How I Found Elementary Education as My Second Career: A Teacher Interview
3rd Grade Teacher
Findley Oaks Elementary
Lori Katz finished her elementary school education long ago. She now walks across the tree-lined parking lot at Findley Oaks Elementary on the first day of her sixth year as an elementary school teacher. As the sunny, late-summer day dawns, she knows it will be the first of a year-long adventure.
A Second Career
Lori wasn’t always a teacher. Having worked for seven years with a master’s degree in social work before staying home for 10 years to raise her children, she came into elementary school education later in life.
Teaching was a natural move for her since she was always involved in her children’s schooling throughout their young lives. “I always felt comfortable volunteering in the classroom and helping in any way I could,” she says.
So, she decided to turn her hobby into a second career that would add to the family income and provide the intangible rewards of a meaningful and life-changing occupation.
It was important that her new job ultimately allow her to share the same schedule with her children, but to get there, she would have to make some sacrifices.
She returned to school at night and on weekends to start her teaching career. “I would recommend that you remain in school for your master’s degree as it is much more difficult to complete later on,” she says. And certainly, she knows what she is talking about.
Holding down a day job and continuing to raise her kids at home while studying to become an elementary teacher was difficult, but well worth the effort. She earned her teaching certificate and quickly landed a teaching position at the school where she trained as a teacher’s assistant.
The Rewards & Benefits of a Teaching Career
Lori knows that some of the benefits of an elementary teaching career come in unexpected places.
Laughter, she says, plays a bigger role in her life since becoming a teacher. She remembers the first time she taught a health segment to her 3rd graders.
She was almost in tears of laughter after hearing uncensored descriptions of family members’ silly household habits. “The kids are just so innocent with their responses,” she says. “Now I warn parents on open-school night that their home-life will be an open book [to the class]… but I promise not to share their stories with others.”
While she keeps personal stories private, she has no problem sharing the rich details of her rewarding career.
Lori relishes the opportunity to help children develop into lifelong readers and writers. Her favorite aspect of elementary school education is watching her students learn and grow. She explains, “They are young, so they have a heart-warming innocence. They are like little sponges! And they appreciate every little thing you do for them.”
Secrets of a Happy Elementary Teacher
Of course, parents aren’t always as easygoing as their children. She has dealt with many demanding parents whose excessive expectations tax their children and affect the classroom dynamic.
On the other hand, dealing with uninvolved parents increases her workload and makes for some discouraging conversations. The number of each type of parent you come across “depends on the population you teach,” she says. However, Lori’s ability to deal with each parent has improved over the years.
“You have to be patient and tolerant when you spend the entire day with the same twenty children,” so you are more equipped to handle a handful of difficult parents. And the difficulties are always more than worth it.
“If you work in elementary school, you enjoy younger children,” she explains. “But make sure you find a set of like-minded coworkers. When your days are mostly spent with young children, you need a group of adults you can talk and laugh with in your spare moments.”