Something I’ve always found interesting when conversing with friends from the corporate world; they often make the assumption that those in the education world couldn't handle the fast-paced environment of corporate work life. Seemingly, the corporate world does not have a true understanding of what educators do every day. On any given day and time, teachers, instructional support staff, and admins wear multiple hats of responsibility while working in one of the most time demanding and energy-filled environments a professional can work in.
So let’s examine this a little deeper. How do the skill sets and abilities of the educator prepare them and make them ready to transition to a corporate position? Here are just a few of those hats Educators wear which not only prepares them but makes them highly qualified for employment in the corporate world:
Content Area Scholar/Researcher - Educators are researchers who consistently investigate updated content area developments and advancements. They regularly have to learn new information, curating and organizing it, and must understand that information on a deep level so that they may help others learn in the most simple terms. Educators are also called on as scholarly Subject Matter Experts and must be ready in a moment's notice to give factual information and data.
Instructional Designer - Educators must take their content knowledge obtained as scholars and create a structured roadmap that guides students in learning. The roadmap must include a clear way to translate content knowledge to a classroom of multi-level learners with different learning needs, skill levels, and behavior challenges. There are also a plethora of instructional frameworks that educators are expected to know and function within. Understanding By Design, Universal Design for Learning, TPACK & SAMR… the list goes on. Many times this means reaching out to other Subject Matter Experts (SME) to collaborate on ideas, policies, and more. Educators also have to meet professional effectiveness standards in content knowledge, leadership and collaboration in the classroom, school, & community, as well as maintaining their own professional growth.
Multidimensional Project Manager - The curriculum that educators design must be dynamic, engaging, and flexible. It also must not only focus on the specific content area but also teach "soft skills" (Can we just call them skills at this point?) like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. It’s also important to note that many teachers also seek to develop an understanding of software or engineering design principles and/or project management frameworks like Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall to provide not just project management buy also classroom management. To do that, educators must reach out to connect and collaborate on social media, professional learning teams, and attend conferences to develop new ways to manage implementation of their instructional units/lessons, student behavior, technology, and standards ...and don't forget the pressure of making sure the most recently released digital learning tool, LMS, and instructional strategy is included.
Financial Manager - Teachers are often left to purchase classroom supplies and materials on their own. This means making and managing a budget, contacting EdTech vendors to negotiate a deal on the latest class level subscription, and sometimes creating crowdsourced funding campaigns such as GoFundMe or Donors Choose. Another thing to consider here is that many schools and or school districts can not because of budget reasons do not pay for teacher's professional learning at conferences and workshops so they are often forced to find ways to raise their own support.
Director of Communication, Marketing, and Social Media - An educator's office, classroom, and/or school is a hub for communication. They must manage communication with students, parents, your colleagues, community members, and admins. Additionally, they must be able to decipher multiple sources and layers of information so that at a moment's notice you can communicate to all stakeholders in a clear and efficient way. This might take place in various mediums like email, phone calls, communication apps, etc. Often, an educator’s grammar, tone, and elocution will be judged at a higher standard and therefore must be "market-ready".
Speaking of the market, educators must find the best way to engage their “audience” not just with words but with dynamic graphic design, videos, and digital media. They must conduct “market research” to know who their audience is and function as a salesperson to close the deal of learning. This means creating, conducting, and interpreting data from surveys and market tests. Finally, educators must also be able to manage multiple professional social media accounts for their classrooms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This is where they leverage stakeholder communication, professional growth, and networking at large to make learning in their classroom, a success.
Human Relations Officer - Educators are in a place where their students, their student’s parents, or their own colleagues will entrust critical and confidential information to them. In those moments the educator must decide whether to be a counselor, confidante, or an investigator. Teachers have to be a good judge of character as well as crisis manager knowing when people and/or situations have gone too far or not far enough. In these situations, be reminded that educators are under a legal obligation to report certain things that raise red flags and are held responsible for their actions or inactions. ...so no pressure.
Cheerleader, Motivational Speaker, and Life Coach - This is sometimes the most draining but always the most fulfilling part of what educators do. Educators get to be an advocate for their students, their content area, their school, their community, and their profession. Those opportunities they have to be advocates in these spaces often leads to their own personal lives as well as their families being shifted and rearranged. Educators have to be a team player who is dedicated to building community and a safe space for all stakeholders in their learning community. This means they also knowingly, and more so than not unknowingly, speak life and confidence into those around themselves building others around them up by providing hope in dark places. Sometimes this takes on a mentor role or becoming a peer training leader where they go beyond themselves and pour into others.
The list keeps going and we haven't even mentioned educators who are also club advisors, coaches, and the after school support specialists... the hats continue to stack up. So when we think of educators, we must shift from the idea of a sit and get presenter; that static lecturer that has become so remembered in American education. Educators today are required to be dynamic and versatile, quick on their feet and with wit. The skillset is there, the drive is there, and the vision is there. While moving from the education world to the corporate world does have its challenges, specifically around a job-specific lexicon, it's not impossible at all. In fact, I would venture to say that corporate companies get a better employee because after all, those educators have something pretty special… the heart of a teacher.
So when someone in the corporate world asks if a teacher could handle being employed in a high stakes corporate job that is the quick-paced and rapidly changing... the answer, without a doubt, is 100%, YES.
David Balmer serves as an Instructional Technology Facilitator in Wake County, North Carolina. David graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Secondary History Education and recently completed his M.Ed. in Digital Learning & Teaching from North Carolina State University. Additionally, he serves on the board of Safe Schools NC. David is passionate about making sure that all students voices are heard in education in North Carolina.