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Pepijn Stoop | UvA teacher education programs: Do your homework

Pepijn Stoop ,
16 mei 2024 - 09:44
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High workloads, no support and unpaid internships: teacher education can start looking at itself critically, writes Pepijn Stoop. “I can hardly imagine a worse calling card for a profession suffering from shortages.”

I am taking the only UvA course where you assign homework yourself: the educational module, part of the teacher training program. For this, I spend most of the week voluntarily (yes, really) happily mingling among schoolchildren. Yet I and other trainees experience little support from the training program during our internship and, as a result, a high workload. Why doesn’t the program do its homework?


Anyone at the UvA taking an educational minor, module, or master’s degree knows that the internship can make or break being a teacher.  Although teacher education is academic, you learn many things only in practice. For example, I never had a lecture on what to do if you are “kidnapped” by students in police uniforms during the final exam stunt. Because of my internship, I now know this (by necessity).


The UvA expects you to log a lot of flying hours at and for your internship site. Nevertheless, I experience that my program hardly supervises internships, which makes the workload unnecessarily high.

“I see fellow students walk into the lecture hall every week more frustrated”

It starts with the lack of internship guidelines. As a student, you don’t know what a supervisor, who is also suffering from the teacher shortage, may ask of you as an intern. I hear about fellow students taking over entire classes from their overworked internship supervisor and not being able to prepare for classes because they are handed towering piles of grading work.


The UvA puts negotiating internship fees for all this work on us, while it usually assigns internship schools itself.


Compensating interns is not compulsory, so if the school likes you, you get paid, and otherwise not. This not only encourages exploitation but also monetary distress. For example, after two weeks of training, almost everyone had quit their side jobs because of the workload, but whether you can then make ends meet depends on where you teach in Amsterdam.


Schools themselves are also sometimes unaware of the training requirements. This leads to arguing with internship supervisors over assessments or, in my case, to a school not being able to offer enough hours. When I knocked on the school’s door with this, I discovered to my surprise that there is no fixed point of contact for internship matters. Eventually, I ended up with a teacher who told me that I had to solve it myself. Looking for a second internship school just didn’t fit into my full schedule. Fatigue caused me to attend less internships, even though they give me energy.


I see fellow students walk into the lecture hall every week more frustrated, piles of revision work under their arms, who end up delaying or quitting their studies. One of the biggest causes of young teachers dropping out is a lack of support. It seems as if the program even wants us to experience that. I can hardly imagine a worse calling card for a profession suffering from shortages.


Therefore, I am proposing homework for teacher education programs for next academic year: Tell trainees where the line of responsibility lies and where they can go if a school crosses that line. Finally, a collaborative assignment: Start negotiating with schools about internship fees yourself. The penalty for not making it is an even greater teacher shortage, so get busy!

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