Secretary of Education Discussion 3: Prepared and Qualified Teachers

Carol Broos is one of twelve teachers who have been invited to participate in a round table discussion concerning the direction of education with the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Jan 21. She was sent five questions in preparation for the meeting. This is the third one:

How should the new administration respond to the nation’s need for better prepared and more qualified teachers?

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Provide free college education to educators. Suspend school loans for 4 years. If they are successfully employed by a public school after four years in the field, waive the pay-back of school debt. It's sad how many folks "fall into" this profession not by choice but by the luck of the draw. If we want teachers to have high qualifications, we have to match that with quality preparation and pay.

Once teachers are in the profession, avoid burn-out by establish standards for time spent in the classroom. With today's educational challenges, teachers need MORE time for planning, collaborating with peers, and professional development.
I agree with the time to collaborate and plan for instruction. This is crucial to successful lessons that are targeted to the diverse needs of students.

In order to have a true professional learning community, time to analyze data and adjust the learning experiences based on what students need at the time of instruction, time to work with peers is needed for teachers.

Our district is considering mapping the curriculum. We have discovered, mainly through the work of Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, that mapping the curriculum preK-12 opens up so many possibilities to collaborate, fix gaps and repetition in curriculum, and reflect on assessment and teaching methods. Does your district map? If so, I would love to know more about your experiences. Sarah
Give us a longer school day and a longer school year so we can teach all we are supposed to teach in a thoughtful, professional way.

Secondly, school districts have so much unused human capital in their faculty. Opportunities for more collaboration and better communication and sharing of ideas within districts must be given for educators to flourish and grow. Administrators must change from being top-down to seeking and fostering leadership capacities in their faculty, many of whom are at least as educated as their "bosses." The issue of creative, qualified administrators should be addressed along with that of qualified teachers.

Third, teachers have many non-professional duties: lunch money, fundraising money, secretarial tasks like photocopying. We don't seem to have enough time to devote to the profession itself, or extra time to give to students who deserve and need our time, and time can't be manufactured. We could use help in this area.

Get teachers talking to each other, communicating about students and curriculum, teaching and assessment methods, and allow administrators to be more like facilitators, much in the same way teachers are now being called to do the same for students.

We need to speed up the process of becoming true learning communities. The digital natives have lots to teach us, and we them, collaboratively.
Sorry Sarah, I cannot totally agree with "longer days and a longer school year". I am a supporter of "quality, not quantity".

I believe much of the problem lies more with what "we are supposed to teach". My experience, much of it foreign, has shown that too much of what we teach has little meaning in our student's lives. And the way we teach it, does not address our present generation's style of learning.

If you think about it, teaching is very linear ... student lives are full of hyperlinks, multitasking and multimedia. If we don't connect with their lifeworlds, we don't connect with how they learn. So, how can we expect them to succeed?

Considering your second point, you are spot-on. I'd like to add, though, the capital of those of us who have been very successful with our students but have recently left the profession. Some recognition of all that experience needs to be given. The exclusion from tertiary institutions of those of us who have spent all those years in the classroom, and not studying for an MS or PhD, is a travesty. I would love to be involved in methods classes at university ... but alas, I don't have an advanced degree!
I'd like to see newly minted teachers demonstrate better knowledge of best practices in technology integration. Just because a new teacher is young and can write on someone's Facebook wall does not mean that they know how to effectively use technology to support teaching and learning. I hope that requirements in colleges of education improve, and in particular, I'd love to see teachers develop a better sense of constructivist teaching.
I have just recently achieved National Board certification and the experience was like nothing I have ever experienced. The process required me to reflect on my practices ask why I teach the way I do. This intense reflection has impacted my teaching in a way that no other experience has.

This process is one that took three years and over 1000 hours to complete and is measured against National standards in every discipline. It has changed my teaching. I did not do it for the recognition, but if the administration would offer some type of incentive for this type of professional practice, more teachers will be better prepared and more qualified.

In getting my masters in C&I, we had to write many, many reflection documents. What a difference reflection makes. I reflect all the time now.
What are a few major, or minor, things that your reflection caused you change in how you teach, or how you view your job?

For me, I learned by reflecting that a teacher's approach to discipline can have a great impact, positive or negative, on actual learning and long-term retention. Also I realized that we all have learning curves, and certain topics taught have greater learning curves than others, so that as teachers, we need to consider the process and the estimated size of the curve, and adjust our expectations accordingly. These understandings have impacted my students' experiences in my classroom.

Would you be willing to share some important lessons you learned in the process of becoming Nat.Bd. certified? I am curious!

By the way, I love your hat.

Wow...this type of question always sounds to me a little like the "chicken or the egg" terms of what comes first. We're working to create prepared and qualified teachers. Prepared and qualified for what? The current system? I agree 100% that teachers need to have firm understanding the concepts and pedagogy of teaching. But more importantly, I think, they need to be prepared and qualified for a system that they were not prepared and qualified for during their formal education. Does that make sense? They need to be what all the current popular literature describe as flexible, comfortable with ambiguity, prepared to fail, able take risks and realize that there are going to be variations on the theme, one size does not fit all, etc. etc. In order to develop prepared and qualified teachers, we need to provide educators with the skills, strategies and concepts that will be the foundation of our new educational system. Hmmm... all the same things we want to instill in our students and children :-)
Tom, I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendations. There are so many amazing things going on in education every minute of the day. Look at how many of us are tuning in on this 24/7 platform to connect and learn via this social network!

I've believed for years that one of our professions biggest obstacles is "parent education". Everyone feels they are an "expert" about what goes on in a school because we all share that common experience: pretty much all of us have been in schools. I find parents relate their personal educational experiences, and oftentimes the one remembered is the worst, to their student's current schooling experience. Their old perception is driving the bus on their attitude towards education. If our government and media were to embrace a national campaign to promote the teaching profession I believe it would be a positive leap toward encouraging talented people to join this profession.

And of course offering competitive salaries would bolster the profession as well; we've all seen the salary mathematics that outline the differences between what teachers are paid and what they are worth when investigating all the tasks that we undertake in a day. My personal favorite is the accounting calculations using a teenagers babysitting pay rate.

Support, support, support is another key component.

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Tom, it really made me think!
I'd like to make Recommendation #8:
Value and call upon the experience of teachers. 30+ years in the profession should be worth something. An MS or PhD does not automatically make you a "good teacher".
Increase the pay for teachers. Right now it is a profession that is looked down upon. Also weed out the bad


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