Sure, a teacher education program is "easy" once you're in, but not so much the case when it comes to the application process.
How To Get Into Education As a current teacher and master's in education student, I am constantly in touch with prospective education students whether it be at the high school or post-secondary level – with students always wondering what it takes to be at the top of the short list when applying for a teacher education program in Canada. The following includes several most common questions asked by prospective students about a degree in Education – and of course, my answers. If you have other questions or are unclear about some of the suggestions offered in this article, please drop by our website and find us in the forum!
Q # 1: What sort of classes should I take before applying into a B.Ed program?
This completely depends on your school and programs that you are looking at (such as programs designed for Aboriginal students or ESL instruction, etc.) within your chosen university. Some universities require that you only take two years of Arts and Science (General Studies) prior to your application, some may accept you straight out of high school, while others would prefer if you had a three-year degree before they would consider accepting you .
If you are lucky enough to apply straight from high school (besides from ensuring that your high school academic average is sitting pretty and above 70-75%) check out your volunteer and extra-curricular experience, your work resume, and what references you are choosing to vouch for you when it comes down to your school's decision-making time. Schools love to see students who are heavily involved in extra-curricular because they see a potential college student who works hard and can "give back" to the university community (making their program look good), as well as jumping 5 years down the road looking at you as a future sports coach or interest clubs leader as a teacher.
Grades are of course important for an obvious reason – teachers have to teach good work and study habits and of course need quite a bit of general knowledge to address student inquiries and instruct courses at a higher level.
Work experience – chances are if you have held jobs throughout high school that involve children or some sort of social / helping aspect of work – you're a candidate for an ed program. Think about a college counselor, activity leader, coach, lifeguard, etc – all jobs similar to these show that you have had previous success / interest / experience working with your community and with children and can better place you in a position to be seen as a teacher professional who continues to do so as a career.
References – do not use a relative, unless you're a colony runaway and have not got any other options.I kid, I kid. But seriously – ensure that your list of references and reference letters are well-rounded. Use past bosses, teachers, principals, volunteer leaders, or a fellow community member to help you out. Most places require at least three of these, so I would suggest thinking of five just in case you fall short somewhere in there.
If you are going the degree route before applying to education – your best bet would be to sit down with an academic advisor from your university's college of Education to outline for you their expectations of what you should have. Your high school career / college counselor should also have a good hold on this, but it's best to get a second opinion just in case there's a mismatch of information once you actually start your university career.There's nothing worse than thinking it's your "last year before getting into education! "…. and realizing your one or two classes off of what you should have taken. Boo to the urns.
Finally, if you are taking two to three years of general studies before applying and not necessarily looking to get a pre-ed degree, I would also suggest seeing an academic advisor once you start your studies. If you plan to teach straight-up public schooling at any age level, safe courses always include English, Studio Art (painting, drawing, etc. – even if you suck, you can score a decent grade), Native Studies (take more than a couple of these – teachers with Aboriginal history / culture familiarity are well-thought after), Kinesiology, any of the natural sciences (be careful of your "geography" classes – some universities will not accept Human Geography as applicable to an education undergraduate program ) … but of course check with your advisor as course availability and their applicability range from province to province.
Q # 2: What kinds of courses would you take each year in education?
Like any professional college, your courses become more interested-focused the further into your studies you go. As a first year ed. student (of a two or three year ed program) – you'll learn the basics – educational foundations (basically classes on classroom culture, awareness and addressing student cultural diversity, ethical topics, etc.), you might be introduced into a couple of curriculum classes (courses that introduce what curriculum is, and perhaps some classes that have assignments requiring you to play / practice teaching the curriculum), and some required electives that are only open to education students. As you venture further into your degree, you will choose whether you want to go elementary / middle years / secondary and you may also have the option to prepare for teaching in a religious school by studying that religion (one or two courses) as an elective during your undergrad. The subsequent Ed Foundations and Education Curriculum courses will just be "better-focused" versions, or subject-based versions of what you were introduced to in your first year. Expect some administration courses (studying policies and staff / board politics) as well as special education courses (looking at learning disabilities and gifted kids, addressing these learner types in your classroom).
All super-easy stuff but does require a big time investment and commitment to attending class, as much as it may not seem necessary. Profs notice attendance and if yours is in good shape, can work to your advantage when you need a flashy reference letter or name-dropping to future employers.
Q # 3: Internship details ??
Most people have some practice teaching stints prior to doing an internship – whether it be days or weeks at a time, there's some practice there. Do not be nervous (easy for me to say …) – but really. Your co-operating teacher (the teacher whose class you've been placed in to "practice teach" during your internship) and your supervisor are there to support and guide you as a student who is learning to become a teacher, not to rip you apart and try to fail you.
There's a big debt as to whether you should prepare a great amount for your internship or not. Yep, if you know your grade level and know how to prepare or have a teacher friend who can show you the ropes over summer time. But if you're a first-time teacher and have not a clue how to do a proper unit plan or long-range plan for your students and effectively utilize the curriculum, set up your classroom a particular way, etc. etc … do not bother! Your co-operating teacher is also your mentor and there should be some time where you can take notes on classroom set-up, his / her instructional methods, students as learners – and then have conversations with your co-operating teacher about how you can best do your job as an intern with all of these factors in play. You will also have several opportunities to meet with other interns and your supervisor to discuss your experiences and to attend professional development days to learn about teaching (yep, teachers still have to attend these even after graduating – just to be on the up-and- up of instructional trends!). In other words, do not go into an internship expecting to up-show your co-op or to be heavily criticized on the don'ts of your methods. Instead, take each of your lessons as a learning experience for the next and enjoy your growth into yourself as a teacher professional! It's fun, make the best of it – relax, work hard, and use your college supervisor if you have problems with your co-op teacher – it's nothing but a great learning experience that should make you excited about the profession!
While in your internship, devote as much time as you can to extra-curricular and networking. This not only adds experience to your resume, but opens you up to an array of activities that you may find you enjoy teaching as well as the largest key – NETWORKING. There are so many opportunities that open up once you get yourself involved in coaching, preparing a school concert or play, or leading special interest groups at school or the community. People see you doing great things, spread the good word, and voila – you're opening a door to a steady flow of positive and well-rounded references from a variety of people involved in the field of education. Easy!
Q # 4: Job outlook …
Depends on your province / city. Changes constantly with people retiring. Typically in larger centers the market is tough as the university students who become teachers tend to hang around and wait for jobs. Rural communities have more availabilities – which can sometimes be good if you're willing to compromise location – as having a quick start on your career can ease you into an urban school division a bit quicker than a teacher hopefully who hangs around like a bum waiting for a job after university. As an educated person, it's okay to be a bit picky. Browse school division and individual school websites that you may be interested in. Do their visions and goals match your teaching philosophy? If you are more about hands-on education and less traditional teaching, a Maria Montessori School or one that revolves around Reggio Emilia philosophies of primary learning may be the choice for you. Teaching at schools with such philosophies do often involve training beyond your teacher education program, so shop around on their websites for a teacher training location nearest you.
Q # 5: Salaries …
Again depends on your province and whether you're provincial / public.A great website for a chart of provincial average salaries is on the Education Canada Network (ECN) website – this site is also great for job hunting on a broader scale! Don 't forget that your salary will always increase with each year of experience and with each additional degree that you have obtained away from your B.Ed. More information can be found on your prospective school division or local teacher union's website.