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A Year Later, Still Shut Out of Becoming a Teacher

A little over a year ago, I was profiled in a New York Times article. I wish that my claim to fame had been a little more glamorous than the fact that I was out of work. However, it did focus on the fact that I was a career-changing pre-service teacher and substitute that was deeply affected by New York City’s teacher hiring freeze.

One of the many factors that brought me into education was that I could change careers fairly seamlessly. The career change program at St. John’s University allows for people to take classes at night while still working in their other careers. Halfway through the master’s degree program one can qualify for an alternative certification and teach with a full paycheck while completing the remainder of the degree. My plan was to reach that halfway mark by this time last year and be teaching English full time by September 2009. But life doesn’t always go according to the plan.

I started working as a substitute teacher in the fall of 2008 after leaving the photo industry. I specifically chose to work at schools that I knew were growing and adding teachers. I wanted to network and understand the city’s vast school system better. I had only anticipated doing it for one school year.

I also found substituting to be too irregular to depend on for steady work and needed to rely on assistance from family to make sure my bills were paid on time. Instead of going through the alternative “internship” certification, I finally chose a more traditional path. This past spring, I did my student teaching at a public high school in Manhattan. As a substitute, I had gotten to see only snapshots of the students. I was now able to experience, day in and day out, how the students behaved and learned. It was a valuable learning experience, and I believe that I equally learned what to do and what not to do when and if I ever have my own classroom.

This week, I will finish my last course at St. John’s to complete my master’s of science in education, with a focus in Adolescent Education. I’ll have my New York State Initial Certification in English (7-12) by Sept. 1 but probably not a full-time job along with it. I’ve been applying for jobs at both charter and independent schools inside and outside of New York City. While I do still remain hopeful, I doubt that I’ll have a regular job in September. In the meantime, I have started tutoring again and can only hope that I can parlay it into something regular and steady.

I will continue to look both inside and out of the New York City area for full-time positions. It saddens me to think about leaving New York but in the end I have to go where the jobs are. I will have to start paying my student loans back soon. I admit, that part is daunting. But I continue to believe in teaching as a career. That’s really what’s helped me maintain hope.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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