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Hello all!
I'm 45, employed with a global firm making 6 figures, bonus, stock options, great benefits, travel the world, etc etc etc.

But, internally, I've been going through a major crisis: wanting to do more than what I'm doing by making a real difference in my community. I've been thinking about the school system where I live, looking at career counseling, Asst Principal, maybe even working with troubled students. I'll no doubt require some certification or advanced degree, which I'm more than willing to go after.

I really feel this is my calling and am prepared to walk away from what I'm doing now. I like what I do, but it's just no longer fulfilling. I'm hoping to hear from anyone who's gone through similar struggles around this type decision and how you dealt with it, what you ended up doing and if you were happy with your decision.

Thanks a mil!
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Right on, Obiwun.

I hear many stories of professionals who decide eventually to return to teaching. Their experience makes them great teachers. Many find the energy and enthusiasm of young students invigorating.

Best of luck in your endeavors. Please keep us advised of your progress.
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Thanks to you both for the fine posts. I appreciate the support! And no, time off is really not an option. At my level, if I stay where I am, you're not ever "off"! LOL Even when on vacation!

I've purused several other boards on various sites and have seen a significant number of posts from teachers that seem to warn 'stay away - you can't get anything done in today's system'. I don't know if that's school specific, region specific or endemic of the whole system. Hoping to hear from folks who have taken the plunge.

Thanks again!
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I really feel this is my calling and am prepared to walk away from what I'm doing now. I like what I do, but it's just no longer fulfilling. I'm hoping to hear from anyone who's gone through similar struggles around this type decision and how you dealt with it, what you ended up doing and if you were happy with your decision.

Greetings, Obiwun, I believe that AcmeFool has arrived at a similar career crossroads and opted out of world travel to return home to, I believe, a high school teaching position. It sounds to me from his posts that he is happy with his decision so it might be good to find him to ask him more directly what was successful and what would he change.

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I used to also volunteer here: some from October 1995 until March 2007.

I've been thinking of you the last few days, Kahuna. I am sitting at KU Med with my husband as I type this message.

What did you do as a volunteer at KU Med?

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....but it's just no longer fulfilling....</I.

I have heard a lot of burned out teachers say the same thing.

Have you ever taught before? Many people find out that it isn't what they expected and that dealing with the school politics, under funding, apathetic rude kids, and hostile parents is draining. You might try teaching in the evenings or weekends to see if it is what you are expecting. prepared to walk away from what I'm doing now ...

Before you take any big steps, you should find a counselor that you like(interview several before selecting one) and have a series of sessions to explore what you are looking for. It could be that looking for a different line of work to provide fulfillment would just be repeating what you have tried before that didn't work. It could be that you will only find fulfillment from your life outside of work.

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Very good advice. In the meantime, as I continue to struggle with this decision and direction, I've decided to reach out and volunteer as many of you suggested. I started with Big Brothers. Hoping it paves the way to clarity of thought on some things!

Give it a try if you can!

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Thanks for contacting me offline about this. If you like, we can communicate more offline as well, but I thought it would be good to put this all out publicly since it can never hurt others. Warning, this is going to get VERRRRRY LONG...I'm going to give a full background before giving my impressions, suggestions, warnings, etc.

Wow, where to begin. I guess at about 18 months ago will work...

I used to work as an engineering consultant. I traveled. A lot. And for long stretches. It was not unusual for me to be off in another country for as much as 3 months straight. And I once had back-to-back trips like this so I was gone around 5 months scattered among Chile, Austria, and Germany. The job was interesting and the pay was very good, but I was miserable. Something had to change; I decided I was either going to move into teaching or becoming a financial adviser.

Now, I've always been skeptical of people when they say something like "G-d told me to do such-and-such." And I don't know if that was what happened here. But I can say that there was something inside me pushing me to try teaching.

In Georgia (and most states) there are Teacher Alternative Preparation Programs that allow qualified candidates to start teaching immediately while they spend 2 years working towards their certification. Since there was NO CHANCE I was going to leave my job and pay for school, this was the path I needed to take. In my case, with an engineering degree I was eligible to teach math. (It is a crazy quirk that does not allow me to teach Chemistry even though there are maybe 1-2 people in the school that have taken more than me in their life. But I would rather teach math anyway.)

So I applied to the program and flooded the county schools with applications. I quickly heard back from one of the 21 high schools and interviewed with them. They had 4 open positions, but they never contacted me again. The next few months were among the most frustrating of my life. I had previously decided to quit my job whether I had a teaching position or not. And at the end of June, 2007 I left my job without anything in hand.

Here, teacher planning starts the first week of August. As July came to a close without anyone returning my calls, responding to my emails and faxes, or seeming to care about my applications, I figured I would do some substitute teaching and work as a tutor for a year. Then on the Thursday a week before teacher planning, I received calls from 2 principals within 15 minutes of each other asking to interview me for an open position. I met with both the next day and each of them offered me the job.

The decision was fairly easy -- one school was bad and the other horrible. The bad school had a new principal whose plan was easy to see; the horrible school had a new principal whose plan I could not follow. At the bad school, I would be filling an open position to teach upper-level math; at the horrible school, the principal told me to pick the subject I wanted and he would put me in that spot, even if it meant displacing the department chair to be the calculus teacher.

The bad school won easily.

Once I had the job, it was time to figure out what I had to do! A whole lot of assumptions are made by teachers when someone new comes in. The process can be completely overwhelming. You have so much thrown at you in an incredibly short week. And since you have no experience, it seems like even more than it is.

After getting through that week, the really tough stuff began -- teaching the students. I work at a difficult school. The education level among these students is generally poor; the desire to learn is generally poor; and gangs have crept into the school.

I could go on and on about specific events, but I will just give the high (and low) lights here:

** I have really enjoyed teaching. FOR ME, this was the best decision I could have made.
** There have been days where I was close to walking into the principal's office and quitting.
** Teaching is incredibly demanding -- emotionally, physically, etc.
** If you do not absolutely love kids, you cannot make it in this field.
** If you are not willing to work insane hours the first year, you will not do a good job. You have so much to learn that it just takes a lot of time. As you gain experience, you will not have to work as long to achieve the same results.
** Good teachers work harder than bad teachers (in most cases) because they never settle for the level they have reached. Even in classes I have previously taught, I will change at least 10% of my lessons each year to make them better.
** Teaching requires you to be a jerk (the students might use a different word). As long as you are a fair jerk, you are on the right track.
** The kids will idolize you if you are doing a good job. Even the ones that you think hate you will look up to you.
** Teaching is far more political than any corporate job. Be careful what you say and to whom. There are very few secrets in a school.
** Keep your old contacts in good shape -- if you try teaching and it does not work out, those contacts could come in handy for getting back into another field.

There is so much I can say about becoming a teacher. It can be the best or worst move a person makes. Some people that think they will be good teachers will fail; some that you would never think could teach will succeed. But, generally, I think people with a passion for education and a love of children will do well in the field. They might have to work at it (anyone that says it comes naturally is lying IMO) but they will get there.

If you have specific questions, please ask away. I am always happy to help. Additionally, I would advise you post at the Teachers board -- -- as the people there really helped me get started.

One final CRITICAL note... changing jobs is not a panacea that makes everything better. There are major frustrations in every job. What you do can help you be happy, but it is not enough by itself. You also have to take care of yourself outside of the work world. Do things that make you happy. Some suggestions: go for hikes; volunteer (I love Habitat for Humanity -- when I retire, I plan to work there one week each month and maybe use what I learn to rehab houses for some extra cash); plant a garden; whatever you can to add depth to your life. Without these other interests, your job defines you and that will create frustration in any career. Teachers burn out at a high rate; part of this is the tough work but I think a part of it is the lack of outside interests. Don't let that be you.

You could still find a job as a teacher for this fall. But it will be tough if you have not even started the process. And it sounds like you are not sure of the path to becoming certified. So maybe you need to plan for 2009 rather than 2008. I also advise taking your time so that you do not rush into things before you have really worked through the options. This is NOT something you want to do as a rash decision. I had considered things as much as 12-18 months before the time my "story" above began. Since I had worked through everything -- my career, our finances, etc. -- for a while, I had a better base to build on.

So unless you have a strong base in place, I would advise working towards a career shift 12 months from now rather than immediately. If you think in these terms, you might try going to some local schools and seeing what you need to do to work as a substitute a few times. Subs do not get the same view of teaching, but this will give you a chance to network with the administration and other teachers.

And it will put you in a position where you can learn. During your "planning" time, you can observe teachers. This will give you a feel for what it is really like...and it will teach you what works and what does not work!

Best of luck.

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All I can say is...WOW! That was probably the best experientially based response that I think I've gotten. Very helpful.

And you're spot on with the advice of taking it slow and not diving in carelessly. I've been researching and networking for 6 months now, and plan to not take the dive until I'm relatively sure about a great many things. It could be next could be in 5 years, or more. I'm certainly anxious to start, but I also don't want to throw away all that I've worked for wrecklessly. I took on a new project mgr role last year and it's interesting enough to keep me going for a while if I choose. My drop dead date for making a change is in 11 years (when we become officially 'empty nesters'), but I envision me make a career change before then. In North Carolina, we have something similar to what you describe in Georgia called a 'lateral entry progam'. You can begin teaching right away and get your certification over the next 3 years. There are some Praxis tests and other things you must pass as well.

I would say that the percentages of people I've talked to in teaching are split down the middle almost in those that love it and those that left and would never go back. Like you say, it's a job like any other and some people are cut out for it and others are not. I spend every available minute with my own 2 kids (when my travel schedule allows) and I know that I can succeed with other kids as well. The vision is to help shape that minds that will shape the world of tomorrow. That's the attraction for me. Working hard to be a great teacher is no problem for me. Politics is no problem for me (irritating, but navigatable...). I would look forward to that challenge. And many others.

Thanks again for that Acme. It helped tremendously.

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