Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blog # 14

Teaching our children can be a profession: Column
By: Joel Klein

This article is a short read, but packed with great ideas. Mr. Klein gives 3 problems he sees with the teaching profession and then gives the solutions he thinks would be the best. While I agree with most of them, here are his points:

Problem #1: We do not choose from the best teaching candidates.
Solution: A.) We need better academic training for prospective teachers. B.) We need a new approach for recruiting teachers, basically picking from the top one-third of the graduates. C.) We need to change how we reward teachers.

Problem #2: We've become distracted by seniority and not the effectiveness of a teacher.
Solution: A.) Institute a "National Teacher Examination" akin to those given to doctors and lawyers, to test teachers on pedagogy and mastery of content knowledge. B.) Have supervised internships for 1-3 years on prospective teachers, or new graduates.

Problem #3: We need to make a radical change in the profession of teachers.
Solution: A.) Teachers should establish their own board that polices the profession with merit-based career ladders and promotions based on specialty exams. B.) We need to stop giving mandatory school assignments to teachers and let them choose from the "greatest possible choice among public schools".

So, working off of problem #1, Mr. Klein's first suggested solution is that we need better academic training for our prospective teachers. He mentions an article he read that states "23 states cannot boast a single (teacher education) program that provides solid math preparation resembling the practices of high-performing nations." I read the article, NCTQ Teacher Prep Review 2014 Executive Summary, and it does show that writing, grammar, and composition is the main focus in the programs. The other subjects get slighted in the programs and they go into saying there has been an increase in the focus of raising the bar on the quality of teachers schools are producing. So I agree with this solution.
Mr. Klein's next solution is finding a new approach on recruiting teachers. He states we need to be picking from the top one-third of our graduates. While I see the appeal to this, because we all know there are people who pursue teaching because they believe it is the easiest, there are those of us who have test anxiety and focus issues who never make it in the top one-third and we would make great teachers. People like me would be over-looked even though teaching is my passion. So in my opinion this might appeal to be a great idea, but it has its downside.
The third solution proposed is the change in how we reward teachers. I am in complete agreement with Mr. Klein on this proposition. I firmly believe that we, as teachers, should be rewarded on effectiveness and not seniority. When a school or business is downsizing and having to perform lay-offs, unfortunately they target the newest hires instead of the least productive. This is a scary thought to someone like me who will be new to the profession instead of the person who teaches to the point of making money and not for the children. If there was a way that schools could run a survey or test to decipher the good teachers from the bad, this would be a great weight off the shoulders of the ones who bust their behinds for the kids.

Looking into problem #2, Mr. Klein says that schools have become more distracted by seniority than the effectiveness of a teacher. As I stated before, I am in complete agreement. He proposes that there should be a "National teacher Examination" that is akin to those that doctors and lawyers take. This test would measure the level of mastery on pedagogy and content. This view comes from Albert Shanker's publication The Making Of a Profession. While I was not able to read this publication, the solutions proposed by Albert Shanker were not too far out of grasp for our schools and is no less than doctors and lawyers go through. Until teachers are held to the same standards, we will not be able to move further up the ladder economically and earn the respect teachers deserve. If it were not for teachers, these doctors and lawyers would not be who they are, but it is not given the dues it deserves. Teachers are over-looked even though we are one of the most important workers there are.
Another solution suggested was that we as teachers, go through a supervised internship for 1-3 years. Granted this might not appeal to most newly graduated teachers, to me it does. Personally I am excited about that first year of teaching, but also I am completely terrified. Knowing that I would have a supervisor that I could go to who is going to be looking at everything I would be doing and measuring my ability would drive me to be a better teacher, but also it would take a weight off my shoulders. Honestly, I am all for this change.

Problem #3 is that we need to make a radical change in the profession of teaching. To me this is more of a statement or a challenge than a problem. But Mr. Klein suggests that we as teachers should establish a board to police our profession with merit-based career ladders and promotions based on specialty exams. I would go more into this, but I have stated this twice now in my writing and I completely agree with it. His second suggestion is that the mandatory school assignments be banned and let the teachers choose their schools. My problem with this is that when teachers cannot have the schools they have chosen, they get assigned to another that they might not even want to consider. This is going to cause the students more problems than the teacher. Then it is going to cause the teacher to not put forth that effort, and if we implement a way to class a teacher's effectiveness, this teacher will be the first to go during a layoff because they are not motivated. So, in my opinion we should leave the system the way it is. I am not against being placed in a school who needs teachers, instead of giving me the choice and letting my hopes get the best of me.

So after looking further into Mr. Joel Klein's article and exploring my own opinions, I completely believe we do need to make teaching a profession, especially making it a more respectable profession. Just from my own experiences, I can tell you it is not as appealing to a single mom to go into teaching. In that situation, you tend to look for a stable job opportunity and higher pay even if it is not your passion or dream job. I was pressed to make other decisions, but thanks to my husband I am able to pursue the job I have always dreamed of, even if it doesn't pay as much as another. If teaching could be held to a higher standard, then maybe would could improve the quality of our teachers and teaching programs.

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