I MAY BE
the most stereotypical teacher ever. My parents were teachers. Their parents were teachers. I met my wife at work, where we both were teachers.
I was born in Canada. My parents were born in Canada as well. I am superintendent in the school district my grandfather taught in during the 1930s and ’40s.
My back story is that despite some early learning challenges, I was a good student and performed well in school. After zooming through university studies as a geography and history major, I was back at my former junior high school as a teacher at age 22.
Now 26 years later and 12 years into my superintendency, education is the only career I have known.
I think I was (and still am) a pretty good teacher. But I also know we need to continue to do better to attract teachers to the profession who have a different story than I do. For too long, too many teachers’ stories were similar to mine. The teaching profession was largely made up of people who were successful at school, typically spoke English as their first language, were from long-established families in our country and often went straight into teaching as a career without other real work experiences.
We are trying to do better in our school district. Just as we have diversity among our learners, we need diversity in the adults who work with them. Having teachers who come to teaching after careers in construction or accounting or professional sports gives new perspectives to students and reminds them that for most, their work life will be made up of many different jobs.
Having teachers who struggled in school gives added voice to those in our classes who are struggling now. School does not come easy for everyone, and adolescence is hard, so having teachers with non-linear life experiences helps.
We also want our teaching force, just like our student population, to be culturally diverse, speaking different languages at home and demonstrating that our schools are reflective of our communities. We need to do better to recruit populations that have been traditionally underrepresented in the teaching profession.
With 75 percent or more of our teachers being female, we need to find ways to ensure men see the profession as valuable.
An Odd Notion
I know this is not really controversial, but it is hard. Changing the makeup of the adults who work in our schools is not only about who we hire, but also about who chooses to apply and who is encouraged to go into teaching. And it goes all the way back to what we show young students about the profession, that representation matters.
As we have recently started another school year and look ahead, this is a topic I think a lot about. It is a weird notion, but we need to do better to hire and retain staff who are not much like me.
is superintendent of the West Vancouver School District in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Twitter: @chrkennedy
. This column is adapted from the author’s blog Culture of Yes.