Getting Focused

Perhaps the hardest part of switching careers is staying focused and staying the course.  Why: there will be resistance; there’s always resistance.  When I went for my Masters degree several years ago now, I got a lot of resistance, yet I was dogged and determined because I felt this was God’s direction for my life, and I also had awesome support from my wife (which admittedly waned when we started having kids), which helped a great deal.  This time around, nothing much has changed: I truly feel this is God’s direction for my life at this moment in time, and my wife is actually pushing me to make the switch.  Semiconductors is slowly killing me and teaching is my passion.  The resistance this time will come from: my need to make money on occasion, my old career wanting to “snare” me into long hours (study hours!) to make that money; and all the hoops I will need to jump through to do something I feel I’m already able to do: teach.  The hoops (bureaucracy, put in place to see who truly belongs) are a necessary evil.  I have no doubt that there are no shortcuts to this process, nor am I looking very hard for them.  As for money, the need is real.  I just spent most of my safety net last year on not succeeding in business.  I still have some cash, but I doubt I can stretch it for too long — I’ll need to work while I study, so I’ll need to do the occasional consulting gig to replenish my cash reserves.  I am definitely NOT thinking of a traditional job right now, unless that job is flexible enough to allow me to go to class when I need to (my former, former company allowed me to this for my Masters — I worked a split shift, which was perfect for my line of work anyway).

OK, so I don’t have the job thing nailed down at this time.  I would absolutely love to do my studies without the need to work.  Ideally, I’d like to find teaching opportunities, even at low pay, for the experience I will need to fulfill my requirements.  To start with though, I need to plan, focus and execute.


A new direction

All of last week, I thought and prayed about what to do, now that my Start-up company is dead, my vacation is done, and I have no current job direction or current contracts.  The conclusion was this:  Time to make the transition from engineer to teacher.  This is not going to be an easy transition, and I might need to do some layout contract work just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, but I’m going for it.  I’ve been a “teacher” for too long who does not officially teach : And teaching is and always has been my passion.  Time to make it official!

I have decided to get a single subject teaching credential so I can teach at the Jr. High and High School level.  I really want to teach at the Community College level, but I have not found any openings (I do not need a credential to teach there — I could start now!).  There is this place in Maine for which I am somewhat qualified, but they are asking for two year’s formal in-class teaching.  I have boat-loads of teaching background, but I lack the formal in-class stuff.  My goal is to change that.  I’ll start with substituting (If allowed, while I prepare for various entrance exams to get me into the Single Subject Credential program.  Right now, there is a glut of substitute teachers so they likely won’t allow me to sign up).  In two to three years, I hope to be teaching at the High School level.  Perhaps after that, I’ll move to the Community College level (once our kids are out of the house and we feel more free to move).  Of course, I could also fall in love with High School and never leave.  That too is a distinct possibility (I do like teens because they are “interesting,” but I’m also an academic at heart; plus, kids have to go to High School, but adults pay to go to college.  There’s more commitment to learn in college).

The goal for this week: contact my teacher friends and school resources.  I need to see which program works best for my situation.  I also need to get my emergency credential so I can substitute (again, based on need, so I have to see if there is a need), and I need to convince my local district that I am highly desirable so that they might hire me when I get my credential.  As far as entrance exams go, I have to sign-up and pass the CBST test before I can do anything else.  I should be able to do with little difficulty.  The difficulty will come in passing the Social Studies proficiency test (CSET, or single subject credential test)

Oh ya, on the proficiency test.  Initially, I looked at the different Single Subjects I thought I could pass, based on my work and educational background: Art, Industrial Technology, Music, Biology, Earth Sciences, Business and Social Studies.  It is my preference to teach Art and History (Social Studies), and especially History, so I though that maybe I’d go for two subject credentials (which can be done, though this is rare apparently).

…And then I took the Art practice test.

Having a Master’s in Art History and Visual Culture as I do, I thought this would be a slam-dunk.  I was wrong.  I completed my degree twelve years ago and I guess a lot has “leaked-out” since then.  Also, most of the test was on art, not the history of art.  When it came to the art history questions, most of them dealt with non-European art… my specialty is in European Art.  I never paid much attention to non-European Art.  I did not do well!  I do not know what an acceptable grade is, but I got maybe 60% right.  I suspect this is not good enough.  The test was quite an eye-opening experience!  And since I know about as much in the area of history (Social Studies) as I do about art, I can expect a similar score.  I REALLY need to study if I’m going to pass any of these single subjects!

Like the Art test, my specialty in History/Social Studies is more of a niche (ancient civilizations and Europe) rather than something broad-based, but to get the single subject credential, one has to be good at US history and world history in addition to ancient civilizations and Europe.  What I have learned so far: Teaching at the Jr. High/High School (secondary) level requires one to be a generalist, whereas I am definitely a specialist.  I am better suited for teaching at the College level.

Still, I can adapt.  Since my favorite college class to teach is the Survey of Art class (a general class), I should be OK with being a generalist at the Secondary level in history as well.  I’ll be praying and hoping for a gig as a High School Junior or Senior level A.P. Ancient Civilizations or European History teacher.  Teaching that would be ideal.

First though, I need to past the “basic” CBST test, and then study like crazy for History.


My closing statement from “The Year of the Startup”

Now that I’m back from vacation and VBS is done at church, I now realize that I am once again looking at another radical change in my life.  Changes happens — you can either fight it or embrace it.  I like the familiar, but the last couple of years have taught me not to fear change.  I’ve been OK with it; at times I have even embraced it.  After one year, my start-up company is dead.  There have been talks of creating a new one.  After thinking about it, I have no interest (though I might still help those who want to continue on a very part-time basis).  God is sending me in a new direction: Teaching.  Strangely enough, I am qualified to teach at a Community College now.  I lack the in-class teaching experience most colleges require, but I have the right degree.  To teach at the High School level, I’m looking at 2-3 years of study.  To teach at a University, I’m looking at 3-6 years of study.  And while my preference is to teach at the Community College level, to do so, I would almost certainly have to move.  There are no Community College openings available where I live (and the ones around here require a PhD — they have higher standards for a more educated community).  Barb and I are OK with moving, but with one kid in his Senior year of High School, this would not be the best year.  If I pursue a single subject credential, I have a very good chance of teaching here in the Bay Area.  I can then keep an eye out for Community College openings in the area.  I am OK with three more years of study.  I like the academic life.  I could even go for my PhD and teach at the University level.  I’m sure I would have a great time, but I would be 55 when I got out.  I doubt people would hire me.  At least while pursuing a Single Subject teaching credential, I can still do layout contract work and, more importantly, I can substitute teach and gain teaching experience.  Why am I telling you all this?  Because after today, I’m declaring this “start-up” chapter in my life to be over.  I’m doing something new, and along with that declaration comes a new blog:  The New Thing.