Teachers as students

Author icon: Head shot of Commissioner Stephen BowenI had the chance to speak with future teachers at the University of Maine Wednesday. It was great to witness their passion for education and the student-centered direction the profession is moving in.

This small group of graduate students came from all walks of life, with vastly different backgrounds, undergraduate experiences and professional goals. What they share  is a desire to influence student learning by applying current best education practices. We talked about the role of technology, STEM education, and how teachers engage students, among other topics. The class was also very interested in education policy and eager to speak with me about the Department’s strategic plan.

Educators have always had the privilege of teaching kids how to question, think and see the world in new ways. We talked about how in the 21st century, teachers assume the additional responsibility of fostering higher-level thinking skills to prepare students for life in an increasingly technological world. With the Internet, laptops and iPads, students simply are overwhelmed by content. I believe the challenge for today’s teachers is to create meaning out of these excessive resources for their students.

The students were interested in the vital role science, technology, engineering and mathematics education plays in the future lives of students in Maine. Before this focus, we were missing a link in our science and math curricula. Kids were entering kindergarten with a fascination for spaceships and dinosaurs, but many of them had lost interest in science and math by the time they reached high school.

When these grad students enter the classrooms as fully certified teachers as early as fall 2013, the efforts of the Department in partnership with STEM will be in full force. We will need the help of teachers to keep students engaged in STEM as the program moves forward.

It was inspiring to see a group of young graduate students – upcoming teachers who will influence the direction of education – fired up about education policy and the Department’s strategic plan. They asked questions about everything from accountability to learner-based instructional practices, and they wanted to know how to provide the most effective in-class learning.

Improving Maine’s education system requires the engagement of the entire community – parents, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and business people. It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm for teaching and for understanding the education system that these grad students showed.

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