Welp, I guess in Utah anyone can teach now. I am shaking my head in dismay that Utah legislators, the state school board, and society at large, undervalue the skills and expertise of educators. The State Board recently passed a new policy that will allow anyone with a bachelors degree who can pass a content exam and an ethics test to be a teacher. There is SO MUCH MORE to teaching than understanding the content. Understanding the subject area is the easy part. The challenge comes in presenting the content in an age appropriate learning manner, in using the effective teaching cycle, in having strong classroom management, while fostering a environment of safety and well-being.
I am not opposed to alternative routes to licensure, I myself decided after I finished my bachelors degree, that I wanted to be a teacher. However, I then completed a 2 year teacher prep program with a year long internship before I was issued a Level 1 teaching license. I took courses on pedagogy and behaviors and working with diverse students. Even with a strong teacher prep program, it still took years of working with an amazing mentor, attending outside professional development, and lots of trial and error before I truly became an expert in my craft.
I understand that Utah is in MAJOR teacher shortage. However, I do not think this is the long term solution to the problem. Here are the concerns I see:
1- I have been on many hiring committees. If I was given a resume of a potential teacher who had not completed a teacher prep program and had ZERO teaching experience, I probably wouldn’t even call that candidate in for an interview.
2- If a content test “teacher” was hired, I would be very concerned for the mentor/master teacher they were assigned to. Most mentor teachers I know are still teaching full time in their own classrooms. Having to mentor a teacher from scratch would be a significant amount of extra work for the master teacher. I worry that this will lead to burn out from assigned mentor teachers, and burn out from co-workers who have to pick up the slack.
3-This new policy is adding insult to injury. Teachers across the nation are already feeling undervalued and in the state of Utah, teachers also feel underpaid. If lawmakers are now saying, “Teaching is so easy, anyone can do it!” what message is this sending to seasoned, effective teachers, who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a teacher prep program. I predict many teachers who were already feeling overworked and underpaid, will leave the profession.
4- What about the students? Is school turning into a glorified babysitting program? As a parent with children in the Utah public school system, I would be very upset if my child was placed in a classroom with a teacher who had zero training or experience. Are schools only looking for warm bodies to fill the open spots?
5- This is not a long term fix. I believe that many of these content test teachers will feel overwhelmed and unsuccessful in their first year(s) of teaching and will leave. Their school and district will have undoubtedly invested time and money into this teachers professional development and training. That money will have been wasted.
We much take a different approach to teacher retention and recruitment. As petty as this may sound, the truth of the matter is that teachers HAVE to be paid more. It is hard to recruit college students into the teaching profession when there are Utah school districts with starting wages under $30,000. That is not enough money to support a family. When I was sitting in a required seminar before I took out my student loan, the presenter said something along the lines of, “If you are going into a low paying career such as TEACHING, taking out a student loan may not be a wise investment.” Utah also needs a plan for retaining quality teachers, such as offering various leadership roles–with corresponding pay increases. School districts and stakeholders can also do more to raise the profession by asking teachers to present at conferences, be invited to discuss education policy, and publicly recognizing teachers for a job well done.
There is a lot of chatter on this topic on twitter and other local media and news outlets. I would encourage teachers to voice their opinion on this topic.