Just last week, lawmakers in my adopted state of Indiana decided that there were enough educated, trained, and experienced teachers out there, so they went ahead and opened the gates of teacher-dom to anyone with a college degree and a ‘B’ average.
I’ll get to the comparative analogies in a minute.
So, what does this new law say about the majority of teachers who matriculated through teacher training programs at accredited universities, spent countless hours observing and participating in the teaching process in classrooms with veteran teachers guiding them through their nascent lessons and interactions with children? What does it say about the future teachers who spent upwards of two semesters student teaching at different grade levels in order to experience as much of life as an educator as possible before Pomping and Circumstancing their way across the graduation stage? And what does it say about those who braved the interview processes at several school districts only to finally land their dream job–as a teacher’s assistant or a substitute teacher with the hopes of someday being called up to the big leagues?
And what does it say about established teachers who, on their own dime, sought out advanced degrees and certifications so that they would be not only more marketable within their school district, but more importantly, become better at their craft? What about those who went back to graduate school to earn a special education or gifted education endorsement, a middle school or high school certification, a Master’s Degree, or a principal’s license?
I’ve done everything listed in the last two paragraphs, all while giving 25 years of my life to the State of Indiana as a teacher, both at the elementary and middle school levels, both in the rough and tumble inner-city of Indianapolis and the once tony suburb of Lawrence Township. Most of those years were amazing; some of those years were downright awful, but in retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. That I am no longer a minion of the State of Indiana is irrelevant–what is relevant is the State of Indiana’s latest bone-headed move to lower the standards of teacher certification.
So, Indiana, while you’re at it, here’s something to chew on: Once I had dreams of becoming an R.N. I even applied to and was accepted into the School of Nursing at a small institution in Ohio. However, once my father wisely reminded me that the sight of copious amounts of blood made me pass out cold, I reconsidered my options and chose to remain a teacher. But since then, I think I’ve licked that blood thing (the passing out thing, you weirdo), and now …
I want to be a nurse.
I graduated in 1985 from Penn State University with a 3.5 GPA. So, whaddya say, Indiana? Can I become a nurse? What’s that? I have to pass a test? No problem–I’m an excellent test taker. Experience? Psht! I have three kids that came out of my body, so I think I know a little bit about being in a hospital and what it takes to be a nurse. And the countless trips to the ER and their broken bones, stitches, and the one time my daughter Caroline drank a bottle of liquid Benedryl …yeah, I think I can handle this. How hard can it be? I want to be a nurse, for crying out loud, not a biomedical engineer. Geez.
So if not a nurse, there’s another profession I’ve always thought I’d be good at: Lawyer. How hard can it be? I know you have to pass a test (again–GOOD TEST TAKER HERE), and you have to be able to write well (I think I’ve got that, Scooter) and know a lot about the law and how to research laws, precedents, decisions, and stuff like that. So, can I be a lawyer? What, is there some exclusive club that only lawyers know about that would prevent me and may 3.5 GPA from Penn State University in Elementary and Kindergarten Education from becoming a lawyer? Okay, so then can I go back to being a nurse?
Skills? Special skills? To be a nurse? Oh, like giving shots and things. I already know how to do that–I gave myself shots every day for the first three months I was pregnant with the Boy, so there. There’s more?
Well, what about “on the job training”? No? Why not?
Okay, so maybe lawyering is a better option. I know they read a lot. I read a lot. I don’t understand why I can’t be a lawyer.
“But Kelly,” you might be saying (unless you’re a teacher). “You’re being ridiculous. Whether you’re a nurse or a lawyer, each profession requires a particular set of skills. Liam Neeson said so. Really, dear, what special skills are needed to be a teacher? Honestly, how hard can it be?”
Gee, I’d love to sit down and outline for you all of the necessary pedagogy, the extensive metacognitive skills knowledge base required, the need to have a complete understanding of P.L. 94142, the difference between an IEP and a 504, the ability to align a set of standards to instruction and an ability to document the hell out of it, the affective aspects of containing upwards of 40 children in one room at a time for an extended period and …well, I could go on and on.
How hard can it be?
Harder than you think. Teaching requires a hell of a lot more than a 3.0 GPA and a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.