July 4, 2022

Career Column: The Teaching Profession

President Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, made the following pitch:   “….. to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.”

Do we need more teachers?  Is unemployment less of a problem for teachers than it is for other workers?  Today’s career column aims to answer these questions for would be teachers in Connecticut. 

In Connecticut there are a few paths to become certified to teach elementary or secondary education at a public school.  You can get an undergraduate degree, typically a Bachelor’s of Science in education, from a number of colleges.  Or, if you already have a college degree, you can complete a post-baccalaureate (post college) program leading to teacher certification at a university or an “alternative route to teacher certification” program through the state over the summer or on weekends (available for specific subject areas).    To become a special education teacher you need graduate level coursework or, if you already are a certified teacher in another area, you can complete an alternative certification program.    Everyone has to take some standardized tests, the Praxis exams.  None of these paths to certification are highly competitive or time consuming. 

However, once you are certified, finding a teaching job can be challenging, depending on where and what you hope to teach.   It is not too difficult to find openings for teachers in shortage areas.  Currently, in Connecticut, these include English, family and consumer science, math, music, science, technology, and world languages.  Special education also seems to be in demand.   There also tend to be openings for teachers in inner city school districts.  But getting hired on as a teacher in elementary education, social studies, art, or physical education in non inner city school districts is difficult, with many more applicants than openings. 

Once hired, new teachers face multiple challenges including a lot of paperwork, mandates, budgetary constraints, and managing a classroom of children.  They need to get along with other teachers, administrators, and parents.  They need to write lesson plans and grade papers after school and on weekends, and they need to complete a graduate degree within a certain time frame.    In addition, early career teachers are closely evaluated and not all have their contracts renewed.  

Good teachers like children and are motivated to help them learn.  They communicate well and have common sense and self-control.  They are patient, fair minded, optimistic, energetic, and creative.   They manage stress well and can cope with a challenging bureaucracy and multiple demands.  The best know intuitively that they want to teach, and many have wanted to teach since childhood.  

Teaching can be a great career choice for energetic adults who are looking for an “encore” career.  It can also be a great choice for young people coming out of college or parents returning to work after staying home with children of their own.   But would be teachers need to know what they are getting into.  They should be prepared for a challenging job search or plan to teach in a shortage area or in a difficult school environment.   As is true for most things worth doing, they will have to work hard at their chosen career.  

Job boards for teaching jobs in Connecticut can be found at www.cea.org and www.ctreap.net.  Note that job postings for teachers are to some extent seasonal.  Once a budget is passed and teachers give notification that they are retiring or resigning, school districts know which positions need to be filled for the coming school year.

Karen Goldfinger, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Essex, Connecticut.   She specializes in psychological assessment for clinical, educational, and forensic purposes and has a special interest in career assessment.  She and two partners recently established KSB Career Consultants, LLC to provide on line career consultation for clients in Connecticut and New York.   Contact her with questions,  comments, or suggestions for the column at karengoldfinger@comcast.net