Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
As is well known, there is a teacher shortage, 2 million by 2010. Teachers have always been held accountable for a wide variety of students, nothing new. However, today, teachers are increasingly being asked to work with a wider more diverse population of children with various IDEA exceptionalities. They are required to know more and more about different racial, ethnic, minority groups. Some may say, “that is the nature of the beast”. Think about the issue and the on-going responsibility placed on the “backbone of our nation”i.e., the classroom teachers in America ‘s schools and the staff developers in every school district. Why are new graduates from our universities consistently having to learn more strategies for classroom mgt., teaching content, keeping students engaged in learning, and the list goes on for retooling the graduates. Would that they could arrive for the job in school districts ready to make a difference for the clients. A long-standing mystery. Could there be a definite disconnect between what is taught in university programs and what is needed to be successful in our schools?
So, the authors here, however opinionated we may be,( we think we are right) have decided that there must be TRUTH in teacher advertising. ( We can also ignore the infinitely small probability that we are wrong ). Education programs in our university systems need to prepare teachers for the types of students that they may encounter, and school systems where they will reside, but the TRUTH of the matter is this; teachers are going to need to continually be in-serviced, receive on going continuing education, and be constantly re-tooled to work with an increasingly diverse populations. So where shall we point the everlasting “finger”? Maybe toward the mirror as we gaze as “experienced”educators and ask the question, “where does it end and how will we get there” and who is minding the store? One answer , rather one speculation, “you can’t teach, what you don’t know, about places you ain’t never been,”! putting it quite bluntly! And in a silly word or two, if the shoe fits, wear it?
The TRUTH is this, and we all know and recognize the truth. Teaching is different in the year 2006 than in 1986. However,”Big WHOOP”! Teachers are learners. That is it! Teaching today involves awareness of technology as a teaching tool, sensitivity to diverse groups, and a certain amount of expertise in working with computers, the Internet and dealing with students who may be on Stelazine, Taractan, Haldol, Dilantin, Librium, and Concerta. and some. no, most all, who are bored beyond what they can endure, and that is a real problem, one that we could possibly solve, given the ears of those who make the “big decisions”, whatever that might entail. Boredom must not be tolerated in any American classroom. Teachers should be required to find interesting things to do in the classroom everyday..not just every now and then! Great teachers know this and likewise follow their ideology: “every child will learn in my classroom and it will be meaningful, interesting with a ring of “come back tomorrow, this class will be even better than today”!!
APPLICATION PROCESS AND BACKGROUND CHECK FOR HIRING
” Life Long Listening Learners Only Need Apply ” (adding to the acronyms) should be the phrase that school systems use to advertise for teaching and learning in their school district.
Further it should read as follows: Prospective teachers,in order to survive, must be aware that various federal, state and other legislative mandates will be changing the way in which teaching will be done every year from now until the year 2010 and beyond. Add to that, “are you willing to continue the following steps” i.e…1) just keeping on learning, 2)listening, 3) trying, 4)helping, 4)watching, 5)knowing, 6)searching, 7)gathering, 8)standing, 9)walking 10)talking 11)teaching, 12) reteaching, 13)listening, lastly,14)hoping, while planning to find another district where it might be just easier to teach. Please know that teacher turnover cost millions of dollars every year and the job of school leadership is not easy.
Along with LLLLONA , (see above for definition) application process, 15) as a teacher you must be able to tolerate the STRESS of the district beauracy, of 16) on-going legislation from Washington, oh , and by the way, it will be dictated by politicians that have never set foot in a classroom. 17) Must be able to deal with absent parents who do not foster encourage, mentor or nurture learning in the home environment, either through their own inadequate education, or perhaps they are working 2- 3 part-time jobs. Some may even be overbearing in their approach with the teacher. Some may even feel like they are trying to assist their child, who may be failing or may need special services; many times help is very hard to get. If you can tolerate all of this and still ensure there is NO Child Left Behind, WE WANT YOU !!
While learning and teaching has evolved at a breakneck pace, the idea that every year we need to get more and more programs which weigh down the novice as well as the experienced educators is pure folly. Perhaps we could look at what really good teachers said they do for next day in class. An astounding revelation; simply stated, they find interesting things to do with students that will keep them engaged with the stated objectives for their classes as well as the state and their district. Unfortunately, most districts have “program-itis, which calls for new and “better” jargon, more papers, more Teacher Editions, but most of all, more money and millions for the national vendors working the beat for the next big NCLB/A Nation at Risk, and on and on.
All teachers must know and understand the complexities of the real world of work involved in shaping the lives of America ‘s children and youth. This craft requires the most mature of adults. Individuals that know the importance of building relationships with children and adolescents, who realize the challenging responsibility that comes with teaching a captive audience. Simply put, “student teaching won’t get it, because student teaching is like “cooking in your mother-in-laws kitchen”. Everything is in place, and the spices must be returned to their appropriate place. We could use more innovative programs that require full time teaching to learn, without “practicing on the clients”. To use the over-used and over-stated phrase, “what teachers should know and be able to do” must be acquired prior to teaching kids. And there are such programs in place, not enough however.By the same token, school systems cannot predict what will transpire ten years hence. But based on the most recent changes and No Child Left Behind, we can anticipate some major pendulum swings.
TOP TEN ADMONISHMENTS TO SCHOOL HIRING OFFICIALS:
- Be Honest. Discuss your students, discuss the resources that teachers have, and discuss the turnover rate in your district and be selective in who you hire.
- Be Up-Front- Talk about the morale at the current time and your guesses, hunches and beliefs for the future.
- Be Sincere- School systems want and need teachers and hiring officials should reflect this. But also indicate that teachers are expected to coach, do the school newspaper, sponsor the cheerleaders, be assistant track coaches, help with the chess time, and the school year book, just the hem of the list.
- Stay honest!. Applicants at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado , may know what transpired there a few years back. But there may have been incidents in Idaho , or California or other states in the Union . Should applicants be aware of these things? We will leave this to the reader to decide, remembering always, our prisons are full of Kinder Kids…someone perhaps could have said a kind word, somewhere,sometime,even changed the direction of a child even if the “parents appeared to have little or no interested”. IT ONLY TAKES ONE TEACHER, ONE TEACHER WITH THE RIGHT STUFF, TO CHANGE THE LIFE OF A CHILD !
- And 5 th ,no hiring official can take the fifth amendment!
- Be Realistic- No hiring official can predict what will occur over the next 5, 10 or 15 years. During the Reagan administration, no one could have predicted that ” A Nation At Risk ” might evolve into No Child Left Behind. One should not be optimistic, nor pessimistic, but realistic.
- Be Up Front- Often teachers are hired at the last minute (I know I was.and not once but twice) and hiring officials need to be wise, prudent and judicious about what they say to recently hired teachers. If classroom management is paramount and important, that needs to be communicated. If ” full inclusion” is the order of the day, that needs to be stated. If sports, and homecoming events and the like are the most important items on the agenda, let that be said.
- Be sure to mention ” Highly Qualified” and what that may mean today, tomorrow and years down the road. I suspect that teachers are going to have to undergo much more rigorous training in the future as the world becomes more complex and teachers more accountable to get pay raises
- Be cautious, since student’s lives are literally in the hands of teachers. Witness the recent teacher who compared George Bush to Hitler. Well, any straight thinking Martian knows that Hitler had a moustache and George Bush does not. But in all seriousness, one wonders about the malleable, shapeable minds of children and what the rantings and ravings of some individual might do to the thinking processes of children and adolescents. And witness a teacher in Florida who apparently had some type of sexual alliance with a student. How will that student’s emotional and psychological life be affected by this alleged ” bi-polar” teacher who cannot seem to gratify her urges appropriately.
- BEWARE ! on both sides of the desk when asking questions to determine “who to hire”!!!!. THE FAINT OF HEART NEED NOT APPLY!