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Can't Get a Teaching Job? Can You Speak the Language?

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I really enjoy the opportunity to interact with prospective students at our Admissions functions. One such encounter occurred last Saturday when I spoke with a high school senior (and her parents) who is planning to become an elementary school teacher. Since these chance encounters do not allow time for a deep exploration of the prospective student’s reasons for their choice of majors and careers, I just assumed that her motives were well-analyzed, her chosen field was well-researched and elementary education is an appropriate fit. I then moved quickly to making my points about future marketability in this arena.
A study of the supply and demand data collected by the American Association for Employment in Education (which is available in AAEE’s annual “Job Search Handbook for Educators”) reveals an abundance of prospective elementary teachers in most parts of the country. A quick inquiry of your local districts will provide valuable feedback as to their balances of supply and demand at the elementary level, but in most cases, the story will be the same – landing an elementary teaching job is a very competitive process!! Aside from the common admonitions about good grades, relevant experiences, broadening your geographic preferences, etc., how do you go about increasing your marketability, particularly if you have legitimate geographic constraints?
The answer to the above question may very well be “learn to speak the language.” The specific language would be the language most needed by your targeted districts. Many school districts across the country are having great difficulties locating and hiring bilingual teachers. They are trying to fill bilingual education program positions, as well as, hiring teachers who are bilingual for their regular classrooms. The former programs previously existed only in the states along the Mexican border and in many urban areas. That is no longer the situation. Schools across the country are becoming multicultural settings with students and their parents bringing multiple languages into the mix. You can easily discover the language needs of your targeted districts by simply asking an HR staff member to identify current and projected student population demographics.
Once you have that information what do you do? The obvious answer, of course, is to master the needed language!! That may be easy for my high school friend who has a few years to prepare for the competition but what about those of you who are currently in the market for an elementary teaching position? The answer can be very close by or thousands of miles away. Nearby are the formal and informal resources on and around your college campus. The formal resources are foreign language courses that you can build into your curriculum if you are still pursuing your degree or take as post-baccalaureate credit if you have completed your degree. There may also be some non-credit courses taught through your university’s continuing education division. Informally, you may check out your university’s International Student Office to see if there are any students who might wish to provide a teaching/tutoring arrangement. International students are often eager to do so in hopes that you will reciprocate by assisting them with their mastery of English.
In addition to your campus and community resources, there are opportunities to learn a language through travel/work abroad. Numerous language immersion programs are offered by universities and private entities. Since this travel may be pricey for a new college graduate, you may want to check out paid opportunities to teach English in a foreign country. These programs are usually short in duration and do not require certification in a subject area. You are hired just to assist the native students with their English skills. In return, you have an ideal opportunity to learn that country’s language.
Your university’s career center contains a wealth of information on this topic and advisors there can provide valuable insights on the right path for you. As I told my high school senior/2013 elementary school teaching candidate last Saturday, it does not matter how you choose to acquire a second or third language, it just makes sense to do it. You’ll gain an incredible competitive edge!!!

Curt Schafer
Director of Career Services
Texas State University

2 Comments

This blog has exellent advice for all students beginning their education toward a teaching degree. There is a HUGE demand for bilingual teachers. The old joke says, "The levels of language skills are trilingual, bilingual and American."

Excellent advice on this blog. Will recommend to my own students!

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