Anyone can teach …

I was channel surfing the other day when I heard John McCain talking about his views on education:

We should also offer more choices to those who wish to become teachers. Many thousands of highly qualified men and women have great knowledge, wisdom, and experience to offer public school students. But a monopoly on teacher certification prevents them from getting that chance. You can be a Nobel Laureate and not qualify to teach in most public schools today. They don’t have all the proper credits in educational “theory” or “methodology” — all they have is learning and the desire and ability to share it. If we’re putting the interests of students first, then those qualifications should be enough. NAACP Speech, July 16, 2008

This view is typical of people who put little value in education – since it’s just teaching, anyone can do it. All you need is learning, desire and the ability to share it. It is true that you need a great deal of learning – and without desire you won’t last long. But the ability to share it? Where does that come from? Where did you learn to teach? Most of the research tells us that we teach as we are taught. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that I go against that precept and work hard at showing my pre-service and in-service teachers alternatives to the way they were taught.

I’m really curious about the monopoly on teacher certification … I guess he means that if you want to teach, just fill out an application and you should get the job. Especially if you have a master’s or doctorate. Possessing great amounts of knowledge, in his eyes and others (see below), qualify you as a teacher. WAIT that just described 95% of higher education. How many of your college professors took any eduction classes? How many were good teachers?

In looking for this quote, I ran across a blogger, Nate, who agree with McCain – “It’s too hard …” Can you hear the whining? It’s too hard to learn how to manage a classroom so that all student get their educational, emotional, physical, psychological, social, creative needs met. It’s too hard being a parent to 30+ children in elementary school and 150+ adolescents in middle and high school. It’s too hard making less pay than anyone in another profession with the same education. It’s too hard trying to meet standards set by legislatures who haven’t the foggiest idea about education. It’s just too hard …

Good! It should be hard. When you are responsible for molding the future of a country it has to be hard.

I agree with Leslie Madsen Brooks, some people are called to teaching and are gifted to be teachers. I am one of those. My first teaching experience was as an 8 year old – teaching Kevin and Kelly (3 and 2) how to write their names. I’ve always wanted to teach. But that doesn’t mean that I know everything about teaching – I’ve worked hard to craft my art of teaching. That’s right, it’s an art. It takes time and experience to become an effective teacher. It takes courage to let go of the need to control everything – to dump the lectern and include the students in conversations of learning.

Can anyone become an effective teacher? Not in my opinion. I believe my Law of Thirds – which I use when talking about online learning – applies here.

  • One third of people can and should be teachers and would do great!
  • One third of people could be teachers and would do ok.
  • One third should never step into a classroom; they would be dismal failures and would be wasting their time and that of their students.

This latter group is why the teacher certification process is rigorous. We don’t want people teaching because they get “the summers off” or have amassed high levels of expertise. We want those who have a passion for building into the lives of young people – or college students – or graduate students – or adult students AND are willing to learn the craft.

Remember, it’s not just about pouring a bunch of information into students’ heads. It’s about establishing trust through meaningful relationships and helping students learn to think on their own, teach themselves, and have a positive impact on our society and our world. It’s all about trust. I think parents would rather have their students in teachers’ classrooms who are dedicated to the interests of their students; not in teachers’ classrooms who are focused on information dumping.

As I stated earlier, I think this attitude toward education is very common. The average age of a member of the U. S. House of Representatives is 57; 62 for a U. S. Senator. I wonder how many really understand the need to change education from what they experienced. How many view education as “anyone can teach”? This is what most experienced:

The bottom line – we’re not in the 1950’s or 1960’s anymore. Education should be different – educators have to be prepared to create educational environments that meet the needs of students in the 21st Century. Lowering standards and letting anyone teach is not best for our students, our country, or our world.


7 thoughts on “Anyone can teach …

  1. I appreciate the link to my article. However, I’m not really sure where that quote came from. My point was that John McCain has drawn attention to the difficulty that Nobel Prize Laureates are having getting their teacher certification. If the process is depriving our kids from have Nobel Prize winners as teachers, it must be made easier for them to navigate the path to becoming teachers.

  2. I appreciate your reply on my blog as well. I’m not sure that Mr. McCain really believes that a Nobel Laureate would want to teach on the K-12 level. Since I am at a major university with one of the largest producing programs in the nation, I can say with confidence that it’s not that hard to get a teaching certificate in my state. But it is necessary to understand teaching theory and methodology, contrary to what McCain stated.

    Thanks for the conversation – it will continue I’m sure.

  3. I am torn in by the critiques of teacher certification. Like you, Cheri, I was born to teach–it is truly a calling. However, I dropped out of the education program as an undergrad because I believed the hoops to certification were restrictive and the learning was rote theory presented by individuals who hadn’t seen the inside of a real classroom in more than a decade. Instead, I graduated with a major in English and became a free-lance writer. Ten years later, I returned to the hallowed halls having decided to give up on principle and just do what it took to get the state seal and a Type 09. I received no credit for my work in the publishing industry, yet those experiences were gold in the classroom. I really don’t believe universities are the place to learn to be a teacher—yes, teachers like you can guide or coach learners to become better teachers than they may have been without prescriptive learning, but the system is a flawed one. Well, I guess, what else could it be….but the point is that the wheels of educational change in academia and government move so slowly that they do not keep pace with the needs of those they serve….prospective teachers or the students they will serve.

  4. Dea,

    You know I agree with you and you also know that I’m doing what I can to change things from the inside while effecting teachers who go outside.

    Thanks for the comment,

  5. After years of discussing the teacher education process with peers, I finally came across a professor who shares my personal view toward the teacher certification process. I am certain there are other professors similar to Dr. Toledo but this blog was very interesting to me. My undergraduate degree is in Secondary Mathematics Education with Teacher Certification. Throughout many of my mathematics courses in college, I found myself asking the question, where did this professor learn how to teach? After a few semesters in college, the conversation came up with on of my math professors. She stated nonchalantly that she had never taken an education course throughout her entire career. She had her doctorate in mathematics and had been at the university for 16 years. That was the beginning of my inquiry toward discovering the criteria necessary to teach at a university.

    I eventually realized, as you pointed out, probably 95% of the professors in any given university had not completed a teacher certification program or had ever taken education courses. Wait, they are teachers, right? What qualifies them to teach? Does it make sense for students to pay enormous amounts of money in a higher education institution only to find out they will be taught by professors who may not even know the first thing about teaching methodology?

    I am curious if the “95% of higher education” is an accurate statistic? I have been seeking to find out this information for years. I have not done official research yet but did not really know where to begin.

    You mentioned, “we teach as we are taught.” If future mathematics teachers in the K-12 setting are to become great math educators, and change attitudes toward mathematics, they will probably model some of what they witnessed in the college setting. How will future mathematics educators become great when most of the preparation they received in the mathematics field was taught by very bright individuals but not necessarily the best teachers? This system is a disservice for future math teachers.

    I understand almost all tenure track professors do more than just teach but there should be some criteria for tenure track professors to complete a teacher certification process in order to become tenured. If they have completed one in the past, that will be taken into consideration.

    It is encouraging to know some professors are definitely changing the way future teacher’s will teach and also seeking ways for fellow professors to become better teachers. Keep up the good work!

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