Four "Must Have" Traits to Go From Corporate to Classroom

Posted by in Education & Training

Along with health care and the skilled trades (plumber, electrician, etc.) there will always be a need for teachers. It’s not surprising that many unemployed are considering a career in education for job security, especially in the areas of math and science. In fact, New Jersey recently initiated a plan targeting financial employees hit hard by the recession to help them gain the required additional education needed to become math teachers. Substitute teaching is also a way to bridge the gap between your last and next jobs while leaving time for a serious job search.
Even though you were a tough negotiator managing 200 employees, it doesn’t mean that you will be successful in the classroom. Getting results in a classroom is very different from barking out orders and holding the threat of dismissal for poor performance over your employees’ heads. Teaching takes a different set of skills and a lot of passion. Do you have what it takes to make the transition?
  1. A love for people. I don’t mean a tolerance. To be effective, you have to really care for your students and their futures. They will spend an entire school year and year of their life with you. You will be their primary role model, and they will learn information but a lot more about building healthy supportive relationships. How you care and respect them may be the best examples of a mature, caring adult they will every see.
  2. Creativity. Gone are the days of lecture, read and test. Classrooms are multi-media, project rich, experiential laboratories with multiple methods of learning. They vibrate with color, texture and images. There are a lot of movement and teaching methods. If you like routine and hate change, you will have a tough time engaging your students.
  3. Energy. Many people choose teaching as a second career after retiring from a corporate job. Teaching isn’t something you do to relax and take it easy. Each grade level has it’s own pace, and you need to set the standard for your classroom. If you seem bored or disinterested, just going through the motions, your students will pick it up in a heartbeat.
  4. Available. A “regular” job may be nine-to-five, but a teacher’s day doesn’t end with the final bell at 3:30.Teachers are involved in lot of activities, sports, after-school clubs, counseling, faculty, student and parent meetings. These are part of the normal routine. Evenings are busy grading papers and preparing lesson plans.Don’t forget supporting the sports teams on the weekends. Your corporate job, with all the responsibility and stress may seem like a walk in the park compared to a teacher’s regular schedule.
With responsibility comes great reward. If you get satisfaction from helping shape the future, a job in education may be just what you are looking for.
What other traits are essential for an educator? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients discover what they love and spend their life on it. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt

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  • Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR
    Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR
    Hi Linda,Thanks for the feedback.  My brother-in-law worked for IBM for many years and had a second career teaching middle school, one of the toughest age groups.  He brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and a great sense of humor to his students, who loved when he showed up as a substitute.  Hats off to all the teacher who work so hard to prepare students to lead and shape the future.
  • Linda H
    Linda H
    This is an excellent article.  Transferring skills from the Corporate environment to a classroom is difficult for individuals who have not spent quality time with teenagers, or youth.  To determine if a classroom should be your next career, I would suggest that you substitute in local school districts.  Challenge yourself by teaching in a District that has a diversified population of students.  Maintaining classroom behavior and multi-tasking in a classroom is quite different than in the Corporate World.

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