25-year-old DU alumni Gabe Bram has plenty of insight to share about his middle school teaching career that is both emotional and inspiring.
Being a teacher today is arguably one of the toughest jobs a young adult can take on. The amount of responsibility and impact the job pertains can be mined bottling for some but others like Bram, who is in his second year of teaching at Prairie Middle School in Aurora, embraces it.
The job has increasingly become more demanding with the overall diversity of students with different situations and needs to be met. Teachers, especially ones working with kids at a young age, play a critical part in the future success of students as they grow up.
Middle school teaching has had a solid outlook in recent years. Although the median pay salary is $55,860 per year, teachers can increase their salaries to six figures throughout the course of their career. There are around 627,000 employed teachers627,000 employed teachers around the United States with projected job growth of 6% between 2014-2025, (Labor Statistics).
For Bram, who is 25 and is in his second year of teaching, the entry level salary works for him and the lifestyle he wants to live. Entry level education requirements at minimum require a bachelor’s degree with a teaching certification but many schools are only interested in prospects with an additional master’s degree such as Gabe who has a master’s in culturally and linguistically diverse learning.
Schools also require at least one academic year of working in a school and obtaining a certain number of hours before they give teachers a full-time job. Bram completed this and at the same time received his master’s and teaching certification in one year which is rare considering most teachers spend two years studying for their masters and another obtaining their teaching degree.
Although they are pressured to be innovative in creating better course material every year the state of Colorado sets standards that are hard to attain for teachers. Teachers like Bram are required to fill in stats sheets of their students’ progress on a weekly basis which ironically takes away from his time engaging with the kids.
“That is what I see killing other teachers on the inside,” said Bram. “Gathering data to prove that my students are growing but when you just hang out with them for a bit every now and then, you know how much they are growing”.
Working in a lower income school in a diverse area such as Aurora comes with all sorts of different and unique challenges for Bram. Many of his students do not speak English as their first language and require a language specialist to adjust the curriculum to make it more accessible to them. In one classroom alone he can be working with kids from three different continents so he starts everyday talking about the curriculum with the co-teacher or language specialist.
“I collaborate with my language specialist and fill them in on the plan I devised for class and then they modify the lessons for the kids that have trouble with English or don’t speak it at all.” said Bram.
These students depend on the language specialist to be there for them but there is only one per classroom. This causes students to fall behind because they are not getting the attention they need which is one of the toughest realities Bram must face every day.
“There is a constant need for social and emotional support that can never be met,” continued Bram in a sad and concerned voice. “We don’t have enough teachers, assistants, principles in the building and this is a widespread problem in public education.”
Although these challenges may drive a lot of people away from the job at first Bram did share some positive aspects and stories. Many of his students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds with many of their parents working day and night to stay alive. In a lot of cases the teachers spend more time with the children then their actual parents do which makes Bram’s role in their lives crucial. Teachers must be there for those kids that are lacking parental support and Bram is more than willing to be there for them.
“There was this one student of mine was homeless and still showed up to school every day, straight A’s, honor role, extra curricula’s, band and drama and those are the kids that help you get out of bed in the morning because you know they need someone to help guide them.” says Bram. “That makes the job a lot easier.”
Stories like these are what Bram tells aspiring teachers. The job can be brutal and emotionally stressful but you get the opportunity to have a positive impact on student’s lives which ultimately shapes the future of our country. Teachers have a tremendous amount of responsibility and they must be engaged and focused every day for the benefit of their students.