To teach or not to teach, that is the question

Zid Mancenido.

2 min read

Through his research, Ph.D. student Zid Mancenido has come to realize that as college students think about future careers, the decision to enter the classroom to teach isn’t always marked by good or bad experiences in school or notoriously low salaries. For high-achieving students attending elite universities in particular, the decision to become a teacher often doesn’t even register as a possible career option.

In a recent article in the Harvard Educational Review, Mancenido explores the social forces that lead high-achieving students to believe that teaching may not be an acceptable career path. Here, he elaborates on his research and what elite colleges and universities can do to counter that narrative.

Why look at high achieving students attending elite colleges and universities?

There’s a lot of research that, over the past two decades, has tried to understand what the characteristics of good teachers are. And when we look at that research, we increasingly find that teachers who had high test scores, high GPAs, high achievement when they were going through high school and college tend be better at raising their students’ academic achievement.

We also often talk about our “best and brightest” as going to elite institutions for college. These are places where we send young people who we believe have great promise. But when graduates of these institutions aren’t encouraged to consider teaching as a career path, that suggests there’s perhaps an underlying public discourse — that teaching isn’t something we expect our best and brightest to be getting into. And that for me is something that’s worrying if we want a highly effective education system.