From Teacher to Editor

69 – Lacey Smith: From Teaching to an Editor Career


In this episode, I interview Lacey Smith about her new career outside of the classroom as an editor. We talk all about how she combined the skills she developed in writing, editing, and research as an editor at a major test prep company.

Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

From Teacher to a Career in Editing with Lacey Smith

Daphne Gomez:
Hi, Lacey. Thank you so much for being here today.

Lacey Smith:
Hi, thanks for having me.

Daphne Gomez:
Lacey, I would love if you started a little bit with just your history of being a teacher. Just what made you actually want to get into teaching and then how long were you a teacher for?

Lacey’s Road to Teaching

Lacey Smith:
I started teaching probably when I was an undergrad. I did a job just as like a work study job. When I was studying abroad in Germany, I was a tutor for language learners. And that was the first time I’d ever taught and I just loved it. I loved that you were essentially getting paid to have a conversation with people. I loved that I was able to inspire people just by showing up and doing my job. It felt like I had purpose.

After that, I thought, “I’d really like to be a teacher.” But I really wanted to teach at the college level. So when I finished up my undergrad, I got a master’s in comparative literature. Then I went on to get the PhD in comparative literature with the hopes of becoming a college professor.

So during the process of getting the PhD and the master’s, I acquired about eight years of teaching experience. Either as a teaching assistant in either German or literature courses, but then I also started to get my own courses. I taught Intro to Comp Lit. I taught Spatial Concepts of Literature, Literary Theory, that sort of thing.

Then I started working as an adjunct right after my PhD and I was working in German and literature. After that, because adjunct didn’t work out, I decided to move to the K through 12 level. Get me some insurance! And I did one year as a German teacher expecting to only be there for the one year, because I was someone’s maternity leave relief. And then the second year, they asked me to come back and do English. So I did that. So that’s my total teaching journey.

Teaching English to High School Students

Daphne Gomez:
So that last year of teaching English, was that when you realized you wanted to make a complete pivot? Or was the whole time really you exploring the opportunity because it sounded like professor was your first goal?

Lacey Smith:
Yeah, professor was my first goal. What I liked about the high school teaching was that I was doing a concurrent enrollment college composition course. So even though I was teaching at the high school level, I was getting to teach college level concepts to students who were really motivated to learn them – I really, really loved aspect of it.

I also found that I loved teenagers. I thought I was not going to love hanging out with teenagers and it turned out they’re really awesome. So I was on the fence that whole year. “Do I want to keep teaching at the high school level? Do I want to try and get a college job or do I want to switch careers?”

For a long time, I really was on the fence. But then I experienced a really negative event at my school and it made it seem like the best move was to move on.

The Turning Point in Lacey’s Teaching Career

Lacey Smith:
What that event was, was there was a teacher at my school who had been there a really long time and was also the main union rep for our school. He’d engaged in some behavior that I perceived as very sexist. And I had kind of ignored it and ignored it, ignored it. And it kept getting worse and worse and worse.

Eventually I confronted him in public forum. And I’ll admit, I could have maybe been more cordial in the way I confronted him perhaps. But ultimately, I did confront him. As a result, a few days later, I received a death threat from one of my coworkers.

What happened is, my school was supportive. They did give me a few days off, that sort of thing. But ultimately they did seem much more concerned with covering up what had happened. And keeping parents from finding out or the community from finding out—than from addressing the fact that a fellow teacher had sent me a death threat.

It was fat-phobic in nature. It was sexist in nature. I mean, it was very obvious that like, “You are disgusting. No one wants you here. Go die.”

They wanted me to keep that a secret. And I did, so that we could try and figure out who did it. I had to work really, really hard to get that person out of the classroom. They really didn’t want to remove that person from the classroom once we figured out who had done it.

And when I went to apply for a job, they said that I was not qualified enough to keep teaching in my position. Even though there were four open positions in my department. So I could have moved on to a new school district after that, but it just—it really left a sour taste in my mouth for teaching. And that’s when I was like, “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this. This is too much stress.”

Especially my first two years, I was pandemic teaching for the entire time as a high school teacher. So yeah, I just had to move on after that.

The Impact of Administrative Decisions

Daphne Gomez:
I’m so sorry that happened to you. I think that there are so many teachers who have not stories of this level, but a story similar. Where something was hidden from the public just for a PR standpoint. Even though it may be in other people’s best interests for parents to know. Whether or not this person was sound enough to be in a classroom. . . That shows a lack of judgment on the admin point.

Then also the fact that they didn’t renew your teaching contract shows that they honestly valued keeping it a secret more than renewing someone and keeping you. That had to have had a huge impact on your self-esteem and just where you were at mental health wise during your career research.

Ignoring and Covering Up the Issue

Lacey Smith:
I mean, it was awful at first, right? I mean, there were a few other things that really made it hard. One of them was that the principal didn’t address it with me, did not speak to me about it for seven weeks. What happened was HR was interviewing people. And they were talking about this message that Lacey had received. But I wasn’t able to talk about it. And nobody was setting the record straight and the principal wouldn’t address that an issue would happen.

The rumor became that I had made it up and that I had done this to myself. Not only was the rumor going around that something awful had happened to me. But the rumor extended to, “Oh, clearly she made it up.” So that was traumatizing in and of itself.

Impacting the Ability to Receive Care

The second part was when I lost my job, I lost my insurance. So I was seeing a therapist until my contract ended in July and then I couldn’t see a therapist anymore after that. I didn’t have the insurance to do so. So that just felt like insult to injury.

Mishandling on the School and District Level

The third part was that I had gone to the union to try and get help. But the person I had challenged was a union rep. So I took it to the district level only to have the district president tell me, “You really would never have gotten that death threat if you hadn’t sent that email challenging this one person.” And telling me they had no interest in seeing the death threat.

So then I had to go all the way to the State Union level. And that’s when I finally got some help. But I just really got the message that like even if they had wanted to keep me, I wasn’t worth the trouble that I was causing. That the trouble I was causing by expecting them to actually do something about this was much worse than the death threat itself.

How this Traumatic Experience Impacted Lacey’s Employment

This went all the way to like, you know. I was scheduled for an interview for these open positions, because I actually had a one year contract. But it was kind of assumed that if there were a bunch of open positions, the people who’d been in one year contracts would at least get an interview. The interview committee interviewed with me and then were told that they couldn’t weigh in on who they wanted to hire. That in order to keep it above board that they couldn’t weigh in.

So there was all this effort made to shut me out rather than address the real issue. And insult to injury would be I didn’t come back in the fall. But my colleagues who did said that the entire fall training was the principal quoting things I’d said to him. I was used as this inspiration for how they need to change school culture and meanwhile, I was not there. So it just—it was a cluster-you-know-what. It was nonsense.

So that did leave me in this very traumatized position when I’m going to apply for jobs, right? I’m not just, “Oh, it would be nice to find a new job.” It’s, “I’ve been discarded. I don’t have access to my trauma therapist. And oh, by the way, I need to find a new job.” So that was quite the place to be in. And hopefully there’s other people not in that position, but I know they are.

Evaluating New Career Paths that Led to an Editor Career

Daphne Gomez:
No, it’s something thing that’s so common with people that I work with who are trying to transition into new careers is they’re coming from a place of trauma. They’re having something happen, not this exact story. If there are school districts that this exact story is happening all over, that is a phenomenon in the South that we need to start getting the news involved.

But people are coming from really stressful work environments. They’re coming from really stressful environments, and a job search in itself is a stressful situation. It’s something that takes a lot out of you emotionally. And if you don’t feel like you have anything to give, it can be even lower. How did you start to evaluate different career options at that point?

Finding a Community of Support

Lacey Smith:
Well, the Teacher Career Coach Instagram was actually very helpful to me. Because I would be in that dark place and a post would pop up and it would be like, “Hey, you don’t deserve to feel like this.”

And I’d be like, “Oh my gosh, that’s what I needed right in this moment.”

So I would say even just having that kind of stuff on my radar, like your posts on Instagram, was helpful. Because it’s really easy to get in that echo chamber of, “I’m a bad person if I leave teaching.” Or, “I’m leaving the kids behind.”

Or, “If I were a good person, this wouldn’t have happened to me,” or all sorts of things that just aren’t true. So having other people or other resources tell you like, “No, you’re not imagining how badly you were treated at your last job or how wrong what happened to you is, and yeah, you actually do have value in other fields.”

Just allowing myself to be supported by others who knew what I was going through was a big step. And then I think it was just a matter of taking it one step at a time. One day, I sat down and I took the career quiz you have to sort of match you with potential careers. I found out that maybe instructional design would be good. So the next time I had energy, I looked up instructional design. And maybe I only had the energy to do that day.

I could have started looking for jobs as soon as I didn’t get my job back in June. But it honestly took me till August before I felt comfortable really looking for jobs. And then I would say I got my new job at the end of September. So it was a little bit of a process, but it wasn’t a crazy long process. It’s not like I spent the whole year unemployed.

The Process of Changing Careers

Daphne Gomez:
So you started looking for instructional design positions. And what did that process look like for you? I know you ended up actually working. You ended up taking an editor position. But I’d love to hear even a little bit of your process of instructional design work.

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. So the reason I was interested in instructional design work is I did have some background in freelance writing. I had mostly done trivia questions for trivia companies. So I thought like, “I can write tests. I can write—when I was pandemic teaching, I was using Pear Deck and Canva and all these different things to engage people online. So I thought I can learn other technologies.

I actually started to learn Adobe Audition. I didn’t end up needing to learn much more. But I started because I read that it was important for instructional design, but really it was just a matter of I Googled instructional design resumes. I think you add some available, but I also Googled some others. And I just started to think about, “Okay, how could I create an instructional designer version of my resume and I’ll use that as a base so that if I find a curriculum development position that’s not quite the same, but it’s close enough to this?”

Using LinkedIn to Find a Career as an Editor

I picked that as my base. And I actually put that base resume that I made, which honestly, I don’t think was the best version of my resume, but I put that base on LinkedIn. And then I got LinkedIn Premium… Which here’s my hot tip. LinkedIn Premium is free for a month. I never actually ended up needing to pay for it because by the end of the month, I’d gotten my job so then I just canceled it.

The very first thing LinkedIn Premium does is it looks at the resume you have on there and it says, “Hey, we think you should apply for this job.” And the editor position I applied for was actually one that LinkedIn Premium suggested to me.

So they said, “We looked at what you have. We think that this company will like you.” So I looked at the posting and then it was a matter of tailoring to the postings, which is its own whole thing. But that’s how I found the job is by posting that instructional designer resume and then seeing what popped up on LinkedIn from there.

Landing Lacey’s First Job in her New Career as an Editor

Daphne Gomez:
So the role that you applied for as an editor, were they looking for anyone with clear editing experience? And I know you said you already did some freelance writing and clearly you have a PhD in literature. So that probably used—what probably showed some credibility and experience in that area. But I’m curious what they were really looking for with an editor.

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. I mean, I’d definitely be lying if I said that the PhD didn’t help me. Of course, I think it did, but I was hired at the same time as another person who had a master’s and rather than a PhD. So I don’t think that alone was the issue. I think what they were really interested in—and I actually—I crowdsourced with my crew before I went on this podcast. I was like, “What do you think people should know?”

Learning on the Job in an Editing Career

What’s kept coming up is a lot of people don’t realize the editors have to learn a lot of things. Right? So for instance, one of my first jobs working for this exam prep company was, “Hey, we need you to edit this test for a paramedic exam.” Do I know anything about being a paramedic? No, but I do know how to Google things. We have the tests written by a subject matter expert. So I can assume that they’re written by an expert, but for instance, maybe they spelled something wrong. You have to look it up.

What I noticed is that they really respond to people who have a thirst for knowledge and are really interested in doing research or who are like, “You know what? I don’t know how to do seventh grade geometry because I’m an English teacher, but I’d be happy to learn seventh grade geometry or learn what I need to know so I can at least edit it effectively.” So I forgot what your original question is. I went on a tangent there.

A Peek into Lacey’s Career as an Editor

Daphne Gomez:
No, I love that tangent. That was a very helpful tangent. So how long do they give you to go down the Khan Academy rabbit hole and teach yourself trigonometry for you to edit the test questions?

Lacey Smith:
I mean, you’re kind of doing it on the fly. If there was ever like a really serious issue, our company has relationships with subject matter experts. So if a medical question came up, for instance, we have doctors that we talk to, but for the most part it’s like, “Can I Google and see if they spelled diaphragm properly?” Sometimes they haven’t and then I do.

But for instance, I was just doing one the other day that was—it was for a nurse’s exam and it was a vocabulary test, which I was an English teacher. I have written plenty of vocabulary tests in my day, but I had to make it medical specific. So the conventions of a vocabulary test, I know plenty. But do I have to Google what certain medical acronyms stand for so I can write a question about it? Yes. But in the process, I’m learning medical acronyms.

It’s a lot of learning on the fly. It’s being comfortable with, “I can edit something even if I don’t know the subject itself perfectly, perfectly well,” but also recognizing when you need to get outside verification so that you’re putting out factual information. I think also, it depends on the type of editing you’re doing.

Making Decisions & Trust in a Career as an Editor

Daphne Gomez:
I love that you touched on that a little bit. Also because when I was an instructional designer, I was creating the e-learning resources for a teacher certification program and not all teachers or former teachers are made equal. And I worked with someone and as we were creating the test questions. There was a lot of back and forth where I felt like I was backed into a corner with someone who could not decide how to move forward with the test question.

They would want to reiterate and reiterate and reiterate. Well, technically, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Technically, maybe if they read it this way, maybe that’s not entirely accurate and overthink it where that makes this work far more difficult. You need someone who can take decisive action. Know when they need to outsource to the subject matter expert. But also I know matter of factly, I can write this down. If I end up getting the feedback that I need to change it in the next reiteration, yes. But let’s move forward with it.

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that’s nice about being an editor is you are the person who gets to be decisive. So if someone hands you content, you’re like, “Nope, this needs to be spelled this way.” You are the final call. You don’t have to argue with anyone about that. Obviously, I interface a lot with the other editors so that we’re all kind of on the same page, but it’s nice to have that sort of power hierarchy where like, “Nope, I’m the editor and it’s my job to make the final call on that.”

At the same time, being able to recognize that you have other resources available to you. Other humans that you can talk to is I think a part of the decision-making process that comes with being an editor. I think also there’s the thing of not getting too precious about your own work. If I write something, someone else might edit it differently and that’s fine versus like, “Oh, I wrote it this way. So I really need it to stay this way.” No, it’s going to get edited. Just accept it.

From Teacher to Editor

Work-life Balance in Lacey’s New Career as an Editor

Daphne Gomez:
How do you feel like the work-life balance is with your editing position? I know a lot of inferences that people make is they see positions that may feel like you’re just staring at a computer all day and it’s going to be really rigorous or hard and you’re going to be just drained by the end of the day. I’d love to hear what that feels like.

Lacey Smith:
I actually love this question because I think it’s the biggest surprise for me in switching. So the two things for me are I like to be active. I like to be up and around. I’m not the type of person who likes to sit usually, and I’m also extremely, extremely social. So having a job where I was up in front of 150 high school students today was great.

The Transition to a Career in Editing

Now I sit at a computer. That was a hard transition at first, but what I’m finding is my day ends at 5:00 PM. So if I want to go have drinks with my friends, I’m not too wiped out to do it. Work doesn’t have to be my social outlet. I can be alone all day and then go hang out with my friends. Same thing with I used to like having summers off, but now I have a job where as long as you’re being reasonable about project deadlines… Sorry, the cat loves to meaw at me.

As long as you’re being reasonable about project deadlines, you have essentially unlimited PTO. So for instance, I told my boss already. I was like, “You know what? I’ve had Coachella 2020 tickets for two years. It’s supposed to happen in 2022. I really want to be able to take that weekend off.” And he was like, “Oh yeah, there’s literally no problem with that.” And beyond that, he’s like, “I won’t even schedule you for a major project in April. I’ll just have you do odd jobs that month so that we’re not messing up the schedule.” Right?

The idea of something like that happening as a teacher is that would never happen, right? There’s no recognition of your humanness and your need to go do stuff like go to a silly music festival because you want to.

Extended Teaching Breaks vs. Paid Time Off in the Corporate World

Daphne Gomez:
I remember I had unlimited pay time off at the company that I was working for as an instructional designer and it was in the middle of the pandemic and Jonathan and I just felt like we needed to go somewhere, but it was not—so we did not want to go inside restaurants. We didn’t want to do anything really risky. So we just rented, I think an Airbnb and a car and we went and we just hiked the narrows in Utah.

Because school was in session. There weren’t going to be tourists. It just felt like it was going to be safe and I was able to take an entire week off paid and just as long as you give them advanced notice, many of the companies are really flexible. That’s actually something that now that I’m a business owner and we have a team and I actually have employees, I’m able to give flexible pay time off.

We barely started using it. This last holiday break, we were starting to pick on top of Christmas, “Yeah, take three days off after the Christmas break because maybe you have a different custody arrangement. So you want to take this week off, but then you also want to go somewhere different.” So many companies are really flexible with that and I think teachers always forget what those types of benefits would look like.

Lacey’s Remote & Hybrid Office Schedule in her Career as an Editor

As editor are you working—and I know it sounds like you got this during the pandemic. Are you completely remote for good, or is there a potential to go back into office for this position?

Lacey Smith:
Basically, we’re completely remote. Before the Omicron variant, we were expected to be an office one day a week, which is actually an hour commute for me, but I didn’t mind because it was one day a week, and interestingly so, well, it’s a little bit longer than an hour. It’s an hour and a half commute. But the point is they made the arrival time 10:30 AM, and we end by 3:00 PM so that they can count my commute time as part of my work day. So I’m basically getting paid to commute on those days, which is pretty great.

Another thing to speak to that, so we are almost fully remote. They recognize that we have life stuff going on. So if I say like, “Hey, I have a doctor’s appointment at 3:30 PM,” they’re just like, “Okay, that’s fine because it’s not like I need to physically be anywhere.” Which again, imagining having to do something that last minute as a teacher. Even if I could have gotten away with it, it would’ve been a matter of finding another teacher to cover my particular periods and that sort of thing.

Whereas here, because we’re remote, especially, there’s just so much more flexibility for the fact that like, “Hey, you live at your house and have to do house stuff sometimes.” Right? If I need to run to the grocery store for half an hour, nobody’s going to freak out.

Confidence and Respect in a New Career as an Editor

Daphne Gomez:
I remember that last year that I was teaching. I had a very toxic work environment where we had two personal days and the principal would—this is far before COVID, far before even sub shortage. The principal would still text and say, “What are you doing on your day off?” Because she just needed control and wanted to make sure that you knew she was paying attention to the fact that you took a mental health day from her.

Once I went into other work environments, I realized they’re going to say, “Here are our deadlines. In three months, there might be a lot of crunch time. I’m going to be transparent. When you get into this work, October is our busy season. So please don’t plan anything around October, because that’s when you’re really busy with X, Y, and Z. But if you want to take vacations, here’s the other days.” And it’s just the way that other industries work.

Another thing that I felt was just feeling a lot more respected in my roles and I know that you were feeling really disrespected, so I’d love to hear just how your confidence started to grow after you left and found this new position.

The Support of a Team

Lacey Smith:
Well, I’m really thankful to my work team because not everybody on my team knows what happened at my last job. It’s not like I just sent out a public announcement, but I did let my immediate supervisor know just what had happened, because I was traumatized, and stuff could still come up at work. I just wanted him to be aware, and he was really kind. And then the two closer friends I’ve made at work, I’ve told.

All of them, because they know what went down at my last job, they’ve gone out of their way to be like, “You’re so valuable to our team. I really appreciate your input. I appreciate you socially. What you socially add to our team.” This idea of trying to make each other feel welcome and feel good is absolutely part of the work culture.

We have a very isolating job where we’re alone a lot of the day. So when we do have meetings, my boss will take the time to be like, “What are you doing for New Years?” Or actually get to know me. And it took a while. I mean I knew how traumatized I was by my last job, but I didn’t realize even just how withdrawn I was because I felt like I just couldn’t be myself around the people I was working with all the time.

Now it’s just like, “Hey, we respect you and we appreciate what you’re doing.” And there’s also… I mean, that also comes out in the whole, “I trust you if you need to take an hour on a Friday to go to a doctor’s appointment. I trust that’s a real thing.” That trust. There’s respect for my judgment.

Newfound Autonomy in Lacey’s Career as Editor

Lacey Smith:
I was on my own editing project by the second week I was working. I cannot imagine any education situation where someone would’ve trusted me with something like that quickly, but the fact is my boss knew I knew what I was doing. He saw enough to say like, “Hey, you can handle this,” and just let me do my job. And I just didn’t realize how much I wanted someone to just let me do my job.

I think I had mentioned to you at some point, the teachers at my old school are now required to document each time they establish emotional connection with a student to prove that they are forming positive relationships with students. That level of not expecting people to rise to the professional occasion is just so infantilizing and honestly offensive.

And it’s also a time waster. All the time I wasted trying to prove that I was a professional who knew what I was doing when it would’ve been so much easier to work for someone who trusts that I know what I’m doing and that’s what I have now. I think that’s the biggest difference is they trust my judgment and they trust that I got the job for a reason.

Excessive Demands in Teaching

Daphne Gomez:
I think a lot of that is coming from district level decisions, from admin who are afraid of parents, parents who are pushing back and saying, “Our students need more support when it comes to social, emotional learning.” And instead of saying, “Here’s a professional development—I know everyone’s going to probably scream like, “Daphne, don’t you dare say a professional development’s going to train us on how to do our jobs!” But, “Here’s one resource on what we would suggest you start to implement with the changes that are happening for students this year, done and done.”

They’re saying, “I need you to tell me exactly how many times you smiled at Tim. So when Tim’s parents come in you say, “Actually I told Tim I like his shoes seven times this month. Seven times this quarter, I made an emotional connection to Tim. Here’s my documented evidence of it.””

And that’s where teaching has become this job of just documenting, but without actually being able to give you the time and the space and the energy that you actually need to make a change, to actually make connections. If I’m sitting down and doing a check mark like, “I pinky swear that I told Tim I liked his shoes,” then I’m not really taking the time to sit and talk to him and listen to what he has to say or actually make a genuine connection because I’m like, “All right, Tim’s shoes are cool. Now I got to go to Lacey. Hurry up.”

Lacey Smith:
How could it possibly come off genuine to the students if you’re like, “Oh, I made sure to tell Miranda that her hair looks pretty today. Let me go write that down so I can check off Miranda. Don’t have to interact with her for a month.”

A lot of it is just so like we don’t expect teachers to be adults. We treat them like the kids that they’re teaching and we expect them to have a superhuman ability to get all these things done with the finite number of hours they have and if they don’t, it just must be because they’re not excelling professionally and not because they received 120 emails in a single day, which did happen to me once last year.

Daphne Gomez:
I would at that point, just copy and paste, “Love your shoes, Tim. Love your shoes, Tim. Love you just…”

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. Exactly. Just like, “Thanks for showing up today.”

Daphne Gomez:
Oh my goodness. And I don’t want to make this entire episode just us airing our grievances on teaching because there are going to be people who are still in the classroom, but it’s important to acknowledge some of the things that should be challenged on its efficiency and being able to recognize the difference of a couple of people on a podcast saying these things and being negative about it. How do we take this exact example and relay it back to whoever is in charge of making this and saying, “I’d love to see the data on how this is effective. I’m open to understanding what you are proposing here, but I also don’t think it’s efficient. Let’s scrap the bullshit.”

Respecting Experience & Intuition in the Professional World

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. And I think speaking to that same point, a lot of good teaching is intuitive and a lot of good editing is intuitive. A lot of good any career that you do is intuitive. You have to build the skills and have the toolkit so that your intuition and your gut can tell you what’s the right thing to do.

If an emotional situation pops up in a classroom, I’m not thinking to myself, “Now what’s the protocol on A, B, C?” I’m thinking, “What do I need to do right now to make sure my classroom’s safe, that the student is safe, whatever’s happening is done properly?” Putting all that data in isn’t teaching intuition. It’s teaching, “You have to hit the data points.” And I think a big part of what we were talking about of feeling respected as a professional is having that intuition respected and recognizing that good teachers…

I mean, the best teachers I saw when I was teaching who were inspirations to me, who made me want to keep teaching were the ones who had just a lot of different things and knew what to do in each situation. That’s not something you’re going to be able to put in an Excel spreadsheet.

Recognizing Issues in the Education System

So what I would think, I would say to people who want to stay teachers who are like, “Man, you guys are really ragging on the career field.” I mean, like I said, I loved teaching. I didn’t leave teaching because I stopped loving it. I left because it didn’t feel like a safe environment for me anymore.

But even when I loved teaching, I recognized that there were a lot of different ways I was being disrespected as a professional, that there were a lot of different inefficient ways we were spending our time and energy, and that a lot of choices being made ultimately did not help my students.

In fact, to help my students, a lot of times I had to break protocols. So for instance, we had one where we had to take mask breaks, but they also had to be five minutes. And I gave mask breaks, but they were not five minutes because that is not enough time for a student to get outside and stretch and feel like they had a break.

So I broke the rules and that’s because my intuition was telling me that’s what my students needed. And you know what? They would come back from the mask breaks and do a bunch of hard grammar as if it was no big deal. I think that good teaching sometimes gets in the way of good administrating and administrators don’t like that.

Administration and Leadership

Daphne Gomez:
I agree. I don’t want this to be “Administrator Coach Podcast” because I know that there are probably far fewer administrators listening right now, but they are also backed into a corner with a system that does not make sense. And I think that there are plenty of great administrators who recognize what is needing to be changed and they are doing something about it.

But, with a big but, there are far too many that are not given proper leadership coaching who do not understand how to delegate responsibilities, how to give autonomy, how to trust the professionals at their school district, how to do so in a positive collaborative community. One that engages their teachers who want to learn, who want to grow, who want to be able to explore different types of pedagogy, who want to be creative, who want to do really cool things with their students, who care about their students, who care about their students’ mental health.

There are some really, really, really unprofessional administrators out there. There are unprofessional people in every industry even teaching. So just that caveat aside, but the leadership for admin skills 101, that course has been lacking for a while.

When Supportive Admin are Blocked

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. And I think too, even if you have a really good admin, I’m thinking about the last school I was at. I would say of the admin I can think of, there were two who were really, really, really good. They were doing everything at that school. And then there were probably two that were neutral. They weren’t bad, but they also weren’t doing much to lessen the load for the two that were doing everything. But then the ones that who were bad were actively creating more work for the ones who were more engaged and who were more trying to help teachers and students. So what was good about them was getting watered down by the fact that you had—

And I’m just going to say, I mean, I’m never trying to get a job in that district again. I mean, you had a bunch of really not qualified men with privilege who were getting paid a lot of money to benefit from the work of women, basically. The women administrators were doing three times the work and getting a third of the recognition and that’s just not conducive even beyond for teachers.

I don’t understand how any admin who is trying to make change can thrive if they have other admin working against them. And that paid out even with the situation I was describing, right? I had one or two admin who were really, really on my side and they were having their hands tied by these other admin who were saying, “Oh, don’t talk to her about this.” Or, “Oh that’s a privacy issue. So you can’t actually address that.” Or, “Oh you don’t want to accidentally say the wrong thing. So don’t talk to her about it.” So they would freeze me out.

The one or two admin who really cared, I mean, I’ll say they left the school. When what happened to me happened, they left the school and I think I know why. I think it’s hard for good admin to do what they need to do when bad admin who aren’t as interested in that are blocking them.

Editing Career Trajectory

Daphne Gomez:
That’s why I never want to generalize anyone in any profession because there are some great ones out there. I’d love to pivot and go back to the editing position a little bit more before we wrap up, because I am sure that there are so many people who are interested in that role, and especially, do you see any career trajectory with your editing position? Or is there any room for growth in even the company that you’re at using your editing experience as leverage?

Lacey Smith:
I mean, when they interviewed me, they asked how I feel about leading teams. So I got the sense that they want people that they can promote. And I do see kind of a trajectory that gets me closer to the top. Interestingly at my company as an editor, I’m actually already fourth from the top. So it’s not even like they started me off at entry level. I actually started off pretty high because as of my experience.

I’ll also say a lot of my editing team is former teachers because it’s an educational publishing company. I do think that former teachers could get jobs in any editorial position. But especially educational publishing companies. I mean, you coming in with teaching experience is seen as an asset. I think being a teacher absolutely helped to me. They wanted someone who had been pandemic teaching for instance. So they knew what people responded to on online classrooms.

Especially when we’re breaking our books, they want someone who’s like, “Okay, how is an actual student going to sit down with this exam prep book and use it?” So for instance, I said some things like… We had these little mini tests in a book and the answers were way at the back of the book. And I was like, “If you put the answers right there, they might actually do them. But if the answers are away at the back of the book, I don’t know if eighth graders are going to do this,” and they’re like, “You’re right.” So we changed it and sure enough, it seems like it’s more usable now. That’s something I knew as a teacher from knowing how eighth graders are, not something I knew as a book designer or anything like that.

Tailoring Your Resume for a Career in Editing

I think, especially in educational publishing, being a teacher is really useful. I also think if I could talk about resume tailoring for a bit, teachers really underestimate just how many of the things they do are actually editing skills. So are you detail-oriented? Yes, you have to be. Are you able to organize large projects? Are you able to give instructions? And are you able to take someone through the editing process?

As an English teacher, I mean, I literally taught groups of students constantly how to go through the editing process. So if I have to teach someone else how to edit, I’ve already done that, right? You correspond with parents. So you know how to correspond with stakeholders, right? When you start breaking down each of those individual little skills that you have as a teacher, a lot of them are editing skills.

Deadline attainment, right? Every time you’ve had to turn in grades by a certain time, that’s deadline attainment. You know who loves deadline attainment? Editors. So there’s lots and lots of different things that you can break down your individual skills. Don’t just think of it as, “Oh, I’ve taught.” Think of it as, “I have managed a room of 25 people. I managed to keep them on task.” And they were 14, by the way. So it’s like I think you have a lot of skills and if you think about the skills individually when you’re resume building, that’s really, really important.

Daphne Gomez:
That was such a great, helpful breakdown. For anybody who is interested in tailoring their resume specifically for editing jobs, if you’re listening to that and you haven’t listened to Episode 29 of the podcast, it’s all about writing a transition resume. So make sure you jump over to that episode also, if you need more support with the resume piece. With your position, you are editing something that you’re a subject matter expert in. You clearly have already basically been using these types of resources in your professional career.

Types of Editing Careers

So you came in strong as a great editor or a great candidate as an editor for this position. Have you explored, and it’s okay if you haven’t, but editing in different niches like newspaper editors, probably a totally different be than what you are doing?

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. One thing I’ve done freelance is because I have an academic background, I’ve done some freelance editing on academic writing, which is a very, very different way of being. It’s a lot about knowing how to do citations properly, knowing how to make a bibliography, that sort of thing. I don’t have to know how to cite anything. I basically have to use the Chicago Style guide. But citations aren’t a thing in my world anymore.

I also have done a little bit of business editing like marketing copy editing. And honestly, that’s not that different. As much as what I’m doing is very niche and specific, it’s not—I mean, editing is pretty much editing. You’re making the format look right. You’re making the grammar and flow sound right, and you’re trying to match the tone that’s appropriate for the occasion.

So if you’re doing really, really formal editing, it’s really just a matter of, “Okay, I’m using a formal tone now.” Whereas if I’m doing editing for an eighth grade practice exam, I’m going to approach it a little bit differently. But ultimately at the end of the day, what you’re doing is the same.

Niche Writing and Editing Careers

Where niches become really useful is when you’re applying. So let’s say that I am a teacher who also is a yoga instructor, right? I might look for editing jobs in the wellness sector knowing that I know a lot of the terms and a lot of the ways people talk about it. Or maybe I’m a teacher who in the summer works as a contractor. Well, there’s definitely construction companies and stuff that need copy editors.

So if you have a niche set of knowledge, that’s really, really useful, but if not, I mean, you can still apply to lots of editing positions. And what I’ll also say is I had to do an editing test when I got my first interview. Usually you’ll get a chance to edit something for someone. So that’s where you can show your ability to adjust accordingly. So don’t just assume that you can’t do a certain type of editing because as long as you can show in the editing test what you can do, then you’re a viable candidate.

Variations in Title for Careers in Writing and Editing

Daphne Gomez:
And this is one of those examples of where I feel like there may be variations in the title for similar types of roles. This exact role is called an editor, but it might just be a curriculum writer at a different position or a content writer-

Lacey Smith:
Or a speech writer at another position.

Daphne Gomez:
—or copywriter. Yeah. Absolutely. So just knowing that there might be variations to the titles when you’re starting to search, but knowing what each of the job duties are and feeling comfortable with understanding basics of copywriting, like you were talking about addressing the tone. So if you are reading anything that’s ever written in my tone, it’s very informal. Like, “Hey everybody. This is really stressful, I know it is,” is going to be completely different than a very…

Lacey Shares Titles of Editing Careers

Lacey Smith:
Yeah, exactly. The other thing, just speaking to the different titles that actually reminded me of something that when I was crowdsourcing with my team, they reminded me of there’s freelance editors, there’s copy editors, there’s proofreaders, but there’s also stuff like for instance, peer reviewers. So one of the people on my team was talking about a former editing job she had where she’s like, “We would make sort of this material, but we would then have to have a subject matter expert go in and verify that the material was accurate.”

So let’s say you’re a high school biology teacher. There might be some biology curriculum or something where they need peer reviewers. And that might even be something you’re able to do freelance before transitioning. So looking for peer reviewers, looking for proofreading. I know Upwork sometimes has stuff like that. I used to write for Verblio, which is not editing, but it gave me a lot of practice editing because a lot of times they want edits back. So I was able to talk about some of the edits for that in my interview. So really any kind of freelance writing or editing you can do, especially if it’s peer reviews or stuff that’s really easy for teachers to do, that’s definitely going to help give you a leg up.

Freelancing to Build Your Writing Experience

Daphne Gomez:
Freelance, especially in the writing world, it’s so beneficial because you’re able to actually share a portfolio of, “I was the ghost writer on this. This is—look at my name is already on this blog. Here’s examples of work that I’ve done and especially examples of work that I’ve done in different genres,” helps people understand that you do have range, that you do have experience, but a portfolio, this experience is not going to be 100% necessary. So if you’re listening to this and you are discouraged that you don’t have time to do all of these freelance jobs, just keep looking for work.

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. I mean, it’s something you can add that’s been official, but if you don’t have time, one thing I’ll say about Verblio and I’m not trying to sell anybody on Verblio here, but you can start off at Verblio doing 300 word assignments that pay $11 each. Which does not sound like much, but there’s no interview. There’s no anything. You could just do it. So you could sit down and write 300 words, get paid $11 and like, “Hey, I published something.” It’s done, right? As you do more and more, you get higher and higher jobs there, but if it’s just a matter of like, “Hey, I have 30 minutes sometime,” you can do that on Verblio and then maybe you get 11 bucks out of it. Who knows?

Daphne Gomez:
It’s one of the things that I always encourage people to do is okay, $11, you’ll get two lattes afterwards. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s also exposure for you to get your hands dirty and feel out if you even really like doing this.

Lacey Smith:
Exactly. Exactly.

Lacey’s New Venture

Daphne Gomez:
Because once you start to get your hands dirty in different things, you’ll be surprised what you end up loving and what you end up saying, “Actually, I don’t really find passion in this. I don’t want to learn more about this. I don’t want to keep going down this rabbit hole.” So being able to figure that out ahead of time is such a great idea.

Before I sign off, I’d love to hear a little bit of what you were doing with the Explorer Space, which is like a side project that I’d love for you to share a little bit more about.

Explorer Space Info

Lacey Smith:
So this is actually—this is new for me. So I have the editing day job, but I was really interested in starting a coaching space because I do like teaching and I wanted something that would allow me to flex those muscles still and also potentially be a second source of income. So I started it as sex coaching or sex and intimacy coaching. So it’s the explorespace.com or @theexplorespace on Insta.

It’s still pretty new. I’ve started to get a few clients here and there. So that’s been great, but mostly it’s just about helping people talk through sex. So I’m just one of those people who has never felt uncomfortable talking about any sexual subject. I can talk to you like I’m a 10th grade teacher because I’m not going to blush.

So I have a friend who’s a therapist and she’s like, “I think that you could actually do this.” So it’s been nice because when I was a teacher, I didn’t feel like I could express that part of myself. The idea that someone could Google me and find that I was a sex coach was really, really scary. So in a way, it’s actually been really liberating to be like, “You know what? I don’t have to shy away from this type of knowledge anymore just because I teach children.”

It’s been really great. It’s been an interesting way to. . . Making the content is like being a teacher, but in a completely different way. So I do encourage. . . It’s not the easiest pass being a coach as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, especially getting started, but it’s been a great way for me to express a different side of myself teacher wise. So I do love The Explore Space. Please check it out.

In Closing

Daphne Gomez:
Well, thank you so much, Lacey, for coming on, for sharing your of story, for sharing all of this great advice about editing. I’m so grateful for you to come on. I know so many teachers have been looking for this type of path and this has been really super helpful.

Lacey Smith:
Yeah. And I’m happy to—I do lurk the comments on your Instagram. So if I see someone ask you about editing, maybe I’ll respond to them.

Daphne Gomez:
Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Lacey Smith:
Well, thank you so much for having me and for all you do for all sorts of teachers, myself included. I mean, like I said, when I was in that really dark place, I was really, really thankful for what you were putting out in the world. So I appreciate you and I’m glad to pay it forward in my own small way.

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