Between vocation and profession

Between vocation and profession

Between vocation and profession

Survival in the field of education cannot be sustained by passion or vocation alone

Image: Image: of Gerd Altmann – Pixabay

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Antoni Hernández-Fernández


There has been a shortage of teachers for some time now, particularly in the fields of technology, mathematics, and certain technical branches of vocational training (VT). However, the shortage has now extended to other specialties, with more vacancies than applicants in many competitive examinations. The once attractive holidays and working conditions of the profession no longer seem to hold the same appeal.

Approximately half of the students in the master in teacher training in technology and VT, whom I affectionately refer to as ‘pre-teachers’, are already in teaching roles. They are in high demand. Yet, many supply teachers’ positions remain unoccupied. This may be a familiar scenario if your child has come home with a new gap in their school timetable due to the absence of a teacher. Quite a few job boards are empty.

These ‘pre-teachers’ are now teachers before completing their training, as the system is desperate to recruit. This presents a linguistic contradiction and a challenge. I quickly resolve the linguistic contradiction by eliminating the prefix ‘pre-’ or leaving it in parentheses. The challenge is more complex: I must equip them in a short time with knowledge, resources, tools, teaching strategies, and classroom management techniques that will be useful to them in class. Emergencies are not good in education.

Given the exceptional nature of the situation, a social deficiency partly derived from the lack of foresight of public administrators, the system allows the hiring of (pre)teachers. Shouldn’t the master in teaching students’ practicum be validated for those who can prove they have taught? Shouldn’t their entry into education be facilitated? After all, we are not exactly flush with staff. For many, the master’s practicum comes late: supervised practices in educational centres should officially be the first contact with the reality of the classroom, in an attempt at progressive learning of the profession under the supervision of experienced teachers.

Previously, the (pre)teachers, once the prefix was removed, often started in challenging environments, referred to as ‘high complexity’ centres or with some other euphemism in use. These positions, often ‘difficult to fill’ are the destinations that nobody wants, the educational equivalent of trenches. One might question the logic of assigning the least experienced teachers to the most challenging centres. Is it to discourage them?

Some understandably give up. Those who persist in the profession sometimes opt for a change of environment when faced with adversity. They depart from complex contexts, overwhelmed schools, and centre projects that they find unconvincing or uninteresting. Or, quite simply, they leave for the sake of their own comfort, mental, and physical health. Certain efforts or torments do not seem worth the struggle. I do not judge them. Commitment to the profession is not a blank cheque.

Nor does a sense of vocation. There are those who remain despite setbacks and difficulties. They do not give up. They believe in what they do and do not retreat even when the environment is unfavourable. I admire them. Unbeknownst, these hidden and anonymous figures are the champions of a society that would crumble without them. They persevere where others give up. They survive, learn, and improve. With courage, they strive to lift the most disadvantaged out of the social abyss, offering them opportunities. To them, I extend my gratitude.

Survival in the field of education cannot be sustained by passion or vocation alone, nor can it be maintained by mere gratitude or commendation. At the beginning of the master’s degree, I usually ask how many are pursuing the course out of a sense of vocation. The majority enrol in the master’s degree merely to broaden their employment prospects. But our role, beyond catering to various religious educational vocations, is to equip professionals.  We must dispel myths and fallacies from teaching, provide effective pedagogical techniques and methodologies, and assist them in carving out a future in education.

I defend the initial training of teachers. I am committed to and believe in the significance of my social function: we must align with the genuine needs of the pre-teachers.  We must not forsake them to their destiny; instead, we should assist them with our experience and knowledge. While much can be learned from mistakes, it is not necessary to learn everything the hard way. Allow me to assist you in becoming a proficient professional.

Like any profession, teaching can be a rewarding career if you enjoy it, or it can be dreadful if you do not. Vocation is a bonus, not a necessity. Nor does it justify putting up with everything. At the very least, we should not discourage the motivated, nor should we extinguish the passion of the neophytes. You can practice teaching without a vocation, with professionalism and efficiency. Vocation is not the antithesis of professionalism. The objective can be simple: leave the classroom no worse than when you entered. If you manage to leave it better, that’s fantastic.

It is often said that the situations we face are unpredictable. This is self-evident. However, there are probable events, strategies, methods, and techniques that are effective in learning or conflict resolution. While there are no magical solutions, we can at least demonstrate proven techniques and methodologies. An education grounded in scientific evidence is feasible.

The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) also defines didactics as “the art of teaching”. Whether it is science, art, or a combination of both, our mission in initial training is to equip the pre-teachers with everything at our disposal, providing them with what we anticipate they will require. Let’s not squander the valuable time of initial training. Let’s mould professionals. They are in high demand.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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