From Resumé to Bucket List

by Julie Dermody

You don’t need a great resume to get into heaven. It is helpful, on the other hand, to have one to get a teaching job. My first resume was very brief. I had just graduated from an upstate New York university and was willing to travel for a middle school social studies job.

After the interview, the principal of the school told me he really wanted a man for the job since the school had never had a woman social studies teacher. All I could think was, ‘for this you had me drive almost 5 hours today?” At that point I uncharacteristically raised my voice as I left the interview and told him it was unfortunate that he was missing out on what would have been one of the best teachers on his staff. He hired me.

Seven years later I left that school, after I recommended a history department be created for better communication among the social studies teachers. He told me he couldn’t do that since I would be the logical choice and the “men” wouldn’t stand for it.

My updated resume landed me a job teaching high school history in a neighboring district.

Since then I have updated my resume to become a teacher of academically gifted students, an elementary teacher, a reading specialist, and five years ago, elementary English-as-a-second-language teacher. One thing I love about the education field: you can reinvent yourself and continue doing what you love – working with children.

Thinking about my bucket list

With four years and 10 months left before I retire, I don’t expect to update my resume again. In fact, I’m long past even thinking about my resume. I do “extras” with passion to support the needs of the students, for the joy it brings me and, at times, for the extra money.

I’m not sure when I stopped thinking about my resume and thought instead in terms of what professional things I wanted to accomplish before retiring. I do remember when I first expressed the idea out loud. Last month, a newly hired teacher in my building responded to my being one of the winners in a nationally advertised lesson plan contest by gushing to me, “Boy, that will be good to put on your resume!”

I realized then that I hadn‘t entered the lesson plan contest to build my vita, but to win $200 (and books for my classroom). I actually said to her, “I’m long passed worrying about my resume — I’m now working on my bucket list.”

I’ve known for years that I wanted to get published by Educational Leadership (EL) before I left teaching. I started reading that publication as a beginning teacher in 1973. I have grown professionally through reading the magazine and even worked for ASCD answering questions as a classroom practitioner.

Last year I realized that I better get going if I was going to get published in EL. I had already had an article rejected (in a very polite way) from EL. The rejection letter was so kind that I shared it with my students as a form of letter writing. That article did end up being published by ASCD, but not in EL. It appeared in another of their publications, Classroom Leadership. Nice, but not my goal.

I submitted another article last year. This one was listed in the EL print magazine, but published only in the online version. Close enough, especially considering who the other two contributors published in the online version were Grant Wiggins and Jane Pollack. My online-only article was in excellent professional company, so I crossed off being published in Educational Leadership from my professional bucket list.

What’s next?

I’d like to present one more time at a national conference, specifically one geared toward my current teaching field, English as a second language, and held in a city I haven’t visited yet. I put the steps in motion and I’ll find out soon if I’ll be a presenter in Dallas, TX in March.

I’d also like to be awarded a couple more grants. Early on in my career there were things I wanted to do in my classroom that took money neither I or my school had (one of the things that hasn’t changed in 39 years).  I officially entered the world of grant writing in 1975 and to date I’ve been awarded 34 grants.

I have an idea to implement interactive math journals with my students this year. I found a grant that is a good match and I have two weeks to submit my proposal. Although I have used online funding sources (DonorsChoose) successfully in the past, grant writing is something I find personally challenging and rewarding, especially when I get the money to support my classroom ideas.

The first year teachers in my building are younger than my own children. They bring much to my school and to the teaching profession. My grandchildren will be in good hands. But I’m not ready to leave yet. I’m not one of the old teachers I remember when I looked around during my first faculty meeting. Back then, some of the “old teachers” seemed to retire before leaving the classroom. I do have things to accomplish and, paraphrasing Robert Frost, “miles to go until I retire.”

So I wonder — if you’re a teacher of a certain age, what’s on YOUR bucket list?

Julie Dermody is a National Board Certified Teacher, currently teaching and learning in Carrboro, NC. Her mind is overflowing with ideas thanks to professional articles, books, blogs, museums and wonderful insightful colleagues – including virtual ones. Life is good.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

7 Responses

  1. Anne Jolly says:

    Julie – what a neat idea! A bucket list for teachers. I admire your developing a bucket list for what you want to do before you retire. However, take it from a “pro,” you’d better have a bucket list for after you retire, too. I find that I cannot disconnect myself from teaching and education . . . nor do I want to. So my bucket list revolves around how to learn more about technology so that I can stay connected with education colleagues, keep learning, and keep having some input in to education from the classroom standpoint to the policy arena.

    Take it from me . . . retirement is a myth. I’ve flunked it twice, going on three times. So after retirement, just hang in there and keep a bucket list on how to keep making a difference.

    • Julie Dermody says:

      Anne, thank you for your continued involvement and support of education. Your “Facilitator’s Guide to Professional Learning Teams” (now published as Team to Teach) helped me understand how to make successful teamwork happen. We are very fortunate that you haven’t been successful at retiring since we continue to benefit from all you do. You indeed continue to make a difference.

  2. Julie Dermody says:

    Update: I will get an opportunity to visit Dallas! My proposal to present at TESOL’s National Conference (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) was accepted. I’ll check that one off my list in March.

  3. MiddleWeb says:

    We’d love to hear from the 50-something teachers who read this post about what’s on THEIR professional bucket list. Unlike the incurable workaholic Anne Jolly, some of us are contemplating a retirement that doesn’t involve full-time work. :) What would you like to accomplish before you retire?

    And if you’re more like Anne, what does your POST-retirement bucket list look like?

    John at MiddleWeb

    • I am about to embark on my final year of full time teaching. I taught middle school for more than half of my career specializing in language arts and gifted education. When I began teaching 37 years ago, textbooks and chalkboards (not whiteboards) were basically the main teaching tools. For the past four years, my students’ learning envolved through the world of technology-using a laptop or ipad 80% of the school day. Since I’ll continue to teach in my post retirement years, I hope to realize (and encourage my colleagues to do so) my ‘bucket list’ by doing it ‘my way.’
      1. Instill in students the ‘joy’ of life long learning- (what joy do you get from learning and what ‘ joy’ can you bring to others about your ‘passion’? how can your passion make a difference?) *Remember the movie, “The Bucket List?”
      2. Keep abreast about the latest in using technology in the classroom, but, preserve the human touch through conferencing with students about the process of completing the assignment etc. (Remember-the laptop/ipad is a “tool’-it isn’t a substitute for good sound teaching.
      3. Implement more “Challenged Based Learning” throughout the school day.
      (Google it and learn all about it- Challenge Based learning says it all!)

  4. I’m 53 and have been teaching for 32 years. In that time I’ve been Head of a subject department, Head of a house, an Assistant Principal … But as of two months ago I became coordinator of Learning Technologies. I’m proud of the fact that late in my career I’ve become proficient in all the latest tech/Web 2.0 tools. My bucket list …
    1. Keep learning
    2. Crusade for wide implementation of new technologies
    3. Convince my peers to get their heads out of the sand
    4. Improve student learning
    5. Join the Twitterati
    I’m on Twitter @connectedtchr

    • Julie Dermody says:

      Simon, Congratulations on your new position! You should be proud that you’re current with all the new technologies. It’s not easy to stay on top of them all! I have no doubt you’ll keep learning (and keep improving student learning). Thanks for posting.

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