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Student teachers should be paid.
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The United States Supreme Court ruled last year that the NCAA, the organization that governs college sports couldn’t stop college athletes from getting paid.
That sounded right to me.
Colleges, universities and TV make billions off the labor of college athletes.
I thought about this as I was writing a recent post about the current controversies over unionization and unpaid docents at the Art Institute of Chicago.
It took me back to 1984 when I was a student teacher at Kelvyn Park High School on Chicago’s north west side.
I had completed all my course work at the College of Education and the School of Art and Design at the University Illinois Chicago.
I was an older returning student having dropped out of college in the sixties to do organizing in the factories.
In fact, that’s what brought me to Chicago from Los Angeles.
It was when United States Steel’s South Works plant began to shut down that led me back to school. To help support my family I drove a cab and that allowed me the flexibility to also do my coursework.
But in Illinois as in other states, the hoops I had to jump through to get a teaching certificate were complicated and still are.
One hoop was a year of unpaid student teaching.
And I was 34 with two young children at home and a working wife.
Suddenly even the meager earnings from my cab driving were cut off in order to student teach.
At a time when staffing classrooms with qualified teachers is more difficult than ever, it might be a good time to take a look at demands made by pre-teaching programs and the practicum.
Of course the pandemic has added a whole additional layer of complications to the student teaching process as in almost every aspect of public education.
What I have seen from my old alma mater is that they have for the time being dropped edTPA until further notice.
edTPA charged student teachers as part of the licensure process and it removed classroom teachers from much of their role as mentors. It was awful and even when and if the pandemic ends, edTPA should be allowed to die.
I wrote extensively about how bad edTPA was on my previous blog and you can find it here.
The issue I’m raising is that for many working class students who want to be teachers, the demand of an unpaid practicum is financially crushing.
Most student teaching programs require that by the completion of the practicum, the student teacher is functioning in most ways as the classroom teacher: Teaching, department and other faculty meetings, staffings, parent conferences, planning.
Plus meetings with a university supervisor.
Plus attending a weekly college or university class.
All that with the requirement not to work at any other jobs.
As college athletes are demanding compensation and university teaching assistants are organizing, this just seems like the time to review how student teachers are treated, particularly in a time teacher shortages.