Why Grow Your Own Teachers?
Arizona faces a critical teacher shortage. This shortage negatively affects Title 1 (low-income) schools. It is easy to link the shortage of qualified teachers to lack of funding for teacher pay. However, there are other factors that we can focus and improve upon more immediately and without the need for complex and controversial political discourse.
85% of teachers begin their teaching career within 40 miles of their hometown (Alice Laplante, Stanford). This means that unless encouraged and supported to do so, teachers might not move out of their comfort zone. The concern, then, is that historically under-resourced districts continue to struggle.
We must start requiring that teaching-degree students gain experience in Title 1 schools. When each graduate, they’re ready to go where needed most. Read Better Be Better’s literacy program prioritizes Title 1 schools. It offers opportunities for student teachers to gain exposure and experience in schools facing these specific challenges.
How RBBB Helps Education Majors
Classroom facilitation during RBBB programming offers student teachers experience in an after-school, non-traditional classroom setting. It is not intended to be an alternative to any clinical experience. However, consistent feedback from Site Leaders indicates that they are better prepared to manage a classroom. In addition, they are more prepared to work with a diverse group of students and learning styles. And they are more inclined to take positions where they are needed most when they graduate.
Christine—ASU elementary education student and Site Leader for RBBB—says that our program has helped her “develop a broader perspective on experiences and situations all children can come from.” She continues that she also developed, “classroom management skills and increased excitement to become a teacher.”
In addition to being better prepared for success with the demographic, student teachers are also given the opportunity to foster relationships with administration influencers. These connections further increase the opportunities for recruitment and acceptance into positions in those districts.
Not only education majors benefit
Let’s go back to that 85%. Why not begin even younger, empowering current students of high-need schools to become teachers? We already know that teachers are likely to stay within 40 miles of their own town; we can utilize this to Arizona’s advantage. It is more effective for students to be taught by those within their community. A teacher familiar with the culture and community that surrounds a student can build a stronger understanding and empathy to bind the relationship.
This realization and growth can begin at any age during one’s school career. Former Osborn superintendent, Patty Tate states, “You can’t enjoy something you haven’t been exposed to.” She continues, “With growing your own [teachers], the inspiration can begin early.”
Read Better Be Better contributes to the development of school-aged children by offering hands-on experience to middle school students as Reading Leaders. Even elementary students may become interested in giving back when they have the chance. Given the opportunity, students prove that they will go above and beyond. Ariza—a Reading Leader at Whittier Elementary School—not only enjoys facilitating curriculum with her 3rd-grade Reading Learner but also implements this at home with her 2nd-grade cousin.
Read Better Be Better is able to be that agent for change. We provide the opportunity and encouragement to students to create a future pipeline of diverse teachers within their own communities. Tate ends this note saying, “[Read Better Be Better’s program] certainly can serve as this pathway and I think it has great potential!”