How would you start the conversation?
This morning, I had an opportunity to speak with a group of education majors at St. Cloud State University. These students are about to complete their student teaching and enter the job market.
Just four years ago, when these teachers were beginning their college educations, the majority of people held teachers in very high esteem. Now, teachers are increasingly being portrayed as lazy, incompetent, and bad for America – not to mention the face of wasteful government spending. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom, but the world of teaching they’re entering in 2011 is quite different than the one I entered in 2001.
However, these teachers didn’t seem overly concerned with this recent shift. They are pursuing their goal despite this additional scrutiny and uncertainty. I admire them for their attitude and they reminded me how thankful I should be for the opportunity to be a teacher. These student-teachers are sharp, eager, thoughtful, and open. I would be proud to teach with any of the students I met today, but I know the road that awaits them won’t be easy to navigate on their own.
After presenting on the topic of engaging 21st Century Learners, I talked with a few small groups of students about their concerns about entering the teaching world. In conversations, they were remarkably receptive to the call to preserve their students’ senses of creativity and curiosity – to create leaders and problem solvers. They were incredibly perceptive of effective use of technology, voicing some concerns about the way that their cooperating teachers either ignored technology completely or refused to let students use the technology tools in their classrooms.
These eager teachers worried most about working alongside veteran teachers who may resist the need to change. They were concerned about being kept from integrating technology, engaging students, and experimenting with new ways of teaching because their colleagues would either ignore them or reject their ideas completely. They had already met with some resistance from their cooperating teachers, which they respected, but now that they’re just months away from being in their own classrooms, they feel unsure about how to convince colleagues to give new ideas and teaching methods a chance.
A few of their questions stuck with me:
“How do I approach a teacher in my same subject area or grade level if I want to try something new?”
“How do I let a teacher know that they’re doing something that seems like it’s not right for students?”
“How do I motivate an experienced teacher to make even a small change that will help students?”
Of all the worries these new teachers could have, these were their most pressing concerns today. They wanted to know how to take risks and help students learn in environments they perceive as dedicated to preserving the status quo.
What’s the best way to answer these questions? What advice would you have for these eager and ambitious young teachers?
The conversations I had today reminded me about how important it is to listen to and work with new teachers. It’s easy to resist a call to change and write it off as just the voice of inexperience. However, I believe that meaningful change can only come about by heeding all voices and being receptive to new ideas. Knowing how hesitant the new teachers are about broaching the issue of change, I need to understand how much easier the discussion would be for them if I welcomed them into it instead of waiting for them to bring up the subject.Posted under Random by mccallum