Related: Erin McHenry

Would you encourage anyone to become a teacher?


I would.  In fact, when I see someone who I think would be a good teacher, I try to talk them into becoming one.  If they care about kids, if they are intelligent, and if they can explain something well, I start to work on them.   I was more than a little alarmed recently when I heard of an article discouraging young people from becoming teachers.  That’s the last thing we should do!  This country needs the best and the brightest teaching our future leaders.

Randy Turner’s article in the Huffington Post, “A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher,” was, I believe, an attempt to draw attention to the many administrative hurdles inhibiting K-12 teachers from doing their jobs.   Mr. Turner’s 14 years of teaching is certainly longer than most have contributed to society’s youth, but I don’t think his disdain for those hurdles should keep motivated candidates from seeing if they would encounter the same pitfalls Turner experienced.

After all, with enthusiastic potential teachers might also come teachers who later recognize problems and take action to lead committees or departments or schools or even legislation to create better plans to improve student learning rather than give up on teaching altogether.   I don’t think that is what Turner meant but his unfortunate title sacrificed the profession at the expense of getting the attention to the issues he wanted.

I have to lean in Turner’s direction when it comes to some of the “get certified quick” programs that are popping up.  One of the things I came to appreciate about my teacher certification through a traditional degree program was the many hours of observation and teaching practice needed before student teaching.  There were distinct levels of learning and practice at a pace that enabled me to gain confidence in my knowledge and ability as well as my choice for occupation.  Unlike the faster programs, some of my peers who decided teaching was not for them learned it before they were already in a classroom.

Blueprint for ReformThere are statistics of test scores, “teacher quality” reports and national certification requirements prompting change that may or may not benefit every community, however, if more motivated and maybe slightly idealistic teachers were in schools, they might be able to tackle some of the challenges Turner outlined in his article.  Do you think replacing No Child Left Behind with the Blueprint for Reform is really going to “Empower Educators” as the brochure suggests?  Although I think you’d have to be a bit of an idealist to think you could reform national education, that doesn’t mean we don’t need someone, preferably someone not rooted in a future political career, to try to keep adapting and improving the nation’s schools.

Is teaching difficult?   Absolutely, which is why I consider myself a bit of a coward for no longer being in a classroom.  But do children need good teachers?  Yes.  And although online instruction can certainly compliment the instruction given by a live person, no amount of online learning can replace the care and consideration that children, particularly young children, need.  Not everything learned in school is measurable on a test.

Teaching isn’t easy and not everyone should be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean we should turn interested candidates away from the profession.  I think we should paint a realistic picture, preferably one without the emotions of someone who has possibly been teaching for longer than he/she should.  That realistic picture should include details of both the best and the worst days and then get them into a certification program that would provide adequate time and support to succeed, to give them a chance to decide for themselves.  Frankly, I think you would need to have more idealism than the glimmer I might still have to fix the system, but I would never think of crushing the high hopes of any ant.

If any of you teachers are thinking about retiring, I task you with recruiting someone at least as good as you to begin their teacher preparation.  Then, stick with them and be a mentor when things get tough.  Retire if your best days are behind you, but find someone who you think has the skills to teach and the tenacity to keep politics out of the classroom.

If you could name one thing that you think would help make teaching a profession you would encourage more people to join, what would that thing be?

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