Taking the Next Step
Audience/setting: One-on-one conversations with students
Times: 30-45 minutes per conversation
Synopsis: Supporting students who are interested in teaching math or science by having a brief personal conversation using the ideas outlined in this guide
- Use the First Conversations Guide to have a brief personal conversation with students who have expressed interest in teaching.
- Then, recommend a variety of practical resources for taking the next steps in exploring a career in teaching:
- Talk to any resident Teachers in Residence (if your site has a UTeach or PhysTEC program).
- Observe a high school math or science class, talk to a local teacher (including any of the student’s prior teachers they admire), and learn about what their day-to-day work is like and to observe a class without a commitment.
- Take an Early Field Experience course to try out teaching in a middle or high school classroom.
- Apply for internship experiences like Breakthrough Collaborative or Generation Teach. These experiences help students build confidence in formal teaching through opportunities such as “mini student teaching,” and help students to build positive connections to teachers and the profession.
- Take an introductory education course on your campus.
- Engage in trial formal teaching experiences, such as serving as a teaching assistant, a learning assistant, or providing peer tutorial support.
- Engage in trial informal teaching experiences, such as doing math or science education outreach with the department’s student group, volunteering at a museum, or helping with a fair or festival.
When students express interest in teaching, do your best to put the student in touch with an appropriate contact person you trust to help the student learn how to start the teaching pathway. If you are the appropriate contact person, engage students in a formal advising session to build a sustaining professional relationship that can support students in their quest to become a teacher. Use the guide below to help frame your conversation:
First Conversations Guide
Students who have an interest in teaching often reach out to someone they trust to ask questions about the profession. These first conversations typically take between 30 and 60 minutes, are extremely important, and can be surprisingly similar from one person to the next. Here are some ideas to consider for your next conversation with a prospective teacher candidate.
Questions to ask
- Tell me a bit about your interest in teaching? What’s drawing you to it? The idea is to get them to still share even if they aren’t sure they want to teach.
- What do you think would be your favorite class to teach? This will help you know what type of licensure they may want to pursue, along with giving you a better indication of their current interest level in teaching.
- How did you hear about our teacher preparation program? This may help you keep track of which recruiting practices are most effective.
- What questions and concerns do you have about becoming a teacher? It is good to give students space to express their concerns so that you can hopefully alleviate them with fact-based information.
Things to share
- Data Handouts with information about the key concerns that typically dissuade students from pursuing their interest in teaching.
- Your own teaching experience and what you find rewarding and intellectually stimulating about it. Many students are pleasantly surprised to hear that teaching doesn’t become boring after a year or two!
- Differences between teaching in higher ed (tenure-track vs. non-tenure-track), high school, and middle school. For example, teaching loads, research expectations, pay, benefits, and other logistical considerations (e.g., picking where you live or years of education), are important factors that many students do not know much about.
- Information about early teaching opportunities, student club activities, scholarship opportunities, and the teacher preparation pathways at your institution.
Common student questions and concerns
- Does teaching get boring after a year or two? This question can be answered both with your own experience and by pointing to job satisfaction data in the Student Get The Facts Out handouts.
- Some STEM students believe they should go into industry first, even though they plan to eventually become a teacher. Some reasons students have given for doing this are to build up a nest egg, appease parents, or build credibility as a science or math teacher (many students have pointed to a teacher who was an engineer who they really admired). It is important to hear where they are coming from so that you can address it. For example, in many cases students would actually be better off in terms of retirement by going into teaching straight away. There’s also many opportunities to do research and continue your education as a teacher (e.g., Summer RETs)
- Classroom management is a concern for many students. It is helpful to point out that they will begin to develop classroom management skills as part of your teacher preparation program and that experienced teachers do not see this as an issue.
Next steps → Recommend the Get the Facts Out website for more information, and make sure students are linked into site-specific resources:
- Are they on your email list?
- How do they sign up for classes?
- How do they get involved with the student club?
- Are there student ambassadors they can talk to about their experiences?
- Is there information they can take with them to share with their family?
Good to Know:
- If you need to hand the student off to another point of contact about teacher education programs, communicate directly with the point of contact yourself, share the student’s contact information (if the student has given permission to do so), and ensure that the student and the point of contact are successful at getting in touch.
- Ensure that the point of contact is well informed about getting a degree to prepare the student to become a teacher in their disciplinary area. Avoid handing off students to general College of Education contacts who might not understand the specific disciplinary interests or needs of the student.
- Even if you don’t know about teacher education programs at your university, continue to be a supporting presence to the student as he or she continues to consider and pursue a career in teaching.