Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, Part 2

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
With the last economic recession, school districts across the nation and in California laid off large numbers of teachers. The recent uptake of the economy and increased tax dollars for education, districts are now experiencing a large shortage of teachers. We also know that the number of college students who have enrolled in education courses has dropped significantly. 

How can expanded learning programs (ELPs) contribute to solving this shortage? We believe ELPs are perfectly positioned to allow young workers and future teachers the opportunity to learn skills that are very important to classroom work.

In part 2 of ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, we offer interview responses from young adults who have migrated from ELPs to the teaching profession (RenĂ© Ly, Graduate Student in Education and Substitute Teacher) and Anna Zimmerman (Graduate Student in Education and Future 4th Grade Teacher). In Part 1, we offered interview responses from ELP leader (Alec Lee, Aim High) and a teacher training leader (Mike Snell, California Teaching Fellows Foundation).

We also want to share this valuable and brief video that features RenĂ© Ly and other young teachers who have migrated from youth work to teaching careers. 


Q: Can you say something about why you chose to become a classroom teacher? 

RL: I chose to be a classroom teacher because of the unique experience. As a classroom teacher, I am able to be with my students and have the ability to be in community with them as well as witness their tremendous development throughout the school year. 

AZ: Becoming an educator has always been a passion of mine.  When I was in high school, I joined an ROP class called Careers in Education, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.  Being a classroom teacher is not only about loving children.  It is about loving to see growth in the youth and loving to see the changes that these young lives are going through.  Being an educator means you are a mentor and a role model for the youth.  I chose to become a classroom teacher because I am passionate about making a difference in the lives around me.  

Q: Based on your experience, why are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to serve as good training grounds for young people who want to be teachers? What do they offer that the traditional student-teacher experience doesn't?

RL: Within the afterschool and summer program experiences, I was able to develop lesson plans based off of interests and hobbies all while aligned with the state standards. I remember conducting science experiments, teaching art and dance as well as reading units. Teaching in afterschool capacities allowed me to teach with less pressure in terms of institutionalized expectations. It allowed me to be creative and thoughtful throughout my planning. 

AZ: These programs allow you to experience what its like to be responsible for a group of students.  You learn that not every day is going to go as planned and you learn to be flexible.  One of the greatest lessons I learned in the after school program was to be resilient.  It is so important to know that if a lesson is not as great as you wish it was, or if a student is struggling or being a distraction, it is important to implement classroom management skills that are well suited for the environment you are in.  As an educator you must learn to be resilient and allow yourself to fail so that you can learn from that mistake.  These programs for early teachers are great for supporting teachers in the making and giving them hands on experience with the kids.  While sitting in a lecture class you can learn a lot of valuable information, however, you truly learn the most by working with the kids and learning that each kid learns and retains information differently.  By working hands on in a classroom you are allowing yourself to experience an element of what its like to be a teacher.  

Q: Based on your experience, do you think afterschool and summer youth programs are well-positioned to encourage young people to consider the teaching profession as the next step in their career? Why? 

RL: I believe afterschool and summer youth programs are great stepping stones for young people to explore the route of teaching. Both programming provide opportunities to develop your craft, share it with students and most importantly practice. The leadership within the programs are also beneficial in terms of guidance and mentorship. 

AZ: These programs allow the future teachers to be in the classroom and working with the students in whole class discussions as well as small group. Also, these programs allow the future teacher to experience what its like to see a child's "lightbulb" go off when they grasp a concept.  These are all important concepts for a teacher to see and experience.  Not only is it beneficial to work hands on with the students, but these programs also offer a lot of guidance and structure when going through classes.  The most encouraging and beneficial part for me, was that I was able to connect and build relationships with the staff and administration through different school sites.  These people became friends, mentors, and also an amazing example of what teaching is all about. 

Q: In your own words, can you say something about the value of the Aim High and the Teaching Fellows program to your development as a young teacher? 

RL: Aim High's attention and care of their staff is the first and foremost of my development as a young teacher. I had the pleasure of working with veteran teachers who were open, kind, and willing to share their best practices. Aim High also gave me the opportunity to develop all aspects of my craft as a young teacher. From lesson planning to creating community, Aim High provides a space for that. My biggest take away from Aim High is that learning is FUN, CREATIVE, and MEANINGFUL. A recipe I will carry with me throughout my teaching career. 

AZ: California Teaching Fellows provided me with more than just a classroom setting to work in. This program allowed me to gain a better understanding of the education field and also a foundation for what to expect as a new teacher. Because of this program, I am confident in accepting a position as a 4th grade teacher. I feel confident in my ability to not only deliver meaningful lessons to my students, but also how to manage my classroom and how to build relationships with each of my students.  This program has helped me make connections with valuable people in the field of teaching and it has taught me the professional side of being an educator.   

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