GUEST POST – This post is by Georgia Mae Lively, my favorite high school senior. She’s my daughter, and will graduate this June. Georgia Mae will be attending Temple University in Philadelphia this fall where she plans to major in Math. She’s the greatest girl in the world, in my humble opinion.
A couple weeks ago, I had to go to a math themed TOK session. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the IB program, basically that means I was in study hall with a bunch of smart seniors talking about philosophical concepts as they relate to math. We watched some TED talks and then our teacher gave us the rest of the period to talk in our groups about how to improve the way in which math is taught in our schools. Eventually, my group exhausted the topic, and the conversation moved to, as all amongst high school seniors inevitably do, the topic of college. I mentioned that my school, where I’m planning on majoring in math, has a program where you can get licensed to teach during undergrad, and that it’s possible that I could end up doing that. Then my friend said, “God, I never want to teach.” And everyone in my group, including me, nodded in agreement.
The person who said that is an IB diploma candidate and national merit scholar. She is a very smart cookie. And looking around that room, I realized that we, the IB diploma candidates, are some of the smartest people in the country. And none of us want to teach. If you ask any one of them what they want to do, I will bet you good money that none of them will say teach. In fact, I know one person whose ambition in life is to be a teacher. One. Out of every person I know, one actually aspires to teach. And she doesn’t even go to school in my county.
I don’t think any one thing is responsible for the attitude we all have towards teaching as a profession. Maybe it’s because we’ve all hated high school so much we can’t stand the idea of going back. Or we see our teachers acting like it’s the absolute worst profession they could have been doomed to. Or we just know how much a teacher makes per year (and in spite of what Taylor Mali might say, making a difference is not enough). Teachers are underappreciated and overworked. A noble profession, meant for cultivating knowledge and producing world citizens capable of thinking and creating, has been perverted into a grueling task that seems both useless and endless. We all can’t wait to get away from our teachers. Why would we ever want to become one of them?
Last week, my mom (middle school teacher, main author and curator of this blog, and a spectacular lady all around) took me to my college for an admitted students event. At the College of Science and Technology event, my mom spent most of the time I was talking to a math major, trying to talk the teaching program representative out of being a teacher. “Don’t do it,” she hissed, “Get out while you still can.” She was maybe 15% joking. My mom is very good at her job. But my mom’s job is not good to her. And I see that every day. But later, I told her she shouldn’t have said that to the boy who wanted to teach. “How is teaching ever going to get better if we don’t have more teachers? Teachers who actually want to teach?”
I don’t know if I’ll get licensed to teach in college. I don’t know if anyone in my high school IB diploma class will either. I hope one of them does, but I doubt any of them will unless something drastic changes this country’s overall attitude towards teaching. But I’d like to hope that if I go to my high school reunion in twenty years, and one of my classmates says they became a teacher, they won’t be met with looks of pity, but as much congratulation as if they had become a doctor or engineer. Because at the end of the day, teachers, doctors, and engineers all exist to make humanity better and stronger, but only one out of those three has a salary on which a single family home could not survive.
One thought on “Who Wants to Teach? (Hint: No One)”
I’m so glad that you wrote this. The students who were at the university were so excited about the activities that they’d been working on with local students in an after school program. They had the freedom there to do hands on lessons and to get the kids up and out of their seats to learn math concepts. I told them that they would be so lucky if they could find a way to do those same things in a classroom one day. We’ve cut out any exciting learning opportunities in favor of a school year of test preparations and meetings about what the test questions might mean. I hope that by the time you and your classmates are graduating and picking careers, we’ve come to our senses as a nation and have brought back teacher and student choice in the classrooms. We need to find the love of learning and teaching again.