Back when I was an education major, a question I never failed to hear was, “You really want to be a teacher?” From a monetary standpoint, many people don’t want to be teachers. In this day and age, finding people who want to be teachers is hard, and keeping them is even harder.
The time and effort a teacher has to put in is extensive, a full 9-to-5 job where they still have multiple other responsibilities waiting for them at home. This undoubtedly applies to student teachers as well. A student teacher at NC State, or any university for that matter, has a lot of the same responsibilities. They wake up, go to their designated school from open to close, teach the students sometimes an absurd number of classes, and all without pay!
NC State has an amazing education department, with many different programs that can lead to getting your teaching license. Its goal in bettering education is by “increasing educational opportunities for all and reducing achievement gaps.” We even have cultural competence and youth mental health certificates upcoming teachers can earn before they graduate.
So why doesn’t it pay its student teachers?
I have a friend who is a senior and is in her last semester of student-teaching at Brooks Elementary School. Before, she had a serving job at a restaurant in downtown Raleigh making enough to pay her bills and have spending money. Now, she has no time to work another job, and her parents have to help her pay her bills because of student teaching and all the requirements included in student teaching/graduating in the College of Education.
Seeing her struggle to pay for even small things like her meals makes me question NC State’s education department and its reasoning for not paying student teachers. Well, it doesn’t have a stated reason. There is no information widely available as to why it doesn’t pay our student teachers.
NC State offers numerous jobs on campus where students can make a good amount of money, much more than the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Some of these jobs include working as a teaching assistant, tutoring with the Academic Success Center, working in the libraries, etc. Even students working in the same position as me at Student Media get paid a decent amount. If NC State has the money to pay all these students, I don’t see why student teachers shouldn’t get paid. I feel as if our education department at NC State is lacking in helping new and young teachers establish themselves in the workforce. In addition to the lack of a base pay, student teachers are required to uptake numerous other charges that are a necessity for them to student teach and transition into becoming a full-time teacher.
Students enrolled in the College of Education have to take two tests that cost over $200 to qualify for licensure and are also expected to pay for transportation costs and materials needed for the classroom. In addition to these costs, they also lose student privileges like taking advantage of meal plans and dining dollars because they will have to bring their own lunch to their school.
Although my friend’s in a difficult situation, she is still fortunate to have the financial support of her family to help her make it through the program. But where does this leave those who don’t have such resources?
The consequences of being a student teacher can be seen in one’s social life and financial state. A student-teacher has even less free time than the typical full-time student while also losing the flexibility being a student can often bring. Having to sacrifice that is something many and most student teachers are willing to do to become a teacher. However, also losing the financial support one may have had before student teaching isn’t very fair.
To keep students in the education field, they are going to have to get some sort of compensation for all their hard work. Teacher pay is already incredibly low, so not paying student teachers is another reason why most education majors get that same daunting question: “Is this really what you want to do?” Eventually, people are going to answer “no” to that question, and we will have fewer and fewer competent and motivated teachers.
Paying student teachers may seem unnecessary to administrators, but they deserve something for all the hard work they are putting into becoming a teacher. Remember, these students will be shaping our society and helping bring up a whole new generation, so they deserve all the support they can get, starting with a livable salary.