Future Teachers of America (FTA) was established in 1936 by the National Education Association. Today, the organization is called Educators Rising and housed under Phi Delta Kappa International. At first, Future Teachers of America clubs functioned as substitute-reserves for local school districts (yes, high schoolers would assume a substitute role and were often paid for their work) while other clubs discussed teaching as a profession. Over time, these clubs evolved into credit-bearing coursework at high schools called the Teacher Academy. Today, these Teacher Academies courses are considered Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes, under the group, or “cluster,” of coursework that explores education & training fields.
When the Teacher Academy course first began over 65 years ago, it had two functions: the first was to introduce high school students to teaching and to help them decide whether they had a desire to enter the profession, and the second was to alleviate the teacher shortage.
But we still have the same problem that existed 65 years ago: there is still a teacher shortage.
Now, for me to say that I expect the Teacher Academy to totally remedy the teacher shortage is unreasonable; there are a variety of reasons it exists. What I am saying, however, is that, if CTE courses are designed to prepare students for future workforces, we should be leveraging the Teacher Academy in a way that sets the stage for the future of the educator workforce; one that motivates students to stay in education, but one that also empowers them to think about, explore, and create what the future educator workforce might look like in their lifetime.
But the curriculum and standards that exist among Teacher Academies are preparing them for what Carole Basile, dean of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College (MLFTC), calls an untenable job. “In no other profession,” she writes, “is it deemed reasonable to ask all things of all people all the time.”
Through its Next Education Workforce initiative, MLFTC is working with partner schools and districts to redesign how it trains educators. The college puts teacher candidates in teams and is working with schools to develop teams of in-service teachers. The point of teaming is to deliver better learning to students and to develop better professional experiences for educators.
It’s time that Teacher Academies started to redesign their approach to teacher preparation, too.
What if we asked Teacher Academy students to engage in an inquiry-driven course, driven by student experiences? What if we redesigned the course to be extraordinarily exploratory, allowing students to think about, create, and design future educator roles besides the classroom teacher? What if we facilitated learning experiences for these Teacher Academy students that pushed them to collaborate on teams to examine educational issues, to innovate solutions, and to approach classroom teaching on teams with one another?
The Teacher Academy is in a position to propel what the future of the education workforce will look like. If we truly want to transform the way America prepares teachers, starting in high school, we need to rethink how we are designing the experiences for the 150,000 students who enroll in CTE education & training programs each year--and we need to do it now.
Richard "Lennon" Audrain is a research assistant and graduate student studying technology and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also teaches Latin and Spanish at Brookline High School in the Public Schools of Brookline, MA. Lennon earned an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction (Teaching & Learning concentration) from Arizona State University at age 19. After serving as the 2017-2018 National President of Educators Rising, an organization with over 44,000 high school and collegiate members interested in the education profession, he developed research interests in designing and researching both (i) frameworks and practices of and for exploratory teaching courses taught in high schools and (ii) technology for workforce development, specifically the delivery of instructional coaching via digital micro-teaching and micro-learning experiences.