Step 1: college. Step 2: ??? Step 3: become a high school history teacher.
March 7, 2012 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Right now, you're a college freshman. In ten years, you want to be a high school history teacher, probably somewhere in the northeast U.S. What path are you going to take to get there?

I'm a history professor at a solid liberal arts college near Boston. Many of the students I advise (history majors) hope to become high school history teachers, and I don't know how to tell them to get there. Assume we're talking about bright, motivated, good students who would probably be competitive applicants to regionally-known masters' programs. As far as I can tell, these students' choices are:

1) Complete the BA with a minor in secondary ed. The college's program culminates with MTEL/prepracticum/application for licensure when they finish undergrad.

2) Complete the BA without the secondary ed minor, and then get a master's degree in education, um, somewhere. (Recommendations for specific schools/programs that would be good for history teaching, especially in the northeast, are most welcome.)

3) Uh, other?

As you can probably tell, I know absolutely zip about this - this wasn't a career path I went down myself, and since I'm not originally from MA I know nothing about the school system here. I also don't know what grad programs in the region have a good reputation for turning out qualified high school teachers. For that matter, I don't even know whether most teachers go on for a master's degree before they start teaching. If a student does want to get a master's degree, will a secondary ed minor in undergrad make them a stronger or weaker candidate for that graduate program?

Thanks in advance, everyone.
posted by amy lecteur to Education (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Many of my college friends went route B, though their situations were a little different. Virtually none of them knew they wanted to teach while they were undergrads (and certainly not as freshmen), and most are teaching at the elementary school level or younger.

That said, they all mostly ended up doing programs at locally well regarded state schools, in the part of the country where they planned to teach. Does the university where you teach offer graduate degrees in education?

To finish off, one more thing. Are all these people really sure they want to be high school history teachers? If I had a bunch of college freshmen who wanted to become high school history teachers, I would suspect that these are students who went home for the holidays, told their parents they wanted to major in history, and got the dreaded "But What Will You Do With That?" retort. Not knowing the many jobs that are out there for history majors, or people with any other liberal arts degree, their inexperienced 19 year old minds settle on History Teacher.

I would probably tell them that if they want to major in history, they can do that, and there are both education minors as well as graduate programs in education that they can pursue down the road if they discover that what they really really REALLY want to do is be a high school teacher. But there are also lots of other jobs one can get with a BA in history.
posted by Sara C. at 3:35 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't know how much it helps, but I had a friend who signed up with Teach For America and got a job teaching in an inner city school in Washington DC. He liked it and kept it at it and now teaches in a public school in Tulsa.

Not everyone does well with TFA, though.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2012

Are all these people really sure they want to be high school history teachers? If I had a bunch of college freshmen who wanted to become high school history teachers, I would suspect that these are students who went home for the holidays, told their parents they wanted to major in history, and got the dreaded "But What Will You Do With That?" retort. Not knowing the many jobs that are out there for history majors, or people with any other liberal arts degree, their inexperienced 19 year old minds settle on History Teacher.

Yep - there's a fair amount of this, for sure. I said 'freshman' mostly because I was also interested in advice for them about their choice of major/minor, and whether that secondary ed minor would affect their grad program prospects. (If they're going to complete the secondary ed minor in 4 years, they have to start it pretty early on - conversely, if they're going to drop that minor, the earlier the better since it frees up that course-time for another minor.) My advisees actually range from freshmen (who, you're right, often say 'history teacher' as a default answer) to juniors and seniors who are actually really dedicated to teaching, after having considered other options (law school, museum/archive paths, librarian school etc.)

It's a liberal arts college, with no in-house grad programs. After four years, we unceremoniously boot them out of the nest.

I'd forgotten about TFA - I'll add it to my advising notes and see if I can get them to send me some info. Thanks!
posted by amy lecteur at 4:54 PM on March 7, 2012

Immediately start volunteering to teach in the public schools in your area. There are several programs if you start looking. Network with teachers you already know and ask to sit in their class, grade papers, write lesson plans, and teach classes under their supervision. Feel free to stop in and visit with principals to get their advice. In the meantime, pursue the *subject* you are interested in teaching. As a former high school mathematics teacher in the state of TX who has (1) no degree in education (2) a bachelors in what I love (finance) and (3) teaching experience through Junior Achievement, I can tell you that content knowledge + actual teaching experience is the best way to make your dream a reality. As you begin to do this, you will then have a better decision-making framework to understand in what sort of environment you will want to teach (age, class, grade, etc...) then you can start to look at geographical considerations such as rent, salary, etc... But that's the easy stuff to figure out, the hard stuff is to actually START doing what you THINK you will like.
posted by yoyoceramic at 4:58 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would look for a career person associated with path 1 for this kind of pre-professional advice.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:22 PM on March 7, 2012

I think options 1 and 2 will suit different people, so I'm not sure one is better than the other. I sort of went with route 2. In any case, Rhode Island College is a great place for your students to consider.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:31 PM on March 7, 2012

I was certified as a secondary history teacher in Mass. for several years and taught there. What they should look for are colleges that offer an MAT (Masters of Arts in Teaching) program. There are numerous such programs, a very quick search reveals that BC, BU, Brandeis all have them. Lesley probably does, UMass Boston and Dartmouth likely do too.

Volunteering in schools, tutoring, working in any kind of youth program are all good practice. Taking courses in child and adolescent psychology will help too.
posted by mareli at 6:55 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

yoyoceramic has it. I didn't volunteer early and often, and I got to student teaching and discovered I hated being in the classroom with high schoolers. I'm not sorry I took the teaching classes I did, because they turned out useful in other ways, but that was an expensive detour between my history degrees and the job market that I could have avoided by volunteering before I went into the education program.
posted by immlass at 7:08 PM on March 7, 2012

Nthing volunteering. Many people don't have any real clue about the realities of teaching (I didn't!) unless they've got a teacher in the family/close friend network, which is one of the reasons why I think there's such high turnover. Let them figure out if it's really their passion abd it's a lifestyle they can handle before they get out of undergrad.

Social science teaching gigs are generally among the most competitive, so real world classroom experience as a volunteer or tutor will help their resumes a lot. They will also probably learn much more about teaching in a year of consistent volunteering than they will in education classes. Those education classes will also make a lot more sense and be more helpful if they have real-world experience as schema to build upon.
posted by smirkette at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2012

Something to keep in mind is that many states in the Northeast actually require one to obtain a Master's degree in order to teach, although some also have a limited amount of time where you can teach with a Bachelor's degree while working towards your Master's. I know NY state is like this. I believe you can teach for five years with a Bachelor's and an Initial teaching certificate, but you must get your Master's within that time in order to gain a permanent certification. Knowing that, I would probably advise most people who want to become teachers to take route two, since they'll need a Master's anyways to teach permanently. This has the added bonus that if they decide they don't want to teach once they finish undergrad, a more general major in history gives them a lot more options for graduate programs/career paths.
posted by katyggls at 2:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

....since they'll need a Master's anyways to teach permanently.
posted by katyggls

I think its worth adding that this applies just to the public school system. For independent schools, a Masters is desirable, but not required.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:27 AM on March 8, 2012

Another Boston-specific pathway to getting classroom experience and becoming licensed to teach are post-college programs through the city's charter schools, like MATCH Teacher Residency and City on A Hill's fellowship. These programs can provide a little more support than something like TFA and have "light" versions not immediately leading to certification (MATCH Corps and CoaH Corps) for people who want to get classroom experience before deciding for sure that they want to teach. (I was in the first MATCH Corps, and things have changed a lot since then, but I can answer questions or make some contacts via email if it would help.)
posted by teditrix at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2012

Everyone - all of this was incredibly helpful. I have a lot more specific, concrete suggestions for my advisees now, which was exactly what I was looking for. Teditrix, I wasn't aware of either of those two programs, both of which look like great possibilities.

What most prompted this question was, quite frankly, the secondary ed minor my college offers. Many of my advisees (especially the academically stronger ones) express real dissatisfaction with that program, but they're being told that if they want to go on and teach, that minor program is their best (or only) option. From these answers, it sounds like there are many other possibilities for them to consider (which is great).

If you think of anything else, by all means keep the suggestions coming. Thanks muchly.
posted by amy lecteur at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2012

In addition to teditrix's options, there's also City Year (for ed experience, not necessarily direct teaching), MATCH Corp Tutoring, and the Boston Teacher Residency.

Also, if they're interested in private schools, they won't need any kind of state certification or a master's in ed, so they can probably work with a recruiter like Carney Sandoe right out of college to get placed teaching in a private school in the area. If they like it after a few years, they would probably have to go get a masters (either in history or ed) to move up the ladder in private schools.

About 90% of my (recent college graduate) friends work in education in the Boston area either directly or indirectly so you you have more questions about this stuff feel free PM me.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:12 AM on March 8, 2012

Not in Massachusetts but not that far away either, the ETEP program at the University of Southern Maine is quite good.
posted by dizziest at 5:58 PM on March 8, 2012

....since they'll need a Master's anyways to teach permanently.

This is patently untrue. A major in the topic they wish to teach, plus teaching certification in the level of school they want to teach (primary or secondary education) is absolutely sufficient, and the vast majority of beginning teachers have only that. Most schools will pay tuition for teachers to continue their schooling and receive an MAT after they've taught at the school for two years or so.
posted by tzikeh at 7:05 PM on March 9, 2012

This is patently untrue.
posted by tzikeh

This is mostly a geographic thing (and as I mentioned previously, a public/independent school thing) . It varies widely, from what I understand. I know that in NYC, one has a brief window within which you must earn a Masters (it was 5 years back when I started teaching) yet only a couple miles away in NJ, there's no such requirement at all (for public schools). The independent schools all set their own standards.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:41 PM on March 9, 2012

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