Dear Future Kentucky Educators,
I have been worried about you. The truth is we all have been worried about you. To say that we are going through a tumultuous time in our profession is an understatement. A great deal of consternation has been around how we are going to be able to get you to join our profession. You are intelligent, incredibly talented, and to say you have options would be an understatement. It is our hope that, despite your options, you will choose the greatest profession in the world.
That statement, professing the greatness of what we do, no doubt causes some eye rolling. Some will never understand what drives us to report one hundred and eighty-five days a year and give it everything we’ve got. The thought of spending nights grading papers, weekends attending professional developments that we are not paid for or we are often paying for ourselves, sounds like madness to some people.
People may tell you that you are crazy. A phrase that I have heard too many times “these kids just aren’t the same as they used to be.” I would counter with this: kids are no different from they have been for the past hundred years, the change has come in the form of the world we live in. I carry around a computer in my pocket, in the form of my phone, which is far more powerful than the computer that I had growing up in the 1990s. Because of this, kids are processing information far different from how myself and my elders did growing up. Children do not have any sort of inherent difference, but they do have a different set of needs than in the past. At the top of that list of needs is someone to guide them through this age. I hope that person is you.
It is no doubt scary to be entering the profession in a time where there is so much uncertainty. School budgets are being slashed. Unknowns regarding how or when you will be able to retire do little to incentivize you entering the classroom. Some have gone as far as to call the events of the previous year a flat-out attack on public education.
This is where we need you to come in. With all of the uncertainty, it may seem that there are no truths to draw from. One absolute truth that will never change as long as education is still an institution is that a talented teacher in a classroom makes all the difference in the world to the boys and girls who sit in the seats in front of you. No outside influences make that cease to be the case.
While we are faced with uncertainty, we also in the midst of one of the most exciting moments in the history of our profession. You have the ability to enter the classroom as a true innovator. Technology is your ally not only in working with students, but for connecting with others who share your drive and passion. You have the ability to learn groundbreaking concepts of education with a few strokes of the keyboard. You can learn and interact with some of the greatest educators in the world on any given night by joining groups of educators who will welcome you into their professional learning network. If you find a point where the innovating technique, approach, or app isn’t available, work with others to create it.
Do we have standards that must be taught? Absolutely. But nowhere in the standards will you ever be micromanaged into doing things in a manner that doesn’t work for you and your students. And that is why we need you. We need your innovation. We know that when you see a classroom the last thing you are seeing are rows of children, silent, listening to hours of lecture.
While we fight to make sure that you are compensated in a way that is fair to you and your family, understand that no matter what happens, you are going to be compensated greatly every single day. You are going to be compensated when the young man in your classroom who hated to read cannot wait to tell you about the novel they just finished. You instilled that love of reading in him. You are going to be compensated when a young woman in your class takes up a cause that is close to her heart and creates positive change in her community. You instilled that passion in her. You are going to be compensated when a young adult sends you a letter, explaining how greatly you changed their life for the better. You not only impacted that young person, you impacted so many more than you will know.
This is a critical time in our profession. Do not ignore any of the outside “noise.” Instead, understand the issues and understand how the profession is changing. But just as important, understand why you want to be a teacher. Understand that you will work every single day with passionate individuals that have the same goal that you do, to educate young people and help guide them on their journey. Understand that we live in a world that is rapidly changing and that there are children waiting for you to help them navigate through. Understand that this is the greatest profession in the world, that we will be lucky to have you join us, and that there are students who can’t wait for you to show them the way.
Your Future Colleague
Photo from the Alliance for Excellent Education, CC-Licensed.
Chris Wright is an English teacher at Ludlow High School in Northern Kentucky. He was recently recognized by the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (KCTE) as the High School Teacher of the Year.