Teachers who prefer to stay in the classroom throughout their career rather than transitioning to an administration position can sometimes feel their teaching career has stalled. They may worry their professional trajectories are too slow or their growth has stagnated.
But teaching has no set road map for advancement, and every career path looks different from the next. If you're feeling like you're not keeping pace with your individual goals, here are seven strategies you can use to rejuvenate your teaching career and continue to move forward.
Further Reading: Don't Let Your Teaching Career Become Your Entire Identity
1. Take on a Leadership Role
Sometimes, teachers feel powerless to the changes they face in the classroom regarding curriculum, grading practices, and new pedagogies. Since most schools now have professional learning groups (PLG) or professional learning communities (PLC), working as a PLG or PLC facilitator or lead teacher can put you in a position to make an impact at your school with regard to both curriculum and instruction. It can help you dive deeper into the research and strategies that make teachers successful.
Committee work can also provide an opportunity for teachers to discuss ways to better their schools through hiring practices, cultural competency education, and school improvement work—to name a few.
2. Enroll in a Course or Earn a Degree
Earning a Master's Degree in Education or in your particular discipline will make you a stronger practitioner and a better teacher. Especially with online and summer courses, teachers can increase their knowledge base, improve their teaching methods, and do research in their fields—all of which can have a positive impact in schools and classrooms.
Education can also be the key to a higher salary, and it can provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to take their careers to the next level.
3. Become an Expert
As your teaching career progresses, you may find yourself becoming interested in a particular aspect of the teaching field: grading practices, equity practices, restorative justice, student-centered learning—the list goes on. Honing your skills in one area so you can become an expert can be a meaningful evolution.
You can then conduct professional development, write, and do further research in the area you decide to explore, and that can help you continue to improve and refine your practice.
4. Mentor New Teachers
I've been a mentor for over 21 years, and it's been one of the most rewarding endeavors I've taken on in my teaching career. Over the years, my mentees have become some of my best friends. Helping new teachers navigate the profession, deal with challenging students, and move forward in their careers has been powerful.
In addition, there's always some reverse mentoring that happens, where mentees can help veteran teachers navigate new technology or become familiar with the latest texts they may have not come in contact with yet.
5. Present at a Conference
Presenting at a conference can be both fun and rewarding. Nearly every teacher is an expert at something, and sharing that expertise with colleagues can be transformative. You can look for conferences related to subject matter, including mathematics, science, social studies, foreign language, art, and music. If you want to focus on instruction or advocacy, the College Board Forum might be for you.
Presenting at a conference is a chance to deepen your own knowledge, connect with other teachers, and learn new skills.
6. Start a Club
Starting a co-curricular activity with your students can provide an extension to classroom learning, help students take part in community service, explore interests more deeply, or delve into social activism. Teachers at my school have started a robotics club, a book club, a speech and debate club, a mock trial club, an anime club, and so much more. Clubs can deepen students' experiences with learning and can provide opportunities for them to explore a career.
That said, I caution you not to start a club at your school without compensation. To do so devalues the teaching profession and sends a message that teachers' time and guidance are not worth compensation.
7. Earn National Board Teaching Certification
Teachers want to continually reflect and improve on their teaching practice, and earning National Board Certification is an incredible way to do just that. Certification is focused on five core propositions: a teacher's content knowledge, the differentiation in their instruction, their teaching practice, the learning environment they cultivate, and how effective and reflective they are as a practitioner.
Further Reading: How Do You Grow Your Teaching Career? (Video)
The process seeks to show that teachers are committed to their students and learning, that they are knowledgeable of the subjects they teach, and that they can effectively teach students. Earning National Board Certification can also provide many opportunities for teachers to work on education policy, take part in national conversations about teaching, and share best practices.
Teachers do not need to be administrators to advance or grow in their profession. There are plenty of ways to move forward in a teaching career. Find what's right for you and embark on your own journey.