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Hiring teachers before they student teach

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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
Director,
Brigham Young University - Idaho Teacher Career Services

7 Comments

pay them more, supply and demand, like gasoline

The assumption that student teaching is a necessary training that only comes through student teaching with a competent teacher who gives excellent advice and feedback to the student teacher is false. We in education have a bad habit of assuming things that have been done forever are things that work. The reality is that student teaching doesn't prepare everyone. Some teachers rely on the veteran teacher as a crutch and others are in a sink or swim situation. Even a veteran teacher has strengths and weaknesses. Does this mean each person that student teaches with that teacher will have those same strengths and weaknesses? Sometimes the teachers who have taught most of their adult lives are stagnant. Their sense of what students need for the future is off kilter. Alternative-Certification programs work and yet most of them do not require a student teaching component. Maybe teacher education programs should change. Undoubtedly, if we keep doing what we have always done; we will keep getting what we already have.

If there is such a shortage of math teachers, the schools should recruit back and hire some of the experienced teachers, some with Master's degrees, that they rejected in favor of cheap novices. See the discussion in today's forum.

This what was predicted when highly qualified was first implemented. Our Education Department allowed the federal government to remove excellen trained teachers who could not pass a test to hire people who are good test takers what a disgrace to the teaching profession. The turnover rate for these teachers will be one to five years. The teachers that were released had 10 to 15 years but could not pass that new test. Its says alot about our educational system and law makers.
When you think about all these young students who are probably in their earlt 20's thrown into high school's with students who are 18 or 19 you are just asking for trouble. You view the news everyday and see cases with young students hanging out with students, on my space with students, and the worst in relationships with students. This will continue to be a problem with the hiring practices described in this article. I project more charter schools will be on the rise with seasoned teacers leaving public school and seeking just to teach students.

Our Psychologist wondered why there were complaints when the length of student teaching was lengthened in many Idaho institutions. He was unaware that there was no pay for this time. The assumption was that like in many other professions a full time internship was a paying situation. In so many other professions there is more independence in an internship and still the needed competencies are developed. Perhaps schools of education need to look at other schools and see how they manage to make these systems work.

I agree that student teaching is overrated. Most schools have some kind of classroom component throughout the program, why force students to work for free for a whole semester? Some of the mentor teachers aren't really that great anyway.
Esp.for math and science teachers, you have to work with people if you want to retain them. You can't have everything your own way all the time. Why should anyone put up with low pay in addition to all the bothersome requirements? It's really not that serious, mentoring can be done as a person teaches.

In my case, I have been a substitute teacher for two years. By the time I graduate it will be about 3.5 years. Do I really need to do a student teaching phase? I have been through so much as a sub, the student teaching phase is going to be a colossal waste of time IMO.

Several regular teachers have told me privately that if they were my student teaching instructor, they'd pass me in a flash because of my abilities.

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The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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