As part of a grant, my high school received money to send teachers out into the real world to see what jobs are like in the healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and IT fields. Titled “Pathways to Prosperity” the grant focuses on the up and coming fields that are and will continue to be important for students who are looking to further their education because these are growing fields with shortages in qualified workers.
So I spent today with a few other teachers and administrators at Maritz and Talisen companies. Overall it was a great experience and I am more excited for next Tuesday when I will do it again. I think that such an experience shouldn’t be a chance opportunity (I volunteered for this) but rather should be a compulsory part of all teachers professional development. It was incredibly beneficial to see what the real world was like and speak to real professionals. They told us what they look for in employees and we got a better look at what people in the ever-changing IT industry do on a day-to-day basis. As teachers, most of us never spent time in the “real” world so we lose sight of what businesses need. I think when educators talk about college and career readiness then there should be more connections between schools and the outside world, and that shouldn’t just mean for the students.
Maritz, for example, is a company focused on motivating people and offering incentives for performance. It’s something that educators do every day and it was fascinating to learn about their work and research. They explained how everything they do involves teamwork and application of many skills across disciplines. Their main speaker, Joe Eplin, spoke of his career history and linked all of her experience with what he had gained from his education. It put a lot of things in perspective for us as teachers and how we can apply our content to the real-world.
Talisen was also an interesting company. They work primary with agencies to improve the efficiency and security of their IT systems. The people who spoke there also mentioned their histories and also spoke of their children and how they perceived the current school system to be out of touch with what they want of their employees. Again, it was just neat to learn about jobs I didn’t even know existed and how we can do better as education professionals in classrooms every day.
During the final presentation, my administrator and I had a conversation about how education could learn from the business world. At one point she called teaching the “unprofessional profession” and it resonated with how I felt. She said it’s something you don’t learn about until you join the profession and it’s then that you start to see things differently and I couldn’t agree more. As teachers, we are never expected to better ourselves or deal with problems like business, medical, or law professionals do. We stand in our isolated classrooms and that’s about it. The only so-called professional meetings we have are a joke that no one cares about and any necessary change is almost impossible to enact. The day I had today reminded me what my role is in the classroom and how important this connection to the real world is for education. I think it’s the only way to get better and it’s the only way to stay energized for our work, which is what business people know is key to productivity and sales.
I know there are many educators who shudder at the thought of reducing teaching students to selling a product in business, but there are parallels between increasing profit to be successful and increasing student results to raise education standards. We often lose sight of the true goal of what we do because nothing about the current education model ties in with the real world and nothing about the teaching profession stresses the professional aspects of being a true educator. If we ever hope to do our best work for students, I truly believe that the profession will need a makeover to recruit the best and brightest who can perform at the highest levels.