Can you tell us about yourself?
"Hi, my name is Erica Switzer and I'm a fifth grade teacher at Franklin School of Innovation in Colorado. Um, I have been working here for two years as a, as a teacher and I got to spend one year here before I became a teacher."
Why did you start a career in education?
"As a student teacher, I started my career in education because I wanted a, another way to serve my community. I'm an army veteran and when I left the service, I needed another way to be able to serve not only my country, but my community. And I felt that the best way to do that was to become an educator and to kind of, uh, share some of the life experiences and knowledge that I have gained over the years."
If you could have any other job what would it be and why?
"If I could have another job outside of teaching, I think I'd be a park ranger. Um, in fact, that's kind of my retirement plan. I would love to be able to continue teaching people, but instead about, instead of math and fractions and how to write and read, instead teach them about the environment and what an amazing place this earth is and, and how we as human humans can make it a better place. Um, it, the, the natural world is an amazing place to live. Natural schools are so cool. Um, and you can learn so much, uh, even math and reading out in the woods. So, um, it's, it's definitely a passion of mine."
How are kids different now than 30 years ago?
"Um, kids different now than 30 years ago. Absolutely. Um, I'm 33 and I know that when I was in school 15 years ago that it was a lot different from now for once. Like, we have computers. I have a one on one classroom. We didn't have that. And when I was in school, we had to go to a computer lab that, you know, with all of the rows of desktop computers. Um, and so this one on one technology is hugely different, especially our, excuse me, even with, um, having that one on one, I find that it's almost more challenging to differentiate or, um, to make sure that everybody is included within a lesson simply because the literacy of computers isn't 100% for everybody yet. Um, I, I have students who don't have a home computer or don't have access to the internet. Um, and they're only using a cell phone, which is fine. A lot of our, uh, computer programs that we use are applications that can be found on the phone such as Google classroom and I Excel, but they are slightly different when we are working with them on computer. So that literacy can be a little difficult for some students and especially ESL, our English language, um, accommodations for those students who are coming in not speaking English as their first language.
With technology, it's, it's helped immensely, but at the same time, we as educators are still kind of catching up to that."
How is teaching different now than 30 years ago?
"I would say the teaching is much different now simply because of that technology are kids are so connected. They have all of this information in front of them that we find that they have like this learned helplessness. They need to be led by their hand everywhere because you know, they, they have it all. Why do they need to go search for stuff? So that critical thinking and problem solving I feel has really softened over the past 30 years. Um, as well as I would say parental backing. Um, I remember when I was in school, my parents were all over everything. We went to every conference we were at every school night and now out of 20 kids I might have seven that show up for parent teacher conferences and maybe three for any type of school night. And I work for a title one school. Um, so it's kinda, it's, it's a lot different from when I was in school and witnessing stuff to what I am seeing now. And even my teammates say the same thing as a new teacher.
What would you tell someone who wants to become a teacher?
"Talking to those teachers who are up and coming. Our preservice teachers. Um, it's a, it's another passion of mine. I helped my principal with the teacher pipeline project, um, where we have partnered with one of our local universities and getting those pre service teachers into schools for longer than just our required, you know, two days a week for that 45 minutes. Instead, they're getting to spend in a whole school year learning how to be a teacher, but as a student teacher, so then their first day on the job isn't quite so, do you know what I'm saying? So what would I say? What I don't know, for somebody to becoming a pre service teacher of one, this is one of the most rewarding jobs that you could ever, ever get. Um, but it's also one of the most frustrating. Today I'm a fifth grade teacher and I have 20 kids. I laugh and cry in frustration within five minutes of each other. It can be a roller coaster of a day, but at the end of the day, you've made connections with these young people and the young minds and they are our future. And that's why that's why we become teachers."
What is one thing you would change to help kids learn better?
"One thing to help kids learn better, I think it would be, uh, to incorporate more play. I think that we learn a lot from play and if we have intentional play time in school where kids are exploring on their own and they're learning on their own and they're going to take ownership of that and in the end they're going to make a deeper connection. They're going to take that experience and it's really gonna last a lifetime for them. Um, I think that, uh, as a teacher, all teachers are amazing and wonderful and a good, many are incredibly frustrated with where the education industry is going. And I wouldn't want a pre service teacher taking the politics that are in today's world and in today's media and applying that to what teaching is because it's not about the administration. It's not about the rules. It's not about the curriculum or our scope and sequence. It's not about the standards. At the end of the day, it's about making that connection with the student and making sure that the student connects the information to their life. If we're just talking at them, they're not learning. Um, and I think that preservice teachers should know that kids need to experience that learning and that, and that would be the one thing that I would change is just, you know, inquiry-based, make it so that the kids are curious. Um, instead of just talking at them. Uh, and I, and it's, I, I mean, this is an amazing job. It's rewarding. It's frustrating, but at the end of the day, we're changing the future."