Changing the Conversation About Teaching
Audience/setting: The general student population (both enrolled and prospective students), faculty, staff, reached through various activities.
Times: Variable dependent upon the nature of the activity.
Synopsis: Share facts about the teaching profession by using a suite of approaches to address the range of audiences found on college campuses.
To change the conversation around STEM teaching, it is important to reach both students interested in teaching as well as their peers and others whom they interact with and form relationships with. Consider some of the following ways to identify and directly reach out to individuals who might engage in a conversation about teaching:
- Classes: Asking for 5 – 15 minutes at the beginning of a class, especially large service courses, is a great way to reach students. We have found that sending current program students into these classes as ambassadors to your program, is also highly engaging. It can be even easier in a virtual setting to join for a short time at the start of a class meeting. This can be done at any point in the term but is very convenient if done a week before a special event or registration.
- Admissions: Admissions engages in a range of activities to recruit students to the institution. Work with admissions to identify opportunities to both share with students about teaching related opportunities at the institution and to identify new students who have an interest in teaching. Possible interactions with admissions could include
- Teaching: The best kept secret! presentation for admissions recruiters
- Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentations or sharing of flyers, brochures, or posters at events for both prospective and accepted students.
- Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentation for campus tour guides and/or university student ambassadors.
- Inclusion of a teaching-specific interest question on the admissions application for immediate identification of students who might be interested. This information can then be passed along to teacher certification faculty and staff who can reach out directly via snail mail.
- 1-2 minute video about your program to be included with virtual materials
- Teaching centers: Many institutions have centers specifically dedicated to helping students enrolled in standard math or science majors while earning their teaching credential. These centers can help build a sense of community among those intending to be teachers. Some ways to build community and to reach out to other prospective teachers include the following:Audience/Setting: The general student population (both enrolled and prospective students), faculty, staff, reached through various activities.
- Have a visible presence outside the college of education by hosting the center in the same building as a disciplinary department, such as the physics, chemistry, or math building.
- Have an open-door policy at the center to allow students to stop-in at any time to talk about their interest in teaching.
- Design a T-shirt and present it to students who enroll in a teacher certification program. Select one day per week as “T-shirt day” so that all pre-service teachers are highly visible within the university.
- Hire teacher ambassadors from among pre-service teachers to make an announcement at the beginning of their classes or to hand out brochures or flyers in the hallway after students are dismissed from class.
- Student life events: Coordinate with the Office of Student Life to participate in various events for and first year students to let them know that teaching is a career option they can consider. Provide posters, brochures, and flyers for distribution. Or conduct a Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentation with Student Ambassadors.
- Office of residence life: Residential Assistants (RAs) frequently support students as they are in the midst of making career-changing decisions. Sharing positive, accurate information about the teaching profession with RAs through a Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentation can go a long way toward changing the conversation on campus. Provide posters, brochures, and flyers for them to post in dormitory hallways.
- Career center: Conduct a Teaching: The best kept secret! presentation with Career Center staff. Provide Career Centers with posters, brochures, and flyers, and coordinate with them to send out information to students via newsletters, e-mails, events, etc.
- Student education associations: There are numerous educational clubs, sororities, and fraternities dedicated to scholarship and service through formal and informal education. Encourage members to be advocates for the profession (or even to do service as a Teacher Ambassador) by providing them with the information about positive conversations. Consider encouraging them to partner with you to promote secondary math and science teaching as part of their service or membership requirements. If possible, offer a Student-Facing Myth Busters session to association members.
- Student math and science associations: Math, chemistry, and physics student societies frequently engage in activities that help students know about future careers, and many also have educational outreach components. Just as with student education associations, consider encouraging members of math and science associations to partner with you to promote secondary math and science teaching as part of their service or membership requirements. If possible, offer a Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentation to association members.
- Alumni association: Reach out to the university alumni association to identify advocates for teaching, especially including recent graduates in math or science education who are thriving in their careers. Universities typically provide many opportunities to both feature alumni and to education their current students about future careers, such as Homecoming events, departmental seminars, or even alumni awards. Whenever possible, try to identify teaching alumni for public recognition.
Good to know
- Institutions have many ways to communicate with students. Broad-scope activities such as handing out flyers and bringing general awareness to teaching can be exhaustive but should always be balanced with smaller-scope activities to both share facts about the profession and to build relationships.
- We have found that no matter how well you advertise the existence of opportunities to become a teacher, if students, their peers, and others they look to for advice share misperceptions about the profession, most students will not pursue teaching as a career option. This is why either a Teaching: The best kept secret! presentation or a Busting Myths About the Teaching Profession presentation is critical to changing the conversation.
- Regardless of the mediums you choose to identify and invite students to the teaching profession, ensure that all activities are always focused on building a relationship with the prospective teacher.