New Faces in Education?Each spring our local newspaper selects twenty of the best and the brightest graduating high school seniors from surrounding communities to create an Area Academic Team. The...
Each spring our local newspaper selects twenty of the best and the brightest graduating high school seniors from surrounding communities to create an Area Academic Team. The paper features them in a news story, printing their pictures and career plans. This year I noticed, sadly, that of the twenty seniors, not one planned to teach. I can understand why teaching might not be a particularly appealing choice of professions right now, but what can be done to encourage highly talented young people to become teachers? We need them more than ever.
Here's a few ideas for reform of schools that have never been attempted:
1) Fully fund them. What would the affect on test scores and graduation rates be if schools had all the money they needed for more teachers, more support personnel, field trips, classroom supplies, and up to date facilities? What if education was as well funded say, as defense?
2) College is free. This is what almost every other industrialized country does. Ask any economist and they'll tell you it is a sound investment, a no brainer. The increased incomes of college graduates pay more actual dollars in taxes, and we will make our money back many fold as well as have a more educated, more competitive and more productive population. Don't believe me? Look at what happened after the GI Bill following World War II. Some of the best money we have ever spent. Add to that, think of the positive effect on student morale if they know, no matter their financial status or background, they will be able to attend college if they work hard enough. Sounds like the American Dream to me.
3) Get teacher candidates in the classroom more often, and earlier - Education philosophy classes are fine, to a point, but almost everything I learned about actual teaching I learned from being in a classroom, actually doing it. We should have our schools become "teaching schools" just as we have "teaching hospitals". Not to mention, it provides for extra staffing and support for existing teachers with little added cost. I'm tired of the merit pay argument. There's no fair way to assess it. I'm tired of endless droning about test scores. They're fundamentally meaningless. And I'm tired of being part of a profession that constantly has to walk around begging with a cup in our hand to obtain even the most basic funding.
Although some of the answers above hold a lot of credibility, I don't think some of what was said addresses the question as to what should be done to encourage young people to become teachers.
There is no easy response to this open question. I believe as teachers, there are some real and concrete methods to promote teaching to our students. In my own classrooms, I assign creative projects that ask students to design games, albums, videos, and other novel projects, in order to reflect what students have learned about a play or a novel. However, of course, the creative project needs to have a focus or "thesis" statement. The students could reflect, for instance, the deteriotation of Macbeth's character in Macbeth. Part of the project, was to have students explain there creative project to the class. As an extension exercise, some of the most successful projects, such as board games, were used by students as teaching tools. Therefore, in this way, students were able to experience "teaching" first hand. Assignments such as these, help students get an understanding of teaching.
Another practice exercise is the peer review. I have students review a partners essay, and criticize the essay using a peer review form that I have developed. In this way, students can develop an understanding of the marking criteria.
Career development is another method to entice young people to get into teaching. Perhaps students can volunteer time in a classroom environment to get some practice at teaching. They may also be given a credit for their volunteer work.
These are only a few good ideas. There are many other ways to promote teaching. We only need to use our creativity to find novel ideas.
I believe that we need to recruit young teachers, but I also have noticed (as have many of my "seasoned colleagues") that some of the younger teachers entering into Education are not as committed as teachers we welcomed even five years ago. They are very casual, treating kids more like friends than students; many struggle with controlling a class. I know this takes time, but some of these new teachers have given up, which makes teaching next to their rooms very distracting. Some fill the curriculum with movies—as often as once a week or once every other week.
In bringing in new teachers, it is important if the administration and department heads are supportive of their teachers, for what also concerns me are the excellent teachers who get jobs and then leave because teaching is hard enough, but the administration does not support them with difficult students in the classroom. Those of us who have a long-term investment in teaching won't be so quick to leave, but a new teacher with one or two years may decide to do something else.
And with these concerns—as mentioned—is the tough economy. Even before things became so very bad, our district was cutting programs, teaching only to satisfy NCLB guidelines (and nothing else, which won't motivate students to do well in any respect), cutting teaching positions, etc. The most recent and distressing piece of information I have heard is that co-teaching with learning-disabled students is going to be stopped, and co-teachers are to be replaced with teaching aides, even though no students have been failing math or science.
How can we hope to bring in new shopkeepers when the mall is in flames?
That so many do not plan to teach may not be such a bad thing. After all, when the supply decreases and the demand increases in America is about the only time that improvements are made. Too many people have gone into teaching because they have someone who can get them the job and their tenure, then they can continue in their disgustingly mediocre way while others who are worthy and have standards are pink-slipped. When it comes to the point that there is a plethora of these less-than-desirable teachers, perhaps the powers that are will wake up.
Look at where we are now. In the sixties the U.S. was the greatest in academic scores, competing against all great nations. (This was a time when people were given Fs and expelled for not doing any work, and students truly had to earn As and Bs.) Now, the U.S. has withdrawn from the competition. Why should anyone of worth want to teach when the system of education in America is in such a deplorable condition? Until the U.S. Department of Education and state departments of education listen to people who truly know the problem, and until these bureaucracies truly desire to fix the real problems, there will not be people of value interested in teaching. Perhaps when these self-serving bureaucracies realize the paucity of worthwhile people, they may have the courage to address these real problems, not the ones which they have politically constructed.
As someone who came into teaching later in life, I can tell you that I had a dim view of teachers...until I became one.
Unfortunately, the media (of which I used to be a part), and some politicians portray teaching as an easy job where teachers only work 8 to 4, have their summer's off, and get great benefits. Well, maybe lazy teachers do that, but from what I have seen since I entered the profession is that most teacher's lives look nothing like that.
Good teachers arrive early in the morning to prepare, stay late at night to grade and lesson plan, give up their weekends, and evenings to take tickets or go to student activities. It's obvious we don't do this for the money (I work in a state that is last in the nation for teacher pay and our benefits are mediocre at best). Most of us do it because we love our students, love our content, and want to make a difference in children's lives.
The general public needs to see this. I feel strongly that some sort of shadowing program should be instituted where parents are required to follow their students through a school day once inwhile. Only by getting the parents on board with the value of what we do, will we get through to their children that teaching is a honorable job that graduates should pursue.
After all...who trains all those doctors, lawyers, and wealthy businesspeople of the future? :)
There is much truth in what I've read above...the public must come to see teaching as a profession which requires the best and brightest...not a job that people do when they can't get anything better. Benefits must be equal to other professions--doctors, attorneys, business men. People must stop looking at "summers off" as a "lucky" thing and be resentful of that time off. Teachers often don't have this time off at all--there is summer school to be taught, professional development to be attended, and classes to be taken as well as taught in order to continue teaching.
Certificates and continuing education, as in other professions, are required of teachers. However, in other professions these things are paid by their employers of those companies. Teachers must pay for their own...even though their salaries are often much less than other professions.
Things must improve, and the public must see teachers as professionals and valuable members of society.
On the flip side, teachers should not become too close to their students. Too often stories of this sort of sexual abuse and abuse of power occur and tarnish everything those of us who have not crossed that line have done for the good of students and the betterment of society.
I agree with some of what has been said above. Teachers are given a negative image in the media. Whether that image stems from sexual abuse or from the few bad teachers out there, it reflects poorly on all teachers. While I do not agree with the merit pay systems (for reasons I will not get into here because it would take to long), I do think there needs to be reform in the area of teacher pay. Many teachers I know have to work more than one job to make ends meet. We do not become teachers because of the money but because we love what we teaching. In some countries, teachers are revered; they hold the future of the country in their hands and are honored accordingly. I think teachers should make as much pay as doctors and lawyers. They also shape our world. Of course, this might mean that teachers would need more education and higher qualification standards, but that might not be such a bad thing. We need students to value education in order to value their teachers. Unfortunately, that is no the way the media portrays this country.
I do not think there is any sort of easy answer to this because what has to happen is that the image of teaching as a profession needs to improve. Talented people will not want to go into a profession that has a negative image.
So how to improve the image of the teaching profession? Here's a link to 9 views of how to do this.
I think that we're going to have to have some system that gives merit pay and gets rid of teachers who perform poorly. The profession can't look good when the best people get paid the same as the worst (with the same education and seniority, of course). I know that is much more easily said than done, though...
Almost everyone who teaches was inspired to do this job because of a great teacher. I think, as teachers we need to talk to our students about why we choose to teach. They need to hear, first hand, how we feel to be in the classroom; how the students inspire us; how much we love our teaching content area; how even the small acts of gratitude can carry us along; how the world of education is different from other endeavours -- in a good way! We teachers all know that we touch students in ways we never know. Perhaps this is one way -- inspire through example! It may seem idealistic, but I actually think it is the grass-roots way to shine a positive light on this profession.
I like the ideas suggested in both #2 and #4. There needs to be some kind of pay rise or other forms of recognition to award the massively hard work that goes into being a good teacher. At the same time we need to remember why we are teachers and the figures who inspired us. Maybe some kind of fast-scheme can be created to give greater responsibility/seniority to better performing teachers?