There’s been much conversation lately on the idea of “growing” more teachers. Why is there a teacher shortage? I won’t pretend to have the perfect answer but I can speak to a possible solution that has merit, simple as it seems: let’s tell more young people that they should be teachers.
I’m talking about seriously, and directly, encouraging them to become educators.
Granted, teaching is not for everybody. With that said, we can all agree that teachers are not demigods with mysterious powers that are only attainable to a few. In fact, with the increasing influx of research, development and mentorship opportunities in education, there is a better chance now than ever for someone to become a successful educator.
There are many who would disagree with me and claim that teaching has never been harder, with high-stakes testing and politics taking all the joy out of the profession.
In the immortal words of Bill Murray in Stripes, “Lighten up Francis.”
From a market standpoint, there is no better time to go into education, with shortages in Minnesota and all of our neighboring states. Plus, turnover with administration has been above 40 percent in each of the last two years. While this turnover is a concerning problem, on the bright side, it suggests that younger teachers will have a wealth of opportunities for career advancement.
So, when it came time for my firstborn to enter college and declare a degree, I suggested education. “That’s where your strengths lie,” I told him.
He proved that my hunch was correct, and it heartened me deeply to hear him speak of his summer job at the school district daycare. A new child posed an exceptional challenge, creating avoidance by other staff. But my son detailed to me his efforts to connect with this kid, and after many failed attempts, he finally got through. “I have the best job in the world!” my son told me.
In the midst of today’s challenging educational landscape, being professional also means being positive.
We need to support and encourage young people before they pick a different degree or career path. We need to be intentional with support during their challenging journey. But mostly, we need to remember that we absolutely need young people—like my son—to become our teachers, our problem-solvers and our leaders.
If you had a tough day in the classroom, heard a negative comment about education or are struggling with a new instructional strategy designed to help students succeed, make a concerted effort to refrain from translating those frustrations into words of discouragement to potential educators. Lighten up first, and remember that we have the best—and most important—job in the world, a job that demands the best from us. It also demands that we promote our profession so more young people pursue the craft. By doing so, we’ll not only get more great teachers in front of our students, we’ll also ensure that these teachers of tomorrow know they have our support.
Lee Carlson taught high school English for over twenty years before becoming the continuing improvement specialist at Northside Elementary in St. James, Minn. He’s a former national director for the Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation and state corporate president for Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership, and currently serves as a board member of Education Minnesota, the Minnesota Rural Education Association and Minnesota Minority Education Partnership. Lee’s interested in just about everything—especially hanging out with his wife (who teachers fifth-grade) and three children—but mostly blogs about equity in education, teacher development, leadership and building partnerships.
The MinnCAN blogging fellowship allows Minnesota teachers, administrators and parents to share their thoughts on key education issues. MinnCAN supports fellows seeking to advance the conversation around public education, though fellows' views and opinions are solely their own.