5 Reasons All Educators Should Be Recruiting the Next Crop of Teachers

Jon Konen
District Superintendent

I recently watched a presentation in my own school where the students were signing for their Spring Music Concert. One of the songs they chose was Hall of Fameby the band, The Script. The lyrics in the song are powerful as they pronounce what profession they are going to be,

"Be students, be teachers
Be politicians, be preachers

Be believers, be leaders
Be astronauts be champions
Be truth seekers."

There are 67 students in sixth grade and only four were choosing to go into education. Yes, at 6thgrade, this may be a long time from actually making a choice. When I asked other students why they would not choose education, a couple of them stated, "We know what teachers have to deal with." This was in reference to the behavior they see daily from their peers. This rang in my ear about things students see from us as teachers, good and bad.

I am lucky to be part of a staff that focuses on culture, belonging, and relationships. I am hoping students see us working, collaborating positively, and laughing with one another. Truly, education is a fascinating job and I would not chose another profession. At 19, and starting college, I could have chosen to run my dad's business, but I choose to follow my mom's footsteps. I chose teaching!

What I worry about, especially in my community, is what students are seeing going on with their friends and families. My school has jumped from 30% of our families receiving free and reduced meals to 49% in eight short years. This jump of nearly 20% may not seem significant, but with this increase has brought stories of trauma to the forefront. My sixth grade students have dealt with death, drugs, sexual harassment, abuse, and so many more adverse childhood experiences. Teachers are working with these students every day.

We have started using the mantra in our school, "Maslow before Blooms." This is in reference to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of learning complexity. Notice in the diagrams below the differences between the two hierarchies.

This quote means that we have to take care of our student's needs before they can learn. A prevailing concept that many politicians and people in power making decisions don't understand or take into account. We need to continue to work on making decisions by first meeting the basic needs of our students, creating strong relationships, and then working our magic with the content!

Students see that teachers are spending a lot of time working on Maslow's needs in the classrooms. The job of a teacher and principal has changed significantly. This may not be as enticing to students choosing education as a profession. Even more scarce are young males choosing education at the elementary level. Typically, we still see a significant amount of male applicants for high school positions because they may also want to coach. At the elementary level, it takes a specific type of male that wants to work with young students. The most scarce position out there is a primary male teacher. I recommend when a district or school finds one, keep him.

Overall, I am worried for the state of education. When students are deciding what profession they want to be, many of them do not to have to deal with their peer's problems. Education puts you right in the mix of dealing with these problems all day long. We need to actively recruit students that have the qualities that will make a great teacher…patience, perseverance, and tolerance. Here are five reasons all educators should always be actively recruiting new people to teach.


1 - Make a Difference

For roughly 1,100 hours every school year, a teacher's family increases. The best teachers include students in what is going on in their lives, as well as getting to know every student individually. These teachers are continually finding ways to support each student. They understand the students that walk into their classroom without breakfast, adequate sleep or a supportive parent. Some are even dealing with abuse that occurred before school. You ask, when did it become our job to do what should be done at home by a parent?

I refer back to our diagrams above. Exemplary teachers understand that they need to take care of Maslow's needs before that student is going to be able to learn. Teachers that actively work on this concept in their classrooms are making a difference. Many teachers support students with food, clothing, and other basic needs. Some teachers even go as far as supporting students through the foster care system.

Making a difference in a child's life is probably the number one reason why people choose this profession. I do not believe there is a more noble profession. Anyone who says a teacher only works nine months out of the year is ludicrous, even though it is stated on the contract. Teachers work additional days in the summer, as well as way more than the required 187 days and 1,100 contact hours, all in an effort to meet the needs of their students. Teachers make a difference!

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2 - Pay if Forward

The ability to support students and families is an honorable cause. Many people get into the profession because some teacher they had as a student made an impression on them. That impression made them think about education as a profession. We can all think back to that one teacher or couple of teachers that we really connected and formed a relationship with. We may not be able to remember what they taught exactly, but we remember the relationship we had with them.

We then chose to be like that teacher, and Pay if Forward. Exemplary teachers connect with students and have those tough conversations about life. They encourage them to follow their dreams and work hard. They even encourage them to go into education! Teachers pay if forward!


3 - Change the Face of Education

Sometimes teachers get into the profession because of a bad experience in their schooling. They make the conscious choice to teach differently than that teacher or teachers they had in school. They decide what qualities they want to see in their classroom, and then implement them to the best of their ability.

It may be that teacher that yelled or belittled students, or that teacher that literally did everything they could to NOT teach. As a student, you understood at a young age that these teachers were there primarily to pick up a paycheck. You wanted more! You wanted a teacher to push you, encourage you, and connect you with the content!

A paycheck is not your primary reason for getting into education. By choosing to go into education, you make noticeable changes to fix what you see was inadequate. You now find others that choose a career in education to make change. You also understand that teachers can change the face of education!


4 - Kids Are Fun!

Seeing growth of students both academically and socially is exhilarating. What you thought a student might never learn or understand can be taught in such a way that a student finally "gets it." Though all students learn at a different pace, we can design activities with engagement that are not only fun for them, but for us as teachers, as well.

If you get into this profession and do not like kids, I can promise you will not last long. The intricacies of their lives pulls us in and it becomes a logic puzzle that sometimes is so difficult to solve we must involve more people. Exemplary teachers take on these challenges every day. They see what each student's needs are connected to both Maslow's Hierarchy and Bloom's Taxonomy. They then design learning experiences and devote time to these needs.

Seeing a smiling face, receiving a compliment, a hug, handshake, or high-five makes this job well worth the stress, anxiety, and secondary trauma we take on. It is rewarding and we must celebrate our students more often.

My wife always says, "we get what we pay attention to." If we celebrate the positives more, we inevitably will get see more positives occurring in our class and school. Exemplary teachers think and know, "Kids are fun!"


5 - Teachers Create Every Other Profession!

Be a preacher, a teacher, a politician, a student, or even an astronaut as the band, The Script, profoundly sings! The teaching profession creates all other professions. It is fascinating to know that sitting in front of us in sixth grade are the future leaders of our community. What professions or jobs they take on may not be dictated by what we teach in sixth grade, but they sure can be influenced.

Exemplary educators teach with passion, conviction, and energy. They understand that the time with students is so short. 1,100 hours may seem like an eternity with some students. These teachers understand that 1,100 is not enough. They make plans to connect with these students outside of the school year. Exemplary teachers are revered by their students…they want to come back and report their progress, good or bad.

The feeling you get as a teacher when a student comes back or remembers you a decade down the road makes this the best profession. Recently, a college athlete, and soon to be graduate, at the University of Providence-Great Falls stated in a Facebook post, "You were one of the best teachers I had. You made a difference in my life." For this 43-year old man, who rarely cries, it made me well up knowing that I have made a difference. For that reason, I know that teachers create every other profession!

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Jon Konen