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Looking Back on Ten Years of Teaching

I began my teaching career in the summer of 2004, at a community college. I had the audacity to teach web design at a college level, having only been designing websites for four years. But there weren’t so many web designers back then, so I had a leg up on most. I taught Photoshop too. These classes went well, and I taught students in a hands-on way. I decided I needed to look official, so I carried my textbooks and rosters in an honest-to-God briefcase. Heh.

I taught drawing at a charter high school the following year. No briefcase. The year after that, No Child Left Behind cracked down on un-credentialled teachers, and I had to leave. My experience at this school was pleasant enough that I chose to pursue a teaching credential. The students were calm and not disruptive. The engaged students were a joy and created beautiful things.

So I got my teaching credential.

One of the worst mistakes in my life.

At that point, charter high school no longer had room for me. I moved on to traditional public school. I should have observed some modern classrooms before I even went down this path. The difference was night and day from my past experience. I was completely unprepared for the environments and attitudes I faced. When I reread my blog posts from those years, I notice that I left out much of the struggle and shared mostly the easy times. But there was a lot of agony.

After three years, I was unceremoniously asked not to return to my job. That district  has a habit of booting faculty just before they attain tenure. At my school alone, eleven other new teachers at my school were let go.

Ironically, the website I created for my design classes there does still pay off in ad revenue. Lots of teachers like what’s on it. In September, it gets over 500 visitors per day.

Back to College

This has been the best job of my life.

For the past five years, I have been teaching college again. Now I am at Art Institute, a private company. I have a lot of freedom. I have taught so many different courses there it is hard to tally them.

While it keeps me busy, it is rarely stressful. During this time I completed my Masters in Education. This has allowed me to continue working at Art Institute, as they too cracked down on under-qualified faculty.

I have ten years of teaching experience now. That has given me a lot of opportunity to fail and do better. In the future, I plan to go into detail on some of the ways I believe my teaching has improved. I won’t stop there. There are always ways to do it better and to create a better learning environment. I am open to suggestions.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

2 replies on “Looking Back on Ten Years of Teaching”

With a smirk on my face I read your post. I was a TA in a computer services department at a rural school. Then after back surgery and loosing my job I got my teaching certification in Business and Distributive Ed and ….art. I never intended to teach art but after 2 years subbing at nice rural smaller schools I landed in Utica, NY teaching art in three secondary buildings. The following year I was booted to two elementary schools teaching 625 students. The next year got to stay in one building with 500ish students and it was ok. I had been there so the following three years were pretty good. Students knew my expectations and I had classes 2-5 for an hour once a week.

Stuff happened and I got laid off while finishing my master’s degree. I used up my unemployment and the subbed again. I was extremely happy subbing in my home school district all subjects and grade levels for good money. Then I got the call in October to return to Utica. Of course the money was the deciding factor and nothing else. Walked into teaching now almost 900 students, who only get a half hour of art per week, seven grade levels plus special ed.

This next few months will determine whether I stay in this position or not. I immediately started having trouble with my feet, then the hypertension kicked in and terrible body pain due to RA.

I have been trying to find something at the community colleges in my area or other public schools. I spent a ton of energy and time to become a teacher to be treated badly. Now at 47 I just cannot see the point of being unhappy and in pain. With Common Core and APPR standards shoved at schools there is no time for students to get a well rounded education where specials are REALLY part of a valued core curriculum.

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