Friday, September 19, 2008

What Career-Change Teachers Want

Surveys regularly tells us that career-changers are attracted to teaching. The latest survey is no exception, finding that 42 percent of college-educated Americans aged 24 to 60 would consider becoming a teacher. Like every other teacher recruitment effort, the survey ignores the competent, experienced teachers even of subjects like math and science who are unemployable precisely because of their experience. Even more surprising is that fact that this survey failed to snag any of these pushed-away teachers.

Many school districts have a policy of turning away applicants with more than three to five years experience. These involuntary career changers could be lured back to the classroom, but they want many of the same things career-changers from other fields want. The three main things career-changers want are:

1. A reasonable salary
2. Good working conditions
3. A quality alternative certification program

I will take each item in turn. But first, what are the qualities of typical career-changers?

1. They are academically able.
These potential teachers are more likely than others to have a postgraduate degree, to have attended selective colleges, and to report having higher-than-average grades than other college graduates,

2. They are motivated.

Like most teachers, many are driven by ideals—they want to give back to society, or make a difference in their communities or in the world. Some are looking to provide a positive role model to children, either because they themselves had such teachers or because they did not. Others are looking for a pursuit more meaningful than their present employment; and they see in teaching a chance to have a stronger intrinsic connection to their work.

3. They like science.
two-thirds of those interested in teaching said that they had considered the idea (of teaching) in the past, suggesting that a potential career switch has more than just casual appeal. Those working in engineering, science, and information technology are somewhat more likely than others to consider teaching, an important finding given the need for more teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

What do career-changers want?
1. They want a reasonable salary.

The survey found that career-changers want at least $50,000 per year to start, and even so, $50K means accepting a pay cut. One suggestion involves front loading teachers' salaries, by paying teachers directly the amounts usually diverted to retirement plans because career-changers are older already.

2. They want good working conditions.
They especially want supportive school administrators who respect their competence and professionalism. Career-changers are not spring chickens. They expect that the willingness to take a pay cut is compensated that make a situation satisfying: professional autonomy, a chance to demonstrate competence, the pleasure of making a difference, security and psychological safety.

3. They want a quality alternative route.
Veteran teachers do not need an alternative program at all, or if they do, it needs to be a highly accelerated one. The teaching credentialing process needs to be better articulated between states and teachers must be evaluated as whole persons, not a series of checked boxes. Currently, when a teacher moves from one state to another, getting the destination state credential can be a grueling and frustrating affair. Sometimes it appears that states seek to discourage teachers from being certified. once they get the credential in hand, their education and experience counts against them in their job search.

True career-changers are not looking for quick and easy alternative programs as much as they are looking for high-quality alternative programs.

Teachers who have come from other careers want to be effective in the classroom. Their success hinges on excellent, targeted teacher preparation, as well as positive, well-supported initial teaching experiences. Programs need to take several specific steps:

1. Use targeted selection processes that identify the strongest candidates.
2. Design programs that take into account the specific needs of adult learners.
3. Ground pedagogy in content and the needs of diverse learners, integrating theory and practice.
4. Provide strong clinical experiences in schools that prepare candidates for the specific settings in
which they will teach.
5. Assist with appropriate job placement in schools that make efforts to support novice teachers.
6. Ensure that teacher preparation programs are organized to promote students’ success as learners.

Achieving these goals may require considerable reengineering of current teacher preparation programs. Strong arts and sciences faculty, along with education school faculty who have considerable K-12 experience, must participate in designing and delivering programs that better integrate content and pedagogy, theory and practice. More effective collaborations with school districts are needed in the creation of clinically-based programs, with accomplished teachers serving as mentors, cooperating teachers, and clinical faculty. District-based programs must forge stronger partnerships with universities to ensure that apprenticeship-style preparation remains connected to advances in the disciplines, teaching and learning, technology, neurodevelopmental understanding, and more.

The survey also found that career-changers need more financial support while making the transition to the classroom including health care insurance, stipends and loan forgiveness.

No comments:

Post a Comment