“You should be a teacher!”
I hear this a lot, usually from students. As it turns out, elementary school kids think that twenty-five year olds have an inherent level of cool. Also, I’m pretty laid back when it comes to kids. First of all, I don’t have any children, so I don’t really have a “talking to a child” voice. Second, I’m a mere substitute teacher, so in the end, being there only one day, I have very little impact on their moral, social, or educational well-being, so I don’t want to act as if I am the high priestess of educational importance.
But don’t think, being a substitute, I am looking for a job as a fully licensed educational professional. It is to have a laugh. I’m just in this for the piles of money and extraordinary glamour the position provides. (Okay, I just want to pay my car insurance and keep my gym membership alive. Driving and working out are the only times I get to be really alone anymore, what with living in my parents’ basement.)
As some of you know, I am actually a fully licensed, utterly unemployed attorney. (I am not, however, your attorney.) I did consider becoming a teacher for a while, but I am so glad I decided that road was not for me. I think if I were a teacher, I would have yearly nervous breakdowns. Here in my home state of Indiana, things have gotten particularly strange for teachers.
Recently, the State Board of Education passed REPA II, a major set of changes to the educational licensing guidelines in Indiana. This requires that teachers have more training in content and less training in teaching methodology. It would also allow someone who wanted to teach middle or high school to secure an adjunct teacher permit if she has a bachelor’s degree, passes a content test and agrees to take a class in teaching methods. In other words, a degree in Education is no longer required.
The Powers That Be are thrilled with this. (The Powers That Be in this case, having pushed this reform through just before they have to turn over said Power to the newly elected.) They see it as a way to make Indiana better. After all, Indiana is not one of the best states in the nation for education, and this reform would bring in more talented individuals to teach in our schools. State officials argue that no matter how good your pedagogy, you can’t teach if you don’t know the content.
But, of course, if you don’t have that Education degree, you probably haven’t taken the classes in child psychology and teaching that you need. You have not had a “practice run” at teaching in a classroom by doing long term seminars and student teaching positions that teach you about running a classroom and managing student behavior and parent expectations. And isn’t it fair to say that a teacher who has taken college-level chemistry courses can probably teach high school chemistry? That someone who has written major thesis-level papers in English can probably teach Huckleberry Finn?
Let me tell you, as someone who jumps into a classroom three times a week, the content area is easy. With a law degree, I could probably teach some serious high school government classes. Content would be no problem. Teaching would be the problem. Learning how to control a classroom is hard. Figuring out how to grade papers is far from the easy task you think it would be. Lesson planning at a pace that children (and yes, fifteen-year-olds are still children in many ways) can understand and handle is HARD.
Do I think REPA II is a terrible decision? No. I have no doubt that a talented individual who wanted to be a doctor, but then decided she’d rather teach biology instead could be a great teacher. And REPA II is a smart provision when it comes to more technical subjects. Who would be better to teach about electrical engineering than an electrical engineer? And how many current teachers really handle a subject like that?
But all in all, I think REPA II misses the mark. Learning how to be around and teach children is just as important as knowing the subject they have to learn. It might even be more important. After all, you can always read up on something, but helping someone else learn the information? Now that’s a real skill.
So do I want to be a teacher? No. And I don’t find it entirely comforting that I could be.
Does this give you the feels the way it does me? I know this is only in Indiana, but how would you feel if it were in your state/country? Are you wondering why I even care about this? Thoughts are, as always, welcome.