Tips for Teachers: Taking the Non-Traditional Path
As a Chinese major at Hamilton, I planned to spend time living and working in China after graduation, ideally at an NGO. My plans completely changed, though, after my alternative spring break trip to North Carolina during my junior year.
I spent several days working in a first-grade classroom, and realized that this is exactly where I want to be after graduation--teaching in a classroom. Although I took several education classes, teaching was not a path I had seriously considered until I experienced the magic of being in a classroom first-hand.
During the fall of my senior year, I researched non-traditional pathways to teaching. I knew I didn’t want to go back to school right away after graduating, so I would need to find a non-traditional pathway, as I was not graduating with a teaching certification.
I grew up in New York City, so I focused my search there because I wanted to be close to my family. I quickly came across charter schools and found Achievement First. I talked to a Hamilton alumna who had just graduated and was working at Achievement First as a Teacher-in-Residence (TIR, the same position I would be applying for. She loved her work and encouraged me to apply. My application process moved very quickly; Within a month of applying, I interviewed in person, completed a lesson demo, and was offered the position, which I happily accepted!
If you are interested in non-traditional pathways to teaching, I recommend starting your search early. It was a great relief to securea job so soon (by the beginning of November). This allowed me to really enjoy my final year at Hamilton.
I am currently in my fourth year working at Achievement First, and am still loving my work. After spending my first year as a TIR, which is an assistant teaching role, I was offered a lead teaching role. For my first two years at Achievement First, I was enrolled part-time in a graduate program and now have a master’s of arts in teaching degree. Although I initially did not want to go back to school right after graduating from Hamilton, studyingpart-time and getting hands-on experience in a classroom turned out to be the perfect blend for me.
I have learned a tremendous amount about teaching over these four years, from curriculum development to classroom management. I hope to stay in the classroom for several more years and eventually move into a coaching or administrative role at a school.
Finally, I would like to offer some concrete pieces of advice for students interested in working in teaching:
- Get hands-on experience in a classroom before deciding you want to teach. Consider volunteering at a school near Hamilton or reaching out to the school you attended as a child to volunteer during a break. This will help you make sure teaching is for you and determine the age group you want to work with.
- Start your research and networking early. Different types of schools hire at various times throughout the year, and knowing what type of school you are interested in and when want to begin your graduate program, will help you make the right connections and apply at the right time.
- Stay current in teaching trends and best practices. Schools and programs want to know that even if you haven’t had classroom teaching experience, you know about current teaching practices and can articulate your views on education topics . Taking education classes at Hamilton, shadowing teachers or administrators in education, and talking to alumni who work in education are all great ways to do this!