Reasons Why High-Achieving Students Choose Not to Pursue Teaching Careers and Potential Solutions

A 2013 The Atlantic article raised the question “Why isn’t Harvard training more teachers?” The author contends that while roughly 20% of seniors seek Teach for America, only a “tiny” fraction of the class pursues education studies.

“Why,” the author queries, “are numerous of America’s brightest students intrigued by teaching but not utilizing their school’s training opportunities?”

Ten years later, Zid Mancenido, a lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education, delves into the same inquiries. Drawing from his background as a high school social sciences educator in Canberra, Australia, Mancenido’s research resonates with his personal experiences. He aims to delve deeper into the reasons behind this hesitancy.

“Often when discussing teacher recruitment, emphasis is placed on factors like salary or the lack of prestige surrounding teaching… All these external motivators do hold weight,” Mancenido mentioned, “yet there exist numerous subtle social influences surrounding these aspects that demand attention.”

Zid Mancenido, a former high school social studies teacher in Canberra, Australia, is currently a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. (Zid Mancenido)

Mancenido initially delved into these inquiries during his doctoral studies at Harvard, where he collected narratives from over 100 college seniors or recent graduates to discern the factors distinguishing those disinterested in teaching, those initially intrigued but opting for a different career path, and those committed to teaching.

During a recent discussion with The 74’s Amanda Geduld, Mancenido reflected on his research and his enduring optimism despite prevalent defeatism surrounding educational enhancement.

The 74: Can you provide an overview of your paper, “How High Achievers Learn That They Should Not Become Teachers,” along with key findings?

Zid Mancenido: This paper delves into the factors influencing one’s desire to pursue a teaching career. High achievers do not inherently possess a predetermined inclination towards or against teaching; rather, their perceptions and decisions are shaped by various social and environmental cues. In essence, negative perceptions of teaching are reinforced by societal cues, impacting individuals’ career choices.

@the74_

Part 1: Students receive explicit and implicit messages discouraging teaching as a viable career choice. Harvard’s Zid Mancenido aims to address this issue.

♬ Sunshine – WIRA

Perceptions of teaching are not solely reliant on explicit cues. Individuals are subtly influenced by observing peers flocking to lucrative corporate sectors with fewer opting for the teaching domain. These nuanced signals significantly impact career decisions, shaping aspirations towards more socially esteemed professions.

Explicit signals from family and friends discouraging teaching are not the sole influencers as subtle cues also play a significant role. Career fairs and college environments contribute to the overall perception of teaching, guiding academic high achievers towards alternative career paths.

@the74_

Part 2: Messaging conveys that teaching is not a desirable career option, impacting high-achieving students. Harvard’s Zid Mancenido aims to counteract this narrative.

♬ Sunshine – WIRA

For this paper, you gathered narratives from over 100 college seniors or recent graduates. Did a particular aspiring teacher’s story resonate with you?

…Graham, a student from an urban charter school, contemplated education disparities while his mother taught at the same school. Despite his profound commitment to education, Graham’s collegiate peers veered towards conventional high-status careers over teaching, swaying him towards a non-teaching path. His experience exemplifies the subtle societal pressures that indirectly dissuade high achievers from pursuing teaching careers.

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