15 Aug Making the Leap
From her first job as a teenager back at the YMCA, Paige Barnes knew she was meant to spend her life as an educator.
“I really fell in love with the kids and like their personalities and just watching them develop from the different stages,” she said.
Like so many teachers in recent years, though, the circumstances of public education, parental over-involvement and the COVID pandemic took a toll. Suddenly, in addition to managing her own class, she was mentoring several teachers in the new online world, trying to raise two kids of her own and adapting to teaching virtually.
The personal connection that had made the job so incredibly rewarding was completely replaced by Zoom meetings.
“It was just exhausting,” she said, “trying to keep up with all of that, keep up with my own children and their schooling, on top of COVID.”
Her love for education hadn’t changed one bit; she still loved helping to facilitate that “lightbulb moment” for learners – it was just everything else that came with being a third-grade teacher.
Rather than accepting that she had chosen life as an elementary-school teacher for life, she started to think about how her skills from the classroom might apply elsewhere.
“Teachers are already doing most of the things that instructional designers do,” Paige said. “For me at that point, I was like, ‘You know? I could definitely reach broader if I was out of the classroom.’”
Here’s how Paige made the leap in joining TimelyText as an instructional designer for a project with Kymanox, and her advice to teachers considering making a similar transition.
Leverage Your Soft Skills
There’s no training program for developing empathy, interpersonal skills and managing relationships like the life of a teacher. From students to parents and administrators, teachers are used to engaging a diverse group of stakeholders every day, and the “deliverables” are far more important than a simple report to your director.
When it comes to ensuring a safe, happy environment for children to work toward success, teachers are experts at juggling the many personalities and needs that arise in reaching a successful outcome.
Empathy is a major key.
“Going in and being able to be the voice of the learner, that’s one of the things that I’ve learned,” she said. “My role is to develop the training for the company, but it has to be in the best interest of the company and not just what the [subject-matter expert] wants. And so being able to have those…
“Those meetings with your SME, it’s kind of like your parent teacher conference where they understand their point of view and you understand yours and, you know, you kind of have those conversations back and forth until you guys are on the same understanding.”
Bridge Technology and Master Tools
After Paige conquered PowerPoint, she started dabbling in other tools that allowed her to translate content into digestible formats for third graders. Sometimes, she tried those tools on her own and others arrived in the face of challenges, like pandemic teaching.
That experience gave her the opportunity to put tools like Articulate and Captivate on her resume — something that gave her a foot in the door when it came to corporate instructional design jobs.
Some people can learn by watching videos, but Paige needed to go hands-on with trial versions.
“Go through and kind of play around with those things and see if you’re even comfortable with them,” she said. “Because if you’re not comfortable with using that technology, then you’re not going to be comfortable doing that job every day for any length of period.
“I’ve got to jump in feet-first and get my feel and just like play around with things.”
Be Confident in Your Expertise
When Paige got to work on creating instructional materials for pharmaceutical manufacturing, she knew she was working with material that was well outside her comfort zone.
But she wasn’t hired as a chemist or chemical engineer or pharmacologist; her expertise is education, and her greatest skill is understanding how to transfer that knowledge from the experts to the employees who needed it for their day-to-day jobs.
“The SMEs were really great,” she said. “Nobody ever made me feel like I was, you know, a subordinate to them or, you know, less intelligent than them just because I didn’t have my Ph. D. microbiology.”
In many ways, it was just starting a new school year in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s like moving into a new grade level, right? You’re just trying to figure out what the curriculum is and how you’re going to teach it best. A think one of the biggest things that I brought to the table when I got there was just being able to use my skills as a teacher and like really identifying gaps.”
Remain Focused on the Learner
The corporate adult learner has plenty of differences from a nine-year old diving into more complex math for the first time, but education all begins with meeting the learner where they’re at.
For this project in particular, Paige was developing instructional material for employees who would be operating a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility with differing levels of skill and experience.
With every decision, she put herself in the shoes of an inexperienced employee on their first day, hoping to succeed in a new job and put dinner on the table for their family.
“Having that perspective of, ‘You may not understand the content, but you understand adult learning and the thinking behind it and making sure that you’re getting that training that actually makes sense,” she said. “So that anybody off the street can come in and do the tasks asked of them, like that’s the goal of it … being able to really synthesize the really hard content and breaking it down into something more manageable is a huge skill that they need in instructional design.”
TimelyText is proud to have helped Paige pursue a life-changing opportunity! Are you a teacher looking to transition into instructional design, or simply looking to catch a break in the job market? Reach out today at email@example.com.