I submit that in an age when the emphasis, especially in California, is on lowering student-to-teacher ratio, many people who are attempting to join the profession are being turned off, turned away, and discouraged in this goal. I have little doubt that there is a similar mindset in every other state.
It is not uncommon for women in their mid 40’s to seek a new career. I chose to make the sacrifice (and make no mistake, it WAS a sacrifice) to stay home to raise my children for many years before finally deciding, when my youngest entered kindergarten, to try to re-enter the work force. Since my bachelor’s degree was in history, I decided to put my love of the subject together with my enjoyment of teenagers, and obtain my secondary teaching credential.
In California, ironically, there are more “hoops” for prospective teachers to jump through than in almost any other state. Besides the graduate units required to be completed in educational theory classes (many of which are designed by and for academics who have never been in a classroom themselves), there are several tests which must be passed to prove one’s subject competency. Although I understand the need for this, the relevancy of such tests is often questioned, not only by candidates in social science, but in almost every other subject area. I know of no one who passed his or her subject area “Praxis” test on the first try. In my own case, I carried a 3.86 g.p.a in college and generally consider myself reasonably intelligent, but it took me three (expensive!) tries to pass the test. By the time I took it for the third time, I no longer cared, having decided it was some sort of “game”, the rules of which I should have been advised about beforehand.
As to the aforementioned educational classes, lofty theories are no substitute for bonafide classroom management and instruction as to the day to day interaction required. I learned all about Bloom’s taxonomy, but when I finally came to my student teaching experience, I found it of little or no relevance. Further, during my initial eight-week student teaching session, my evaluator seemed determined to make it as negative an experience as possible. His criticisms were illogical and inconsistent, and they have left me completely ignorant of exactly where I stand as a prospective teacher.
For example, after observing a class session I taught, he actually told me that I was “dressed inappropriately”. I had worn dress slacks that day, with a nice blouse, while most of the “real” teachers around me wore jeans and shorts. Apparently, I was supposed to wear high heels and dresses on a daily basis. Worse, on the same day he told me that I was “too friendly” with the students, while in the very next moment, complained that I was “pompous” and “aloof”. This confused me and sent me scurrying to my dictionary, fearing that I had been misusing the latter terms for 40 years. No, I was right because “pompous” does, indeed, denote an individual who holds himself or herself aloof from others. How, I have to ask, can one be simultaneously “too familiar” and “too distant”?
This whole student teaching experience was several years ago now, and I have still not been able to bring myself to complete my preliminary credential, since it would require a second session. Instead, I taught for a year in a private school, worked for a few months in a customer service job, and have now been substitute teaching for over four years. Although now and then I toy with the idea of finishing, my bitter memories as well as the ridiculous costs involved, have prevented me from taking that final leap.
If California wishes only “fresh out of college” graduates to enter education, the authorities should say so and not waste the time of more mature individuals who aspire to the profession. I believe I had a lot to contribute to the education of 7-12 grade students, but I am now so disappointed and angry, I no longer believe my heart is in it.