Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Networking is Important for All Teachers

I recently attended my reunion at Furman University and was thrilled to speak to the Career Services Director, John Barker. I mentioned how this department was very important to me as a student and after speaking to another person in his department, how surprised I was to find out that most education majors were not taking advantage of this resource. He mentioned that there is a national trend that most students in all fields are not taking advantage of the career services department at colleges and universities. He sent me a chart and brief article that he found on a “professional association website (NACE) that speaks to the way that students today prefer to conduct their job search. This came from a survey of graduating seniors nationwide. As you will see, their preferred mode of job searching is via the Internet. The percentage of students that use Career Services Office-sponsored placement programs (Career Fair, On-Campus Interviewing, etc) is only about 28-35%.” What a shame to waste such a valuable resource as the Career Services Office and the services they have to offer!

Earlier in the year, this department sponsored a wonderful networking event that involved business people and educators meeting students majoring in different fields. I was a little disappointed to find out that none of the education majors showed up but I did talk to some people majoring in psychology. This was a wonderful opportunity for students to get first hand information about the career they are interested in. I know we can get a lot of information off the internet but nothing beats a face to face meeting with someone already in that career.

When you network, there are so many opportunities that could help your career that it is a shame to waste this chance. You never know what contacts you will make and what connections that will occur. You might also get information that you could use for future lessons or find offers for speakers. By developing relationships with people already in the field, you might even develop a support system when things are not going well in your career. You might meet someone who would be willing to be your mentor who is not at the school you teach at. This would be invaluable because they don’t have a biased opinion of the school or students you teach. You could get an objective opinion that could help you be more successful. I once met someone who offered to sponsor my class for a field trip and another offered to speak to my class. I attend conferences and seminars if I can afford it but if there is a free event like this being offered, I don’t see how anyone could afford not to attend.

I am hoping to co-present at a state convention on survival tips for new teachers but the conversation I had about this issue really had me thinking. There is also a national trend of teacher shortages in all subject areas. Many teachers don’t stay in the field for more than 5 years and many say it is because the career was much different than they imagined. I wonder how many of these people passed up networking opportunities to talk to other teachers. Maybe if future teachers would take advantage of networking opportunities, then they might feel encouraged to stay in the field longer. We all had to do student teaching but what about an event that lets you talk to teachers at other schools and other grades. I never thought I would teach high school when I graduated but I ended up teaching 23 years in high school and loved every minute of it. I wish I had the opportunity before I graduated to talk to someone about the different levels and what to expect when I got out in the real world. Short classroom observations and talking to your supervising teacher during student teaching just doesn’t give you enough information and support you need to survive as a teacher.

I encourage everyone, even if you are already a teacher, to look for networking opportunities that are available. I know Furman is planning a couple in the future and I hope they will ask me to attend. You could also contact the Career Services office at your alma mater or a local college or university to see if they have any events coming up. Please don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

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