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In 2009, my school received a grant from Massachusetts General Hospital to create a service learning club with a focus on “childcare.” I was asked to develop the program, and so I decided to design a Future Teachers Club for my high school. After six years as Club Advisor, I believe strongly that every school district should have a Future Teachers Club for its students.
The major goal of the Future Teacher Club is to assist high school students in exploring teaching as a career choice. I want the Club to provide an authentic understanding of teaching and – most importantly – encourage students from diverse backgrounds to think seriously about the teaching profession. I hope to provide high school students with an opportunity to participate in an educational experience that will enable them to explore teaching and which will help develop the strong leadership traits found in high-quality educators. In addition, the program’s goal is to also provide middle school students with an educational and mentoring experience that will help them to successfully make the transition from middle school to high school.
Getting It Off the Ground
I was lucky that there is a middle school adjacent to our high school, and the principal there agreed to welcome the Future Teachers into her school every Friday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. I recruited 20 “Future Teachers,” who would be paid $8.00 an hour from the grant to participate, and I began training these students in curriculum development and classroom management. We made posters and flyers announcing the Club. We offered tutoring and homework help, and I also bought games, puzzles, and arts and crafts for the program. I decided to include a music component, and I recruited a guitar and drum teacher. It was up to the Future Teachers to plan lessons and activities.
The first few weeks of Future Teachers brought only a few students to the program. There were several devoted middle school students who immediately began taking music lessons. A few students came for tutoring. But I was disappointed at the turnout and hoped to recruit more middle school students to join.
I turned to my friend, Kathleen Liakos, the middle school social worker, and I asked her for help. Kathleen began recruiting for me. Because of the nature of her work, many of the students she encouraged to take part in Future Teachers had behavior or academic issues or special needs. We both felt that these students needed the program the most.
At the next FTC Friday, we had nearly fifty students, and we weren’t sure what to do with them. We had access to the gym, but there were too many students to play basketball or soccer. One of my Future Teachers suggested dodge ball. Since I still had nightmares of my own experiences playing dodge ball in middle school, I was a little hesitant, but my Future Teachers assured me that dodge ball would be so much more than just “dodge ball.” It would be learning about fair play. It would be mentoring the students who needed it the most. And, surprisingly, dodge ball would be a place where all students would be welcome. Middle students could participate, watch, or even just stand around. It would be a safe place for students to gather.
Each week, Future Teachers serviced approximately 80 middle school students, who could rotate between three stations: homework, tutoring, games, and activities in the cafeteria; music instruction in the lecture hall; and dodge ball in the gym. The middle school students quickly took ownership of the program, and it was rewarding not only to me as Advisor, but also to the Future Teachers that so many students, including those who felt disenfranchised and marginalized, now had a place to call home.
Over the years, an interesting phenomenon occurred. As the middle school students grew older and began attending high school, they wanted to become Future Teachers. I now had a wide variety of students joining the club – and, unlike most clubs, these students were not in the top ten percent of their class. In fact, some of them had had discipline and other issues in school. Others had never participated in a co-curricular activity before.
I learned something extremely valuable from my experience with my new Future Teachers. I learned that when called upon, almost every student can become a leader. I learned that, if given a chance, even troubled students can accept responsibility and be extremely dependable. I learned that most students are waiting for teachers to recognize and help develop their potential. My Future Teachers were some of the most capable problem-solvers and role models that I have ever worked with.
As the years flew by, many of my Future Teachers went on to become actual teachers. They teach a variety of subjects and grade levels. All of the Future Teachers say the FTC experience has impacted them in a myriad of ways. It is truly inspiring how many students have been positively affected by this program.
The grant for Future Teachers has run out this year, and there has been no talk at my school about continuing it. In its six years of operation, I truly believe that the Future Teachers Club has had a meaningful and long-lasting effect on students. It is an endeavor that has benefitted both middle and high school students, while helping to create the next teaching force.