Improving the Quality of the Teacher Pipeline




Having enough good teachers is a problem in today’s world. We obligate teachers with so much responsibility and simultaneously, don’t prepare them for the daunting job that lies ahead. For some reason, many people believe teachers have an “easy” job. They have summers off! They teach the same thing over and over! If you can’t do, teach!

Yikes! Perhaps those common misperceptions are in part the reason the teaching profession doesn’t get the respect and priority it deserves and at the same time, is good reason why those who excel in fields do not gravitate toward teaching. Instead, they want to “do”.

I have been in both camps – I have done and I have taught. I can honestly say that “doing” gave me much more to offer as a teacher. It may not completely prepare you, however. Much of that preparation, for me,  came from being a parent, and the gradual process of teaching and understanding all the complexities of learning as I taught a wide variety of students. I threw myself into the world of teaching without ever having taken one education course – no behavior management, no methods, no history of educational philosophy. So how did I manage?

I have always gotten high marks in my role as a teacher – of course that may not mean I was successful with everyone. What distinguished me from others was I would do whatever I had to do so that students understand content and engage. Find what motivates! Bar almost nothing. I have some great stories of my antics for another time. The persistence and resilience I learned from “doing” made me never give up. That patience and commitment is valuable.

So many students take education as a major because they don’t know what they want to do and reports say it is not too challenging, and the assumption is you can get a job. I think no one tells you what that job is like. And in today’s world, the numerous conflicts over teachers, testing, and teacher evaluation are well known. And so the “persona” of teaching is not favorable or enticing. Much more intriguing is to help the world in another way – engineering, science, and start-ups.

So, teaching, whether on purpose or as a result, attracts dispassionate people who aren’t interested in educating and preparing the next generation. There are innumerable problems. Teachers can get certified in many states to teach rigorous subjects such as high level mathematics, chemistry, physics and the like and be certified to teach any of them if they have a license.  They may have had a specialty in college, but that doesn’t dictate what they will teach. Many teachers have had little content specific courses in college. Time is spent on “lightweight” things peripheral (in my opinion) to what a good teacher needs. I have so many problems with this system, and yes, some things are changing, but a big problem still exists. Many teachers are already grandfathered into the system and I fear they will they corrupt the newer teachers who have been recruited and participated in programs designed to create better teachers (ie. UTeach).

I do not want to bash teachers. There are many who work so hard using all of their resourcefulness to meet the needs of a diverse variety of students. At the same time, I have met my share who didn’t want to try very hard. They weren’t up to the task – or perhaps just didn’t realize what they were getting into.

       I want to leave at 3:00 PM and have a good time in the summer. No workshops and continuing ed for me!!

To be fair, many were not told what it is like to be a teacher. They weren’t in a classroom until their senior year. It is not fair to expect so much from unknowing victims. I am grateful for innovative programs such as UTeach which take away so much wasted time, and instead focus on content and get students in the classroom from the beginning. In this program, they do know what they are getting into, and as a result, these teachers are better prepared and more successful. One problem, UTeach only prepares science and math teachers for middle and high school. What about the rest of teacher preparation candidates?

Change is needed. We need more and better teacher prep programs and those who can recruit and retain those candidates. We need to value intrinsically and extrinsically those who are driven to teach. Perhaps what is needed is a program that allows students to study enough content “to do,” and at the same time, explore teaching. Give them a chance to practice their craft or discipline and teach part-time. Then, give an opportunity to decide which may be a better fit or perhaps combine disciplines. What is the problem with a program such as this?  You have to pay them. Pay must reflect value and be commensurate to experience while reflecting a culture that values the education of the next generation. Interest people who have had a career already in something to pursue a new career in teaching. Instead we remove all older people from the classroom in favor of young and “enthusiastic,” but limited experience teachers. Creativity, innovation and life experience should be encouraged and applauded. And yes, do away with standardized everything.

Paradigm shift required. Think about it. Teachers’ pay must equal its serious and fundamental responsibility. Value teachers and teaching. There is a shortage of expert and dedicated teachers. We have burned them out and turned them away. We need to interest this generation of college students in teaching and give value to what the will spend on their education that there is an esteemed and respected place for them in the work world.  Where would all of our youth be without them?

This is a great article: How should we prepare STEM teachers?  


Here are statistics in my state that should be a wake-up call: Colorado Department of Higher Ed Educator Preparation Report 2016

Categories: 21st Century Education, STEM education, teacher preparation, teachers

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