it is difficult for us to produce young students who say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.’ They want to be doctors, lawyers, other things.”
Demographic changes going on within the teaching profession may have an influence on the culture, mentioned Liu. A large group of teachers who entered the profession in the early 1970s are now retiring. “We have a large group coming in who can perhaps be reshaped by new policies. There is more interest in collaboration, and somewhat less concern about privacy. In fact, many of the new teachers I have interviewed say, ‘Yes, I wish I had more feedback; I wish more master teachers would come to my classroom.’ So this is a new generation with different expectations.” In addition, many midcareer professionals are entering teaching with work experiences and skills and life experiences from outside education. “They potentially can put some pressure on the existing system to create change.”
Jennifer Bay-Williams of the University of Louisville, who is past-president of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators, also pointed to the forces of change swirling around teaching. As evidence for a renewed focus on teaching in the United States, she cited several innovative proposals made by prominent commentators, such as journalist Thomas Friedman’s call to eliminate federal income taxes for all public teachers, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s call to pay more to teachers in high-needs subjects like science and mathematics, and writer Malcolm Gladwell’s call for an apprenticeship system that allows candidate teachers to be rigorously evaluated. “Our country is putting a lot of effort and energy into thinking differently about teaching,” Bay-Williams commented.