Saturday, January 07, 2006

Advice.... please answer in the comments.

If you were about to graduate from college and were considering teaching as a possible career, how would you enter the field? Let's say that you have some but not a lot of experience working with kids, you want to teach either History or Spanish, and you have taken no education classes of any kind.
  • Would you take a year, go to school, and get a credential?
  • If so, how would you select a credentialing program? (Bonus points if you live in the SF Bay Area and can review specific programs).
  • If not, would you apply to Teach For America? The Teaching Fellows? Similar programs in other areas? Why? Why not? Caveats?
  • What about looking for teaching jobs in the private schools?
  • If you did not go through the credentialing process before entering teaching, but took an alternate pathway into teaching, what would you do before the school year started to prepare yourself? (Other than the preparation offered by TFA and the other programs).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Education was not your original goal, try Teaching Fellows or a program like that.

It's a good way to see if this is what you really want before you invest in getting certified.

If you are sure this profession is for you, find out what your state requires. Most colleges offer courses to meet those requirements.

Also, try to get a job subbing for different schools. If a principal likes your work, they usually can get you into their school.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Ms. Chalky Talk said...

This could be me but with a different subject area!!

(Want to get into teaching, some but not a lot of experience with kids, etc.)

I chose to go the private school route. Reasons:

I felt I could REALLY see what teaching is like before I invested in more college classes. I also suspected that teaching was not something I could really learn about in a college classroom. I don't know if that suspicion was accurate, because again, I still haven't taken any college classes in education.

I prefer to just jump in, and figure things out on my own. "Figuring things out on my own" , however, included a lot of reading of educational books (classroom management, best practices in science and math, etc) going to education websites (for my subject area this includes NCTM and ACS, I do not know what they might be for other subjects), talking to other teachers, and reading blogs such as yours.

I could still make a livable wage with my "on the job" training.

Also, in the CT and NY area, there is a decent teacher head hunting service, Fairfield Teachers Agency, which made a job search in the private schools extremely easy. (There may be a similar agency in the Bay area?)Science and math teachers are generally in shorter supply than Spanish and history teachers, so this probably made my job search easier. The administration at the school where I now teach was slightly concerned about my complete lack of experience. I offered to teach a sample lesson, did it, and was offered the job.

The private schools often do not have a lot of the discipline problems public schools must face. I could learn to teach my subject without a lot of the extra challenges teachers must deal with in the public schools. Once I have more experience teaching, I plan on switching to public schools.

My area (and many other areas) has a credential based upon at least two years experience teaching. It's much less expensive and much easier than the traditional college route to certification.

I am very pleased with the decision I made. The first year was rough , but the second year is easier. I do know I still have a lot to learn, but I still think most of that is only learned by experience.

My sister chose a different route - she did a one year Master's program, and her subject area is history. She didn't feel as ready to simply "jump in", and enjoyed the time she had to prepare. Student teaching gave her an excellent opportunity to see what the classroom is really like, though her mentor was more an example of what she DIDN'T want to do in a classroom. She is very interested in making a difference in the public school sector, and needed the credential for public school teaching. She is, however, having an extremely difficult first year due to the school she is in. (In her area, there is an excess of high school history teachers, so she took a job in a charter middle school.)

Anyway, I hope this is some food for thought. If possible, I'd love to know what happens.

2:41 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

I jumped into teaching with no preparation. There was no fellows program at the time, but getting a PPT and just starting, while simultaneously taking two grad courses per term is pretty close to the fellows experience, with perhaps a tad less support.

It was horrible. I could not recommend going that route, nor do I really recommend goign the fellows route , except....

It is more expensive to take time off, to gothrough a prgram that includes student teaching. But in most cases it has to be worth it. I did neither myself nor my students any favors by walking in to the classroom not knowing what to do.

Previously I worked in two specialty fields, neither with skills that were easily transferrable. I actually accepted a non-refundable severance package from the better of the two. I had nowhere else to go. If I had an obvious option, I would not have returned for my second year.

A few senior teachers, one in particular, in my building, thought that underneath this little, no-control, kid was someone with teaching potential. So they did a ton to help me out. But it was a poor substitute for the student teaching that I have alwasy regretted not having...


4:22 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Oh yeah, so I would go to school for a year before I started. I would want to make sure that I had a chance to be inside a school for a portion of that time. And I would ask the state professional association for that subject area which programs were recommended, and why.


4:26 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Alternative certification worked for me, but I had an incredible support system and very generous colleagues. My first principal said at the end of my first year that he didn't think I'd last through Christmas, and now, 12 years later, I am still teaching at the same school and have my national board certification.

Our state alternative certification took my graduate degree in English, my two years as a reading specialist in a junior college, and certified me with the caveat that I had to take a "Psych of Exceptional Children" and "Methods and Media" class. I did both through correspondence.

The first year was tough. I never thought of quitting, but the kids scared me a little; I wasn't sure what they'd do if I told them "no" or demanded higher standards than turning in terse answers written in crayon on crumpled notebook paper (these were 7th-12th graders). My teaching assignment the first year was nightmarish! I was hired to teach speech and drama, but the day I reported for our professional development, I was told I'd also be teaching Freshman English and 7th grade Literature. I had 5 preps: English, Speech, Drama, 7th Grade Literature, and Competitive Speech. I was also expected to direct two plays, coach the debate team, and learn to drive a bus.

The thing that got me through that first year was an incredible network of mentors. The speech coaches that I knew from my high school competitive speech career were beyond helpful. I got my job because one recommended I distributre a flyer at the previuous year's state speech tournament letting people know I was available. The coach at my present school was retiring, and when she found the flyer at state contacted me and paved the way for me to be hired. My high school coach opened his files of material and let me copy anything I wanted so my competitive speech kids would have stuff. I got loads of stuff from other coaches at the summer speech/debate camp I attended. Other coaches, most of whom taugh English, were full of advice about classroom management, curriculum, and advocating for students. advice is to network in the area you are interested in teaching, even if it means looking up your former teachers and asking their advice.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd look into the Mills College credential program. Maybe someone there would be willing to talk to her about options? Is she (and I'm presuming the "she") fluent in Spanish? The job market would be much better for someone who could pass the bilingual exam and get a BCLAD credential. There is always the option of volunteering in the public schools (Berkeley Unified has a good volunteer program) to get classroom exposure and the required hours of experience.

5:49 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

Nope, this is a he.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Chris Lehmann said...

Honestly, I'd go work for a few years... I think learning how to balance the teaching life at 22 is really, really hard. A little work experience before a teaching career is a good thing, I think.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no real way to answer your question without knowing more. How much academic background does he have in history and/or Spanish? Where (geographically) does he want to live? What's the job market like there for his field? What does the state require? (In my state (Illinois), you can't be certified in history alone; you have to be certified in all the social sciences.)

8:53 PM  
Blogger Fred Wright said...

My answer to the question, What do you want to be when you grow up?" when I was in the first grade in 1968 was ( in order of preference) was President of the USA, an astronaut and then a policeman. Answered in 1980, around high school graduation time ,was "I don't know. and 'an artist.'" Maybe I still do not know. Teaching found me.

After moving to NY in the 80's and bartending, doing construction and working in galleries and at MOMA, I got a job teaching in NYC.
I have a BFA and now an MFA. I posses no education credentials except the ones needed to get my NYS Fine Arts teaching license and keep it. Luckily, I got a job, managed to keep it and since then with the help of a heck of alot of NYCBOE PD, have become a Technology Coach at my school after 17+ years. I love it. It is a perfect job for a workaholic. The rewards are infinite.

My advice is to follow the path to teaching that gets you there. Thankfully we all do not reach the classroom following the same path. Diversity works both from the staff side and student side. Whatever way you get there is exactly they way it was intended. Go now, wait, whatever. Pick a place you like to live. You'll help whomever lives there.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

I entered through an alternative certification program that many counties in Florida have to address teacher shortages.

As long as a person has enoungh crefits in the subject area (30, I think), the district will hire you and give you three years to get certified. Many of the courses necessary are given by the district.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received my credential through Cal State Hayward (now Cal State East Bay) extension campus on Ygacio Valley Road in Concord CA. An "okay" program.

I just jumped into teaching but I had lots of exposure to very young children (I teach high school) and just learned as I went. But, looking back, if I had been more knowledgable, I would have looked to work in a small private school for awhile or a charter school - a place with small numbers in the classroom and an administration that would back up discipline issues.

In the East Bay - Oakland and SF in particular - there are lots of schools of this type. I, though, needed to be close to home: single mom.... So, I went into a public high school with its usual assortment of weird issues (school looks like a prison even though it is in very affluent area of Walnut Creek) and just made lots of mistakes and learned the hard way.

I wish I had gone to JFKU or St. Mary's and been working in classrooms with a supportive training teacher and exposure to lots of culture and race.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Polski3 said...

I hold heartedly suggest spending time in schools as either a paid teachers assistant or a sub teacher BEFORE deciding if teaching is for you.

As for which route to take, this is where teacher certification is so much different than when I earned my credentials back in the early 80's; wanna be teachers have a choice. I suggest looking at all the alternatives toward earning a credential and deciding which is the best fit for personalities, finances, school situation, etc.

Mentors. Public Schools need more teachers to actively mentor new teachers. But, we vets cannot do everything for them.....School administrators need to be more involved in helping their new teachers.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I went the alternative certification route and was a history teacher. I was hired a couple of weeks in at the school for students who needed "alternative placement." I had no education background and no idea what I was doing. I did have a wife who was a teacher and that was key. I've got to say trial by fire was an interesting if somewhat stressful way to go. It wouldn't work for everyone but finding a job at the lowest performing school with the wildest kids is one way to see if you really want to teach and it makes any other school or job you end up at seem so very peaceful.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Mrs. N said...

In the South Bay area, many of the private schools have high standards for education. The best ones, the ones that have high standards and pay well and have mostly-well-behaved students, require at least a Masters in your teaching subject if you don't have a credential. some require a Masters even when you do have a credential. =)

12:00 AM  
Blogger cb said...

Posted by a first year teacher - take it for what it's worth...

Texas has an alternative certification course that I am presently a part of. I have a BBA in accounting, am a somewhat older adult with twenty plus years experience in for-profit and non-profit management. I spent the past spring taking content prep classes to prepare me to teach all four core subject areas in grades 4-8. During the summer I attended a two week "boot-camp" and completed 2 book studies. I finally got a job, 2 weeks into the year, as a 7th grade math teacher at a Title I school. I am continuing to take weekend classes and on-line reviews through the certification program. Plus, the district where I work has done a great job of giving me additional classes and mentors.

Most days I think this is the best choice I've ever made. Other days, like today, I wonder what possessed me! I have more good days than bad.

I certainly would suggest that one work as a substitute for awhile. It's amazing how much I have taken from that experience (from the spring) and applied it to my everyday life as a newbee teacher. If you have secured a job, spend as much time as possible picking the brain(s) of experienced teachers in your field. It amazed me as to just how little I knew (still know) or was prepared for in terms of designing grading procedures, developing tests, developing a useful discipline plan that I can stick to, etc...

I agree with fred wright who earlier said "...follow the path to teaching that gets you there." I'm starting to believe that the best teachers are those who really want to be there.

10:29 PM  
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1:53 AM  

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