Should there be a minimum age for teaching?

Recently I have begun to read more teaching literature to familiarise myself with the teaching world in preparation for my PGCE applications. Part of this reading has included the Times Educational Supplement (TES) magazine as it has some interesting articles and discussions about teaching practice and training.

The latest issue included an interesting question from thier online forum, that of whether or not we should introduce a minimum age for teaching. This is a particularly hot topic in my house between me and one of my younger housemates who also wishes to become a teacher. Like myself, she wishes to become a secondary school teacher but feels with only a year of her life not spent in education she lacks the authority to teach children less than ten years younger than her.

Personally, at 21 I would not have felt strong enough to stand in front of twenty-something teenagers and assert my authority to them. In fact, I don’t think I even HAD any authority at 21! It is only now, having spent five years in the ‘real world’ that I think there’s any possibility I might perhaps be able to teach and do the children justice.

That’s not to say this is the case for everybody. I know at 21, with a strong 2:1 degree in English under her belt, another of my friends was denied her chance at a PGCE for her ‘lack of life experience’. Granted, at that point she hadn’t travelled the world or got married or done anything of great magnitude. However, she had moved away from home, taken on a degree and a part-time job, and managed her time and money to a point where she could still socialise with her friends. Sadly, the universities could not see her potential and rejected her application so many times that she gave up on her childhood dream.

I personally feel that were a minimum teaching age to be brought in, a lot of young people would feel ostracised and desrimnated against simply for knowing what they want to do with their life. As I said before, I did not feel ready to go into teaching at the age of 21, but I also would have resented being banned from it as well. Like anything in life, from students to heavy-metal fans, tarring a group of people with the same brush is ultimately a very damaging thought process.

My main concern is that encouraging people to leave the education system and get more ‘life experience’ gives them a reason to get a job, a house, money coming in. Once this happens and they are out in the big wide world, how are they expected to fund another year or two of full time education? The biggest danger in leaving full time education is not going back into it – the lure of a full time wage can prove too strong for most mortals.

Plus there is already a shortage of teachers in most subjects. Can we really afford to be turning away young, eager students willing to take on the responsiblities so many people find too daunting? Though experience is crucial and cannot be dismissed, I believe willingness and a real desire to make a difference can be more valuable.

What are your thoughts? Is there such a thing as being to young to teach?

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