These are tough times to be an educator. In fact, a considerable number of current educators indicate they would make a different career choice if making the decision today. Unfortunately, many educators wouldn’t recommend that young people, including their own children, become teachers. Not surprisingly, enrollment in teacher preparation programs has plummeted.
These sentiments are understandable given current conditions. However, when we step back and consider the significance of education to our society and the importance of learning to future generations, the matter takes on a distinctive character. We cannot afford to take a narrow, temporal view without considering the broader context and long-term implications of less-than-quality learning opportunities for our children and young people. We need to encourage our best and brightest young people to consider education as their mission.
Let’s consider two of the most obvious reasons to encourage young people to consider education as a career. First, our children deserve to learn from great teachers. It is true that learning is an autonomous process. However, learning is heavily influenced by the conditions and support under which it occurs. Great teachers expose, inspire, nudge, and guide learners in ways that make learning richer, deeper, and more profound.
Second, our collective future depends on each generation being well-educated and ready to contribute to the success and well-being of our society. Without bright, dedicated, and skilled teachers, we risk the future upon which we all depend. We need young people to take up the challenge of preparing the next generation. Compromising the learning of a single generation can compromise our societal and economic success for decades.
The context within which education finds itself today also is changing and presents myriad opportunities to make a difference. Here are three more reasons we can share to encourage young people to consider a career in education. Third, we need intelligent, courageous, idealistic educators to advocate for the supports and opportunities that todays and tomorrow’s learners deserve. These are challenging times. The education profession does not currently receive the respect it deserves. Yet, the best hopes for the future, our learners, and the profession lie in the committed advocacy of skilled and courageous educators on behalf of the students whose future they are helping to shape. Changes in society, technology, and the workplace demand that future generations be well-prepared to participate and succeed. This reality represents an opportunity to change the perception and shape of the education profession.
Fourth, opportunities to make changes are greatest during times of disruption. We are living through some of the most disrupted times in memory. There is consensus that education needs to change. Teachers entering the field in the next several years will have more opportunities to shape their practice and profession than any time in recent history.
Fifth, the ability to help others learn will increasingly become a highly respected and well-compensated skill. It is true that teaching in the traditional model is not held in high regard by much of society. However, the ability to help others learn through design, technology, coaching, targeted instruction, and other means promises to grow in perceived value and demand. Learning is increasingly central to success in almost every profession. Those who have the expertise to stimulate and support learning will be afforded a wide range of practice and professional options and opportunities.
In short, our nation needs bright, committed, talented young people to take up the challenge of educating the next generations of citizens. Our future depends on it. We cannot afford to be short-sighted or timid in the face of the challenges before us. We need to encourage young people to consider education and support them in their choice.