The Nov. 20 article, “BOE calls for action on state’s persistent teacher shortage,”both saddens and encourages me —saddened that we have this problem, yet encouraged that we are talking about it and a challenge to do something about it. Full disclosure here, I’m a national board certified teacher and the adviser of the Educators Rising chapter at Aiea High School.
So what do we do about this? Of course, salary and working conditions must be addressed at district, state and national levels. There is no denying that. But there are things we can do right now if we want to encourage students to become educators in our public schools.
Last year two of my students were in my class after school and we began talking about their future —their hopes, their aspirations. One shared that she had always wanted to be a teacher, but her parents convinced her to reject the idea. They spoke about the pay, the working conditions, the lack of respect in society.
"By changing the narrative to focus on the important work teachers do, we can elevate the public perception of teaching as profession."
However, my heart broke when one said that her parents thought she could be more. More than a teacher? We have to change this. We all must stop dissuading students from entering the teaching profession. We should be encouraging our best and brightest to become educators.
We must share the amazing work our students and teachers are doing in Hawaii’s schools. We have the opportunity to lift our voices and change the stories that are being told. Are there things we need to correct? Yes, of course. But we can’t let those stories be the only ones heard. Our students and future students depend on us. By changing the narrative to focus on the important work teachers do, we can elevate the public perception of teaching as profession. This, in turn, will help us to recruit future teachers.
That day in my classroom at Aiea High School, these two girls registered with Educators Rising. After our talk that day, both left the room hopeful. They said it was the first time anyone encouraged them to consider teaching. Those two girls stepped up to start a new club and I am proud to share that they are officers of Hawaii’s first chapter of Educators Rising.
Educators Rising’s mission is to cultivate “highly skilled educators by guiding young people on a path to becoming accomplished teachers, beginning in high school and extending through college and into the profession.”Profession. That’s it. Educators Rising begins by focusing on teaching as a profession building the continuum from rising educator to accomplished teacher.
We can all agree that we need to do something. Let’s keep the conversations moving. Let’s talk about the positive things happening. Teachers are finally being invited to sit at the table with politicians and impact the decisions being made. (And if there isn’t a seat, pull one up!) We need our teachers today, we will need them tomorrow.
If high school students begin thinking about educational careers and really understand what goes into the profession and the important work that accomplished teachers do, they will see the power and extraordinary opportunities they have to change the future. Our rising educators need our encouragement and guidance. We need to celebrate when our students make that choice. Our profession deserves nothing less. We are the profession that teaches all others.
I have a coffee cup given to me by a student over three decades ago that has a simple message: “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, go into some less significant line of work.” We are teachers. It is what we do because we can.