Friday, March 20, 2015

Now is the Time for Creative, Smart People to Become Teachers

Last weekend Nancie Atwell was announced as the first winner of the $1 Million Global Teacher Prize in Dubai.  She is an amazing teacher, and incredible woman, and a wonderful choice. Her message of student choice, her service to her students, her approach to literacy, and her representation of the profession are inspirations to the rest of us that work with students every day.

After winning the Prize, in an interview with CNN, Nancie made a comment that has gone viral.  I'm sure you've seen it now.  When asked if she would advise kids to become teachers, she said:
"Honestly, right now, I encourage them to look in the private sector.  Public school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core Standards and the tests that are developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them. It's a movement that's turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners.  If you're a creative, smart young person, I don't think this is the time to go into teaching."
And, as much as I admire and respect Nancie, I disagree with her on this.

She's not wrong about the fact that teachers have been turned into technicians.  She's not wrong that the culture in public education makes it difficult for teachers to do what's right for students.  She's not wrong that the way the Common Core Standards are being implemented is forcing teachers to value the content to be covered more than individual student needs.

But, it is the perfect time for creative, smart people to go into teaching.

People choose teaching because they want to make a difference.  They want to help students reach their potential.  They want to create a future that is better than the present.  They want to pass their gifts on to future generations.

People become teachers because they want to change the world.

No teacher I ever met went into teaching because they wanted a easy career. If they did, they are a fool. Teaching isn't easy. It's insanely complicated and hard. The most important things always are.

It's especially hard to be a public school teacher right now for all the reasons Nancie talked about. That's why we need creative, smart young people to flock to the profession.  And, it's all the more reason that we, as teachers, should be encouraging them to do so.  If we don't have an optimistic vision that we can overcome the profiteering off education, the political strife hurting our students, and the short sided view that numbers matter more than children, then who is left to fight for our kids?

Are things bad right now?  Absolutely.  But, the pendulum is swinging.  Parents are objecting to oppressive testing all over the country and opting their children out.  Students are organizing sit-ins and walk-outs all in brilliant displays of civil disobedience because they recognize what's being done to them.  Teachers are organizing to fight against anti-student policies. Just like so many other times in history, passionate people are affecting positive change.

The tipping point is coming.  And when it does, teachers will be in a position to help define what education should be and what learning will look like in an age of information abundance and connectivity. We will be part of the conversation about how education can be a tool to create a better world instead of creating higher corporate stock prices.

When that time comes, we need the most creative, passionate, visionary teachers speaking for us - teachers like Nancie and the other top-10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize.

If you are a creative, smart young person who wants to be a teacher now is your time.  There's never been a better opportunity to change the world.