Nothing can prepare you for the classroom.
Sure, you've taken classes, read the best books about teaching, and killed many an hour assisting teachers.
But let's be real for a second. When you're taking a reading course, they don't tell you what to do when a 13-year-old girl confesses that she's pregnant and needs help. Or when two kids are fighting and calling each other words you've never even heard before. Or when someone's parents are getting divorced. Or when you have a kid who just. doesn't. get it.
There's no manual to guide you through some of the tough stuff. And, uh, ours is still in the works. The training programs that are out there, though, can go a long way in helping you become the most effective teacher you can be before you set foot in a classroom. Sure, you need your own class to become totally effective, but it can help scratch the surface on some of those problems that don't seem to have solutions.
There are four main ways to become a teacher. But which is the best one? The one that fits your specific needs, of course.
Let's take a look into your options if you want to get into this whole teaching thing.
1. University programs.
These programs often appeal to folks who are looking for traditional models of education. If you can stick it out through a university undergraduate or graduate program, you'll be well prepared to stick it out in the classroom.
But don't sign up just yet. Do your homework first (you'll sure as heck be doing it later). Why? Because not all programs are not created equal. You need to find a respected institute with an accredited program. Most state schools and publicly funded universities will fit this bill, but it's worth the careful check.
You also need to consider state certification requirements. If you want to teach in Alabama, but you're going to school in Michigan, you need to make sure you power on through all the deets so that you can get that Alabama certification.
2. For-profit programs.
University of Phoenix, we're looking at you. These programs allow for flexibility in your schedule because they're targeted to working adults and usually involve mostly (or exclusively) online curriculum. It definitely requires self-motivation, though, so be sure you've got that in spades.
And again, make sure your school is accredited.
3. Career switcher programs.
This one's an option for folks who've tried their hand at another career and are now ready for Teacher Land. The programs often focus on helping older adult learners (not the 20-somethings universities normally churn out) gain certification and become effective teachers.
4. Teach for America.
This program focuses on recruiting recent college graduates and placing them in the classroom after an intensive five-week training program. And when we say intensive, we mean intensive. Some folks swear by TFA and others have got their inklings of skepticism—it provides enthusiastic teachers to low-income, highly stressed school systems, but there's also a pretty high turnover rate.
When the time comes to consider all four of these options, keep in mind that the best program means what is the best fit for you, your style, your life, and your budget. Sure, there's a hierarchy: we've seen that most school systems lean toward hiring those from a traditional university schooling model over the other three options. But the reality is that this world needs good teachers, and if you go into a classroom for your student teaching and you do a bang-up job, people will talk.
All we ask, is when your big and famous (among your students, that is) -don't forget about the little guy! Check out our Teaching Tools!