Image from page 296 of "The natural history of plants, their forms, growth, reproduction, and distribution;" (1902)

There is quite a bit of talk, research and debate about teacher professional growth. Whether it’s in regards to what types of training a young proto-teacher should undergo, or what induction experience they should have upon entering a school, or how many hours of “learning” (PD) they should have to undergo once they land a job, the discussion often – painfully often – boils down to: how much will it cost?

Let’s explore that for a minute. In Australia, it costs around $40,000 to train a new teacher for the four years of initial teacher education. If 30-50% of teachers leave the workforce in the first 5 years, that is not inherently a bad thing. Do we a) want people continuing to study along a path that is actually not suited to them? and b) want people staying in schools who do not want to be there? Also, universities have only recently become job factories. They are primarily a place of learning. Some people drop out, some go on to do further postgraduate study. The “degree then job” approach (tied to funding arrangements for university places) has both determined a “bums on seats” mindset at universities. What happened to stumbling your way through a few challenging courses and working out what you want to be (at least for now) while you are at uni rather than before you begin?

Aside from this, and all the other studies and articles and debates into teacher professionalism and professional learning, is the simple fact that we start learning how to be a teacher before we sit final high school exams and choose our university options.

We start learning how to be a teacher as soon as we experience teaching itself: As students. For better or worse, almost every teacher I talk to determined their path to teaching primarily on the experience of having a great (or terrible) teacher in their school life or indeed having teachers in the family. Very few people in teaching were inspired by an ordinary or boring school experience. Those people become accountants or lawyers (nothing wrong with them – they just don’t become teachers.)

We mimic and aspire to be teachers based on our own experiences. Or, we seek to create ourselves in an alternate vision if our drive comes from bad experiences. Very few people would choose to go into teaching from a vacuum.

So, if our students and future colleagues are watching us teach and soaking up all our little sayings and approaches and strategies, how are we to make sure that experience is as positive and impactful as possible? This will be different in every school and every classroom. It will depend on school leadership, individual teacher approach and many other factors. It will even depend on post code.

We need to remember that our future colleagues are in our classrooms right now. Becoming a teacher begins before we graduate high school. It is not a solitary experience nor is it something we can do on ourselves effectively. It takes a time-travelling village to raise a teacher.

Perhaps it’s time to meaningfully include students in our teaching. Perhaps it’s time to blur the lines in a systematic way. If only for the reason that before we know it, they’ll be teaching along side us anyway.

When did you become a teacher?