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  1. #1
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    Networking opportunities for aspiring teachers?

    My coworker will be graduating with a PhD in biology probably next year, but she'd really like to leave academia to teach. However, nobody she knows is a teacher and she's at a loss as to how to network. She's specifically looking for jobs as an adjunct at a community college, but I understand that the market even for adjuncts is pretty dire in Southern California, where we are. She's willing to move, but she'd need to be here another year.

    She's been working with HS students as a mentor and did some judging at a HS-level science fair, but I think that's about the extent of her forays into teaching so far. I figure there must be some professional organizations she could join to meet likeminded people or....something, but we have no idea how to find them!

  2. #2

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    She does know that in certain areas of California, teachers aren't being paid, right? Also, there was a time when a PhD leapfrogged you over other candidates. Now, it's considered a disadvantage--you're too expensive. It's best now if you only have a bachelor's degree with 1-3 years experience in teaching. It is a BAD, BAD, BAD time to be entering teaching. Remember, when the economy suffers, education and health care suffer first. I used to be an adjunct at a community college, but to save money, they've started making all instructors teach at least one night class, so adjuncts are becoming a thing of the past everywhere. It's only in certain areas that adjuncts are still needed.

    Teachers can be a pretty closed society--a lot of teachers won't even talk to you until after December, much less before you even BECOME a teacher. Because so many teachers have been laid off, your friend will be competing with teachers from your area, other areas, and other states. I went to a job fair that had five openings. Over a thousand teachers showed up from at least six states and all over Louisiana. Because of that, even if a teacher does hear about an opportunity, s/he is NOT going to share who's hiring. She will also be competing with experienced teachers who also have PhDs. Some will have multiple PhDs in both the subject area and education--you'd be surprised how many doctors are lurking the halls of even the most mediocre of public schools.

    Your friend--and I've been guilty of this myself--will also face some serious flack from teachers who have experience and/or education degree who get supremely annoyed with people who just up and decide they can be a teacher. It can't be that hard, right? (BTW, mentoring and judging a science fair do not count. I've done both. Mentoring/tutoring--totally different skill set) Teachers are not going to be lining up to help your friend--they have their own friends, experienced friends, who are also out of work. For professional organizations, most require that you are currently teaching or have taught in the distant past.

    The only way I can see your friend getting a teaching job at a good school is if she substitute teaches at one or two schools, and if she's not substituting, volunteering in the office or for other science teachers. She'll get to know the administration staff, a good cross section of the students, and teachers who will potentially go to bat for her if there's a job opening. She'll also find out if she can handle it and what it's really like for it to be you vs. 32 other students in a class for an hour. I would also HIGHLY suggest she take on 5th-7th grades--those grades have the highest attrition rates, sometimes even in the middle of the year. If she's subbing at a middle school and the teacher goes MIA, there she is. She should be flexible and willing to teach something that's not science and actually learn the subject, not just the textbook. Kids know when you're only a chapter ahead of them. They'll read three chapters ahead and quiz you. (Not the chapter, you are currently on. They won't do that. )

    By fedral law, all states issue some sort of teacher test. In most states, it's the PRAXIS series. Some states (MA, TX for sure, don't know about California) have their own. Before she can even be considered, she must show proof of having passed both the general knowledge and content area exams. Some states also require you take tests on educational theory, and the tests vary based on grade levels. She won't be certified, but she needs to find out ASAP what it means to become "highly qualified" in her state, which means in the process of becoming certified. Certification is important--grant money/state money/federal money is based on how many certified teachers you have, and in some districts, you have to have 95-100% certified faculty before you get additional funds.

    I wish your friend luck, she's going to need it.
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

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