Professional Development Opinion

Hiring teachers before they student teach

By AAEE — June 23, 2008 2 min read
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This past May has been unusual for my office. I help place student teachers into the positions where they will student teach for the fall semester. In past years this has been fairly normal and fairly routine. The reason I have called this past month “unusual” is that four of the math majors I placed in student teaching positions for this fall were offered teaching jobs at schools other than where they were assigned to student teach.

In other words these students will be teachers with their own classroom, their own discipline system, their own grading system, their own set of class rules without ever having student taught or for that matter without being certified or graduated from a university. The competition for math teachers has become so tight that schools are jumping the gun and hiring these students before they even student teach. As a university we are forced to give student teaching credit for the first semester of full-time, paid teaching. Is this the wave of the future for those teaching majors that are in high demand? Will special education teachers and science teachers see the same recruiting pressure in the near future? Will this pre-hiring of in-demand teachers return to sting these schools? Will these pre-hired teachers somehow gain the teaching skills and experience that comes from observing and mimicking a master teacher? Is this a short term solution to a long term problem?

It is interesting to view this problem from both sides of the isle. On one side are schools who simply can not find competent math teachers and are willing to gamble on an unproven college senior to fill the need. On the other side are universities and state departments of education who are concerned that in the long term these quick hires will not receive the necessary training that only comes through student teaching with a competent teacher who gives excellent advice and feedback to the student teacher.

There are examples to support both sides of the argument. One principal stated that his cooperating teacher simply put him in charge of the class on the first day of student teaching and it was a sink or swim situation. Luckily he learned to swim. A senior student who was hired as the teacher in lieu of student teaching recalled a few years later that he regretted the fact that his career suffered because he was not able to receive the feedback and recommendations available in student teaching.

Many senior students feel they are capable and would like the opportunity to begin teaching immediately. Or maybe they simply want to be paid as a full-time teacher with benefits versus teaching under someone while paying tuition and fees.

Is this just a symptom of the problem we currently have in education? Is there a need to recruit more students into the teaching field, especially the in-demand majors? Do we need to pay the math, sciences, and special education fields the equivalent to their non-education jobs? One science teacher lamented that he could double or triple his salary if he were in the “real” world. A university career services counselor said that his special education students were recruited by hospitals and health care services and paid much more than public schools could pay.

These are some serious questions that we need to ask ourselves in this industry. There are no easy answers and there are no silver bullets. There are only serious discussions that should help our legislators and government find solutions to these concerns of public education.

-Bob Maxfield
Brigham Young University - Idaho Teacher Career Services

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