I remember an experience I had after a faculty meeting where someone brought up that someone on the school board had proposed some hiring incentives for secondary teachers especially in math and science. This upset this individual, because "aren't we [elementary teachers] just as valuable as those secondary science teachers?" I believe the elementary teacher is very important to a child's development- they aren't going to understand what's happening in their physics class if they didn't learn the elementary curriculum- but that's not really the point. The facts discussed in the article show that there are more elementary education graduates than spots available in many states shows that districts can hire a teacher in this area without much special incentive or heavy recruiting. The secondary science or math teacher is tougher to find. I've taught for 7 years in elementary school, I know it presents its own challenges. It's not a simple or easy job. That's not the point, either. The fact is fewer college graduates are obtaining secondary certification in science and math. What are we doing at the K-12 level to help guide education field-minded students in this direction?
We have a goal to help students be ready for college. I think that an important component in that preparation is to ready them for the reality that they need to make practical decisions about their academic focus. The economy has brought recent graduates the reality that not all degrees are worth the same in the job market. Sending students to college has been seen as its own accomplishment for a long time. As more and more people graduate high school and enter college, having a diploma isn't the distinguishing stamp it used to be. We need to prepare students for the reality of an extremely competitive job market. We need to help them push through the apprehension they feel as they approach an area that seems more difficult than another. The supply/demand discussion in this article is a tough pill to swallow for my friend in the faculty meeting. We need to help students to gain the confidence and work ethic needed to pursue difficult subject areas that will make them more marketable.
So, when defining "career and/or college ready" we need to include the idea that the students need to be prepared for the opportunities, limited or plenty, that accompany the major they choose in college. Teaching has a much clearer career path than many other majors. However, within this field there is a need for students to pursue those overlooked areas and fill critical vacancies that children in 2013 need to prepare for college or careers.
States can limit teaching certificates, control admissions to college programs, or take other actions that would reduce the number of elementary education teaching candidates. I don't think this is the answer. I am an elementary education teacher. Quality elementary teachers are vital to the success of any student. Perhaps the answer to this elementary teacher surplus is in the elementary school. To find an elementary position, you must distinguish yourself beyond your degree and certificate. We have to help students to see that because content is difficult, it isn't impossible. Through this understanding we find that any career we choose, we must always be finding ways to improve. The current economic climate has shown many of us that no one is entitled to a job. We must all distinguish ourselves beyond our degree and certificate.