From my op-ed in this morning’s Democrat:
In his Democrat My View, Gov. Rick Scott was right on target when he said that Florida will be successful in giving more students the skills to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) only if we improve math and science teaching at all levels — elementary, middle school, high school and postsecondary.But to do this, we need more great math and science teachers in our schools…
…So I asked my students this: If a teacher’s salary actually looks good compared to your other options, what is keeping you from the teaching profession? Several of them spoke up at once, saying that teachers don’t get any respect.
And who doesn’t give teachers any respect? Teachers would say that the rhetoric coming from the political leadership has been far from positive.
But in fact, the problem begins right here on our university campus, with the signals many professors send to their students. When the subject of a teaching career comes up, too many of my own colleagues tell their good students that only weak students should go into teaching. If we are going to make any progress in improving math and science instruction in our K-12 schools, my own colleagues are going to have to say something different — that while teaching well is difficult and not particularly lucrative, it is quite honorable and incredibly important to the future of our society.
We must make that change right now.
While I’m on the subject of my colleagues, I want to give a shout out to one particular former professor colleague who taught in the Department of Communication — Steve MacNamara, who is now Gov. Scott’s chief of staff. Professor MacNamara, his boss and their fellow members of the political class should send our students the same message about the honor and importance of the teaching profession. If they’re not on board, nothing we do at the universities will help much in attracting strong math and science students into the teaching profession.