In some areas of the country, qualified teachers are harder and harder to come by for certain content areas. Some states and districts have had to use creative means to find teachers. One of these avenues is using transition to teaching programs in order to find teachers. In these programs, individuals usually have a degree in a content area, such as science or math, but lack the credentials or experience necessary for teaching.
As with most things, there is an upside to these teachers as well as some drawbacks. It does allow your school to think outside the box to fill positions, which is a major advantage. At the same time, it is good to consider what the possible potholes will be of hiring one of these teachers.
Here are some general characteristics that we usually see with these teachers that can be huge advantages:
Work experience: Most of these teachers have already had jobs and are searching for a second career. This means that these people, all of whom have degrees, will have worked in some sort of professional setting. This outside point of view is good for schools, and it helps to have new teachers who know how to operate as professionals.
Team experience: Because of the work experience, most transitioning teachers have experience working in teams of adults. These professional teams are much different than the undergrad teams of pre-service teachers who I worked with in college. We were all between 21 and 24, so there was not a high level of maturity. In contrast to this, the transitioning teacher has most likely worked with adults of all levels of experience and age. This diverse experience is an advantage in schools.
Content knowledge: This is probably the number one reason to consider transition to teaching teachers—the content knowledge and work in their field is vital for our students. Teachers can tell students, “You will need to know this someday,” to make information relevant, but transitioning teachers can actually say, “I used this every day in my former job.” This carries so much more weight and credibility.
The drive to achieve: I believe all teachers who are starting out are really planning to work hard to succeed. The added layer of incentive for transitioning teachers comes from their desire to work in a field that probably requires a second degree and might include a pay cut. This takes real dedication and these teachers are not going to want to fail.
Here are some general supports that we need to consider for teachers trained using transition to teaching programs:
Experience with kids: This one is kind of a wild card because many individuals who transition to teaching have a ton of experience with kids—it’s probably what led them to the profession in the first place. But (and this is a big but!) working with kids in a youth group or coaching them in baseball is much different than teaching. Professionalism with students will be an area of focus with transitioning teachers to ensure that they are able to manage the relationship side of the job.
Classroom management: This one probably isn’t really fair because all new teachers need support with this. But sometimes we see an older adult transitioning into the classroom and assume some of those tools are already in place. To help support new teachers to succeed, we must not make that assumption and ensure that we have mentoring tools in place for them.
Instructional tools: Again, all newer teachers probably need this support, but it is particularly true of those transitioning to teaching. The reason for this is that the methods of coursework that traditional teachers learn happen before they start teaching. This is not the case for transitioning teachers. They will learn it as they go, so schools, teams, and admins need to be ready to support them from the get-go.
Learning school rules: It might seem weird to those outside of schools, but there are many unwritten rules for how schools operate. A transitioning teacher might be removed from the classroom by 10 or 20 years. Because of this, some of the common sense factors that most teachers already know will need to be taught.
Every teacher is different and each will have his or her own strengths and areas for growth. By considering what these teachers might need as a whole, it can help us to prepare to support their success early on in their career.
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