Revisiting old goals, a fork in the road

Posted on 26.08.2011

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Back when the only teaching I was doing was Adobe-based, I thought it would be a great idea to get my ACE certification, to make my life easier. I mean, when Adobe calls you an expert, people can’t really argue with that. I was well on my way: I had (still have) the Bible books for ID, PS and IL, was teaching the programs to others (a surefire way to prove yourself and also find your weaknesses), and was studying my ass off.

Then CS4 came along, and I didn’t have the time to update my studies, although I continued to teach the programs. There wasn’t a TON of change from 3 to 4, IMO there was a greater change between 4 and 5.

Then I moved to Germany and picked up teaching English. And now I’m planning on getting my TESOL cert, which would ultimately make me eligible to teach English anywhere.

I’m thinking about this today because it’s hot and I’m stuck at home, debilitated by the heat and unable to train. I’ve been sleeping a lot this week, because that’s all the heat allows me to do, quite honestly. Also, I might have had a dream about getting an email from a friend about going to her country and teaching the programs to students. I think it was a dream, now that I’ve checked my inbox and trash folders. But either way, it got me thinking.

In hindsight, the goal has always been teaching, even before I knew that was what it was.

Before I could teach, I was an orientation leader to incoming freshmen at my college. From there, I got tapped by my teachers to teach design programs (InDesign and Quark before it) to lower-level classes of theirs. At my jobs, I was teaching the older workers how to use InDesign, and then I got tapped by my old high school/district to teach the Adobe CS (Print) suite to their teachers, who had missed out on the computer art/publishing phenomenon (for the most part).

Obviously, this was all wonderful and helpful in my final acknowledgement that what I really want to do is teach.

From there, and during the process, I realized that I really want to teach art theory and criticism. Except, it’s not something I really focused on while I was in school. It’s something I could easily pick up on and run with, but I came to a realization a while ago that I may or may not have shared with my readers: after that Master’s degree and to get a job teaching that subject, I’d probably have to move back to the US. And while that’s not something I’m totally against, it’s not exactly what my plan has turned into.

Somewhere along the line during my English classes, I’ve realized that if my goal is still to travel the world, then I am blessed with one major excuse to do so: I speak the international business language. Say what you want about China being a sleeping giant in this field, but all of those highly trained workers and business people in China are communicating in English rather than Mandarin. Exactly the same scenario with Japan a few years ago… so many Americans started to learn Japanese (as they are no doubt now learning Chinese), while every student in these two countries was already learning English. There may be more people in the world that speak Chinese natively than any other language, but there are actually more people in the world that speak English as a native or second language.

What this boils down to is: If I want to travel, I can really just drop my finger anywhere on the globe and go there, and get a job teaching English. I am so lucky to have been born in America, if for only this reason. I can go almost anywhere and someone is guaranteed to speak my language. And everywhere, business people and school children are learning my language.

Further, you can’t really teach the language (past the school level, which kills me!!) unless you’re a native speaker. Score for me, fail for German natives who are really good at English (I know a few). There are exceptions to this rule, like my awesome German teacher/friend who speaks English like a native. She can’t teach it in Germany, but she went to Russia for a year to teach it there. Um, awesome.

I’ve already decided that just being a native speaker isn’t enough. I plan to get my TESOL certification in order to be hirable to anyone, anywhere, without question. But since the dream/email earlier today, I’m wondering if I should still follow up on the Adobe certs.

I went to the website to have a look, and it appears that one can still get certified for CS4. This is great news for me, since I haven’t upgraded to 5 yet. So I could ultimately get the CS4 cert, and then take the re-certification test after I’ve upgraded to CS5 and Lion (Lion will obviously come first).

The only issue with the ACE certs is that you need to continually upgrade each time a new test/version of the program comes out. That means that once CS6 is released, I’ll have to re-certify for that. And honestly, if I’m not working in the field, what does it really do for me? I’m not exactly trying to get hired as a designer these days, even though the freelance keeps rolling in.

Now my question is, is the ACE certification something I really need or want to do?

And a question that goes even further back than that is, do I still see myself eventually being a part of the design/digital workforce?

That last question is something I haven’t thought about in a while, although it’s obviously something I’m not pursuing whole-heartedly. I’ve never thought it was a bad thing to keep my options open, but it appears I’ve come to a fork in the road. Do I do it all, or do I finally start to specialize?

The TESOL is definitely going to happen. But should I go for the ACE certs afterwards? I’m going to have to think about that. I’ve got so many other things to study right now: German, Japanese, Budo, the English language… I wonder if I’ll be spreading myself thin by training for one more thing that I’m pretty good at teaching already.

All of this also begs the question: do I really need to teach art theory and criticism, and do I really need to get a master’s in that? I’m still on the fence about that one, to tell you the truth.

In his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, Bruce Mau (hero, role model, design super-awesome guy) says to ‘Simplify, simplify, simplify’. I always keep the manifesto at the back of my mind, as it’s never given me bad advice. I feel like that’s something I might want to start following. Lately I feel like a jack of all trades rather than a master at anything.

I’d love to hear my friends’ opinions on this one.

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Posted in: art, life, teaching