WCMJ Extra: From Journalism to Teaching with Jamie Primeau
"I always loved mentoring interns and working one-on-one with writers in my editing work, so I figured I could do that on a more foundational level in a classroom setting."
We’re all here because we have a passion for journalism, but sometimes, life takes us in different directions. This series speaks with experienced journalists who are moving on to another industry — and finds out how their valuable journalism skills are helping them do it.
If you’re a long-time subscriber, you’ll remember a Q&A I did last year with my friend and former Bustle editor/mentor, Jamie Primeau. A few months after that, she embarked on a new career as a teacher! She currently attending Columbia University’s Teachers College and will be student teaching in NYC schools this fall.
And that’s all on top of working full-time as an editor and writer at Nicki Swift. As a journalist, Jamie has also worked at Bustle, Seventeen, and Scholastic; her bylines have appeared on Today.com, Cosmopolitan, and Metro New York.
Luckily, Jamie had a free moment in her busy schedule to answer some questions and give some insight on her journey going from journalism to teaching.
What was the “a ha!” moment that led you to pursue teaching after working in journalism for many years?
Interestingly, it wasn't one specific "a ha!" moment, but a gradual collection of them. I have several friends and family members who are teachers and I'm always in awe of their passion for what they do. I'd often find myself fascinated, asking them questions about their day-to-day work and their students.
But one convo that really stuck with me was talking to one of my college journalism friends, who'd become an English teacher. He's someone level-headed, whose opinion I really respect. And hearing him talk about his classes made me think, "Huh, I could do that too!"
And then when I got laid off from my previous editing job, I took that as a universal push to really give this new career path a shot. I always loved mentoring interns and working one-on-one with writers in my editing work, so I figured I could do that on a more foundational level in a classroom setting.
When you filled out your application for Columbia Teachers College, which of your journalism skills did you highlight as strengths for teaching?
I definitely highlighted my love of words and storytelling, which was the reason behind my journalism career in the first place. And I wove that into wanting to help other kids find their own spark and love of writing, just as my own English teacher did for me in high school. It's all kind of full-circle and interwoven in a wonderful way.
Which of your journalism skills have you found to be particularly valuable throughout your classes?
Being able to write something up on a whim (i.e. past experience covering breaking news) has been really helpful with writing-related assignments. And as an English ed major, trust me, there are plenty of writing assignments!
I also think journalists are adaptable, go-with-the-flow individuals, knowing that things can change in an instant, so I think that's valuable in any career setting. Not only that, but journalists know how to ask thoughtful questions, interact with others, and problem-solve -- again, all valuable skills.
You’ve been juggling full-time work as an editor and classes. What tips do you have for someone who is looking to enter grad school, but would like to keep working?
Make sure you still make time to give yourself a break! I always had at least a two-day weekend, which was nice, since it gave me a chance to relax and unplug. It's a lot to juggle not only a full course-load, but also a full-time job -- and I don't think that's the ideal route for everyone. But if you can swing it, it's extremely rewarding.
Oh, and I'm a big fan of keeping to-do lists in my iPhone's Notes section, so you never miss an assignment, meeting, or project. I also use that to make sure I schedule time with friends and stay social. You don't want to be too consumed by work and school that you forget to have fun.
You’ll be student teaching in your second year of grad school. What are you looking forward to the most about it?
I'm sooo excited to be student teaching this fall! From what I've gathered, teaching is like journalism, in that you learn by doing. You can read all the books in the world about how to write a lesson plan or how to manage a classroom, but until you're actually working with real students, it's just words on a page.
Similarly, with journalism, you can read about how to conduct an interview and how to write a story, but bringing in the human element -- actually interviewing someone and sharing their story, their own unique perspective -- is where the magic happens. I believe teaching to be the same in that regard, so I can't wait to actually dive in.
What advice do you have for journalists who might be looking to change gears and are considering teaching?
I would say don't be afraid to take a chance on something new. It's a bit terrifying to leave behind a comfort zone of a career you know and love, but life's also short -- so why not give yourself a chance to fall in love with a new career? Especially if you feel like something's missing in your current one.
Tying into that, always listen to your gut. You'll know whether it's time to move on. (I think there's a Taylor Swift song with a similar message?!) And worst case, you can always switch again if you aren't happy. Putting yourself and your happiness first is key. I also don't think changing gears means you have to completely leave behind writing or editing -- those are skills I'll continue to hone no matter where I end up career-wise.
Nothing definite yet! I’ve got some ideas cooking, but we’ll see.
Until next time!