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Give Teachers a Free T-Shirt, and Other Ways to Improve Recertification


Chris Woods

Renewing a teaching certificate is as necessary as going to the dentist. Or paying your taxes. But that doesn't mean it has to be as dreaded or painful. There are plenty of easy ways to improve the process. Most importantly, teachers should complete the recertification process feeling like a valued and important professional, not like someone who just got a root canal.

First, let's make the renewal process as easy as ordering something on Amazon. State department of education websites should be easy to navigate, and submitting paperwork should be as easy as uploading an attachment to an email. Instead of signatures and filling out information on paper every time we attend an education conference, why can't we just scan a QR code or have an ID card swiped?

Most states require teachers to renew their certification every few years, and many teachers wait until the last minute to finish the process. If recertification were a yearly process it would encourage consistent learning. Or better yet, why not just link it to yearly district evaluations? 

Every day, there are thousands of educators engaging in professional learning, none of which goes on any transcript or recertification paperwork. Teachers tell their students that learning is a lifelong process; is it any wonder that they keep learning, too? I'm not sure how states can quantify the time that teachers spend reading blogs, watching videos, participating in Twitter chats and book clubs, or finding ideas on Pinterest, but I'd really like to see them try.

And while we're at it, why not throw in a free t-shirt with the renewal? For a small cost (which wouldn't even be noticed if it were rolled into the renewal fee), the final thought as a teacher finishes the process could be, "Yay, a free shirt!" instead of, "That's a couple hundred bucks out of my shopping budget." Just think, if every state already has a slogan or initiative for promoting education, why shouldn't we put those on shirts for the ones who love and promote education every day as a profession?

Every day we put our trust in teachers to faithfully show up and professionally educate the next generation of leaders, thinkers, artists, and makers. Shouldn't we also trust that teachers want to remain educated and at the forefront of their profession, whether we require it or not? 

Chris Woods teaches high school math in the northernmost district in Michigan, and loves finding STEM in the real world and bringing into the classroom. He believes that inspiration is more important than instruction, and that teaching kids is not just a job, it's the most important job. In addition to his work in the classroom, Woods also is the host of a weekly podcast called "The STEM Everyday podcast," which includes ideas and interviews about adding STEM to any classroom. Follow him on Twitter @dailystem
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