What makes a good teacher?

  • Susan WB

    What will they bring? As widely varying good and bad qualities that we find in all potential employees in all fields, I would expect. Some will be excellent, some adequate, others awful. But should we ban the excellent along with the merely adequate and the truly awful? Or should we find an easier way to get the excellent non-licensed teachers into the licensed fold? That’s the question.

    I have no disrespect for traditional teacher-education programs, or for teachers for that matter. I consider myself a teacher (though at the moment I do volunteer training). But my experience tells me that our system of deciding “who’s a qualified teacher?” is not always the best.

    I went to graduate school to learn how to teach English as a Second Language. I could have worked with University students with my training. But when I decided to work with adult immigrants instead (public school system) they told me I needed a teaching license – for K12. Right. To teach adult ESL, I could be “qualified” with a license to teach early childhood…. but not with a Master’s in Teaching ESL! So I ended up teaching in a non-profit, non-school district program that didn’t require a license. And guess what? I was a really good teacher – as evidenced by both my students & employer’s opinions and my students’ test scores.

    Alternative licensing would have allowed me to prove that I actually was qualified to do the job for the district. If people have qualifications and they have the skill to handle a classroom well, but don’t happen to have the right license, why not provide alternate paths that allow them to demonstrate and prove their knowledge and skills?

    Let schools have rigorous interview processes and let them have autonomy in hiring. Not everyone who has a teaching license is a good teacher or meant for the profession; some who don’t have a license are. Let’s get the best teachers teaching – and let those who don’t belong find a better career elsewhere.

    The truth is that in today’s economy people change careers many times throughout their lives. Why does it have to be so hard to change into the teaching career?

  • Susan WB

    What will they bring? As widely varying good and bad qualities that we find in all potential employees in all fields, I would expect. Some will be excellent, some adequate, others awful. But should we ban the excellent along with the merely adequate and the truly awful? Or should we find an easier way to get the excellent non-licensed teachers into the licensed fold? That’s the question.

    I have no disrespect for traditional teacher-education programs, or for teachers for that matter. I consider myself a teacher (though at the moment I do volunteer training). But my experience tells me that our system of deciding “who’s a qualified teacher?” is not always the best.

    I went to graduate school to learn how to teach English as a Second Language. I could have worked with University students with my training. But when I decided to work with adult immigrants instead (public school system) they told me I needed a teaching license – for K12. Right. To teach adult ESL, I could be “qualified” with a license to teach early childhood…. but not with a Master’s in Teaching ESL! So I ended up teaching in a non-profit, non-school district program that didn’t require a license. And guess what? I was a really good teacher – as evidenced by both my students & employer’s opinions and my students’ test scores.

    Alternative licensing would have allowed me to prove that I actually was qualified to do the job for the district. If people have qualifications and they have the skill to handle a classroom well, but don’t happen to have the right license, why not provide alternate paths that allow them to demonstrate and prove their knowledge and skills?

    Let schools have rigorous interview processes and let them have autonomy in hiring. Not everyone who has a teaching license is a good teacher or meant for the profession; some who don’t have a license are. Let’s get the best teachers teaching – and let those who don’t belong find a better career elsewhere.

    The truth is that in today’s economy people change careers many times throughout their lives. Why does it have to be so hard to change into the teaching career?

  • Drae

    “What makes a good teacher?”

    That’s a very good question, and one that the public unions fight tooth and nail from getting a proper answer. The unions fight merit pay for teachers, they fight competency tests for teachers, and they fought this measure too even though both republicans and democrats support these reforms. The unions have even booed Obama’s Secretary of Education when he’s called for reforms.

    The fight to limit public unions is the parents’ fight to have this question answered. The Economist has some articles that express the problem much more eloquently.

  • Dan

    Is there a teacher shortage? No. Has it been demonstrated that the current teacher training is causing our children to do poorly in school? No. This is purely a political act. It has nothing to do with increasing student achievement. Nothing. You want better surgeons, better architects, better electricians, you train them, you get them mentors and internships. You don’t go looking for “real life experience”, you improve the training. The demands of the profession coupled with the political and public slamming of the profession are driving new and old teachers out. Good and bad teachers. These newly licensed “saviors” are not in for an easy buck.

  • Joey

    I think the problem is that we suspect licensure has any correlation with qualification. Experience shows this is not the case: many licensed teachers are totally inept, while many unlicensed teachers (at the college level, for instance) perform admirably.

    Probably we should make the “license” similar to an electrician’s license, demonstrating a basic knowledge of the bureaucratic nightmare that is public education. Then make firing and hiring decisions the same way anybody else would: by examining actual fitness for the position, on a case-by-case basis.