I am outraged by the proposal to grant a short cut into teaching that the State Board of Education is now considering. I think I speak with some authority since I hold both a B.A. and M.A. in English and also took the education courses required to earn my license as a teacher in Indiana.Do you agree? Click to contact Indiana State Board of Education members.
Having a B.A. in English gave me knowledge about literature, writing, and grammar, but it in no way prepared me to teach high school students - and especially struggling students - how to read and analyze novels, poems, essays nor to write about them. I loved my college English classes, but they did not teach me how children learn nor what I needed do to facilitate that learning. The education courses including student teaching did. I still struggled the first year because teaching five classes each with 30 or more students is challenging. That is at least 150 individual personalities with different reading skills and interests. In what other profession, is one person expected to meet the needs of that many people in less than 300 minutes a day? But it is the profession I chose fully aware of the challenge I was accepting.
So I am outraged when the State Board of Education may adopt REPA 3 and grant a short cut to people who have a degree and take a test. I know that it sets the scene for our children to be guinea pigs for those who have not demonstrated that they can teach or that they really understand what will be required of them. They will not have to demonstrate that they can work with kids effectively. The premise that underlies such a program seems to be that having content knowledge supersedes being able to communicate it effectively. The people who want to become teachers in this way may be required to get training in the first two years, but that means that on the first day of school and the second and the third, these people will be flying by the seat of their pants.
Should we not question why anyone would want to take this shortcut?
Obviously, teaching was not their first choice in professions, and certainly, most other professions pay better than teaching. So what motivates these people? Is it not being able to find a job in their chosen profession? Is it the result of downsizing in their previous employment?
There is a system in place for people who want to enter the teaching profession after being in a different profession. It's called Transition to Teaching and those with college degrees in other areas can take classes and do student teaching and thus come into the profession with some understanding of what teaching really involves, of how to teach and of how to manage a classroom. In short, they will have gone through the process of becoming a teacher. Isn't that process required in the education of engineers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, biologists, accountants? Aren't most college students required to do internships in addition to their classes? Who would go to a doctor who has a degree in English who took a test and was awarded temporarily the right to diagnose health problems and prescribe treatment while he or she got the training to read the results of a blood test or an x-ray in night classes?
Should the State Board of Education pass this short cut, there is a simple way to deal with the people who enter teaching under REPA 3. First, don't hire them. Districts can choose to hire only those who possess conventional teaching licenses awarded because of their degrees and certifications earned in accredited universities. Second, parents can demand that the teachers of their children be licensed in this way. Parents should be vigilant and ask for the credentials of their children's teachers. If the teacher does not possess these credentials, parents can demand that their children be placed with a different teacher.
This demand may be difficult; however, under such circumstances, both the State Board of Education and the school district will have failed in the responsibility to insure to the best of their abilities that qualified teachers are in the classroom.