For new teachers, knowing their subject area is only a fraction of the battle. Within the first few years of entering the educational profession, they’re faced with a wide range of real world situations for which no college class could have ever prepared them.
David Meyers, CEO and co-founder of the emerging platform TeachersConnect, is all too familiar with this fact. After 11 years of teaching, and with a principal license in hand, Meyers decided to dedicate himself to developing a support system for educators entering the workforce.
TeachersConnect is a social network of sorts, specifically designed to connect groups of new and veteran teachers. Educators are united in teams with a mentor, all of whom share problems they’re encountering and communicate ways to handle them. With more collaboration and a sense of camaraderie, TeachersConnect is working to prepare educators for just about anything they may come across in a classroom. And that hopefully leads to better, more confident and capable teachers.
“My work has taken me into classrooms and schools across the country,” Meyers told me. “What I’ve found to be consistent is that there are so many obstacles that new teachers face, but the smallest amount of support is so powerful.”
“Not being prepared for tough situations is what corrodes their idealism, what pushes them to make an impact and become a teacher in the first place.”
“There are people leaving the profession before they even have the chance to become good teachers,” he continued. “That’s an addressable problem. Everyone has to go through a prep program to get a license to teach. We can help starting from there, continuing to be there as they move forward in their careers.”
Support while teachers are still learning
TeachersConnect is working with higher education institutions who offer teaching programs. By getting students onto the network while they’re still in school, the startup is planning on giving them support from Day One, making them feel ready to face challenges.
“We’re looking to start teachers while they’re still in prep programs and are beginning their practicum – when the need for collaboration and mentorship becomes acute,” Meyers began.
“We want people to understand that they’re not the only ones facing a given problem,” he added. “And second, we want to give them a place to network, commiserate, find financing and resources – when that’s appropriate.”
Why universities find it appealing
On the other end of the matter, universities having their students and alumni teachers using TeachersConnect will also benefit. The network is a wealth of information about the struggles and successes people in education are experiencing. This data should be able to help higher education institutions fine-tune how they’re preparing students for the teaching track.
Not to mention, it will help universities hold themselves accountable.
“For teacher preparation programs, there’s now a move toward tracking outcomes,” Meyers explained. “They’re now responsible for tracking what they’re programs are going, if they’re turning out good teachers and if they’re helping to resource positions in districts that are hard to fill. They’re now on the hook to provide this data, and it’s not a part of their culture to have a robust way to stay in touch with graduates and track those outcomes.”
Addressing those real world hurdles
TeachersConnect has already done some testing, but it’s releasing its first paid pilot next month. Meyers was sure to emphasize universities have been doing an awesome job of training teachers, and he’s hoping that his product will only fill in the blanks created as students transition into their first positions. For the most part, TeachersConnect is focusing on supporting educators with what can’t be included in a curriculum.
“Meeting state requirements isn’t the hard part,” Meyers said. “What’s hard is when it’s your turn to be solely responsible for a classroom of 30 kids, it’s the first day of school, and you’re wondering what to do in that first moment. You have 30 kids looking at you, waiting for you to do something good. What do you do? State requirements don’t help you there.”
“Or, what if you love this one kid in your class and you have a parent-teacher conference for the first time,” he went on. “You love this kid, but he keeps screwing up. You’re terrified of the parents and you have to sit alone in a room with them and tell them he’s screwing up.”
According to Meyers, it’s jarring scenarios like these that most new teachers aren’t ready to handle. Without the proper support and know-how from networks like TeachersConnect, educators can have their confidence shaken, which may undermine their future within the profession.
“These are what really get to new teachers,” Meyers concluded. “Not being prepared for tough situations is what corrodes their idealism, what pushes them to make an impact and become a teacher in the first place.”
Image via David Meyers.