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After-graduation teacher-training programs: a god-send or a curse?

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Recently I was surprised to hear two different school districts in major cities advertising for “anyone with a bachelor’s degree” to apply to teach. The advertisements stated that the districts were desperate for teachers and could certify anyone with a bachelor’s degree. One district even said certification could be accomplished in only two Saturdays of preparation. I was shocked! How could someone with two days of preparation be the equivalent of a teacher who trained and studied for many years in college and was then mentored by a master teacher during a semester of student teaching? How could someone off the street be considered for such a role, especially during this time of “No Child Left Behind”? Is this an aberration or is this a thing of the future? If we are not able to fill our teacher roles with quality, qualified teachers will we resort to taking whoever is available? Has the demand completely outstripped the supply of certified teachers?

I genuinely hope that this is an aberration. Historically when the economy has been strong students tend to leave the field of teaching for more lucrative careers. Now that the economy is softening we should see more students return to the teaching field. Also, there has never been a larger number of teachers facing retirement - especially early retirement. This has fueled the fire of teaching vacancies. There are other reasons that add to this predicament but they all add up to a glut of teacher vacancies and a shortage of teacher candidates. A student at a recent teacher fair told me he was shocked at how many recruiters asked, “What can we do to get you to teach at our school?” This is a far cry from the days of “scrambling for a job” and “taking what you can get.”

Most districts agree the failure rate of new teachers is highest among these “quickee” certified teachers. These teachers tend to have more problems and need more supervision than traditionally certified teachers. I would assume that these are a stop-gap for our present supply and demand problem and soon we will return to a balance. Would it help if this issue were addressed by our state legislatures and federal governments? Will this problem continue if we do not back up “No Child Left Behind” with funds to reward all teachers as well as master teachers? Is this a problem that will work itself out or is there need for further discussion and action?

Hopefully we can have discussions about this problem with our cohorts and our government leaders and agree on some solutions soon.

Bob Maxfield
Director
BYU-Idaho Teacher Career Services

4 Comments

The shortage of teachers will be resolved when teachers are treated with more respect. The pay for what are often abysmal conditions is not close to being enough. Who would really want to be a teacher if you risk being shot at by students, accosted by parents, vilified by the public, and manipulated by the administration? A lot of schools are nice enough but what of the teachers that teach in schools with mice, mold and mediocre supplies? I love teaching and I have made a difference but I would not choose it as a career if I had to live my life again.

Clark County (Las Vegas) School District in southern Nevada has a great program called Alternative Routes to Licensure which has been very successful in preparing people to teach in the high needs areas of math, science and English. I am currently in the program which runs for 3 years, has multiple licensure requirements including education courses, observations, mentor teachers and ongoing support. The teachers in the program have a true call to teach and for one reason or another were unable to follow that call earlier in their lives. Although this course is intensive, it's an excellent preparation for teaching. I taught in the primary grades in the mid 70's, but my desire was high school math. At that time I was unable to continue school to change course. My current life status and life experience makes me more effective in the classroom than I could have been in my 20's. I'm thankful to have such an opportunity.

I'd far rather my children & grandchildren be taught by persons who have earned a degree in an actual legitimate academic area of study than by persons who simply sat through four years or more of the kind of faddish drivel and strenuous inducement to social engineering that passes for a degree in education these days!

I earned a B.A. and an M.A. (both with high honors) in an actual academic subject, then worked in the real world for 20 years before returning to grad school for an M.Ed. in Leadership & Administration (which will be complete six weeks from now). I endured for several years the high proportion of faddish "pedagogies" and Political Correctness in this program ONLY to earn that certifying piece of paper which will let me put my true strengths -- legitimate academic expertise PLUS real-world executive and entrepreneurial experience -- to work at making some sort of meaningful dent in the unconscionable mess America's schools have become.

You make a very interesting point B. Waite about your experience making you a more effective teacher. Too many times candidates in alternative certification programs seek to become a teacher to have the proverbial 'summers off' and days 'that end at 3pm'. Experienced teachers realize, nor has that ever been the case for truly dedicated teachers, that summers are spent in a variety of manners for professional development. I don't know a single teacher that has the entire summer 'off' and does not participate in some kind of professional development. Experienced educators realize that a caring heart is necessary to be a good teacher but training is not adequate in 'two Saturdays'.

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