ON BEING A PROFESSIONAL
This weekend Anthony Cody posted the following video on his new blog site…
The three minute talk by Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Howard University, Denisha Jones, speaks right to the heart of the matter of allowing (or encouraging) people to walk into public school classrooms unprepared.
Dr. Jones (Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University) focuses her comments on the 5-week TFA (Teach For Awhile?) training program which places minimally trained college graduates in public school classrooms. In its early years, TFA aimed to fill unfilled positions in low income neighborhood schools. Now it’s also being used to replace laid off teachers with cheap temps in school districts around the nation.
On the other hand, REPA III, which was adopted last week by the Indiana State Board or Education, doesn’t even require 5 weeks of pedagogical training before you can be hired to teach in one of Indiana’s high schools. You have to be well trained or experienced in your subject area, but developing the skills needed to transfer knowledge and develop understanding to the students in your classroom is apparently not necessary. If an unlucky high school does hire you to teach, only then do you have to start your training in pedagogy. You can “learn how to teach” from…
…school-based professional development, college or university-based course work or professional development, an entity that is not an institution of higher education, or a professional education organization
This pedagogical training must start within the first month you enter the classroom. The seven members of the State Board of Education who voted for REPA III apparently believe that you can 1) make it through the first month in a high school classroom without any knowledge of how teaching actually works or 2) learn how to teach instantly once you are exposed to “pedagogy training.” [Note how the language in REPA III allows you to get your “training” from virtually anyone…like Pearson, perhaps]
THOSE FABULOUS FINNS
Allowing untrained “experts” to teach on the REPA III plan is simply the logical next step in the privatization of public education and the deprofessionalization of teachers in Indiana and across the nation.
In contrast, Finland has improved its schools and national education, not by testing every child yearly and using tests to punish students, teachers and schools, or by reducing funding for education resulting in lower or frozen teacher salaries. It hasn’t removed collective bargaining rights for teachers, or taken away teachers’ due process rights. What Finland has done, among other things, is to elevate the profession of teaching to such a high level that the “best and the brightest” want to pursue careers in education. The Finns have improved teacher training by increasing, rather than decreasing the requirements needed before one can step in front of a classroom. They require educators to understand their subject area, of course, but they also require them to be well trained in pedagogy. They give their teachers plenty of time to collaborate and plan lessons so their students need less in-school time than their American counterparts. They pay their teachers well, and even pay them during their training.
What does all this investment in teacher training and professional development yield?
Academically, Finland is one of the highest performing nations in the world.
WE’RE NOT #1
We hear so much about how American schools are failing because our students don’t score high enough on international tests and how we should learn from those successful countries so that our students will be able to “compete in the global marketplace.”
Then we turn around and underfund our schools, overwork our teachers, blame public education for the failure of policy makers to deal with issues surrounding poverty and sell off the education of our children to private and charter schools with little or no public oversight.
The final step in making our public schools as much unlike successful nations’ schools as possible, is to demoralize teachers and deprofessionalize the field of education. Instead of increasing requirements for becoming a teacher, we decrease them. Instead of doing what we need to do to attract the “best and the brightest” to our public school classrooms we make a career in the field of education so difficult and so filled with mind-numbing test-obsessed insanity that fewer and fewer students are going into teaching and older, experienced career teachers are leaving the field in greater and greater numbers.
REPA III requires training in some “related field.” Would any of the seven REPA III supporters on the Indiana State Board of Education want to be treated for an illness by say, an anatomy professor who never attended medical or nursing school, but who promised to learn how to practice medicine within a month? Would any of them go to a former police officer for legal help, for example, if the officer decided that s/he wanted to practice law and would start on her/his law degree during the first month of handling their case?
Do any of them send their own children to schools with untrained teachers?
Dr. Jones said,
…this is what makes one a professional. They have completed a course of education deemed appropriate by the leaders in their field, and they have demonstrated a readiness to enter the profession. [emphasis added]
The seven pro-REPA III members of the Indiana State Board of Education are not leaders in the field of education despite some of their credentials. They have demonstrated that they are unqualified to have anything to do with public education.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.