Our family dinner conversations over the past year have featured an amusing role reversal. “Dad, did you get your homework done? No screen time until you do.” “Good job on your straight A’s, daddy!”
At age 48, my husband is back at school getting his Oregon teaching certificate. Just before he graduated from college in the 1980s, his Myers-Briggs test had predicted, “You are well suited to be a technology project manager, or a high school science teacher.” Check, and now check. Upon certification in 2011, my spouse hopes to land a position in science or math in an Oregon public school.
IMHO, he’s exactly the sort of prospective teacher our society should be bending over backwards to get into the school system. Here’s a seasoned executive who previously piloted a Silicon Valley high tech hardware firm, putting physics and math to daily use. Here’s a guy who has gotten as close to teaching in a classroom as you can get—tutoring Talented & Gifted students, volunteering in every grade as our children have progressed to high school, chaperoning, coaching soccer, serving as school board president—and yet.
And yet he must still invest two years and thousands of dollars in getting that piece of paper. My husband’s case illustrates a structural problem in public education in Oregon.
There is no accelerated path, no proficiency credits available, for professionals who migrate to the teaching profession.
This year, our school district struggled to retain an exemplary foreign language instructor who lacked the necessary paperwork. She’s the sort of teacher who makes language come alive, with interactive “art gallery openings” and “chateau auctions,” lunch hour discussions and foreign films, along with rigorous grounding in grammar, and training in the proper accent.
After this year, she’ll be let go. Never mind that she has taught at the college level and the local community college, speaks like a native having lived abroad for years, and was qualified to instruct in three languages. She can’t afford it, with one boy in college and the other two years out from it.
Increasingly, our schools are allowing students to get credit when they demonstrate proficiency. My kids are sometimes pre-tested by their teachers to discover what they know prior to starting a unit, and are moved ahead if they demonstrate mastery of the material.
Why not extend this same practice to certifying teachers in Oregon?
I’ve learned that demographic and workforce trends indicate a coming shortage of teachers, as the baby boom retires and young graduates remain leery of teaching. The solution seems apparent. Make it easy and attractive for professionals—businesspeople, scientists, artists, athletes, musicians—to segue to teaching.
I see the great value in much of the curriculum my spouse has followed for his teaching degree: how to reach children of all types and socioeconomic backgrounds; learning the basics of child development; getting some grounding in classroom management. Starting this fall he’ll get the benefit of shadowing several accomplished teachers in their classes. What’s needed for encore career professionals like him is a way to accelerate through or “test out of” material that is simply repetitive. And to lower the cost of the Oregon teaching credential.
I’m interested to know: are there other states where accelerated teacher certification for professionals is being done successfully? Can we adopt their best practices and bring them here?