Professional Development Opinion

Helping Students Prepare for a Teaching Career

By AAEE — June 04, 2009 1 min read
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A few years ago a student came into my office to discuss his teaching career. He said, “I just finished student teaching. I graduate in two months and I hate teaching. What do I do now?” I was stunned. How did this student get so far in his education without getting experience in the classroom to find out if he would be a good teacher? Was his teacher preparation program so rigid about his in-class studies that they missed the most important part of his education, real time in the public school classroom? How could the teacher education program better prepare this young man for the shock of having his own class?

I have also met students who seemed groomed to be teachers, from their time in high school until their graduation from college. Their resumes were chock full of teaching experiences ranging from tutoring while in high school or college, volunteering with special needs students, working part-time as a para-professional aide during college, working for the after-school program, teaching in a summer school, and other excellent teacher preparation experiences.

Why was there such a disparity in preparation between these students? Why was one student so unprepared for a career in education and other students so well prepared? Is it possible to prepare students for their careers in education by requiring or highly recommending volunteer work, part-time work, or summer work in a teaching setting while they complete their college education?

Speaking at a career services conference, Jaime Escalante explained his philosophy on hiring teachers. He said he told his principals that when interviewing potential teachers they should ask what the candidates do in their spare time. If the interviewees say they go motorbiking or go bar hopping they should not be hired. If they say they volunteer at the local YMCA, work with their church youth groups, etc. they should be hired.

The same is true of students graduating from college. They should have related volunteer or paid teaching experience to back up their choice of education as a career. They should NOT have student teaching as the only teaching experience on their resume. They should NOT have to realize after student teaching that they are not good teachers.

Bob Maxfield,
BYU-Idaho Teacher Career Services

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