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A software developer's escape from corporate IT and his journey to a new career teaching high school.
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I’m Dave, a 33-year old software geek and I’ve decided to change my life.  I’m going to leave my steady job at a big law firm to pursue what I see as a more personally fulfilling occupation: teaching.  Luckily for me, I can do this without going into debt, thanks to my wife’s position as a professor at a small liberal-arts college with a well-regarded education department.  Under the current plan I should complete student teaching in the spring of 2012 and get hired in the fall.

My first post tells the story pretty well, but to be perfectly honest this blog is more or less intended as a superior method of sending my families email updates on my progress.  If it happens that I attract an interested reader or two, so much the better.

My decision to be more coy than anonymous is a stylistic choice.  I’m not overly concerned with privacy, since I intend to not write anything I wouldn’t be comfortable putting in the local newspaper.

If my story sounds like yours or if you are one of my blessed well-wishers, I hope reading these posts brings you pleasure.

Here's how it happened.  I called my boss on a Sunday in October and told him. "[Boss], I've decided to change careers." "Really?  To what?" "I think I'm going to become a high-school teacher.  Right now the plan is to get certified to teach both Math and Music at the high-school level." "Dave, I think that's wonderful.  You know I've always said if I won the lottery I'd teach high-school.  I don't know why it has to be the lottery but there you go." "So yeah I'm going back to [...]

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I'm using a Google Spreadsheet document to plan my courses for the next two-and-a-half years.  Those who are interested can view it here: Link to Dave's Plan The most salient detail here is that while I currently hold a B.A. in Mathematics, I have almost no coursework in music.  I do have a lot of ensemble credit and some voice lessons, but I'll be taking almost the entire theory/history series along with a few choral-specific courses.  The bulk of the remainder will be education course [...]

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Anyone with a sufficient number of Facebook friends is familiar with the flood of birthday greetings one gets on the special day.  Well let me tell you, this works for massive life announcements, too.  I got comments from almost 40 well-wishers in response to the status update which made it official.  In Facebook terms, that's a lot of comments.  Here are a few of my favorites. Good for you for following your bliss! That is such great news. We are so desperately in need of great teache [...]

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I'm a frequent poster on a big popular internet forum full of brilliant, cynical, and wordy nerds.  Recently I decided to cut back my participation, which required an announcement of sorts (it sounds weird but for the subforum in question it is common courtesy).  A few days later, I got the following note from another poster, a guy I'd "gotten to know" pretty well, despite the fact that we both think of each other by our anonymous nicknames and have never met. Hey, just saw your post. That [...]

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This is probably the most common question I get right now.  I even got it from my dear wife yesterday over dinner.  The answer is: "Yes, really!" There's an impulse to say "Come on Dave, you just want to do Choir.  Math is just a safe fallback because it's in demand, right?"  Or on the other hand to say "Come on Dave, you are going to end up solely teaching Math, right?"  In either case, there's an implication that one can't really manage to get a job teaching both subjects.  Well here' [...]

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You'd be forgiven if you found my blog so far to have a faint anti-IT odor.  I mean, the word "escape" is right there in the tag line.  But the computer business, like the rest of the world, is mostly full of good people who put in an honest day of work.  And I'm not just saying that because some of my co-workers are likely to read this.  Let me be clear: it's not them, it's me. I don't need to tell you, the reader of a personal log on the world-wide web, how transformative technology can [...]

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An alert reader told my wife that the details of my plan are still a little unclear.  Well I can fix that problem. Step 1: I leave my full-time job, switching to light part-time consulting work.  This happens in less than 3 months!! Step 2: I take education and subject-specific courses at my wife's college.  (See specific course details here.) This lasts 2.5 years, including the final semester of student teaching.  I earn no degrees, but do receive Wisconsin state certification to teac [...]

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I've decided to go whole hog and start decorating blank wall space with useful posters to help me study and memorize important stuff.  I have a combination of visual and audio learning styles; things which are geometric work pretty well for me. So maybe I'll solicit feedback from y'all!  I'm thinking practical stuff here, not art.  We have plenty of art.  No "hang in there" kittens, either. The one I KNOW I'm putting up is a nice Circle of Fifths poster (http://www.circleoffifths.com/ [...]

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I know I'm completely untrained in all things pedagogical, but that didn't stop my precocious self from spending an afternoon browsing YouTube and contemplating a new movement in classroom styles called Whole Brain Teaching.  I got the tip from an online forum thread full of teachers talking about what works for them, and aspects of WBT were getting rave reviews. The features of Whole Brain Teaching (until recently known as Power Teaching) are as follows: High-Energy Kinesthetics "Micr [...]

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I often joke that I am a "morning person who always stays up too late", implying I  have often squandered the most productive portion of my days with less-than-adequate self-care.  Well it turns out I'm going to put that theory to the test in a big way come January 25.   Here is my upcoming schedule.  Besides conducting class and a music lab in the afternoons twice a week, everything else is a solid block of Good Morning, Class. Yes, I know, the class schedules at this school are bizarre [...]

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Here's a story from my wife's first semester of full-time teaching which illustrates just how far we have yet to go to correct American attitudes about math. It was a calculus class designed for business majors, and she was discussing a rationale for knowing how to do basic algebra.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It seems math teachers end up teaching material from prior years a fair bit.  In my wife's example, the students were asked to imagine they were purchasing a large amount of soda [...]

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Okay, I joked a little about this before, but the truth is there's something inherently odd about what I'm about to do.  Not only am I going to be fifteen years older than many of my classmates, but I'm a pretty blatantly bald dude.  (By which I actually mean "bald and blatantly pretty".)  To be fair, part of what makes me a little queasy here is the fact that my wife's school, which is now also my school, is a small liberal-arts college.  It's the kind of place where the students are not on [...]

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This is one of those boring posts I'll put up from time to time on the off-chance someone reading actually wants to learn from my process.  I assume you already know how to skip out on reading my blog, so feel free to do it again! The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has a web page detailing all of its Educator Licensing policies.  Reading this without prior knowledge of the process seems about as informative as asking Karl Rove to come clean about the 2000 Florida recount. [...]

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When I was in Berlin with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus in 2003, I was mesmerized by Donald Runnicles assembling Britten's formidable War Requiem.  He was working in two languages with the Berlin Philharmonic, the 200 American choristers, a boy's choir, and three soloists.  And all I could think was "I want to do that."  On the bus to the hotel I shared my starry-eyed dream with an ASOC acquaintance.  He pointed out, rather flatly, that people have to work their entire lives focused [...]

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Some form of the flu has interrupted regular posting this week.  Here is a nice low-effort post which also neatly discards my pretensions at semi-anonymity. As an exercise in looking back and also a point of reference for those who are interested in doing what I'm doing, I provide three resumes of my life experience.  Note that I have tellingly compressed what would be my present "work resume" into two or three lines.  Also note that Music seems so large because listing each ensemble is bo [...]

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I found out last time I was in school that I really enjoy taking long-hand notes IN class, then transcribing them to a typed format AFTER class.  As a first step to committing things to memory it works really well.  So the big question is: into what format should I be entering my notes? First I thought big.  What about a Wiki of my very own? It would do everything I needed and then some.   However, after playing with it for an hour I quickly realized it is a LOT more work than simple not [...]

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I rather wish I was going to a place like Hogwarts School instead of a small liberal arts college.  Then the doors to the music building would surely be locked by this contraption: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE5PGeh2K9k First years would simply need to read a measure or two taped to the door.  Second year students would see the name of a famous piece, third year students maybe a historical riddle. "Psst, what's the opening to Mahler's 8th again?"

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If it seems like I am suddenly blogging less it's because I am blogging less.  It is a period of waiting and wondering for me. I was a guest at my father's bible study this weekend; the passage was about the time when King David had won his victory over Saul but would have to wait seven more years before becoming ruler of all Isreal.  Coincidences about our name aside, I can seriously relate.  We both have something wonderful in our future (his is promised by God and, well, without getting [...]

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Apparently the "Cat Piano" was a real invention, though I pray it never got built. Each key supposedly made a different cat scream, which somehow was supposed to be a predictable pitch. Gruesome, really. Well linked here below is a lovely short art film dramatizing the concept and giving birth to Chat Film Noir, a genre much needed, I think. http://www.synthgear.com/2009/strange-weird/cat-piano-katzenklavier/

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Well my classes are finalized. Non-degree students have to go through a rigamarole of manual paperwork and emails from professors. No fancy computer system for us! My schedule remains unchanged from the original plan with one exception: I am dropping the conducting class since there are more than 20 people registered for it! The professor, a friend of mine, advises me that I'll enjoy it much more in a year when the headcount is expected to be closer to 8 or 10. This means I have only 14 r [...]

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I've begun to do my catch-up reading in the infamous Grout textbook "History of Western Music".  I need to be roughly up-to-speed on Ancient and Medieval music by this time next month.  It turns out, you can actually get out of practice as a reader!  This is hard.  Not to mention: textbooks are supposed to be dense.  In fact I guess that's part of the point of textbooks.   Nevertheless I am genuinely interested in the topic (I did not realize that Pythagoras is generally thought of as the [...]

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I can still draw the entire circle of fifths from memory.  This is a well-known diagram demonstrating key signatures (i.e. "F major" or "b minor")  and their relationship to each other. (The next paragraph may be boring for musicians and  incomprehensible to anyone else.  Sorry.) For me, reconstructing the diagram boiled down to the mnemonic "Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle" (the order in which sharps are added to a key signature), which reverses nicely as "Battle Ends And Dow [...]

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Well I've been a full-time student since Monday.  It seems like a distressingly long time ago, though I have relatively little work to do yet.  My overall impression so far?  I'm sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Thus far it's been mostly syllabus review, introductions, review of prior materials--all stuff I can handle easily.  The question I keep asking myself (and it's purely based in anxiety) is: how will things be when the "real work" starts piling up.  Many of you know I wa [...]

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This is how my first days have gone.  It's likely too much information for all but the most ardent of Dave-spotters. :) Psychology for Education - The professor is passionate and well-spoken.  It's his research area and a family inheritance, so we can expect him to impart a lot of good stuff.  Wants to talk about the meta side: pointing out his own techniques as he uses them on us.  Having never taken psychology formally, but having done some therapy myself, I'm interested to see how the [...]

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Dear fellow students: I'm sorry I expected you to think I was some weirdo.  I'm sorry I expected awkward glances and whispers when instead I got smiles and even "hello"s.  It was lame of me to think you'd be anything but cool about this.  I would blame the "worst case" stories I *might* have heard from a certain spouse about your less cool classmates, but the truth is I was nervous and you were nice.  Thanks. Dear Concert Choir: You surprised me.  In a really good way.  But that m [...]

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This week I began the final two pieces of my new schooling: voice lessons and piano lab.  The business end of my music education, you could say.  My new voice teacher is young and enthusiastic and she's given me a good number of pieces to work on.  I'll confess to being intimidated by the workload--I was such a slacker voice student before!  Pieces include Barber: Sure on this Shining Night and Faure: Apres un Reve. She wants to give me both challenging pieces which are good for me as a voca [...]

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On Saturday I went to a nearby ETS testing center and took the Pre-Professional Skills Tests (a.k.a. PPST or PRAXIS I).  The testing environment was computer-based, and in this it resemble the General GRE, which I took many moons ago as a college senior.  The content of the test was much more like the ACT: three sections on Reading, Writing and Mathematics.  This exam is essentially the first of many hurdles that my state's education department makes all students go through on the path to cer [...]

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I've been told there are still a few readers out there who are looking for an update.  This will have to do. First off, the big news is that as of right now I'm getting straight A's.  This week (the week after spring break) I got the results of exams in virtually every class and it appears that I'm doing great.  But let me confess, dear reader, that I am still sort of bizarrely low on confidence.  Perhaps it is simply that I fear how easily I could slip into bad habits and wreck the works [...]

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An interesting tidbit today from my Psychology for Teaching class.  Many of you may know of Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  It was more or less new to me, and during class we took a quick inventory quiz to determine our own personal learning style.  Here are my results.  I'll be honest, this feels pretty accurate. Take it for yourself if you like at Edutopia.

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So it seems lame to begin blogging again about my new semester of schooling without doing a little wrap-up on how my first semester went. Objectively, it was awesome.  I participated fully in classes and activities, met all my course and certification requirements, and landed myself on the Dean's list.  Okay, I'll be a little less coy.  I got straight A's. Highlights included a paper on Carlo Gesualdo (my favorite insane composer), typesetting ALL of my modern geometry homework, and a w [...]

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This semester is quite simple on the surface.  I am continuing in the integrated Musicianship course series, the history component of which covers Baroque and Classical eras.  This includes more advanced theory, sight-singing and ear training, and piano lab.  I'm also still taking private voice lessons.  The rest of my schedule is taken up by a set of courses called the "Sophomore Block" by the teacher education department.  The same students take all the same courses--this semester there a [...]

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Beginning tomorrow morning I'll be spending all day, every day, at a local high school.  This will go on for almost 6 weeks!  I'm excited and a little scared.  Unlike many education department "practicum" programs, this one is NOT just about sitting and observing.  We are required to teach.  In fact at a minimum I will be teaching a 3-day consecutive lesson to one of my assigned classes! It isn't student teaching (for one thing, the coordinating teacher never leaves the room), but as our [...]

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N.B.  This text is lifted from http://bit.ly/iQ3shC the Prof Hacker blog.  This post is for trying out the digress.it plugin for Wordpress.  To be used solely for ThatCamp LAC 2011 experimentation. ___________________________________________________ Like many of my fellow educators, my academic training consisted mainly in developing cognitive abilities with scant regard to the role emotions play in the learning process. But in my role as a teacher, I have come to realize that emotio [...]

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