We are passionate about the subjects that we teach. We go to workshops, attend PD, go to conferences, and interact with industry in the subjects we teach. These are great opportunities to make our content better for our students, but I have experienced that it also has the opportunity to narrow our vision to our content. I guess what I want to say is that robots don’t sell themselves.
As a new teacher, I was taught to be passionate about what I teach. Students will identify that passion, and the passion will be so contagious that everything will look like an episode of the Magic School Bus, maybe without the magic part, or the bus. I am a technology teacher at my school. I make electronics at home. I do amateur robotics competitions with my friends. My news feed is dominated by technology. I definitely have passion checked off. When I got into my classroom, why wasn’t my passion rubbing off on all of my students?
Adults ask me what I teach, and they are always super excited that my classes exist for students now, “I wish they had that when I was in school.” I want to know where the disconnect is. I have found a couple of possible causes, one that is easier for me to fix, and the other one that will be really difficult for me to fix. Let’s talk about the difficult one first.
My CTE Technology classes are electives. The thing I mention to administrators, but will probably not happen for a while, is that if they are called programming languages, can’t they count as a foreign language credit? Then we pull more students into our programs, and they will be less reticent to be in a computer science class for example. It would be nice if at least all of our introductory classes were compulsory.
Now for the more accessible one; it starts out the same. My CTE Technology classes are electives. This means I will always have students for which my class, “isn’t what I signed up for.” or the students who would not choose to be there for one reason or another. How do we take care of them? We know plenty of strategies as teachers about how to inspire students within our own rooms. A more global cause is the issue of placement.
Students already have excitement and passions. There are better ways we can direct their energies as long as they know about their options. Exposure and advertising are a way to get students to where they want to be. For example, have a CTE night where all of your programs and departments showcase activities and student work to families. Even if we can ally ourselves together at events like back to school night, 8th grade parent night, or other school community events. Somehow having students and their families see everything your school has to offer from CTE all in one place. Not only that, but allying CTE departments together gives a stronger voice to change the narrative of what success looks like after high school.