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Topic: What are some unconventional ways to start teaching? (Read 7840 times) previous topic - next topic


I'm hosting a panel at the NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) Grad Launch: http://itp.nyu.edu/launch/ about the landscape of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math K-12 education: how it is shifting towards a more making-centric, or constructionist method, why that's a good thing, and how ITP grads are uniquely suited to help.

I want to show that there are many ways that people can start teaching (you don't have to join a union!).

So my question to everyone on this forum who's ever taught a class:

How did you fall into it?
What are some ways that ITP grads can dabble in teaching without having to get a teaching license?

Thank you for any help!



I have done many dozens of classes with kids from Kindergarden to University.  I got dozens+ of IBM Engineers out to do "Computer Demolition" classes in the 90's . 

http://terryking.us/parport/compdemo.htm (My original old site...)

There is NO problem connecting with schools and doing short classes or demonstrations.  Contact the Science / Technology / "Gifted-Talented" teachers directly. Don't ask the School Board or the Principals to start. 

If you have a well-developed workshop/demo with hands-on for the kids you have it made.  But talking heads don't make it.

AND: Secret#1  NO CHAIRS! (For Middle-High School kids) Seriously, try to use a space with no chairs and get the kids to move around and do stuff. I have often stacked up all the chairs in a room and used just tables..  Middle School kids can be glued to their chairs and nobody wants to make the first move.  Crazy but true.

Next approach is to offer to 'help' periodically in an established class, by preparing and presenting a small section of the class (often which the teacher does not have much background in).. This is directly under the supervision of the teacher and only the most rabid Union-Dogs will growl at it.   

But make contact with teachers, and also research online the kinds of activities that are already happening..

BTW, private schools and "International Schools" around the world usually have no LEGAL requirement that teachers be licensed, and are often open to well-educated people with other degrees. I've been overseas the last 7 years where my wife worked at schools in Africa, China, MiddleEast, and have often been asked to teach (status: Retired Engineer). 

Also consider working on good online resources for kids Worldwide. Example: http://arduino-info.wikispaces.com/BrickStarterSet It's really cool when you hear from some kid in Borneo or Iceland!

Let's hear from some other experiences...


1. The union thing. That varies state to state. It used to be, for example, that you needed to be a union member to teach in Michigan. This may no longer be true. But Florida is a right to work state. State law forbids any employer requiring union membership to obtain any job there. So there is no requirement to join the union, and little pressure to do so. (That level of pressure may vary by county. Many people view the teachers' unions in Florida as rather ineffective and unless you feel obligated to do it out of historical reasons (eg. Dad was a union pipefitter, and so I should join the union too...)).

2. As Terry wrote, private schools don't have a *requirement* for a teaching certificate. Certificates are for K-12 public schools. (Private schools would prefer certificated teachers, but if you have an available expert in a field and s/he isn't interested in running through the hoops and putting up with the BS of obtaining the certificate...)

3. If you have a Masters (or higher) in a subject (eg. Math, Physics, Chemistry, not in teaching) you can get a job as adjunct faculty / assistant prof in a community college.

4. Gifted or after school or during summer "enrichment" programs. There are companies which do this. There is one I had some interaction with a few years ago. The name escapes me. If I recall I will edit this.

5. Many schools are desperately short of volunteers. But be aware that in many states you may have to pay $30-75 for an FBI fingerprint / background check before they will let you on school property without an . (Some districts may reimburse you, many won't.) You don't need to be completely free of any criminal offenses (eg. traffic tickets are not a worry), they must be (1) non violent (2) not involve children (3) non sexual. If you got drunk at the AC/DC concert freshman year and peed in the bushes and were ticketed for it by the cop who saw you, you may be a sex offender ("indecent exposure", even if you are not required to register as one) in some states.

As for Unconventional Ways: One friend recently retired from engineering, moved to a new community, struck up a conversation with a neighbor. A few weeks later the neighbor, a school principal, asked him to come teach (he was unable to get an education major math teacher to even come interview at his small town school). An even closer friend, underemployed bagging groceries at the time due to layoffs from an IT company, was dating a newly minted teacher who had sent resumes out shotgunning and had just accepted a job offer that morning. They went out to lunch to celebrate her new career. Over appetizers a principal called the woman to ask her to come in for an interview, she said she'd just accepted a position elsewhere, "but here, talk to this guy, he's interested in teaching" and she handed her phone to the guy (my friend) in the middle of a restaurant. Two days later he had an interview and was hired on the spot.


Jun 21, 2011, 03:23 pm Last Edit: Jun 21, 2011, 04:28 pm by Korman Reason: 1
There's also a lot of teaching out in the industry. They call it training.

One gets into this when the boss comes around and tells you: "This is Rajeesh, he's on your team now, show him the ropes." More often than not, you can count yourself lucky if you don't need to start with the 3 R.
Another popular one is the boss sending you a half finished power point presentation attached to a calendar entry in the very near future (between 20 minutes and 2 weeks) and tells you: "15 technicians form the customer a coming over to to learn enough about the system to do the acceptance tests. You have 5 days to make sure they know enough to sign off the system and operate it afterwards."

Unions? Degrees? You must be kidding.



In the UK you have to have a teaching qualification to teach in a school but not at a University. I spent 21 years lecturing in Physics at a University but I am still not qualified to teach in a school (that is for children under 16).
I just applied to the University while I was doing my PhD (at another University) and the first people who saw me give a lecturer was that first class I took. It wasn't until I have been in the job over a year that the head of my department saw me. I also got inspected a few times with the rest of the department.
However, other good ways to get into it are giving talks to clubs an societies and I have done plenty of those in my time as well.


Sep 30, 2012, 10:04 pm Last Edit: Sep 30, 2012, 10:15 pm by DuaneB Reason: 1

AND: Secret#1  NO CHAIRS! (For Middle-High School kids) Seriously, try to use a space with no chairs and get the kids to move around and do stuff. I have often stacked up all the chairs in a room and used just tables..  Middle School kids can be glued to their chairs and nobody wants to make the first move.  Crazy but true.

Great insight there, will hopefully use it one day.

EDIT: Just checked out your link as well Terry, thats genius. I posted it for all my wifes friends that are busy buying three yearolds Ipads 'because they help kids understand technology'


Duane B
Read this
then watch this



You could start with a free/open source simulator:


I started out doing a degree in Artificial Life and got a post exploring commercial exploitation of ALife techniques at BT's R&D labs. Over the ten years I was there, my role increasingly focused on rapid prototyping of new inventions, alongside the making of interactive art constructions in my spare time.

Gradually I got drawn into workshopping the digital prototyping techniques I've been using for my day job and the arts (lots of open source, Arduino, Processing), initially with adults for tinker.it in London. More recently I was invited to do this with kids at a local school and since then, a lot of my effort has been diverted towards education, both hands on and via the site at http://shrimping.it. The work is also increasingly steering the PhD I just started at Highwire, Lancaster University.

Last week, for example, I led the construction and programming of Arduino-compatible Persistence of Vision circuits on breadboard in a 3 hour workshop format, leading to 40 kids taking @ShrimpingIt POV circuits home to show their friends and family, and hopefully repurpose and hack for more crazy things.

For those interested, some of the resources which I used to support this work are available under CC licence at http://shrimping.it/shrimp/project/pov/

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