By Josh Ryan
For me, May 2003 was a busy month. I was completing all of my graduation requirements, interviewing for jobs for the upcoming school year, marrying my college sweetheart, and moving halfway across the country with my new family. It was an exciting time, and I was I was looking forward to putting my 4 years of training into action. I landed a position teaching 4th grade at Vena Wilburn Elementary in Raleigh, NC. I learned quickly that my training didn’t fully prepare me for being the sole person responsible for 28 students.
It seemed as as though this was becoming a theme in my life… I began to wonder how any instruction can prepare someone for the real world situations encountered when you finally roll your sleeves up.
I thought that I’d had more of these real life experiences than most. As part of my degree, I spent time in many different classrooms. I began as observer, then a co-teacher, and finally spent a 6 week period of time in which I was the sole person responsible for planning and delivering the curriculum. But still, I had my professors, classmates, and a co-teacher available to hold my hand along the way. It’s different when when you’re a brand new teacher with 28 sets of eyes looking at you, expecting you to know it all.
I made it through my first year as a teacher with a little help from my friends. My new wife was also a teacher, so we would swap stories and strategize about how to improve. I was also fortunate enough to work with a great group of young, dedicated teachers. After school they’d take me out for a drink, and we’d grade papers while I listened to their “I wish I’d known that when I first started” new teacher stories. These stories helped me make sense of my new challenges better than my college classroom practicum, and they were certainly more engaging than what I’d read in my textbooks.
Stories are powerful. They help us make sense of our world, because they paint a picture that anyone can relate to. I saw that my students responded better when I taught using stories. I realized that I had accumulated knowledge and experiences that they could learn from. My students started trusting me more, because my stories helped me relate to them on a deeper level.
“So, Josh, how did you go from working as a CNA to teaching elementary school, then to selling software for start-ups?”
I hope you’re asking yourself that question at this point in the story, because I think it illustrates an important reason why all of us at Straightaway do what we do. We don’t view ourselves as salespeople or customer service reps. We’re thinking bigger — about the problem we solve. Our #1 job at Straightaway is to reduce staff shortages for skilled nursing facilities. We’re changing the landscape of CNA training, by way of the power of story.
Look for more of my story about going from CNA to teacher to training evangelist next week!