Thursday, October 6, 2016

Teachers are Professionals? HA!

One of the greatest sources of my own inner turmoil is the constant nagging about how long I legitimately think I can keep teaching. Every Monday, the dread that faces me is enough to make my concerned husband ask if I want to quit mid-year. We both know I'm far too "professional" for that, but it doesn't seem like the rest of this state considers teachers professionals. 

Last week an article, "Lawmakers consider creating board exam for teachers in effort to keep standards high," appeared on KSL news, and it indicated that the State Legislature is considering enacting a new board certification process for teachers to keep and earn their teaching licenses. This move seems to be in direct response to the Utah State Board of Ed's decision to lower the requirements needed to earn a license in the first place. 

Here's some background: Utah is facing a teacher crisis (that will be the subject of another post altogether), and the Board is trying to use a short-term solution to fix it. Basically, under the new rules, any person with a bachelor's degree can get a job teaching, and through mentoring, receive a teaching license. I take issue with many of these new regulations, including increasing the already demanding work load of experienced "master" teachers, neglecting to acknowledge that it takes education and instruction to learn how to manage a classroom and educate students, and bypassing the many necessary steps it takes to prove mastery in both a content area and in teaching before getting a job. I do understand that the Board is facing a shortage, but they might be doing it at the expense of losing their overworked teachers already in the field. 

I digress. The legislature is proposing (in response to the Board's decision) that teachers be required to take . . . wait for it . . . a test to prove mastery of teaching and get board certified. The process will include evaluations and a test and who knows what else. Upon reading this article (link below), we find out how out-of-touch legislators are with the requirements it takes to get a degree in teaching and in keeping a license. 

Here's what already happens:
Every year teachers get evaluated by administrators in their building. They follow a challenging rubric of best teaching practices. Together the teacher and administrator work on a Growth Plan to improve their teaching and student outcomes for the future. This process is technically different in every district, but not much different (I've worked for 3 districts and it's all about the same). This evaluation process is also directly tied to whether or not teachers earn a pay increase, or in teacher terms, a step increase for the following year. It's high stakes and teachers really are held accountable for what they are doing or not doing in their classrooms. 

Also, before I graduated from Utah State University with a Level 1 teaching license, I had to pass the Praxis II test in my content areas of English and Speech Communications (my minor). A few years into the job, I had to pass the Praxis II PLT (Principles of Learning and Teaching) to upgrade to a Level 2 license. That's two tests. And, evaluations yearly. These are just a few of the requirements to keep or renew or attain a teaching license. Teachers are also required to do a lot of continuing education and professional development, and some teachers even go through the National Board Certification process (which I don't know much about because I don't even know how to create time to research what that takes). 

Do lawmakers not know what teachers already do in order to become "Highly Qualified" in their fields and receive a teaching license? I have to think the answer is no, because a board exam would seem redundant if they did know. Adding requirements to the licensing process will harm the interest of new recruits and deter veteran teachers from staying in the profession. A move like this from lawmakers makes me wonder who in the legislature gets a kickback every time they require or mandate another test. Are there test-maker lobbyists? Is that a thing? That theory makes more and more sense the longer I think of it. 

Teachers are professionals. I am a professional, and I work with professionals. If Utah lawmakers can't accept that, then maybe we shouldn't be called professionals or given any indication that this is a career. They should just teach us to be good little worker bees and do what they ask. Then we wouldn't get so confused about why we are continually treated as though we can't do our jobs. 

It's time that local lawmakers recognized the huge resource they have in the teaching workforce and help us do our jobs instead of giving us all one more reason to quit tomorrow. 

Here's the article if you're interested:

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