Freitag, 25. Oktober 2013

Motivation to become a teacher - one for the money, two for the show?

Now that I’m in my final year of teacher training and I'm so close to the finish line, a questions keeps popping up, on why all the new students decide to take on teacher training. To be fair, sometimes I ask myself the same thing about people already attending teacher training. When you start at my university, there are admission interviews, where you are asked a couple of things, while they try to find out what your background is and why you want to attend teacher training. Of course interviews like these are easy to manipulate. I’m not talking about manipulating the interviewer, I’m talking about manipulating yourself and making yourself believe intentions that might not be ones really pushing you (or might not be reasons you could publicly state without drawing ire of the your counterpart). So I’d like to think more about the situation or idea that started the process. 

Probably one of the two most common reasons I’ve heard, is that back in the day, the person got to spend time with smaller siblings, or younger relatives or the young family members of friends. The fact that this was a lot of fun, leads many people down the path to becoming a teacher. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think people don’t realize the difference between spending time (i.e. playing) with siblings or children they know, and working with kids and youngsters in a school environment. Obviously this person could have discovered their talent while spending time with those kids and now wants to build up on that. I’m not sure there is a distinction, or I don’t know if anyone could tell that apart, but the basis remains the same - these people have experienced interacting with children as being something that means a lot to them and as something they want to do more.

The second reason, which I never really understood, is that many people want to do better than one of their own teachers they had in school. I know I had a couple of really bad teachers, e.g. disrespecting their students and just treating them like nobodies. Maybe my coping-mechanism is different, but as soon as I left school, I just completely eradicated those people from my memory. I couldn’t draw any motivation from those situations, because I know better. This post is actually connectable to those cases. Judging from the experiences students, including myself, had in their schools, those teachers maybe had not so noble reasons to become a teacher. Again I’m not talking about the obvious one that they manage to tell themselves, I’m talking about the real reasons deep down. Anyway, many students get their motivation because they think they can do better, and want to do better then their own teachers. It is a valid reasoning, but if they don’t have any talents or the proper social skills and work ethic, then it’s a nice wish, but probably not smart. As a sidebar, where I’d add the same argument, is people wanting to become a teacher because they had such great teachers and enjoyed school so much. Again, nice idea, but not smart.

The third reason has more to do with our economy then anything else. The last couple of years, and probably for a few more, there is a pretty big teacher shortage in my city. Even if you are not from the city it is something that is intriguing. Although everybody knows that the pay is not worth the stress you might face, but in this case, you are basically guaranteed a job, a job which you probably won’t lose that easily, and your pay will be pretty decent in a couple of decades. Now if I read that last sentence to a stranger trying to convince him to start education, I think more times than not, they would gladly accept. 

I can’t blame anyone for any of those reasons, all of them are valid and understandable, but sometimes I can’t help but think about the kids those people are going to work with. Of course in an ideal world, if you show up and are willing to work, the proper teacher education program will form you into an acceptable teacher. Not only that, but I think that it can change people and spark something inside them and change their true motivation deep down, because either way, apparently education means something to them.

Montag, 21. Oktober 2013

Transition - Gone in Sweden or Back to Austria

I started my teacher training in the fall of 2010 in Vienna at a ‘Higher Education Faculty’ for teacher training. Before that, I studied something completely different at a proper University in Vienna for a couple of years. During that time I also completed courses at the National Sport Academy in Austria.

As you can see, before I moved to Sweden to study and work I went through various tertiary educational facilities. Since I spent the last couple of years in the teacher training program I was familiar with teacher training. While I was in Sweden I attended regular English courses, history courses and most of all, courses for student teachers and pedagogy students. I was sort of used to a high level before because the University program I previously attended was not easy. The courses at the Sport Academy were also on a high level, but it was something I’ve been involved in for many years before, making it less of an ‘issue’.
Thinking back now, it’s surprising in a way that the level-up to a Scandinavian University was relatively easy. I really enjoyed learning. I really enjoyed studying again. For the first term abroad I told myself to only focus on studying, don’t look for work, just be full-time student again, at least as long as it’s enjoyable for you. As the end of the first term was nearing I started working again and beginning with the second term I was more in thesis-writing mode than classic student-mode. But this whole year of various university-experiences gave me a lot.

I’ve been back in Austria now for almost two months now, and back at teacher training for a couple of weeks, starting my final year. These first weeks made me think a bunch.
It already felt so different, even though I’ve only been to a couple of seminars. These two seminars, maybe 6 hours in total sparked the question for the title of this post: was it more of a transition going to a swedish university or is the ‘real’ transition now my final two terms back at an austrian faculty?

It almost seems like more of a philosophical question than an actual scientifically thought-through theory. The first two years of teacher training in Austria weren’t perfect, and weren't easy. This has a lot do with how the training is run and how the laws are made, and the study plan is executed. I didn’t always feel like I was improving and learning a lot, maybe I was getting a bit frustrated in my second year, which had a lot to do with my decision to study abroad. But then again, I didn’t really know what to expect, I knew I wanted to improve, learn useful stuff as a future teacher and become better and better at it. If I would have stayed in Austria for my entire studies I believe I couldn’t be as good as I can be with the experiences that I had abroad. Now the point here is more that being away from this specific institution can be more valuable than staying there. Can I even really assume something like that? What if I would have stayed, I wouldn’t have an opposing opinion because there wouldn’t have been the experience?
In my case, this might have happened anyway. Here’s why: one of my closest friends, who was in the same teacher training program went to study abroad a year prior to me going. Judging by those experiences my opinion changed even though I was still at ‘home’. We talked about what she has been learning, and how big of a difference it was to really learn something.

But what about students who don’t experience something like we did? Well, as far as I can tell after talking to many students, both primary school and secondary school teaching students, it seems like everybody wants more, wants something better. I can’t recall anybody saying that it’s enjoyable to be at this faculty, but the generally negative mood about teacher education in Austria is a topic for another day.

It seems to me that adjusting upwards is more natural because I’m always excited for challenges, and with that comes more work, but also more fun. This was probably an even bigger deal because my opinion about my program was on a downward spiral before, so having a new environment with challenging studies made even more of an impact. This up and down could also explain why it’s tough to be here again. It will hopefully calibrate itself again, although deep down I don’t want to revert back to ‘lower levels’ again.