Who better to innovate for edtech companies than the teachers who have spent time in the K-12 classroom?

From the classroom to the office: What we can learn from educators entering the edtech workforce

Who better to innovate for edtech companies than the teachers who have spent time in the K-12 classroom?

Many educators have left the school environment to join edtech companies, seeking new ways to serve students while solving for the shortcomings they felt in the school-based workplace. How has it worked out, and what have we learned?

The experience has shifted the equilibrium in the corporate world, as edtech companies tap into a larger talent pool and it has been eye-opening for former educators as they bring their expertise to the table in new ways. It has also provided valuable insights for school administrators seeking to improve their retention of teachers.

Insights for school administrators

Educators left schools in larger numbers this year because they were seeking solutions to some of the fundamental challenges they perceived in their school careers. They turned to edtech companies with the hopes of finding greater opportunities for career progression, flexibility, and support for their personal well-being. School administrators have the opportunity to turn around retention challenges by providing solutions to these areas that educators are saying matter most to them.

School-based educators have transparent paths to salary increases based on experience, but typically have limited paths for advancement, perhaps moving between grades, obtaining certifications, or earning advanced degrees to enter into a leadership position. The corporate world offers a broader variety of paths, whether in sales, product development, marketing and more. A former special education teacher reflected after making the move to edtech, “After 10 years of teaching, I didn’t think I had the option to do anything else. Now, I have the ability to grow by moving into different roles.”

Washington, DC teachers rated ”flexible scheduling options” as the most impactful action that the district could take to reduce turnover. Many educators are seeking more control over their day-to-day, or even their minute-to-minute, work lives. The school day tends to be reactive, steered by unexpected problems to solve and excess work to cover, for instance when a colleague is absent. The appeal of choosing how to prioritize their time is strong for educators who are considering a corporate environment after years of putting the priorities of others ahead of their own in schools. A former classroom teacher thinks of it this way: “Remember that you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. You can still act on your heart of service without being in the traditional classroom. But with the transition to the corporate world, you will also have the ability to do things like sit down and go to the bathroom when needed.”

The National Education Association recently reported that 90 percent of teachers surveyed expressed burnout as a serious concern. Teachers are directly faced with the everyday challenges students are experiencing in the classroom. One middle school social studies teacher from Pennsylvania made his decision to make the leap to a corporate role after breaking up fights in the hallways became a near-daily activity. He recognized that there was more going on in the lives of the students and wanted to offer support, but through a different lens.

Educators are mission-driven individuals who want to be engaged in work that makes a difference in the lives of children. But this passion can become overwhelming when living a close-up view to the challenges day-in and day-out. Working in edtech still offers them a multitude of ways to contribute to a meaningful mission, but with less personal exposure. In the best case scenario, it can even bring broader impact. “Working in an edtech company has been extremely fulfilling. Today, this former teacher helped ensure 20 students were able to get the service they needed,” shared a recent transplant from the classroom.

Career change considerations

As hoped, shifting to work in the corporate setting has been a refreshing change of pace for former educators, especially when working remotely. The ability to control the workday and how they spend their time is the dominant “plus” that former teachers cite when talking about their experiences in the corporate world. They feel they are now able to decide what they work on, and tune out emails when they need to focus–a world away from the interruptions and distractions of working in the classroom.

However, moving from the classroom to corporate work still has its challenges. Learning new expectations for business deliverables and developing self-discipline to use independent time productively are among the greatest challenges cited by edtech transplants. Teachers are used to having structure and a preset schedule in a classroom. It can be a challenge to move into a corporate role where the bell doesn’t release you.

The impact on edtech companies

Edtech companies are finding particular benefit in leveraging the highly transferable skills former teachers are bringing from key areas. In presentations and public speaking, comfort in front of the class translates to confidence speaking in front of groups, valuable for all kinds of work in a corporate setting, particularly in sales. Selling to K-12 customers has been a natural fit for many educators who find it easy to connect to and understand the needs of those they are serving. Training and instructional design roles have also proven to be a great use of education skills to design learning paths for employees and customers.

Who better to innovate for edtech companies than the teachers who have spent time in the K-12 classroom? The depth of experience and empathy for school-based professionals can be of tremendous value to edtech companies, who typically rely on building relationships with K-12 administrators to successfully grow their businesses.

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Kate Eberle Walker

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