Why I Decided to Change Careers and Become a Teacher

The first time I thought about becoming a teacher was four years ago. It was a hot August afternoon and I had taken the day off from work to help my best friend move into her new classroom. As we slowly sifted through piles of markers, math games, art supplies, and books, I thought about how nice it would be to have my own classroom. I envisioned a neat and orderly classroom library, stations where hands-on science experiments could be performed, and colorful bulletin boards that were updated each month.

Out of left field

To say that the idea of me becoming a teacher was random would be an understatement. Children were a completely foreign concept to me, and I had never once had the desire to work with them.

I had also built a good career in publishing. I worked my way up through the ranks and was making good money as a development editor. I had even earned a master’s degree after completing a prestigious writing and publishing program. I dismissed all thoughts of teaching as impulsive and irresponsible, and kept them to myself.

Having second thoughts

For two years, I continued on the path I had laid for myself and mostly enjoyed the work that I did. I was good at my job and was recognized for it. But despite the success, I always felt like something was missing. I knew how to do my job but I didn’t really know why I was doing it.

I took a good hard look at the people who worked above me and asked myself if their lives were what I wanted for my future. Did I want to spend each day in an office, coming in early and staying late? Could I travel for work at least once a month and spend time away from my family? Was the kind of work I would be doing worth these sacrifices? My heart knew the answer before my head could think “no.”

Is it worth it?

For me, the scariest thing about considering a career change was money. In publishing, I had the potential for a high salary if I continued to move up. While a teacher’s salary is certainly nothing to scoff at, it’s no secret that most public school teachers are underpaid for the amount of work that they do. I had also taken out $40,000 in student loans to get my first master’s degree, and it felt silly to spend more on another.

On top of the cost, I didn’t really enjoy the classes I took for my first master’s program. In fact, I hated them. Halfway through the program I considered dropping out, but was so embarrassed that I had spent so much money already that I decided to finish. The result was a year filled with a lot of stress, and I wasn’t sure I was prepared to go through that again.

One step at a time

My family and friends encouraged me to take small steps instead of diving right in. I enrolled in a child development course at a nearby college without applying for admission. The course was a requirement for both of the education degree programs I was considering. If I liked it, I could use the credits toward a degree. If I didn’t, there was no harm done.

The feeling I had after my first class is indescribable. I immediately knew that taking the course had been the right decision and that I was right where I needed to be. Something inside of me felt right and, despite all the work I had put into developing my career, I had never felt this way about publishing.

A slow and steady transition

It’s been two years since I signed up for that first class, and the transition has been slow but steady. Working in one industry while preparing for a career in another is not easy. Sometimes you feel like you’re living in two completely different worlds, and it requires a lot of balance and flexibility.

For me, the hard work has definitely been worth it. I recently left what I hope will be my last full-time job in publishing and will begin student teaching in an elementary school. The move from an office to a classroom is nerve-wracking, to say the least, but I’m thrilled to start this next adventure and excited to share it with you here.

Lisandra I. Flynn spent 2012 to 2014 working toward a master’s degree in elementary education while working full time as an editor. After seven years in publishing, she recently transitioned from corporate life to student teach fifth grade in an elementary school. Flynn shares her journey from the office to the classroom and offers insight and advice to those seeking their own career change.