UChicagoGRAD career treks provide interactive exposure to different career paths by visiting employer sites to learn about the work of a few organizations and network with alumni and professionals in the field.
A UChicagoGRAD career trek generally takes graduate students and postdoctoral scholars off campus to employer sites. Trek participants visit up to three different sites in the course of a day, spending 60-90 minutes touring the physical space and interacting with alumni and other high-ranking leaders in the field at each site. Seeing the physical spaces of an office and hearing what people with similar levels of graduate or postdoctoral training do with their skills helps make a career path tangible for UChicago students and postdocs. Those who have attended UChicagoGRAD career treks comment on how energizing it is to see the passion others have for their intellectually engaging work. Some have even turned the experience into a meaningful internship.
See below for one student’s reflection on a recently piloted, on-campus UChicagoGRAD career trek to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, and for information on upcoming and previous treks, visit https://grad.uchicago.edu/career-development/career-treks/.
Career trek reflection written by Nicole Beckmann Tessel, PhD Student in History
On December 10th, 2018, I decided to pursue a career in K-12 education. It was the trek to the Laboratory Schools organized by UChicagoGRAD that solidified K-12 teaching and administration as my vocation. During this half-day visit to Lab, together with a group of some 18 or so graduate students and postdocs – all curious about what goes on at the school next door to ours – I met with administrators, faculty, and students, and even observed the latter two in action in the classroom.
Through our conversations with administrators, faculty, and students, I learned about what makes Lab unique amongst independent schools. Charlie Abelmann, Lab’s director, conveyed the continued importance of the school’s founder, John Dewey and his wife Alice, and their vision of progressive education at Lab. We were invited to attend a conference on May 2nd – 4th to honor the Dewey legacy and the 100th anniversary of their two-year trip to China. This attention to the school’s roots, history, and traditions resonated with me as an historian.
The panel of students with whom we spoke made clear the caliber of individual that attends Lab. These students were conscientious, focused, self-aware, and excited about their lives. As Noah Rachlin, Dean of Teaching and Learning at the High School, explained to us, Lab attracts families seeking a rigorous college prep school for their children, but also one that lives up to the ideals of progressive education. Noah described his and his colleagues’ jobs as a sort of dance, in which they continually seek to achieve a delicate balance between helping make Lab both a destination and a stepping stone. This interest in cultivating a sense of the importance of the here-and-now coupled simultaneously with a practically oriented eye to the future is precisely the kind of philosophy I think ambitious youth (including those I teach at the undergraduate level) ought to be encouraged to take to heart at an early age.
Beyond learning about Lab, we gained insight into some of the challenges and excitements that punctuate a career in secondary education. From the hiring process to the actual day-to-day, Lab faculty offered us an insider’s snapshot into a world I have only known (and many years ago at that) as a student. Lab faculty cited the opportunity to get to know students through daily interaction as a highlight of their job. It is this kind of frequent and sustained contact with students that I imagine enriches student-teacher relationships (and also, relationships between colleagues); I would thrive in such a world where relationship building is valued. Indeed, what struck me most about Nadia Owens’s U.S. History class was the atmosphere of comfort and familiarity that permeated the four walls of her classroom.
Getting a job as K-12 educator, however, is far from easy. But the faculty with whom we met offered several important tips on what to consider during an interview and also on the job. I share some of them here:
- Embrace the reality that this is not a 9 to 5 job.
- LISTEN! to the hiring committee and always be open to feedback from your colleagues.
- Understand in what ways teaching, say, 14 year olds is different from teaching 17 year olds.
- Be able to describe and then analyze a lesson that went smoothly and another that went poorly.
- Know your audience; know the particular school.
- Be open about your lack of K-12 teaching experience and explain why it is that you want to teach high school students.
After half a day at Lab, the challenge and excitement of secondary education was eminently clear to me. This work is deeply meaningful and fulfilling to those for whom it is a calling. I, too, have now heard the call within me.