Teachers, teachers everywhere — but not a job to take!

(courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation)

Newspapers around the country are reporting that would-be teachers aren’t having an easy time finding positions for the 2010-11 school year. The woeful economy and accompanying budget cuts have led many districts to freeze or significantly scale back on new hires. And yet there doesn’t appear to be any similar reduction in the number of teacher candidates entering the market.

In The Oregonian, Betsy Hammond tells the story of two aspiring teachers who have master’s degrees and substitute-teaching experience — but only bleak employment prospects.  One has been on the market for almost two years, applying for over 100 jobs but not being offered even one of them. The other, with a background in mathematics and computer science, hasn’t been any luckier. It seems math vacancies have vanished. The relatively few specialities for which demand remains strong, at least in the Pacific Northwest, include special education, ESL and bilingual education.

Grace Merritt of The Hartford Courant reported on the sizeable drop in teacher vacancies in Connecticut, noting that the state currently suffers from a glut of elementary teachers, many of whom end up seeking work in other states. And yet urban areas in Connecticut continue to have openings they struggle to fill with qualified teachers. As in the Pacific Northwest, demand for teachers of special education and bilingual education remains robust.

What can teachers do to make themselves more marketable? One possibility is to increase the grade levels and/or subject areas that one is certified to teach. In Massachusetts, for instance, certified teachers can expand the subjects they are certified to teach simply by passing content-area tests. (Full disclosure: I am certified to teach history in Massachusetts — despite having taken no college courses in the field — simply because I paid $100 to take and pass a four-hour exam, and because I was already licensed by the state to teach another subject.)

Another option, especially attractive to younger teachers with fewer ties to particular cities or states, is to look abroad. International schools can be found on every continent but Antarctica, and the vast majority of them feature curricula taught in English. For teachers familiar with the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate curricula, a career in international school teaching shouldn’t be overlooked.

Justin Snider