Surviving and Thriving in a Teacher Preparation Program
A teacher preparation program does exactly what you think it should do- it prepares teachers to teach. However, the details are a little more complex.
There are two main routes taken by those individuals wishing to become teachers. The first and most common route is that of earning a degree in Education from a four-year University. This option is rather straightforward. The second option, however, is made for individuals who did not earn a college degree in Education. Instead, these individuals will complete what is called an Alternative Certification Program.
Who participates in teacher preparation programs?
Alternative Certification Programs have increased in popularity in recent years. Many states are currently suffering from teacher shortages and have therefore introduced such programs to allow individuals without an Education degree to still become teachers. People who choose the alternative certification route often did not grow up wanting to become a teacher but decided this later in life. Those in these teacher preparation programs can be:
- Workers in industry who want to utilize their practical knowledge in the classroom
- College students who want to teach but do not want to change their major to Education
- Individuals who have worked in another field but are looking for a career change
- Anyone who desires to become a teacher
Most elementary teachers choose the traditional route to certification, but most secondary teachers choose an Alternative Certification Program.
What is required in a teacher preparation program?
The alternative certification route does not require a degree in Education, but a college degree is required, usually in a major related to the subject you want to teach. For instance, someone with a B.A. in History could join a teacher preparation program with the goal of becoming a Social Studies teacher.
The requirements of different teacher preparation programs vary by state, but in general, you will be required to complete some variation of the following:
- Classroom observations
- Short preparation coursework (usually online)
- Pass at least one teaching certification exam
How can I survive and thrive in a teacher preparation program?
The requirements of a teacher preparation program can seem overwhelming, but certain best-practices can help alleviate unnecessary stress:
- Complete your teacher observations before summer starts. It may seem obvious that you won’t be able to observe teachers teaching in their classrooms when school is not in session, but many people overlook this, especially if they plan to complete all of their teacher preparation requirements over the summer. Many school districts are strict about their observation hours, so make sure you contact the schools well in advance of your observation hours being due.
- Pass your certification exam(s) as soon as possible. If you have passed your certification exam but are still needing to complete your observation hours and coursework, it is still possible for some school districts to hire you. However, if you have not yet passed your exam, you will certainly not be hired for a teaching job, so make sure passing this exam is your top priority.
- Attend job fairs. Most teacher preparation programs will give you exclusive access to teacher job fairs in your area. Almost all new teachers are hired this way, so take the job fairs extremely seriously. Dress professionally, bring your resume and certification exam scores, and attend all of them! Finding your first teaching job can be stressful, but you are much more likely to be hired quickly if you attend every job fair possible. Some job fairs even hire on the spot!
- Take your certification requirements seriously. If you slack off on completing your certification coursework and other requirements, you may find yourself without a teaching job when the school year begins. Regardless of whatever else is going on in your life, you must persevere and be dedicated to completing your certification requirements as fast as possible. It may be stressful for a few months while you juggle a full-time office job and your multiple children at home while trying to complete all of your certification requirements, but it is imperative that you finish them in a timely manner so that you can begin interviewing for teaching positions before the school year begins.
Overall, the key to not only surviving but thriving, in a teacher preparation program is your level of dedication to completing the requirements and learning as much as possible about the profession in the time you’ve got.