It is never too early to spark students’ interest in becoming teachers so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the future of education with River Ridge High School’s New Teacher Academy in Pasco County. The New Teacher Academy is composed of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are interested in becoming teachers. As NTA members, students learn about teaching practices and also create solutions for current educational issues in the form of philanthropy projects. One of the most striking benefits to the students is a conditional offer of employment to return to Pasco County to teach after obtaining a teaching certificate.
Prior to our discussion, the students shared a list of topics that were top of mind as they reflected on education in 2020. There were no limitations set on the topics, and they clearly shed light on the stress that COVID-19 has added to the student experience. Here are a few of those topics:
Student Feedback – How can student feedback be incorporated into classrooms and schools so students can provide actionable feedback for teachers and administrators?
Remote Learning – How can remote learning be tweaked to address motivation, creativity, encouragement, and recognition to better serve students?
Student Voice – How can teachers explore student voice and use it to positively influence the classroom experience?
Standardized Testing – What can be done to help students and parents understand the data so it works for students and parents, helping to gauge progress and identify areas that need attention?
“Life” Courses – How can we include more “life” courses throughout school so students are more prepared in areas like personal finance?
Technology – There are benefits, but how can multiple platforms and programs be streamlined for students and adults?
Each student joined the conversation from their laptop in the classroom or from home, while I joined from my home hundreds of miles away. Despite the masks and distance between us the students were highly engaged, voicing their concerns about the future of education from a student and teacher perspective. There was definitely a focus on the question, “Would distance learning be the new norm?”
While it may be part of the norm, for now, the most exciting part of our conversation was hearing the students shift their thinking from what they were experiencing today to thinking about how they will take their experiences (good and bad) from COVID-19 and apply them to their future classrooms. Their senses have been heightened by their experience and the students are more aware of how each of their needs are different. Making sure schools and classrooms work for their students will be a high priority for each of these future teachers. The practice of identifying educational issues and creating solutions will not end with their time in the NTA.
I am certain that as teachers, these students’ classrooms will be rich with discussion, feedback, creativity, and high-quality materials that will benefit students and families. Stay tuned for our next Insights post, where I’ll share what I wish I would have known as a first-year teacher and RRHS students’ reactions.
The RRHS New Teacher Academy is led by former Pasco Teacher of the Year Beth Hess. Beth’s students attended the Impact Florida Virtual Education Summit in October and created a video about Impact Florida’s Five Conditions that Support Great Teaching in preparation for their attendance.