• Andrea Paulakovich

Career and Technical Education

I am sitting at the Annual Career and Technical Education conference in Manhattan, Kansas. For the past two years, I have been privileged to help prepare and lead professional learning for CTE educators. As a former English teacher, I have found this opportunity refreshing and eye opening. We often talk about the importance of building relationships with students, differentiating for the needs of students, providing clear expectations, and consistent messages...but how often do we consider each of these factors for our most influential factor, the teachers? Our teachers are the role models for our students. Do we meet their needs each and every day to ensure they are at their very best for their students? Do we provide opportunities for their strengths to shine? You may be reading this and saying: "They are adults; they need to suck it up and be a professional." I counter that opinion with the following: If we do not lay a consistent foundation for our educators, how can we expect them to be consistent with our students? How many conflicts occur amongst teachers because everyone is running on their own agenda with their own understanding and expectations. While it is important for each of us to bring our own flavor to the classroom, it is pivotal that we all begin with the same basic foundation of the literacy of effective teaching, the literacy of effective classroom management, and the literacy of student success. It is also pivotal that we have a common language. I have often compared educators today to divorced parents. We each have our own set of rules, that often conflict with each other, and then we become frustrated with our students because they just don't listen. How confusing do you think it is for students to have seven or more different sets of expectations each day. They are required to walk in the door of one teacher who says, "No cell phones in my classroom" and then head to the next hour where the teacher asks students to take out their phone at the beginning of each class to complete their bell work. As students move from one class to the next, everyone's expectations change. While I think it is important for students to be flexible, I also feel strongly that a common set of expectations can help create a cohesive family with clear expectations. 

As I sit here and listen to a clear message about the vision for CTE students, I cannot help but feel extremely lucky. I am provided with the opportunity to build relationships with teachers with different passions, knowledge, and backgrounds. I have the opportunity to sit and listen to educators who are truly passionate about their content area. I have the opportunity to learn and grow. If this is the goal for all educators, how do we move forward to overhaul our current PD model? How do we ensure all teachers needs are met? How do we join together to meet the needs of the most influential factor in a student's life? We ask their opinions. We listen. We reflect. We change. 

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