It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and teachers deserve it. Teachers deserve bagel breakfasts, flowers, and Starbucks gift cards. Teachers deserve higher pay, sane teaching loads, and technology that works. They deserve copy paper.
Teacher Appreciation Week is a great time to give teachers these things. It’s also a good time to consider how to recruit and prepare a new generation of highly skilled teachers that we can appreciate in the years to come.
With declining enrollment across the country in postsecondary-based teacher preparation programs, and an all-time low number of graduating high school seniors indicating interest in teaching, we have to start earlier to recruit and prepare. We can appreciate the teaching profession by promoting it to altruistic high school students. To attract a skilled, diverse teaching talent pool, authentic programs to explore teaching in secondary must be the front end of a coherent continuum for the teaching profession.
Educators Rising, an evolution of what was once the Future Teachers of America, launched in 2015 for specifically this purpose. Over 2,000 high schools offering courses (electives or career pathways) have affiliated for free with Educators Rising for resources (like a subset of National Board ATLAS cases) and networking to support local programs. Currently more than 30,000 students are part of the network, and half are students of color.
Educators Rising is growing rapidly, but this is still a drop in the bucket given America’s need to hire 300,000 new teachers every year. That’s why The National Board and Educators Rising partnered, through an NEA grant, to formalize this part of the teaching pipeline. In 2016, Educators Rising Standards, developed by and for the teaching profession, were released to provide guidance for what teenage aspiring educators need to know and be able to do.
Now, “Beginning to Teach” micro-credentials— performance-based assessments where neophyte explorers can earn digital badges for demonstrating their early competencies and mapped to Educators Rising Standards— are available. The EdRising Academy curriculum, also mapped to the new standards, is being piloted statewide in Alaska, Kentucky, and New Mexico in 2017-2018.
Programs to engage teenagers in exploring teaching can boost morale for teacher leader mentors and elevate teaching across the community. Implementing and sustaining these programs is a strategy to appreciate and secure the future of teaching for much more than just one week a year.