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June 16, 2017 Education Careers Outside of the Classroom By Christy Crawford
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Wondering how to get a better work/life balance or leverage your value for a good paying job in education? Meet Melanie Brown, Elizabeth Cornwell, and Danielle Litz, three dynamic educators who made the switch to education outside of their classroom walls. Read on to learn more about how these educators made the leap to new careers and how you can do the same.

    The Consultant

    Meet Melanie Brown!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Melanie: I began teaching in 2000, and then joined the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project as a staff developer in 2006. After five years with TCRWP I returned to a school community as a literacy coach.

    When a few schools contacted me about supporting their teachers I considered consulting again. I wanted to combine all I've learned from different literacy providers and so many remarkable children. I decided working for myself was the best way to accomplish that. My friend, Kate Bishop, and I began a small literacy consulting firm when we had our first client. Things have grown from there!

    Christy: What was your job before and why did you make the move?

    Melanie: I’ve been a literacy coach since 2011 at a small, progressive school in the Bronx. I still work there part time. I find being based in a school and working with children consistently keeps my consulting work relevant and grounded in the real work of teaching and learning. I don't forget how hard teachers work. 

    Christy: What does your day look like? Can you give us a minute-by-minute of what you do?

    Melanie: I try to arrive at my schools before 8 a.m. traffic to give me time to settle in. I spend the next six to seven hours working with teachers. Generally, I'll work with a grade team for two or three periods. We meet to plan, study student work, or discuss content. Then we head into a classroom where I tend to demonstrate reading or writing instruction. Teachers will sometimes take over parts of the teaching while I coach. Afterwards, we meet to reflect and plan their curriculum for the next few weeks. After working with a grade team, I repeat the same process with another team. Ideally, I support three different grade teams each day. 

    Christy: What's the best thing about your job?

     Melanie: The best thing about my job is helping teachers. Nearly all the teachers I meet work incredibly hard with fewer resources than they deserve. Also, many teachers have not received enough support with how to teach reading and writing to small children. Being a part of teacher learning is incredibly rewarding. 

    Christy: Any advice for teachers who want to follow in your footsteps?

    Melanie: If possible, teach across grade levels. If you want to support schools you need to be flexible and understand a diverse group of learners. If you stay in one place or one grade level for too long you may miss the bigger picture. 

    ___________________________

    The Curriculum Writer/Editor

    Meet Elizabeth Cornwell!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Elizabeth: I worked at a prestigious New York City independent school, The Gateway School. I taught bright and talented students with learning disabilities in a structured, challenging, and nurturing school community. In order to help our students grow and develop academically and socially, we created our own materials and modified curricula to meet the individual needs of each child. I stumbled into freelancing while explaining this aspect of my job as a special educator to a friend who worked as project manager for a highly reputable educational publishing company. He was in a bind and needed someone to write some math word problems for a sixth grade Colorado assessment he was working on. This was pre-Common Core State Standards (CCSS), so the materials I wrote in the beginning of my career were varied in style and focus depending on state standards.

    He started me off slowly, assigning me a handful of items to write per week. I was asked to create multiple choice and open-ended items. I was given a style guide and list of forbidden topics for the context of the words problems. For example, no items involving guns, racial or gender stereotypes, or junk food. I immediately felt my creative juices begin to flow. I was hooked and loved this new part-time job that I could do at home.

    Christy: Why and how did you make the move from the classroom?

    Elizabeth: My move from classroom teacher to freelance writer happened by surprise. It was a natural progression for me because my family needed to relocate out of the city at the time. We moved to the Connecticut coast as I was taking on more and more freelance educational work. I went from writing a few assessment items at one time to writing and editing entire workbooks. I was referred to other publishing companies, some with a focus on educational technology. 

    One of my first jobs was for a company called ePublishing Partners.

    I was hired to evaluate an outdated online math intervention program for California public schools. I had to find lessons that needed improvement, revise them to meet current California math standards, and create new items to meet new standards. This involved writing audio scripts, creating art and animation specs, and writing appropriate math items that effectively and fairly tested a specific skill for a specific grade level. These jobs led to editing jobs, which included testing written text and online items for accuracy and fairness. Before and after the CCSS made their way into the educational publishing world, I was hired to read through entire ELA and math curricula and point out which activities and assessment items correlated to specific standards.   

    By this time I was mostly working from home and I missed working with students directly. I took a part time teaching job at the Norwalk Aquarium. A few days a week, I taught marine biology and environmental science aboard a research vessel on the Long Island Sound. On other days I was helping aquarists take care of injured harbor seals or digging for crabs on the beach with elementary school classrooms. This was a very exciting and enjoyable time.

    Christy: What’s the best thing about your job?

    Elizabeth: There are so many things; but the best is the flexibility I have when it comes to being with my family and meeting their needs and the needs of our home. I can catch up on extra work in my pajamas at night after the kids go to bed and spend an hour or two on the weekends writing while my kids are out with family members or friends.

    Depending on my deadlines, I can choose to work a few hours here and there and still be able to attend my son’s soccer games and help out in my daughter’s classroom. I also love that since lately I’ve been developing materials that meet the CCSS and the latest advances in education, I am well versed in what my kids are learning in school. It makes it much easier to help them with their homework!

    Christy: Any advice for teachers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

    Elizabeth: An interested teacher could start by contacting the publishers of the materials that she has used in her classroom. Educational publishing and educational technology companies are always looking for freelancers to create, edit, and adapt their materials to different platforms. They want individuals who know the CCSS and have experience applying them directly with their students.  Assemble samples of your favorite lesson plans and original materials that you’ve created over the years to help your students. Have those items on hand to provide along with your resume or when a potential employer requests them.

    __________________________

    The Hollywood Teacher

    Meet Danielle Litz!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Danielle: Having my professional teaching license, I had initially applied to a company back in 2013 called On Location Education. OLE and other companies place certified teachers to work with child performers on given projects so that minors (by law) may satisfy their schooling requirements. Contracted teachers manage the individualized education requirements and ensure the welfare of child performers. Teachers may work with many types of child performers — from kids acting in film, TV shows, and Broadway performances, those who model, do voice-overs, sing, or dance, and even gymnasts training for competition for the Olympics. OLE accepted and placed me on my very first on-set teaching assignment, which was the newest version of the movie musical, Annie, with Quvenzhané Wallis  and Jamie Foxx.

    Christy: What does your day look like?  

    Danielle: As cliché as it may sound, there quite literally are no two days that are ever the same. The assignment or production you may be working on, the location, the child or children performing, the crew, the hours including start and end times, vary from day to day. Working in film and TV, I never know my call time and often the location until the night before. Sometimes, the call time may not come in until 10 p.m. or so when the production wraps up the workday and the schedule has been finalized for the next day.

    Relative to the schooling component for minors by New York State law, child performers are required to have three hours of academic instruction per performance workday. The tiniest increment of time that I can sit with a child and have it count toward the three hour minimum is for a block of twenty minutes ("getting a block of twenty") in between takes, scenes, or set changes. It's more the exception in my experience that a child/group of children and I will sit down for the entire block of three hours, have the academic requirements satisfied for the day and "call it a day."

    As a set teacher, I can work with up to 10 performers at a time on a production. This includes working with children of divergent grade levels, ages, aptitudes, and often all with different curriculum and assignments from their schools. For different ages, the maximum length of a minor's workday will vary. Sometimes you could have a four-hour workday or even a ten- or twelve-hour workday. When minors call times are staggered throughout the day, that makes for longer days. And some workdays you may be called to set at 7 a.m. or even 4 p.m. for a night shoot, but minors (in New York State) can never work later than 10 p.m. on evenings preceding school days and no later than 12:30 a.m. on evenings preceding non-school day mornings. So you really have to be flexible in this business since it is constantly changing.

    Christy: Any advice for teachers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

    Danielle: Well, you must be a certified teaching professional in a geographical area that has production occurring and would require teaching or welfare advocacy for child performers. Child labor laws vary from state to state and in cities where there is actual production activity like Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, or New Orleans. Check in with your state's Department of Labor for child performer laws and even do a Google search on cities that have a lot of production. But aside from this, just be flexible with a regularly changing schedule and being an independent contractor, and have a high degree of integrity. I'm happy to offer guidance where I can, so teachers can feel free to connect with me at DLNYonset@gmail.com.

    __________________________

    Most teachers will sharpen their skills over the summer or work another job to earn more money. Teachers don’t have time to get summer-shamed! Read my post, “Five Responses to Critics of Summer Break,” and be prepared for any silly anti-teacher comments thrown your way!

    Wondering how to get a better work/life balance or leverage your value for a good paying job in education? Meet Melanie Brown, Elizabeth Cornwell, and Danielle Litz, three dynamic educators who made the switch to education outside of their classroom walls. Read on to learn more about how these educators made the leap to new careers and how you can do the same.

    The Consultant

    Meet Melanie Brown!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Melanie: I began teaching in 2000, and then joined the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project as a staff developer in 2006. After five years with TCRWP I returned to a school community as a literacy coach.

    When a few schools contacted me about supporting their teachers I considered consulting again. I wanted to combine all I've learned from different literacy providers and so many remarkable children. I decided working for myself was the best way to accomplish that. My friend, Kate Bishop, and I began a small literacy consulting firm when we had our first client. Things have grown from there!

    Christy: What was your job before and why did you make the move?

    Melanie: I’ve been a literacy coach since 2011 at a small, progressive school in the Bronx. I still work there part time. I find being based in a school and working with children consistently keeps my consulting work relevant and grounded in the real work of teaching and learning. I don't forget how hard teachers work. 

    Christy: What does your day look like? Can you give us a minute-by-minute of what you do?

    Melanie: I try to arrive at my schools before 8 a.m. traffic to give me time to settle in. I spend the next six to seven hours working with teachers. Generally, I'll work with a grade team for two or three periods. We meet to plan, study student work, or discuss content. Then we head into a classroom where I tend to demonstrate reading or writing instruction. Teachers will sometimes take over parts of the teaching while I coach. Afterwards, we meet to reflect and plan their curriculum for the next few weeks. After working with a grade team, I repeat the same process with another team. Ideally, I support three different grade teams each day. 

    Christy: What's the best thing about your job?

     Melanie: The best thing about my job is helping teachers. Nearly all the teachers I meet work incredibly hard with fewer resources than they deserve. Also, many teachers have not received enough support with how to teach reading and writing to small children. Being a part of teacher learning is incredibly rewarding. 

    Christy: Any advice for teachers who want to follow in your footsteps?

    Melanie: If possible, teach across grade levels. If you want to support schools you need to be flexible and understand a diverse group of learners. If you stay in one place or one grade level for too long you may miss the bigger picture. 

    ___________________________

    The Curriculum Writer/Editor

    Meet Elizabeth Cornwell!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Elizabeth: I worked at a prestigious New York City independent school, The Gateway School. I taught bright and talented students with learning disabilities in a structured, challenging, and nurturing school community. In order to help our students grow and develop academically and socially, we created our own materials and modified curricula to meet the individual needs of each child. I stumbled into freelancing while explaining this aspect of my job as a special educator to a friend who worked as project manager for a highly reputable educational publishing company. He was in a bind and needed someone to write some math word problems for a sixth grade Colorado assessment he was working on. This was pre-Common Core State Standards (CCSS), so the materials I wrote in the beginning of my career were varied in style and focus depending on state standards.

    He started me off slowly, assigning me a handful of items to write per week. I was asked to create multiple choice and open-ended items. I was given a style guide and list of forbidden topics for the context of the words problems. For example, no items involving guns, racial or gender stereotypes, or junk food. I immediately felt my creative juices begin to flow. I was hooked and loved this new part-time job that I could do at home.

    Christy: Why and how did you make the move from the classroom?

    Elizabeth: My move from classroom teacher to freelance writer happened by surprise. It was a natural progression for me because my family needed to relocate out of the city at the time. We moved to the Connecticut coast as I was taking on more and more freelance educational work. I went from writing a few assessment items at one time to writing and editing entire workbooks. I was referred to other publishing companies, some with a focus on educational technology. 

    One of my first jobs was for a company called ePublishing Partners.

    I was hired to evaluate an outdated online math intervention program for California public schools. I had to find lessons that needed improvement, revise them to meet current California math standards, and create new items to meet new standards. This involved writing audio scripts, creating art and animation specs, and writing appropriate math items that effectively and fairly tested a specific skill for a specific grade level. These jobs led to editing jobs, which included testing written text and online items for accuracy and fairness. Before and after the CCSS made their way into the educational publishing world, I was hired to read through entire ELA and math curricula and point out which activities and assessment items correlated to specific standards.   

    By this time I was mostly working from home and I missed working with students directly. I took a part time teaching job at the Norwalk Aquarium. A few days a week, I taught marine biology and environmental science aboard a research vessel on the Long Island Sound. On other days I was helping aquarists take care of injured harbor seals or digging for crabs on the beach with elementary school classrooms. This was a very exciting and enjoyable time.

    Christy: What’s the best thing about your job?

    Elizabeth: There are so many things; but the best is the flexibility I have when it comes to being with my family and meeting their needs and the needs of our home. I can catch up on extra work in my pajamas at night after the kids go to bed and spend an hour or two on the weekends writing while my kids are out with family members or friends.

    Depending on my deadlines, I can choose to work a few hours here and there and still be able to attend my son’s soccer games and help out in my daughter’s classroom. I also love that since lately I’ve been developing materials that meet the CCSS and the latest advances in education, I am well versed in what my kids are learning in school. It makes it much easier to help them with their homework!

    Christy: Any advice for teachers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

    Elizabeth: An interested teacher could start by contacting the publishers of the materials that she has used in her classroom. Educational publishing and educational technology companies are always looking for freelancers to create, edit, and adapt their materials to different platforms. They want individuals who know the CCSS and have experience applying them directly with their students.  Assemble samples of your favorite lesson plans and original materials that you’ve created over the years to help your students. Have those items on hand to provide along with your resume or when a potential employer requests them.

    __________________________

    The Hollywood Teacher

    Meet Danielle Litz!

    Christy: How did you get your job?

    Danielle: Having my professional teaching license, I had initially applied to a company back in 2013 called On Location Education. OLE and other companies place certified teachers to work with child performers on given projects so that minors (by law) may satisfy their schooling requirements. Contracted teachers manage the individualized education requirements and ensure the welfare of child performers. Teachers may work with many types of child performers — from kids acting in film, TV shows, and Broadway performances, those who model, do voice-overs, sing, or dance, and even gymnasts training for competition for the Olympics. OLE accepted and placed me on my very first on-set teaching assignment, which was the newest version of the movie musical, Annie, with Quvenzhané Wallis  and Jamie Foxx.

    Christy: What does your day look like?  

    Danielle: As cliché as it may sound, there quite literally are no two days that are ever the same. The assignment or production you may be working on, the location, the child or children performing, the crew, the hours including start and end times, vary from day to day. Working in film and TV, I never know my call time and often the location until the night before. Sometimes, the call time may not come in until 10 p.m. or so when the production wraps up the workday and the schedule has been finalized for the next day.

    Relative to the schooling component for minors by New York State law, child performers are required to have three hours of academic instruction per performance workday. The tiniest increment of time that I can sit with a child and have it count toward the three hour minimum is for a block of twenty minutes ("getting a block of twenty") in between takes, scenes, or set changes. It's more the exception in my experience that a child/group of children and I will sit down for the entire block of three hours, have the academic requirements satisfied for the day and "call it a day."

    As a set teacher, I can work with up to 10 performers at a time on a production. This includes working with children of divergent grade levels, ages, aptitudes, and often all with different curriculum and assignments from their schools. For different ages, the maximum length of a minor's workday will vary. Sometimes you could have a four-hour workday or even a ten- or twelve-hour workday. When minors call times are staggered throughout the day, that makes for longer days. And some workdays you may be called to set at 7 a.m. or even 4 p.m. for a night shoot, but minors (in New York State) can never work later than 10 p.m. on evenings preceding school days and no later than 12:30 a.m. on evenings preceding non-school day mornings. So you really have to be flexible in this business since it is constantly changing.

    Christy: Any advice for teachers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

    Danielle: Well, you must be a certified teaching professional in a geographical area that has production occurring and would require teaching or welfare advocacy for child performers. Child labor laws vary from state to state and in cities where there is actual production activity like Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, or New Orleans. Check in with your state's Department of Labor for child performer laws and even do a Google search on cities that have a lot of production. But aside from this, just be flexible with a regularly changing schedule and being an independent contractor, and have a high degree of integrity. I'm happy to offer guidance where I can, so teachers can feel free to connect with me at DLNYonset@gmail.com.

    __________________________

    Most teachers will sharpen their skills over the summer or work another job to earn more money. Teachers don’t have time to get summer-shamed! Read my post, “Five Responses to Critics of Summer Break,” and be prepared for any silly anti-teacher comments thrown your way!

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