Recession makes teaching a hot job

Career switchers are eager for teaching jobs, reports the Washington Post.

In many places, there are more converts to teaching than there are jobs, except in hard-to-fill posts in science, math and special education classes.

. . . Career-changers are considered desirable because they bring maturity and outside experiences into classrooms. They also help solve a perennial problem in public education, particularly in math and science: Too few teachers have a solid grasp of the subject they teach.

About one-third of new teachers come through alternative certification programs, which often include intensive summer training and sometimes extend to classroom mentoring. Quality varies.

If they’re thrown into tough teaching situations with little preparation, the new teachers may become overwhelmed and quit, warns Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford education professor.

However, The New Teacher Project estimates its retention rates are better than the average for urban districts, which often staff the toughest schools with the least experienced teachers.

Some districts have set up teaching “residencies” that let beginning teachers “learn under a great teacher in the same classroom for a year and take coursework to help analyze what they see,” reports the Post.

With a degree in Slavic linguistics, Betsy followed a traditional route to earn certification as a high school teacher.

In general, I found that my education courses were useless. The material that was useful on classroom management or lesson planning could have easily been delivered over a summer. . . . After that, the only thing is to throw new teachers into the deep end of either student teaching or a fellowship year but provide them with strong mentor and administration support. It will be a rocky experience, but I fail to believe that sitting around college classrooms taking education theory and psychology courses will do any better at preparing a novice teacher.

Knowing math isn’t enough to make a good math teacher, she believes. But it’s easier to teach a knowledgeable person how to teach than to make a person who doesn’t know math into a good teacher.

. . . I’d prefer to hire someone who had a history background and took a summer course on teacher training than hire someone who had an education degree with a few college courses in the history department. Both applicants might have trouble their first year, but mentor teachers at the school might have the time to teach the new hire how to present a good lesson; we don’t have time to teach the newbie all the history he or she needs to know to teach a high school class.

Newbies should be prepared for a tough job market, Betsy warns. Even North Carolina’s Teaching Fellows, graduates of a prestigious program, are having trouble finding work.

About Joanne


  1. Lisa Brown says:

    I’m one of these new teachers. I start teaching high school math next week. I’m scheduled for six preps. Although I’ve taught adults and tutored high schoolers, I know this first year is going to be tough. I’m praying to make a difference in these kids lives — and also to survive.

  2. Lisa,

    I’m curious – have you already received mentorship and support from your school as a new teacher? I did the same as you and these others, and received great support at my first position in a low-performing middle school that was being “revamped,” but when I moved to a high school was introduced to a “survive or quit” scenario. The high schools I’ve experienced were more Darwinian toward new (or newly incoming) teacher development. I’ve survived two now. The first one improved on mentorship for new teachers throughout the years I was there, the second one is brutal. (Two out of our four second-career teachers there (both retirees) quit by the semester mark – they were math teachers and needed mentorship and support.)

    Six preps is daunting for any teacher. That’s a different class every single period for you, isn’t it?

  3. Lisa Brown says:

    Yes, I have six different classes. One may have as many as 30 students the others should be under 15, but I am told that many students may decide to come to our school after it starts. This is a public charter school; it is a choice for the students. This is also the beginning of the school’s second year. I am supposed to be getting a mentor, but I haven’t talked to her yet. I am very excited about teaching, but can’t help but worry about the amount of time that I will be spending in order to prepare for so many different classes.

  4. It’s best if you decide now that you won’t be coming up for air until June. At least your class sizes sound extremely nice.

    If you anticipate adds a week or two in, make sure you have new student packets made up and ready to go, and leave spaces in your seating chart — otherwise your back row is all new kids, and it is hard to get back there to help them out.

    After the first day, you won’t know how you’ll make it through the week. After the first week, you don’t know how you’ll make it through the year — But, somehow, you do. That first week will be the most exhausting of your entire career. Personally, I drink strawberry frappes every day on my way home that first week to soothe my out-of-shape throat.

    Kids respond really well when they perceive you are interested in them. I always do learning inventories, etc. the first day. I also have them fill out an index card with their name and a few other pieces of info, including how they like to be complimented (in public, on the down low, etc.). They love this, it helps me figure them out quickly, and then I use the cards for the rest of the year to make sure I call on everybody — I just go through the deck.

    Good luck!

  5. Physics Teacher says:

    Knowing math isn’t enough to make a good math teacher, she believes. But it’s easier to teach a knowledgeable person how to teach than to make a person who doesn’t know math into a good teacher.

    Although this is perfectly rational, it seems that in today’s wacky educational world the opposite is true.

    What administrators seem to be looking for are born entertainers who know just enough content to fool administrators. Given that, schools should be looking to recruit former comedians/clowns/jugglers/actors and then sending them to community colleges for a little content knowledge.

    This would by no means improve education, but it would keep administrators fat, dumb, and happy, and we would stop hearing about bad teachers.

  6. Thanks for sharing fantastic post on teaching programs. Teaching is good profession. I enjoy teaching children and always tries to bring creativity and the desire to learn more among them. There are several online teaching courses and programs that helps us in teaching like how to behave with children, understanding them etc.

  7. What you said makes sense but i personally feel that the pre-requisite of a really good teacher is the desire to teach. Teaching done out of passion beats teaching done as a job hands down. And moreover, a teacher who loves to teach is the best thing that can happen to a student.