I just finished reading an astonishing blog post commenting on school districts that are resorting to shortened teacher prep programs, if you can call it that, to ease teacher shortages.
Recently I was surprised to hear two different school districts in major cities advertising for “anyone with a bachelor’s degree” to apply to teach. The advertisements stated that the districts were desperate for teachers and could certify anyone with a bachelor’s degree. One district even said certification could be accomplished in only two Saturdays of preparation.
In Texas, a candidate with a bachelor’s degree can participate in an alternative certification program. After teaching for one school year and attending classes on evenings and weekends during that year, provided he/she passes the state certification exam, a candidate can become a certified teacher. In my city with many school districts, primarily only the smaller school districts hire candidates in alternative certification programs. In my experience, those districts are have a difficult time attracting highly qualified teachers due to poor working conditions or low performing campuses. Although that isn’t always the case, it happens more often than not.
After having been asked to step in and ‘assist’ teachers in these alternative certification programs, my experience has found the caliber of teachers generated by these programs to be of a lesser quality. Especially those that retired from a military career. Teaching is on the opposite spectrum of careers and the candidates I taught with had a hard time dealing with disrespect from students, managing a classroom and being flexible with schedule changes. If I were a parent I would not have wanted my child to be a student in their classrooms as their students definitely suffered academically. One year is not enough for some of these candidates for preparation much less ‘two Saturdays’. For some, no time period will assist them in becoming a highly qualified teacher according to NCLB standards.
Not all teachers that go through alternative certification programs are indequate or ill equipped. I taught with a two teachers in particular that were so successful I had no idea they were a product of alternative certification programs until we had a conversation one day during a grade level planning session. They are natural teachers with great classroom management and those two traits cannot be ‘taught’ in any educator prep program. Either you are cut out to be a quality teacher or not and generally the skills that makes awesome teachers awesome cannot be taught or even defined. Great teachers have ‘it’. Students, parents and colleagues know if a teacher has the ‘it’ factor and everyone knows if a doesn’t doesn’t have ‘it’.
Ever read about or seen the movie, “The Ron Clark Story“? He took over a deplorably behaved class and transformed their achievement, behavior and attitudes. He definitely had ‘it’. Without being overly confident I know have ‘it’. Do you?