My Adventures As A High School Teacher

How I Became a Teacher

As an independent consultant, my job is to learn the tools and then educate others. I’ve been co-teaching a class at Sonoma State University for several years, I teach workshops at Santa Rosa Junior College, and have delivered many other day-long classes at a variety of institutions and private organizations in my work. I have taught almost daily for years. I have learned that teaching adults is very different than being a high school teacher.

In May 2014, I was the keynote speaker at a Rotary event in my district (I’m a member of Rotary Club of Santa Rosa West) and Marc Elin, the principal of Windsor High School, came up to me after my presentation and asked me to get in touch with him. He is the current president of Rotary Club of Windsor, CA and because we are Rotarians, we think similarly about how to identify obstacles and make change happen. We discussed several needs the school had where I might be of assistance. The first that pushed through was a social media workshop in the digital arts department at WHS. In October of 2014, I started to teach a 10 week after school workshop to juniors and seniors.

I was walking across the campus one day when I met a force of nature, Marie Ganister, the culinary teacher at WHS. She knew who I was based on a presentation she’d seen me give and introduced herself. She then promptly asked me if I wanted to teach a business course at the school. The thought of teaching every day was overwhelming to me so I politely declined but she wasn’t to be deterred. She got Marc Elin on board and, between the two of them, they proposed a situation that worked for me.

Every Other Day

The trick to this working is that the school has a block schedule. That means there are four classes on “A” days and four classes on “B” days. I teach two classes in the middle of the day on B days. I have repeated the 10 week after school social media course as well.

I’m lucky that I have a very light load of classes and the paperwork that goes with it but I’m still a new employee, adapting to a new system and campus and it can be a lot. I’m a consultant, a hummingbird that doesn’t stay in one location for a long period of time. Because I love challenge, change, and not being too tied down, this works for me.

How I Became Certified

I never thought to myself, “I’d love to be a teacher.” I think of myself as a tech geek first, then a person that is passionate about helping others learn. My skills as a social media professional are what got me in the high school door. My style of teaching and engaging students gained me the invitation to teach long-term. But you may be wondering why I was able to walk in the door at all.

I was offered employment by the school and this has the largest determiner of how smooth (and fast!) this process was for me. I currently have a temporary certification (which allows me to be in the classroom) until I finish the required two year induction as a new teacher. I’m going through a rigorous program of classes, assignments, and observation called the North Coast Beginning Teacher Program known as BiTSA offered through the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE). The paperwork and assignments are a beast unto themselves. I have just as much stress as the students themselves.

Once I’m fully certified as a Career Technical Educator (CTE), I will be able to teach at any K-12 school in California. Am I certified to teach math or science? No. I will have a certification that allows me to teach within my demonstrated area of expertise which covers: social media, marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. My certification is what brings professional web designers, chefs, photographers, welders, and construction experts onto campuses across the state. The state of CA doesn’t require industry professionals such as these to go through the same process as teachers that will be teaching math, languages, and general subjects. We are subject matter experts that must also certify to teach but the process is shorter because we have demonstrated our applied skills in the workplace. It’s a fabulous idea when you stop this think about it.

I Teach Real Life

I’ve been teaching for 5 months now in the high school environment. My class is a part of the Vineyard Academy, a group of classes that are focused on hospitality and tourism in Sonoma County. Windsor High also offers cores focusing on STEM, Humanities, Pre-Med, Digital Media, Performing Arts, and Advanced Placement. My class is titled Business Management & Principles but when describing it I say, “The class is called Business but I call it Real Life.”

thank you notes

Thank you notes for speaker SRJC’s Dr. Frank Chong.

As a business owner, I’ve heard many colleagues complain about “kids these days” wondering why they don’t know how to do many of the things we’ve known for years (the learning of which we take for granted) such as sending a thank you note or how to shake hands. Then they ask, “Why don’t they teach that in school?” So that’s what I’m teaching, the things they need to know about business and real life.

Some of the lessons that have happened in my class this year include balancing their checkbooks, how to shake hands, going through a mock job interview, creating a professional resume, how to obtain a credit score, writing thank you notes, addressing envelopes, dressing as professionals do, how to monitor their online reputation, evaluating the sustainability of a local business, and how to apply for a business loan. I’m excited for the second half of the year.

In The Right Place

We know that educating kids today is a challenge due to the fact that they learn differently than we did before nonstop stimulation and ever present screens. I’m grateful that I speak kid and adult, that I can function in both worlds. I know I’m in the right place because I can sit on the tech committee for my district to help guide the technology plan, I can be a resource for other educators as we adapt our lessons to this new scenario, and be a strong guide for students who have few adults that understand the tools that rule their every waking moment.

I’m so happy that this A/B schedule allows me to have two jobs – one as technology consultant and one as high school teacher. I have made it a practice to donate my time by speaking at schools regarding online safety and social media. One reason is because I view it as my social responsibility but another is because I can’t be a social media consultant without contact with kids. They know how to use it, how to hack it, what’s popular, and what’s coming up.

It sounds like a lot and it is. But then so am I 😉

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