In Arizona you can teach a classroom in a charter school with out being a certified teacher. There are those who believe, ” We have all been in school so we all know what to do.” Part of the premise behind the current rush to privatize public school includes a tacit endorsement of the ancient maxim which says “anyone can teach”. Maybe, but do you want to learn what they can teach? It’s not about intellectual affirmative action for education: opening up the teaching profession to any and all who would like to give it a try is not necessarily the best way to improve our educational system.
Virtually everyone has been in school at some time so we all have experience as students. But being experienced as a student does not subsequently equate with the ability to teach others. For example, I wouldn’t want someone working on my teeth who’s only previous experience was having a tooth pulled by a real dentist. Their experience is not to be used as proof of competency. Spending one year in each grade does not make you as knowledgeable as a trained professional who has spent an equal number of years teaching the same grade.
So what is the appropriate preparation for someone entering the classroom? Is it a bachelor’s degree, or should they have attained a Masters of education? If I am a parent of a child in that classroom wouldn’t I want a teacher for my child that was as well trained as they can possibly be?
John Wilson, writing in “Dumbing Down America’s Teachers” takes this argument one step further pointing out that there is a prevalent attack against encouraging teachers to improve at their craft. 1) Across the country public schools are looking for ways to cut costs, many face severe cuts to their funding as legislatures adopt austerity plans to attempt and ameliorate the effects of a sluggish economy. Cities like Detroit struggle with the wholesale abandonment of neighborhoods forcing schools to close and teachers to be laid off.
“Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman of Tennessee pushed through a plan to redesign the teacher salary base pay by eliminating pay for doctorates and post-master’s degrees as well as limiting step increases to four times within 11 years of teaching and none after that. It is clear that his Teach For America experience influenced his belief that additional education for teachers does not matter and that experienced teachers add no value. I cannot think of a more anti-intellectual policy than the one in Tennessee . . . ” 1)
In his article “Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Preparation” Stephen Sawchuk discusses the inadequacies inherent in teacher preparation programs. 2) Those of us who have been through teacher training really have nothing to compare it to since we only know how we were prepared. But upon entering the classroom the lights go on and if you are the teacher, they are spotlights and they are aimed at you!
Until you have actually been solely responsible for continuing the education of two dozen individuals, all of whom are as yet unfinished in their development toward adulthood, you really have little concrete experience to work off of. Dealing with your own children does not apply in most cases because teachers have spent most of their professional life establishing cues and rules that are endemic simply to their classroom environment. The rules that are found at an individual’s home are not necessarily aligned with the classroom. For example would you require your own child to raise their hand in order to speak? Of course not, but most teachers find this time-tested policy to be essential to classroom management.
Yet over time teachers are constantly refining their skills and procedures. Classroom management, one of the single most effective skills a teacher can possess, is a fluid ability that demands constant refinement, not just to adjust to the character of each year’s population but also the constantly changing curricular demands. From the moment a teacher enters a classroom they must be as ready to learn as they want their students to be.
In fact I can unhesitatingly say that there isn’t a teacher alive who would not go back to that first classroom and change something if they could. Actually they’d change a lot of things. The on-the-job training curve among teachers is extremely steep! Just as students are learning, teachers, no matter how well prepared, are always learning and adapting and if they aren’t, they are in the wrong profession.
Does that equate with dismissing the talented amateur or willing volunteer as an inadequate teacher? Of course not, but it does follow that the greater the preparation to teach, the better the teacher. Invest in education, it will pay off!