Student Teachers Should be Paied, Not Pay to Student Teach

Alexa Martin, online publishing coordinator 

Student teaching is the last step for many education majors before graduating and stepping foot into their own classroom. It is a time that most future educators look forward to, filled with excitement and joy to work with students every day and create connections with seasoned teachers. However, like everything, there are always two sides to the story. Student teaching is filled with stress and worry. There are two large contributors to this stress. 

The first is the time commitment — it requires working a “normal teaching day.” This includes the full contracted hours of the educators they are paired with, professional development days and conferences. This is also not taking into account the other obligations that teachers are required to fulfill outside of their contracted hours: grading, learning content and lesson planning. All the while student teachers also need to attend classes of their own to learn new strategies to take into their student teaching experience. 

The second contributor is the financial aspect. While student teachers are expected to do all the things that a licensed teacher has to do, student teachers are not getting paid. Let me rephrase that for those that are a little lost. Student teachers must work full contracted hours and meet the expectations that a licensed teacher is getting paid to meet, but they don’t get to take a paycheck home. In fact, here at Augsburg University, student teachers have to pay full tuition to participate in the student teaching experience. 

In addition to this, many universities — including Augsburg — strongly suggest student teachers avoid working a job during student teaching to get the full experience. This is an option that many do not have the luxury to take because of having to pay for basic living expenses and the yearly $41,000 tuition bill. 

Many compare student teaching to an internship, however, unlike many other internships today, this one does not offer any tangible income. Yes, student teachers do learn the tricks of the trade of being an educator, but the knowledge that you are learning does not pay the bills. There is already a teacher shortage, and people wonder why. One of the reasons is that the next generation simply can’t afford to take on the strenuous financial burden that becoming a teacher requires. 

It is wrong that student teachers are not getting paid for this experience. We as a society should be supporting the next generation of teachers, or at minimum giving them a discount on tuition that, for most, amounts to their starting salary in their first year of teaching, if that. Ask yourself where you would be without your previous teachers. Would you be at Augsburg University? Would you have gone to college? Would you be able to read or write? 

So let’s support the teachers of the future. You can start by advocating for teachers already in the profession and understanding your peers that are starting their student teaching.