Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SB48: Should Professionals be Teachers?

There is a bill at the Utah Legislature that would make it easier for professionals to be teachers as well. Information on the bill's status can be found here.

It's passed initial votes in the Senate so far, and has a House sponsor, but there have been some concerns expressed, most notably by Senators Ross Romero and Scott McCoy,
"This bill really is an insult to education," said Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City. "Teachers have a skill set that is unique, developed and is nurtured and trained. I think this bill expands the profession of teaching into a hobby of teaching."

"I have seen the incredible amounts of very important training and learning that goes into learning how to teach," McCoy said, saying the bill was "too cavalier."
I see this bill as a way to add value to schools by attracting talented, motivated professionals willing to teach. They still have to pass competency tests and hold a bachelor degree, but they would no longer have to take, and pay for, 1 or 2 years of classes to be teacher certified.

Is there a precedent for this? Absolutely. Many of my classes at the University of Utah were taught by adjunct professors - professionals from the community who, in addition to their regular jobs, taught courses at the U. These were upper level accounting and finance courses required for a University degree, and all taught by "non-teachers".

This bill simply does for junior and senior high schools what is already going on at our state's universities. At a time when we are faced with teacher shortages, adding this avenue to attract good teachers seems to make a lot of sense.


Jamie said...

I think it is good, if the person can teach. Some people just can't. I had a RN teach us my CNA class and he SUCKED! Just because your good at your job doesn't always mean you can teach someone else how to do it. However, on the flip side there are a lot of people out there who are willing to teach others and are good at it. I think as long as students are learning SOMETHING from them, then go for it.

Cameron said...

I've had teachers who did go through all that teacher training and they sucked.

I think it takes a certain personality to be a teacher more than it does a certain training.

The way I understand this bill is that it would create less emphasis on the training part of it and more on getting qualified professionals to be good teachers. And the "good teacher" part will be decided by an aptitude test given by the state as well as basically a job interview with the local school board and administration.

Tom said...

Three thoughts: (1) The bill removes the currently existing possibility of professionals becoming elementary teachers, and (2) it should be clarified that while professionals-turned-educators are currently expected to get training on how to teach, prepare lesson plans, and follow the state's core curriculum, these teachers receive a three-year license to teach immediately--the training comes as they teach. While I agree that the existing training requirements are a bit burdensome I think this bill goes too far in the other direction by eliminating training entirely. Finally, (3) as the existing training standards are implemented in Board of Education rule, wouldn't it be easier to work with USOE to get this done? Legislating at a higher level without involving those responsible for hiring and licensing in the conversation is a mistake. The bill is opposed by local school boards, superintendents, and the association of secondary school principles. This suggests to me there's something else going on under the surface.

And yes, Cameron, I too had several secondary teachers that just didn't understand how to teach. It was also my experience that while my university undergraduate instructors had deeper content knowledge, a much smaller proportion of them knew anything about pedagogy.

Cameron said...

Thanks for you thoughts Tom, I appreciate it.

The provision excluding elementary teaching was not a part of the original bill - it was included later by a Senator who opposes the bill.

My larger questions on this topic however are in regards to expanding the teaching pool. Hopefully your knowledge and experience in this arena can clarify this for me.

Do the current rules pose too large an obstacle for professionals entering the classroom?

If a professional can currently begin teaching immediately and "learn on the job" for three years, then why the need for the certification? Wouldn't a school board or principal be in a position to know if the professional is good enough to keep by that time?

Zoe 101 said...

Thanks for posting on this topic. It is nice to see everyones opinion. Where is the bill at now? I am struggling finding information on it.

I personally agree with the quotes opposing the bill. I understand that there is a shortage, but only in math and science. Maybe they should test the water first by allowing only math and science professionals to teach and see if that works.

I am a health teacher and I think it would be hard for a person who has not been through an education program to come into a classroom. There are so many different varieties of classroom instruction. Lessons need to be differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Can an untrained professional meet the needs of visual, audio, and kinestetic learners? This is truly an important quality for all teachers. I also think they will be overwhelmed with a lack of classroom management. These are skills that are learned through student teaching and education courses.