Please enjoy this Real Story guest post by Martha, a CPA turned Math teacher turned consultant! She brings a unique perspective to the blog because she was in the corporate world and decided to get into teaching… and then decided to go back to the corporate world.
Please describe your teaching experience and educational background. (What degree or certificate did you earn, what level and subject did you teach, how was your overall teaching experience?)
I taught middle school math in Catholic school. So, you know I wasn’t doing it for the money, haha! I was planning to teach high school math anywhere, but I was still taking the required classes to get certified for high school and I got a call about a middle school job, so I took it.
My overall experience was mixed….I really loved being around most of the kids and even the problem ones you could deal with, but what killed it for me was the parents. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the stories… [Editor’s note: You definitely don’t! I got cussed out once by a parent because I took their child’s cell phone away during class… she said that since she paid the bill I had no right to take it away!]
Tell me more about your motivations for going into the classroom. Was the focus on not enjoying your time as a CPA, or were you more motivated by the idea of teaching?
I was really motivated by the idea of teaching. As a student I had a love/hate relationship with schools. One of my favorite quotes is Tom Sawyer’s “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” And so I thought I would help kids get an education and not just schooling.
When did you realize teaching was no longer right for you? Was there a specific moment or did it dawn on you slowly?
Seeing as how I only lasted a couple of years, I’d say it dawned on me pretty quickly that teaching wasn’t quite how I thought it would be. It was mostly the parents. They make it really hard sometimes.
The other thing that helped push me out the door was a new principal at the school where I was teaching. First, she didn’t want 8th graders to take Algebra I anymore. I had taken Algebra I as an 8th grader and I didn’t see the big deal. Then she poo-poo’d me for being a new teacher. What happened exactly was that I had 7th grade homeroom, but the 8th grade teacher was tired of going to Disney World every year, so she asked me to trade. I didn’t care either way. But the new principal said no because 8th grade is too much responsibility for a new teacher.
I felt slighted but by then I didn’t even bother arguing the point; I just said bye and went back to the corporate world. It’s not as if I love the corporate world, but for the money teaching is very hard work especially for a new teacher who has to come up with lesson plans every night.
Was it difficult to leave teaching after working outside the classroom already, or was it easier to make the leap back into the world of business?
When I made the leap back to the business world, it was easier for me, but it was still a career change because I had been working in CPA firms and I didn’t want to do that any more. Also, I had been a tax accountant but tax jobs in a corporation were hard to come by.
I decided to go for a regular accounting job, but in order to earn what I had been earning in tax I had to be in a supervisory role. I was hired by a company that couldn’t pay a lot so they took a chance on me as an accounting manager. I was very lucky. If they had more money, they would have hired someone else, but it worked out great for them and for me.
[Editor’s Note: This is a great way to break into a new career! Don’t work for free, but do make it clear that you’re open to an entry-level salary so that you can learn on the job. More businesses than you think will be interested in getting a “deal” and giving you a chance!]
What position do you have now? (If you’d rather not list specifics, just describe a generic title and role you hold).
These days I do consulting. I’ve been displaced several times for corporate restructurings, mergers, moves, etc. Each time I have gone into consulting rather than settle for a quick permanent job. I’m working with a company now that could hire me full time; they are getting a feel for me and I’m getting a feel for them and we’ll see how it goes. It’s not just about money; I also want to work for a company that I can get behind their product and where I enjoy being around my coworkers.
What do you miss about teaching?
There is no job security (zip, zero, nil) in the for profit world. But what I miss most is that I didn’t have the chance to try my hand at teaching like I dreamed I would. I might have failed miserably, but it ain’t like administrators have it all figured out now is it?
What do you NOT miss about teaching?
What else but the lack of appreciation you get from parents and administrators?
What advice would you give to a teacher who is afraid to leave the familiarity of the classroom for another job?
It’s hard to imagine you pick a career in your 20’s and you must do it for 40 years. I think it’s human nature to want to experience different things, so let yourself be human. Besides, you’ve already proved you can teach so if you want to go back to it later, you could.
What surprises you most about life after teaching? (That is, does work outside the classroom meet the expectations you had for it after teaching, or did some of it surprise you?)
What surprises me now….I get a chuckle every time a parent tells me how a kid is so smart and if he or she gets a bad grade it’s because he or she is bored in class. It’s not surprising to hear that per se, but it is surprising how many parents believe that.
Do you think teachers are more talented than they think? Why?
Of course teachers are more talented that they realize!It’s a skill to be able to speak in front of groups. And teaching itself is a skill. You have to be willing to learn, but teachers should be able to sell that about themselves.