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"Imagine a bright teenage student, 17 years old, who is altruistic . . .and considering a lot of career options. One of them might be teaching. They ask you for your advice. What's your message to this teenager?"
Dan Brown, codirector of Educators Rising, posed this question to the participants of Saturday afternoon's "Elevating Recruitment for Educators Rising" session, which focused on energizing the teaching profession and motivating young students to consider a career in teaching.
Participants had a variety of perspectives, discussing the difficulty of being honest with the student about work-life balance as an educator, the influence that teachers have as hope builders, and how to have a frank conversation regarding whether the student is resilient enough.
In December 2015, the Georgia State Department of Education asked all 53,000 teachers in the state a similar question. The subsequent report, Georgia's Teacher Dropout Crisis, showed that two-thirds of teachers would be unlikely or very unlikely to recommend that the student pursue teaching.
"This is where we are, and it's no secret to anyone who works in the schools," said Brown. "American teachers are feeling burned, squeezed by policy, underappreciated, disrespected, often facing hostile legislators—all of this is obviously real."
The solution, Brown believes, involves providing professionals with the tools to take ownership of their challenges and sustain the profession by "growing our own."
One unquestionable component of an improved education system has to be highly skilled teachers working with students, Brown insisted. "We need to replenish our workforce with skilled, durable change agents." Because it takes years to build up teaching expertise, it's imperative to introduce the desire for teaching early—specifically, in high school.
Two pieces need to be in place to start the conversation in high school, according to Brown. First, students need mentors. Ideally, a highly skilled, respected professional in the education community would be tasked as an ambassador for the profession and given time to focus on that responsibility. Second, students need to be able to give teaching a try. High schools should offer programs that give them the basics in teaching instruction and allow them to get hands-on classroom experience.
Educators Rising helps communities execute these programs effectively. Their academy curriculum provides a flexible model for various educational contexts that allow high school students to explore teaching through curriculum and clinical experiences. They also offer "micro-credentials" in antibias instruction, classroom culture, collaboration, formative assessment, and learner engagement.
The only armor against the discouragement students face as they pursue teaching is an internalized knowledge of what it actually takes to be a teacher, Brown noted.
"We need a lot more people to fall in love with teaching," said Brown. "The good news is teaching is lovable."
To learn more about Educators Rising or to explore a partnership with them, visit www.educatorsrising.org.
Kristen Hardy is a fourth-year Communication Studies student at UCLA. She works as a copy editor for the Daily Bruin and a writer for the UCLA Magazine. E-mail her at email@example.com.
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