Teacher Shortage and Competence

Ever since I was finishing up my teaching degree in 1996-97, I’ve been hearing about this projected teacher shortage (free registration or BugMeNot). With increasing demands of NCLB, and complaints about the calibre of teaching candidates (and teachers themselves), not to mention concerns about teacher education, what on earth are we going to do to address this critical issue? Frankly, I know I for one have no desire to return to public schools. I’m way too happy in my current position.

For most of my career, it did seem like I was one of the younger teachers. One by one, I’ve seen colleagues retire after 30 odd years in education. It was actually kind of difficult to find a teaching position when I first went looking. I imagine that at some point, some schools will be desperate for bodies in the classroom, and I wonder what will happen when the number of schools who fail to make AYP skyrockets.

In a somewhat related issue, this is probably old news, but it was new to me. I recently read an article about a New York teacher who failed his certification exam several times paid a former homeless man with Asperger’s syndrome to take his exam for him. We don’t have tenure in Georgia. I think a principal with a documented case file on a problematic teacher could very easily dismiss said teacher from his/her position, and I doubt it would take years, which is something about which tenure-opponents frequently complain when issues of teacher competence make the news. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that a teacher ought to be able to pass a test. I guess this infamous 1999 NY Post article is no longer available for free from the source (free preview), but honestly… if this is not a hoax, and there are teachers who really wrote such things on communication that went home, there is something really scary going on, and frankly, I wouldn’t want such teachers teaching my child.

I think the bottom line for all of us as educators is to advocate for ourselves, but also think about our own children, or if we have none, our hypothetical children, and ask ourselves — would I want this for my child?

You know, the other day, I was talking with a colleague, and she mentioned that there is not one person she’s ever talked to or taught that doesn’t have some story about a destructive teacher. The teacher that in some way inflicted a wrong that still bothers us to this day. My mother will never forget Miss Allen, who broke her brand new crayon on the first day of school in junior high when she borrowed it to demonstrate something, then excused it with a glib, “Oh, well, it’s better like this anyway.” Incidentally, I had Miss Allen myself when I went to middle school and suffered no ill effects. From this incident, I can only assume we sometimes inadvertently cause harm. Barbara, my colleage, says that is her rule of thumb as a teacher — first, do no harm.

Personally, I think if your writing skills resemble those of the teachers in that NY Post article or if you are unable to pass certification tests after repeated attempts, you need to ask yourself if you aren’t doing your students serious harm.

One thought on “Teacher Shortage and Competence”

  1. We actually do have tenure here in Georgia. If you were already in a tenured position and you move schools, you get your tenure back after two years. If you already had tenure, you get to keep it. I agree with the "do no harm" idea, and my hope is that I do the least harm to my students.

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