My first job interview for a Teacher-On-Call position happened last week, and it went pretty well. There was only one question that caught me off-guard.
I’ve been looking over your resume and your background. So why the switch from computer programming to teaching?
In retrospect I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate that one, since I’ve had dozens of people ask me over the last year or two. It’s not really that surprising a question, but I have a long and messy history with it.
I had one interview for a tutoring position a year and a half ago with a private tutoring service where the woman interviewing me asked me exactly that – except with more confusion and shock. I gave my answer and she followed up with, “But, you do engineering – engineers make more money than teachers. Why would you be a teacher?” Which I had just answered, but since my answer didn’t have dollar signs on it she apparently couldn’t understand. I am not even making this stuff up. I teach math – I’m pretty sure I can add up that this isn’t a quick route to getting rich.
The interviewer I spoke with last week was far more reasonable, but the question is loaded with so much personal stuff that it still made me laugh a bit. Switching from software engineering to teaching hasn’t been easy. It took me a while to shed the layers of cultural, peer, and personal expectations around “being an engineer”, even without looking at the dollar signs. It took even longer to let go of the layers of baggage around being (having been) a video game developer. If that’s hard to imagine, here’s a quick cross-section: childhood dream job / engineering pride / coder pride / need for vindication after layoff / dream to succeed as an indie dev / need to have creativity recognized / being “the man” and bringing home the big(ger) paycheck.
But when it comes to the original question, my answer can’t be that different than any other sane teacher out there. I do it because I love learning. I love watching people get something they didn’t get before. I like being helpful (although not too helpful). And working with kids is fun – they have less stuff in the way of getting to know who they are than grown-ups do. (Yes, even teenagers.)
This is how I like to sum it up:
“Teaching might be nuts, but it certainly isn’t boring.”
Alt: “Making video games for a living was too boring, so I went into teaching instead.”