Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Switching from Classroom to Museum Education

Jason and Courtney, I was reading your profile and noticed you both had classroom teaching experience before getting into the museum field. I am a 4th grade teacher right now and thinking about making a transition into this field (still doing a lot of reading and researching at this point!).I was wondering if either of you two (or anyone else out there who has similar experiences) would be willing to email me and answer some questions I have. If you could find the time to do that, it would be greatly appreciated.Thanks so much!

Clay
clay.dunker@gmail.com

39 comments:

Justin said...

I would be curious to hear more about this issue as well. Primarily because I am thinking about doing the opposite. I currently work for a small science museum and I am thinking about getting a job as a middle or high school teacher.

Jennifer said...

Clay, I made the switch from classroom ed to museum ed about 8 years ago. I was a first grade teacher and took a summer job at my local art museum teaching art classes for students. I suddenly found the curator of ed as a mentor and shifted directions. It has been nothing but helpful to have the formal education training and experience when writing curriculum for exhibitions, training docents for tours etc. I would be happy to answer any specific questions!
-Jenn

Clay said...

Hi Jenn-

I guess what I am trying to figure out specifically at this point is if it is really a necessity for my to get my master's in a museum related field (a university not far from me has an option for "Historical Administration" program that coincides with the graduate history program). If it turns out that having that degree will be best for me, I have no problems going to do that. It sounds to me like you didn't go back to school (right away at least? Have you up until now?) I am really interested in the museum education aspect of it, and I wonder if my training and experience with the pedagogy and curriculum sides of education might be enough for me to get a start?

Like I've said before, I am still just trying to get a feel for the field and what seems to be commonplace, etc.

Thanks for your help.

Clay

Will said...

I have experience in Zoo Education - not much different from Museum Education. My mom is a teacher, I've been a substitute teacher. I'd say the main difference is that with education at a non-profit, the programs are shorter - you have the kids for a short time (even if summer camp), and then they are gone. So, you don't have to deal with nagging issues such as behavior (although only for a small time).

I really enjoy informal education and interpretation - although that is not my current job (Community Partnerships Coordinator, although I'm more of an overpaid zookeeper).

Anyhow, if anyone knows of any positions in informal education anywhere near Chattanooga, let me know!

Courtney said...

Hi Clay and others--
Thanks for getting this train going (and thanks to Nathan for putting it up there)! I will try to put up a more formal, new post on this issue in the next couple days, since I think this is a great question.

In brief for now, I'd say that for museum ed a masters degree is definitely not necessary if you already have a good bit of teaching experience. My masters is actually an MSEd with a museum ed focus, but with general elementary teaching certification. In other words, it wasn't so much that I made the switch from one field to another as that I did a degree which enables me to be both a classroom teacher and museum educator, and wanted to have some experience in both as I decided which direction to take it in. I like that this also means I can go back and forth between the two, and I know a number of other grads from my program who have done just that.

I definitely believe, for me at least, that the education experience and training was the key part of my degree, and if you've been able to get that from your classroom teaching experience I think it will transfer over well to a museum setting.

For folks like Justin considering the opposite transition, I know that in my previous museum educator position in NY, many of us educators were occasionally propositioned by principals or other adminsitrators who'd seen us teach to come work at their schools! This may not be true universally, but I think there are a lot of schools out there that appreciate the dynamic, creative spirit of museum educators, and value the flexibility we've gained by seeing such a wide range of different students. With that and also with science being such a high-demand area in schools, I don't think you'll have much of a problem making the transition.

Good luck to all! Looking forward to discussing this further.

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Katherine said...

Everyone,

I am a nontenure middle school teacher with an elementary education certificate. I have actually been looking more into the museum education world lately after a previous interest a while ago. Currently, I plan on conintuing my research and getting information on different school programs (museum education) while I work to gain tenure in the next year. I just feel that the informal teaching is more my style and that working in a museum atmosphere that I already love would be best for me. So, I'm glad to see others with the same ideas or feelings. Thanks

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Anonymous said...

Hello, I have been doing research about museum education as I am considering a move to this field and stumbled upon this discussion thread. This thread is quite old, but if anyone is willing and able to give me advice, I'd appreciate it!

In order to get into this field, do you think it is necessary to have a degree in Education if you have prior teaching experience? I have 3 years of experience teaching English in a Japanese high school. It was a team-teaching situation, but I did 95% of the teaching as well as all of the lesson planning and preparation for my lessons. I also have experience teaching English to students aged 5 to 13. My degree is in Visual Communication Design with 5 years experience as a graphic designer, which I thought could be a benefit when it comes to creating learning materials. Will this experience be enough to get my foot in the door?

Many thanks!

Kate

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