Program Allows Teens to Explore Career Options in Education

Maureen Elliott smiles as she remembers solving the mystery of what was on the bottom of the block—a lesson, she says, that taught her how to encourage students to answer questions and solve problems on their own.

The Aquinas Institute tenth-grader was one of two dozen local students participating in the Exploring Teaching and Other Education Careers Program this past fall. Launched in 2010, the program is offered by the Warner School of Education, in conjunction with the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America, to Monroe County area high school students interested in careers in K-12 teaching and/or other education-related fields, like counseling and higher education.

The program addresses specific topics related to teaching and learning and to careers in education. Through interactions with guest speakers and hands-on activities, students explore their own educational experiences, observe teaching and learning from a professional’s point of view, and learn about the teaching/learning process as well as what other education professionals do to support such a process. These opportunities help students confirm or rethink their interest in becoming teachers or other education professionals; gain insight into citizenship and leadership; and further develop their life skills so they can make ethical choices and achieve their full potential.

Elliott, who always had a knack for and interest in teaching, says that the program gave her a realistic look into the profession and reaffirmed her plans to pursue a career as a teacher.

“I learned how much it takes to plan a lesson,” she says, “and I gained respect for my schoolteachers and how hard they work. The program also allowed me to work and share ideas with kids my own age. This interaction—knowing that you are not alone in wanting to pursue this career path—was one of the greatest benefits.”

Elliott, who hopes to someday become an English or special education teacher, always thought of a good teacher as someone who teaches and makes sure students receive good grades. After having been through the ten fall sessions, which meet once a week for 90 minutes in the evening at the University of Rochester, her views of what a good teacher is have broadened.

“A good teacher is someone who understands the student and shows compassion,” she adds, “someone who uses different teaching methods, and someone who is relatable to students. A good teacher is someone whom students feel comfortable around without losing respect for him or her.”

According to Oliver Cashman-Brown, a doctoral student at Warner who directs the Exploring Teaching and Other Education Careers Program, the program gives students an inside view of what it is like to be a teacher and what it means to create curricula. He says the program also helps students to think about teaching and learning in a different way.

“In order to have students understand what teaching is like, we want them to understand what learning is like” says Cashman-Brown, who taught social studies in California and New York for five years prior to coming to Warner. “One way we try to do this is by broadening their experiences as learners and exposing them to different approaches to learning. We try to help them become more cognizant of the teaching and learning experience.”

Cashman-Brown and Marcy Berger, also a PhD student at Warner who helped design the program and facilitate sessions this past fall and will run the program this year, brought students through several exercises on learning theory and helped them to think about what learning is. Once students started to understand what learning is, they then had the opportunity to develop their own lesson plans and create their own imaginary schools.

“These are all students who are interested in becoming teachers and who are encountering new ways of thinking about learning and teaching, which immediately helps them in their studies as students in their schools and also long term as they think about how complicated being a teacher is and what teachers do to meet those complications,” he adds.

For Samantha Broking, a Fairport junior who aspires to become a high school math or special education teacher, that view into the teaching profession was exactly what she needed.

“I wanted to see if this was the right career for me,” says Broking. “I wanted to learn more about teaching and the process to become a teacher, such as what I need to do to prepare for college and the type of degrees that I need to become a teacher. I’ve also benefited from this program by learning what I need to do once I become a teacher.”

The program taught Broking and others about the learning spectrum—a scale of different styles of how people learn. For example, one student may be a visual person who learns better through pictures or diagrams and another student may be a lecture person who prefers to listen to the teacher and write down notes during class.

“I now realize that my learning style may not be the same as the person next to me in class,” she says. “I have known that there are different styles of learning, but I now know how much students can be impacted if they can’t use their own learning style. The instructors taught me how to incorporate all these different learning styles into creating a lesson plan that makes sure every student is successful.”

According to Broking, a key strength of the program for her was how it incorporated different styles of learning into teaching students how to become better teachers.

“Some days we took notes, while other days we got out of our seats and interacted with one another,” she adds. “It showed me that what they were teaching us is possible and can be successful.”

For more information about the Exploring Teaching and Other Education Careers Program, please contact Oliver Cashman-Brown at (585) 208-3032 or by e-mail at oliver.cashman-brown@warner.rochester.edu.

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Media Contact: Theresa Danylak
585.275.0777; 585.278.6273 (cell)


Tags: community, community outreach, Exploring Teaching and Other Education Careers Program, teaching and curriculum