Teachers for Teaching: The Role of Math and Science Teachers in the Effort to Recruit More Math and Science Teachers
Author: Diana Campbell

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In total, 127 in-service, certified math and science teachers participated. They represented 14 school groups, of seven or more, from 11 school districts. Of these school groups, there were 11 high schools and 3 middle schools. With the exception of race - 98% of teachers reported being white - the participants represented relatively diverse backgrounds.  For example, roughly 51% were over the age of 35; 59% received certification through traditional undergraduate programs; 50% have been teaching for more than 7 years;  61%  were math teachers while the rest were in various areas of science; 46% of participants were parents; and 41% are women. 

The participants did promote the teaching career in their school setting, though not in a systemic, routine or collaborative way.  Several believed that being a great teacher was a clear way to promote their career. In terms of activities, respondents reported things  such as referring students to enrichment programs for teaching math and science, hanging posters, disseminating information and wearing buttons and pins that promote teaching. The most popular form of promotion, reported by 73.2% of respondents, took the form of talking one-on-one with students about the math and science teaching career.

However, participants were generally undecided about how deliberate to be. When asked to rate - on a 1-5 Likert scale - the extent to which they agreed with the following sentiment, "I neither encourage or discourage student to pursue teaching",  27% said they did not feel this way at all, 36 % were neutral and 15% felt this way exactly. The Google Group revealed various barriers for promoting the teaching career:  teaching is calling, teachers should be neutral, it would look bad to promote one's own career, it's not my job, and parents wouldn't like it.  Various motivations were reflected as well: parents would like it, teaching is important, I love my job.

Several teachers revealed through the feed back discussion that prior to the study they had not thought about promoting their career. Those who routinely promoted their career, as well as those who didn't, reported that they could do more and in fact would do more. For example one teacher plans utilize a section of her physics text book - that happens to highlights the Physics teaching career - as a venue for discussing her career. During two feedback sessions, a subset of teachers brainstormed about ways to work together in promoting teaching. More common however, respondents claimed they would decidedly be more vocal when asked about careers; respondents said they would now mention teaching when discussing other math/science careers, where in the past they may have forgotten to do so. Some said they would find opportunities to say,  "hey you'd make a great teacher", to those students who demonstrated what they perceived as teacher qualities.

When asked to imagine the career paths of their students, 25 out of 82 teachers predicted that their students would pursue teaching (not necessarily math and science teaching), second only to becoming a doctor (29 out of 82). Further teachers thought that encouraging young people to pursue teaching was a viable idea for enhancing the math and science teacher workforce, though encouragement often meant special programs and monetary incentives. Reflecting on their own path to teaching and the fact that they were never encouraged by the teachers they sought to emulate, some respondents were skeptical of the efficacy of encouraging kids to pursue teaching.

The data also shows that in fact this type of research is an excellent vessel for stimulating ideas. Teachers reported thinking about their career and grappling with why they had or hadn't promoted it in the past. Some used words like "I confess" and "I feel a little guilty" in regard to missing opportunities to promote the teaching career and in regard to promoting other math and science careers without thought of including the  teaching career.  When asked what should be done to enhance the quality, quantity and diversity of the math and science teacher workforce in their district, 11 of 94 (11.7%) reflected school based or teacher-driven ways to encourage students to become teachers.