Bridging the Gap

I have been fortunate for the past 20 plus years to be in the “business” of helping adults forge a new careerpath as a middle or high school CTE teacher. I’ve heard numerous stories about how they have been “recruited” to fill vacant teaching positions. Stories range from a school nurse moving into teaching healthcare science classes to a HVAC person being recruited while making repairs to the school air conditioning system. While these second career CTE teachers have numerous reasons for their career changes some common themes have been consistent over the years. One reason often mentioned is the belief that were “called” to teaching. Better schedules than offered by industry, as well as pay and benefits are mentioned. Finally, love of their occupation, whether nursing, culinary arts or another CTE field made them want to share it with others and become a teacher.

Whatever the reason for the career change, all these new teachers want to be successful. They enter their classrooms and laboratories with high expectations for themselves and their students. As a CTE teacher educator I think it is important to honor the technical experience these adult learners bring with them, and at the same time help them develop the new dispositional skill sets they need in order to be successful as a teacher. Success is not going to be achieved only through good lesson plans, engaging instructional strategies and other standard components of a teacher education program. It is important to attend to the phenomena that it can be challenging to transition from an occupation to the teaching profession. I think this is the case with every career cluster, and individuals from each cluster have different challenges depending on the personality traits that go with success in a particular occupation. For example, police officers hired to teach in the law, public safety and security pathway need to develop and use a different set of skills when responding to a student versus a suspect. The occupational skills that keep an officer alive on the street are different than teaching practices. The same can be said for each of the clusters. I believe the dispositions of teaching are as important as and maybe even more important than some of the basic teaching skills in order for new CTE teachers who have changed careers to be successful. I hope there are comments and stories to be shared about my post by readers of this blog.

Janet Zaleski Burns, Ph.D.