Teacher education programs across the country are reporting increasing numbers of students who want to become teachers—especially among older applicants who are switching careers. What’s bringing about the increase? A New York Times story linked the increase to not only the slumping economy, but also to the increase in soul-searching among mid-career adults following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Whatever the reason, the University is no exception to the increase. James Boothe, chair of the department of education, says the increased interest in adults switching careers and moving into the classrooms began showing about five years ago. Now, about 80 percent of students studying to become high school teachers are people who already have degrees and plan to teach that subject.
“People who have degrees are linked naturally to their subject matter like math or chemistry or English,” Boothe says. “The reasons are the private sector world out there is not as interesting as it used to be. A lot of companies have cut back and it’s not as much fun, and middle management compensation is not what it used to be. They may not make more money as teachers, but they’re going to enjoy life more.
“One of the things happening is people are taking stock of their materialistic views, and when we’re in a crisis like Sept. 11, people are thinking that maybe life is a lot more tentative than they thought it was and what do they want to do?”
Of the 1,350 graduate level students studying for their master’s in education, about 400 are people who have decided to switch careers, says John Cooper, director of graduate services. Though more plan to teach at the high school level, there is also a lot of interest in early childhood and Montessori education, and overall, the number of graduate level students is up. But new Ohio standards requiring more hours of study to earn a state teaching license have started to cut into the numbers of career-switchers, Cooper says.
“I know more and more back out after seeing the required hours,” he says. But the department is trying to address the problem by making the required courses more readily available.