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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Getting Prepared: What Aspiring Teachers Can Do

Some key steps for a future educator.
By Edutopia Staff

Middle and high school students who may want to consider a teaching career can get an idea of the profession and prepare ahead of time. Here are some steps on the road to becoming a teacher:

Learning about teaching as a career

Form a Future Educators of America chapter at your middle or high school. The national office coordinates information about teaching as a profession, employment opportunities, financial assistance options, and such educational issues as professional mobility, diversity, job security, and other matters.

Have a plan that includes working with children

Work at a summer camp or as a teacher's aide at a preschool or elementary school. Major in an academic subject in college, make sure theory is tied to abundant practice, learn the most effective teaching strategies, and master technology that advances learning for you and your future students. In the Edutopia article, "Elena's Story: Envisioning the Making of a Teacher," Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond profiles Elena, a fictional teacher-to-be, to chart the education path that leads to excellent teaching.

Be selective in a teacher preparation program

Look for teacher education that offers substantial opportunity to be in a classroom working with an experienced teacher. Numerous surveys of teachers showed that one of their biggest complaints about preparation programs was that there wasn't enough time spent in a real K-12 classroom.

Beware of shortcut teacher preparation programs

Summer boot camps are examples of crash courses that rarely provide aspiring teachers with sufficient preparation for the daily demands of teaching.

Consider teaching in an urban setting

Many states or the federal government will forgive student loans or offer other incentives to teachers who sign on to teach in schools in urban or low-income communities.

Resources

Educational Resources Information Center Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. The center offers an extensive Web library of information about teacher preparation and the status of the teaching profession.

Future Educators of America. Under the umbrella of Phi Delta Kappa International, the professional association in education, middle and high school students form local chapters and explore careers in education.

National Education Association. The nation's largest teachers union offers a number of resources to minority students interested in a teaching career, including a list of organizations that provide incentives for future minority teachers.

Summerbridge National. This national nonprofit organization offers opportunities for high school students to teach academic and other skills to middle school students -- many of them at risk for dropping out of school -- during the summer.

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