Every now and then, a high school or college student will ask for advice about entering the teaching profession.
I typically give the standard two-cents:
Stay away from Teach for America. Find a grade level you love. Be prepared for the first year or two to grind you down to the bone, but stick with it.
Recently, however, there’s something else I’ve realized I should add:
Study economics, finance, and marketing.
These subjects may not interest you now, but these are the forces that will dictate so much of what you are expected to do in your classroom.
No one ever gave me this advice, and I so wish they had.
For a long time, I thought that the endless, ever-changing demands placed on teachers came from education experts. I believed, truly, that the teachers that came before me were mostly backwards dinosaurs using antiquated, oppressive teaching techniques; that public schools had become rotten, outdated places in need of dedicated young people like me to shake things up; and that standards and testing and technology and data were about nothing more lifting kids up and out of poverty and into the limitless possibility of a college-educated future.
It has taken one long punch-in-the-gut, slap-in-the-face dose of reality to discover just how duped I was, and hours upon hours of research to learn what’s actually driving the changes happening to public education.
There is a terrible disconnect right now between those in the classroom – those who have committed their time, energy and livelihoods to the well-being of young people – with the powerful financial and technological forces that are rapidly reshaping our schools.
Now – maybe more than ever?- we desperately need more bright minds who are able to bridge the divide between these two worlds – thinkers and fighters who, in the game of tug-of-war between power and money on the one hand and innocent little lives on the other, will stand on the side of children.
So, while you study Piaget and Vgotsky and all the rest, please – learn more than I ever did about how money and markets and power work.
Find out who’s really in charge, and then, rather than join them (even though the money will be much, much better) help us fight them.
We need you.