to help others around me, and she is inspiring me to do so in the same way she does. I am sure that her principal and coworkers are very happy to have her around.
I wasn’t sure of how much a teacher’s salary was. I had always wondered if being a teacher was worth the money.
Teachers are like parents, they spend so much time a day with you, and help you learn so many things about life. This is why I think those teens are in such good hands with her.
Did the informational interview help create a positive or negative impression regarding the career/major that you wanted to find more information about? How so?
It helped me create a great impression about being a teacher. I would love to know that I am making an impact in someone’s lives by protecting them from violence, or at least doing as much as I can to protect them. Also teach them everything they need to be taught in order to be successful.
If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently in your informational interview? For example, would you ask any other particular questions?
No, I think I asked the right questions.
Did you send a thank-you note/message within 2 days after the informational interview?
Yes I did, I am very thankful to her for taking her time to do this.