From Quality Professional to Teacher

by Hank Lindborg

For more than a decade, ASQ’s Education Division and Koalaty Kid program have sought to improve schools, from kindergarten through higher education.

As a founding member and past chair of the division, I have witnessed a transformation of quality in education from a consultant driven enterprise to an integral component of administration, teaching and even accreditation. (In higher education, for example, more than 130 colleges and universities now seek accreditation through the Academic Quality Improvement Program of the Higher Learning Commission, which has a website at www.aqip.org.)

Increasingly, educators are open to defining themselves as quality professionals. At the same time, ASQ members from other fields have expressed strong interest in education—not only as concerned citizens and volunteers but also as potential educators.

For some, the path to education comes by way of obtaining graduate degrees and joining a college or university faculty—either full-time or part-time in nontraditional or online programs. For others—in particular, midcareer quality professionals who are interested in teaching in public schools—the route has seemed less clear and far less convenient.

Fortunately, however, there are now programs to help make the transition. These are designed to certify as teachers those holding four-year degrees and working in other fields. Most classes are conducted evenings and weekends, but programs also include clinical experiences and student teaching. A commitment of about two years is required. So, with this opportunity available, should you consider a career in teaching?

Is Teaching Right for You?

How do you know you’d be a good candidate for the job? For self-assessment, use the 12 themes of a teacher selection interview developed by the Gallup organization. Based on the work of the late Don Clifton, it identifies signature strengths of those who succeed as teachers:

  • Mission—Is your purpose to make a difference in the lives of students, to see them grow? This isn’t just another job. From quality, you know about a passion for service.
  • Empathy—Can you see things from another’s point of view? As with quality leadership, it’s about tasks and relationships.
  • Rapport—Do you like kids? Do you believe a positive climate is required for quality and learning?
  • Individualized perception—Do you see students as individuals? From quality, you know understanding needs is more than a mechanical exercise.
  • Listening—Are you open? Have you developed skills that enable you to listen to the voices around you and respond?
  • Investment—Is helping students learn and grow where you want to put your professional energy? As a quality professional, you’re invested in improvement. Does this translate to students’ learning and self-actualization?
  • Input drive—Are you always searching for new ideas to bring to work? It’s probably why you’re reading Quality Progress.
  • Activation—Do you inspire others? Get them to act? You’re used to this in quality. Can you transfer motivation techniques to the classroom?
  • Innovation—Do you like to try new things? Innovation is now an industrial byword. Good teachers have always practiced it.
  • Gestalt—Do you like to get things done, at the same time balancing the needs of the individual? For most quality professionals, this should be a slam dunk.
  • Objectivity—Do you base your decisions on facts? Get the big picture? Quality and good teaching converge here.
  • Focus—Do you act according to a plan and articulate goals? These are basic skills in quality and required for teaching.

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions and see yourself in this profile, then you may be a good candidate for alternative teacher certification. But before you leap, learn as much about the profession as you can. Talk with teachers and administrators, as well as counselors and faculty from any program you may consider. Reflect deeply on the question of personal mission. You’ll be entering a very demanding profession.

My own teaching includes graduate classes on values in education that require students to track not only their priorities, but also how they spend their time. In a recent class, teachers reported working between 60 and 75 hours in a week. To maintain this level of commitment—despite barriers of bureaucracy, reduced resources, social values that undermine education and pressure to teach to the test—requires a strong personal mission of service.

If you’re thinking about teaching and embrace such a mission, take the next steps.

HENRY J. LINDBORG is executive director and CEO of the National Institute for Quality Improvement, which provides consulting in strategic planning, organizational development and assessment. He holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teaches in a leadership and quality graduate program. Lindborg is past chair of ASQ’s Education Division and currently serves on the Education and Training Board.

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