By Andi Bailey
As many of us know from watching the news, or if you are on the teacher side of TikTok, teachers are not treated properly within the education system. What many people do not know, however, is that it starts before they even become teachers. It starts while they are still in college.
While numerous other majors have options for paid internships, student-teachers are forced to work essentially a full-time job for no pay. In fact, student-teachers are required to pay tuition AND student-teaching fees in order to complete their internship. They must find transportation, pay for materials for their lessons, buy appropriate clothes, and more while still providing for themselves. When starting their internship, they are strongly encouraged to not have a job since it will take away from their time and dedication to their internships. Many times, there is just not enough time, so students are forced to quit their jobs in order to finish their degrees and obtain their certifications. There is a great economic disparity between student-teachers. Only students who can afford to pay for everything listed above are able to complete the program. Others are forced to shift or change majors because they cannot afford to follow their dreams.
Even as a first-year student here at NDMU, I am worried about how I will afford my student-teaching. My parents are not able to buy me a car for transportation. Between now and my student teaching, if I am unable to afford a car, I will most likely be walking through Baltimore city almost every day in order to reach my internship. If I wanted to try to get an internship closer to home where I could receive more help from my parents with transportation and whatnot, because of my scholarship, I would still be required to pay for on-campus housing and a meal plan that I would not use. In this lose-lose scenario, what do I choose? If I did acquire a car, how would I budget for yet another added expense of insurance, gas, and upkeep? I am lucky enough to have a full tuition scholarship here at NDMU, so I will not have to pay tuition along with these fees. Others are not so fortunate. Even if students are not taking classes during their internship, they are still required to pay tuition to their institution.
Because of this, on Monday, February 27, students from many colleges across Maryland traveled to Annapolis in order to lobby for The Educator Shortage Act, House Bill 1219. HB 1219 was proposed by Governor Moore in order to help student-teachers to reduce the teacher shortage. This bill aspires to reform the Teaching Fellows for Maryland program to expand the eligibility to non-Maryland residents, establish a Grow-Your-Own program for future teachers which would provide scholarships to future teachers who promise to work full-time in Maryland upon graduation, and most excitingly in my opinion, establish the Educator Internship Stipend program which provides stipends of up to $20,000 dollars for student teachers actively participating in an internship, and more. This will help more students graduate with a teaching certification and in turn, help turn around the teacher shortage here in Maryland.
It was truly eye-opening hearing from fellow education majors about their experience with student teaching and preparation. So many of my peers are struggling to afford their internships and are scared for their future, just like I am. Many of us – me included – have dreamed to be teachers since we were kids, not knowing the path we would have to take to get there. But we are SO passionate about this profession that we are willing to do all of this in order to get there. But the fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t have to. We should not make it this much of a challenge to become an educator. I truly hope that our conversations with these legislators will help get HB 1219 passed to help with the financial toll it takes on future educators to obtain their certifications.
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