Student - January 6, 2010

Thrown to the lions

Two high-potential graduates from Wageningen University are trying out teaching for eighteen months. 'Now is not the right time for a job in the private sector.'

Bram Winkelman bends over the remains of a deer during a forensic entomology field trip for sixteen-year-old schoolchildren.
They both have a parent who is a teacher. And neither of them wished to continue in academic research. Cazimir ten Brink and Bram Winkelman graduated in 2009 from Wageningen University and are now taking part in the national pilot project 'First class'. Over a period of eighteen months they will obtain a teaching qualification, get teaching experience and get more information on job options in the private sector. All of this on a full-time salary. From January 2010 they are being thrown to the proverbial lions, in their case sixteen and seventeen year olds in secondary education (havo and vwo).
'I would really like to work in the research department of a company. But it's the wrong time for that because of the economic crisis. Teaching was actually plan B', explains Cazimir ten Brink, who studied Molecular Life Sciences. Ten Brink is a so-called high potential, a very promising graduate, just like the other eighteen graduates selected to take part in 'First class'. Nearly all his fellow students went on to do a PhD but he didn't like the sound of that at all. 'University departments always have lots of narrow-minded specialists. It can be very restricted from the social point of view.' Teaching is a good opportunity to get useful experience on a respectable salary. Ten Brink: 'Normally you would have to carry on studying an extra year to do the teaching course.' He hopes to get a job with a company after all once he has finished the eighteen months.
Opportunities for growth
Crisis or no crisis, Bram Winkelman wants to take part in the programme to see whether teaching might really by for him. When he started his biology studies he always said he never wanted to be a teacher because a lot of biologists end up in teaching. But during the degree course he discovered that he was not cut out for research. 'I would like to do something concrete, with a future and opportunities for growth.'
Winkelman got some teaching experience as a student assistant and, like Ten Brink, worked for Wageningen University's NLT team, which develops modules for the optional school subject Nature, Life and Technology for the top classes in secondary schools. Winkelman organized a forensic entomology field trip for a class of sixteen year olds in University Preparatory Education (vwo) for the NLT team. 'It is really great to find that you can make them enthusiastic and to see them fully engrossed.'
Policing
Ten Brink had already spent two months during his university studies teaching chemistry to the top class in a school for Senior General Secondary Education (havo). 'I really had the feeling I was doing something that meant something to them. The kids really got involved. But they were admittedly all girls.' He aims to be a strict but just teacher, just like his father. 'I hope I don't have to end up policing them.' Winkelman says Ten Brink has nothing to fear. When the class of aspiring teachers took turns teaching each other, Ten Brink turned out to be the strictest teacher.

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