Encouraging Students to Teach

Mrs Fran Wicks | Student Futures Specialist | 17 March 2024

How do we encourage students to teach?

As a Careers Adviser I am genuinely surprised when a student books an appointment to discuss the pathway to become a teacher. This week we learned that USYD has dropped their Advanced Mathematics prerequisite for many courses, citing the inequity in the supply of maths teachers as a reason for making this change. Many students are simply not getting access to specialist mathematics teachers. Regardless of the veracity of this statement, one thing is clear: the teaching profession is struggling to entice young people into its fold. How do we get some of our best and brightest students to consider teaching? Perhaps we need to improve the image of the profession. We need to focus more on the joys of teaching rather than the challenges.

This week, my daughter, who is a Primary Teacher (and who, by the way, completed the Advanced Mathematics Course), received an email from a parent acknowledging and thanking her for the way she supported and encouraged the students during their swimming carnival. Was it an exhausting day? Yes, but was it a good day? Absolutely. Why? Because it demonstrated to her that teaching is impactful and purposeful.

This is the joy of teaching – speaking to the next generation, not just about course content but also about how to develop positive and healthy relationships, take risks, celebrate wins, and deal with defeat. At our Year 10 Careers Week last year, we held a panel discussion with six teachers about education and teaching. The students were riveted to hear about why their teachers chose to enter the teaching profession and, perhaps more importantly, why they stayed there. Despite the challenges of being a teacher (and these were acknowledged), each teacher spoke honestly about the privilege of the classroom – knowing and growing the hearts and minds of young people.

Perhaps the other big roadblock for young people entering the profession is the salary. Young people are seriously weighing up the cost of higher education and are more concerned than ever that they will not be able to pay back their debts and live in Sydney. The concern about a teacher’s salary starts at the university level when students are expected to complete significant amounts of time in schools (which is necessary) with no pay. For the past few years St Luke’s has employed several Education Interns through the Anglican School Corporation Intern Program. These are Education Students who are in training to be teachers but are earning a trainee salary during their training. It is amazing to see the impact this opportunity has on both the novice teachers and the students in their classrooms.

So, let’s continue to work out what it means to make the teaching profession attractive to the next generation. Focus on the joys and make inroads into addressing the challenges.