Whenever I find myself speaking to students working their way towards a degree in education, someone will turn the conversation to the state of the job market. And the truth is, in recent years, it has not been very good. In British Columbia there are a number of factors that have led to a limited number of jobs for new teachers. From district budget reductions, to declining enrollment, to fewer than expected teacher retirements, to huge numbers of candidates going through teacher education programs. With this, I feel the angst of those graduating, looking for the little advantages that might help them secure a job.
I was recently speaking with elementary and middle school student teachers at the University of British Columbia, and gave some off-the-cuff advice, that I think is worth sharing more widely.
So, just what should a student teacher do?
1) Be Damn Good!
The explosion of teachers looking for work means that we get dozens (or sometimes far more) applicants on every position. Our schools never have to settle for average candidates. I am blown away by the quality of teachers being hired. So, first and foremost, if you want a job, you better be good.
2) Get Involved!
This can look really different from person to person, but it is really about playing up and sharing your passions. Maybe it is coaching the volleyball team, or helping with the school musical, or sponsoring the chess club or being a lead on the school professional development committee – or a combination of them. The parts around the classroom are some of the best experiences for students and teachers. It is about seeing teaching as more than a job.
It has never been easier to connect. I feel like a broken record but all new teachers should get on Twitter, find at least five blogs to regularly follow, and consider starting a blog themselves. And the power of the network is not just digital, student teachers transitioning into new teachers should connect into school district and multi school district teacher networks. I know in West Vancouver, and I am sure it is true elsewhere, our professional opportunities are open to all – and that all includes student teachers and new teachers who might not have classroom teaching positions yet.
One more piece I shared when I met with the student teachers at UBC was an updated digital story (below) that I shared as a welcome to our amazing profession:
There are definitely things that can be discouraging in our profession, but whenever I have a chance to speak with those just coming into our profession I am left with so much hope – it is an exciting time for teaching and learning.