05 August 2010

Education Reform, Like Democracy, Starts at the Bottom

Certification Update: I am currently waiting for my Institutional Recommendation to be mailed out to me from the University of Phoenix.  Once I have that in hand, I can apply for my Arizona Teacher Certification and my Washington State Teacher Certification as well.  But I'm just waiting. 

It is in this period of waiting that I have been thinking about this process I have undergone in order to become a teacher.  Do I think that an individual with ONLY a Bachelor's Degree should be able to teach?  Absolutely not!  DO I think it is necessary for someone to be unpaid for up to 7 months (much like my scenario) in order to become a teacher?  No.  I think that there can be a differentiation in the paths taken to become a teacher.  In the same way that businesses look for education OR experience, I think your time working in schools should factor into your certification process.  I have seen too many kids in college who want to be teachers go from school to more school to teaching without working in the schools.  In this scenario, I think it is important to have an internship period where the student is immersed in an education setting.  This would work ideally for students who are able to do their certification in a one year program.

What is the result I'm looking for?  I have a friend who had to turn to working construction to support his growing family.  I had another friend who did the quick school route and burned herself out in a year and has not returned to teaching.  I have another friend who used up all his financial reserves to make it through the education portion of teaching.  These are quality people, and they would be great teachers if the process prepared them to be more than just broke.  This year, one of the counselors at the school I was working in introduced me to a kid who was going through his certification classes, because the counselor knew I was doing the same thing.  This kid walked into the school library all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  He had a kid at Disneyland smile on his face, and he walked in like he stepped into Yankee Stadium for the first time.  I was busy working with my student who has Cerebral Palsy, and  when asked for advice, I said simply, "work in the schools." 

HYPOTHETICAL MOMENT: Let's say you have a teaching certification program, that schedules its classes in the late afternoon to evening, and requires its students to work as aides and para educators in the schools in the area during their time in the program.  What happens to those students and those schools?  Let's start with the students.  The students will gain a better understanding of what they are getting themselves into.  They will also learn first-hand how to create APPROPRIATE relationships with the kids they work with.  The kids in the schools will LOVE to be around younger people, and they will be surrounded by COOL people in college; something to look up to... someone to want to be like.  The schools will have an influx of youthful energy that not only wants to be there, but is constantly learning how to do their jobs better, and educate better.  When these students have been working in schools for one or two years, then they should not be forced to be unpaid for 3 months, plus a summer vacation, plus their first month working as a teacher... they will be better equipped to step into a classroom, and they will have had the opportunity to build a relationship with a school, faculty, student body, and district. 

Now, prior to this year, I will have worked in schools for 5 years.  Not only do I know how to work with kids and their parents, but I also understand the ebb and flow of student learning throughout the school year.  I explained this in an interview I did this year.  A Seasoned educator knows how stressful the beginning of the year in only to hit your groove in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas Break.  Then you have to redo your class expectations in the New Year, and you start to get grooving again in time for Mid Winter and Spring Break.  By the time your routine is down pat, then you have kids checking out mentally because it's almost Summer.  Then you have to hope that the teachers before you taught the students what they will need to be successful in your class next year, and that the students retain any of it. 

Education reform is to be done from the bottom up.  The trouble is that it is becoming a political platform for those at the top. 

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