Nov 16, 2015
Long time readers of Two-Fisted History will recall how I oft bemoan the intrusion of politicians and bureaucrats – people who have no idea of what being a classroom teacher is actually like versus their own perception of it – into Education. It's a subject that I often bring up (probably ad nauseum) to friends, colleagues, associates, or anyone else who gets me talking for more than ten minutes on Education. Just this past week I was discussing it with my close friend, Merrel. We sort of gestated a fairly accurate analogy.
In the military, you have the General Staff and you have the Front Line Troops. The General Staff plans out the strategy and outlines the mission goals, abd the Front Line Troops are the boots on the ground; carrying out the strategies while tactically modifying them to fit the actual ground-level situation. The same basic idea is similar in Education. In the Education world, you have the US Department of Education, Congressmen & women, state Departments of Education, Governors, and state Representatives coming up with the strategies for reaching Education goals, and teachers as the 'Boots On The Ground' trying to reach those objectives. The difference, however, is that, while Generals were those Front Line Troops at one point (and therefore have some situational insight), rarely have politicians and bureaucrats ever been classroom teachers. When a lawmaker hands down their Promulgations, they have little-to-no idea what they're actually doing to the people on the ground.
There are many avenues that lawmakers take to stymie and frustrate teachers through their ignorance. This past week, I sat down and took a look at the requirements for out-of-state certification reciprocity in Texas and certification renewal in New York as both are on my plate. It was a significantly disheartening experience to say the least. I ended the day feeling like a 19th century coal miner or factory worker; working for low wages and being always in debt to 'The Company Store.'
In New York, a teacher first receives an Initial Certification. This certification is good for five years. In those five years, the freshly-minted teacher must serve in a full-time teaching position for at least three years before they earn their Professional Certification,' otherwise their Initial Certification expires. This is fine and dandy for Science and Math teachers who get snatched up by the handful because STEM is one of the 'in things,' but for teachers of Humanities, Art, Music, and the like, five years goes by in an instant, something I'm certain that governors, State Education Boards, and other lawmakers are oblivious of.
Fear not, however! A new teacher may apply for a five-year, non-renewable certificate reissuance for a fee of around $90 per certification. In order to apply, one must take 75 hours of Professional Development (at their own expense), and retake their Subject Area Exam for usually around another $90.
In Texas, If you have Out-Of-State Certification, you have to send in all of your undergraduate and graduate transcripts (after buying them from your alma maters) to the State Department of Education along with a check for $180 for them to simply *review* your documentation. Then it's another $52 for a one-year temporary, non-renewable certification until the teacher takes (at least) two required Texas exams, each again around $90. Then the teacher is permitted to send in $78 for their Initial Certification. For those at home keeping score, that's a whopping $490 total *just* to confirm certifications that a teacher already has in another state: be it New York, California, Oregon, Virginia, or wherever.
Of course it doesn't end there. Once a teacher has their Professional Certification, they have to /maintain/ it by continually being 'on top of their pedagogy game.' They do this by taking more Professional Development and Continuing Education. In New York, it's 175 hours over five years. In Florida, a teacher must take 15 credit hours of coursework (again, at their expense) over five years.
I know you're probably saying, 'But Mr. S! We need to make sure that our teachers are the very best! That they're up-to-date on all the latest and greatest methods of instruction. Think of the children!'
I like to think that I am. If I'm more focused on creating lessons for my students and spending more time meeting my students needs than I am writing papers for a course or spending wasted hours in workshops participating in activities such as 'Paper Snowball Fights' to determine who reads which selection of a text (Yes, I did this in a workshop. I feel shame.), then I can be a more effective teacher for my students. If I'm not spending hundred or thousands of dollars on courses, workshops, testing, and certification fees, I can spend it on notebooks, pens & pencils, teaching materials (I spent over $200 at the UPS Store last year printing worksheets and notes for my students because my school didn't have paper for teachers to have copies made for almost a month. No lie.) that my students either forget or can't afford, it helps my kids become highly-effective students.
I'd like to conclude this line of thought by using the Common Core Mission Statement, 'College and Career Ready,' and turning it on its head. In four years of undergraduate and two years of graduate studies, as well as having the opportunity to meet with literally dozens of university-level college professors over the past few years, the only ones I know of who have ever taken even one pedagogy-type class such as those that primary and secondary teachers must continually take, were Education professors. Does that make all of our post-secondary instructors ineffective Educators?
Instead of robbing teachers (and by extensions, our students) of their precious time and precious little money, perhaps we could have teachers – people who know what it's like on the Front Lines or in the mines – effecting the changes in Education policy that are so desperately needed in our school systems. If it's left up to bureaucrats and politicians with no knowledge, understanding, or experience teaching, we do unconscionable and immoral harm to our clients: our kids.
Resources for Social Studies Students & Teachers