I had the privilege of going to one of our University’s yesterday to talk with the graduating education students about entering the field. It was refreshing to see these bright young teachers, full of hope and enthusiasm as they enter the noblest of professions. Rather than just blathering on about how great our division is to work for, which it truly is, my colleague and I decided to give them a more honest overview of what they could expect ahead of them in the profession. What should they know as they go to their first interview and what that first year teaching might look like. It was a great deal of fun but I recognized something very important as I reflected on it after. The field has vastly different expectations on these new young people than were had on a young Dave Dempsey.
As those of you reading this are likely in the teaching profession, you know what a dramatic time of transition this is. The last five years have seen more change in our understanding of learning than the 50 years before. My colleague and I joked yesterday that when we first began our career in teaching, we were given a box of books and a classroom and they wished us luck. Hopefully we emerged intact at the end of June with all of our students in one piece. If we did, we were veterans. Survival was the key. Sounds tough but remember, the expectations on us were substantially different. Differentiation was not on the radar, nor was technology. We had a fairly stable demographic of middle class Canadian born children who typically had two parents at home. Teachers were seen as the holders of the ultimate knowledge that the children needed to listen to in order to become wise so we delivered the information. Sound familiar?
It’s a different era for these fine young educators. As they leave the Universities and Colleges to begin their careers, They are expected to be able to use technology seamlessly in a lesson, have a variety of leveled approaches matching the learning abilities in the classroom and work collaboratively contributing to Professional Learning Communities in their schools. That’s a whole lot to expect from a graduate in their early 20s. Heck, it’s a lot to expect from some one with 10 years experience!
So, what’s my point? First off, what we need in new teachers entering the field is the open minded enthusiasm that will allow them to be continually in the process of learning. They need to be constantly assessing the effect of their lessons so that they can adjust as they go. They need to see this profession for what it is, a field in motion where the headaches and opportunities abound. Agility is the key.
Secondly, new teachers, old ones too for that matter, need to be resilient. Change doesn’t come easy, especially in a field that has been so traditional in the past. Parents will not always understand why things have changed since they were in school and they may be stumbling blocks – and your best allies when you win them over. All parents want what is best for their kids, you just need to show them that you feel that way too.
Finally, we need to really be proud of these new young teachers! They are entering a noble profession where they will be able to look in the mirror and know that the are making a difference in this world. We need to remind them of that. We need to remind ourselves of that too. You affect the future!
Keep on learning.