TEACHER QUALIFICATIONS (20)
by JANN FLURY
January 20, 2003
Teaching and learning is a natural process enthusiastically undertaken by teacher and learner alike. The process takes place throughout the animal world: initially, between mother and offspring; then, between other related adults and youth, between peers, and ultimately, in mankind, between the specialist--philosopher, mathematician, scientist, or artist--and the aspiring knowledge seeker.
Obviously, since every mother is the primary and natural teacher, teaching must be an innate ability, and the early, unquenchable desire to learn springs from a natural drive that is part of the growing-up phenomenon. The relationship between savant and student goes back eons. The essential qualifications of the sage remain unchanged: knowledge, good communications skills, patience, dedication, integrity, and leadership. And the qualities of a good student are equally immutable: a desire to learn, self-discipline, dedication, and willingness to work hard. So, the ingredients for effective teaching and learning should be no mystery to anyone today.
In its wisdom, our society has seen fit to introduce a system of teaching and learning (public education) to fill the gap between home learning and advanced schooling in specialized fields at universities. Since not all mothers have the same priorities or abilities, public education was instituted to provide all students with a standard level of basic academic knowledge, accumulated by society over the centuries. Public schooling was intended to level the playing field for young students and to prepare them for the workplace or higher learning.
Over the last several decades, the public education system has developed into an unmanageable, burgeoning, bureaucratic blob that is producing far from the intended results. Two factions with diametrically opposed views on how to fix the problem have emerged. On one hand we have the educators who run the public education system, and on the other we have the consumer: the parents, taxpayers, students, whom the public education system is supposed to serve. And in between we have the politicians who cloud the issue by trying to fix a broken system by pleasing both parties simultaneously (an impossible task).
The question why public education results continue to decline despite escalating education costs and demands for higher teacher qualifications has become a hotly debated political issue. Everyone can agree that teaching quality directly affects learning achievement. However, there is absolutely no agreement about teacher qualifications, what constitutes quality teaching, or how to improve learning achievement.
Many students are successfully home-schooled today, which plainly indicates that no special qualifications are needed for teaching our youth the basic academic subjects. This premise is further substantiated by the fact that teachers with only a high school education and one year specialized teacher training produced excellent learning results years ago. Therefore, the educators' call for added teacher qualifications and more stringent certification to improve student achievement must, logically, be challenged. Educators shroud teaching and learning behind an enigmatic cloak of contradictions: disguising the process as something that it plainly is not. They claim, at once, that teaching is a profession, an art, a gifted talent with which only a few are born, and that it is a complex process requiring years of specialized university training. They insist that learning is far more complicated and demanding today from what it was 50 years ago, that teachers require more university training, stricter certification, and that more funding and new resources are needed for public education to produce improved student achievement.
The question why many Asian and European countries can attain superior student achievement with teachers who have fewer years of university training and seemingly less stringent qualifications must be answered. And, in support of the premise that no special teacher training is required to teach elementary students successfully, it should be noted that at least one high-performing elementary school in California has publicly shied away from hiring university trained teachers. Nancy Ichinaga, principal of Bennet-Kew elementary school says that, by choice, 90% of her recently hired teachers are emergency credentialed, without teacher training. Her reason for hiring non-credentialed teachers is that they can be trained more easily in effective
(teacher-centred) teaching methods than the teachers who have gone through credentialed programs at colleges, who think they know better because they've been brainwashed into believing that "student-centred" teaching methods constitute "best practices" when, in fact, these "progressive" methods produce the worst results.
In view of the above, one might come to the conclusion that the educators' emphasis on more university courses for teacher trainees and more stringent formal qualification requirements is nothing but a ruse to divert attention from a chronic education problems they refuse to address.
If it isn't inadequate teacher qualifications, then what is it that so adversely impacts the teaching learning process in our public schools? According to credible critics of the public education system and teacher training programs, teacher-training courses are not in step with state and provincial standards, and the educrats' philosophy of what constitutes a good public education is at odds with what the education consumer wants and expects.
So it seems the academic elitist have taken a detour and refuse to get back on track. They have sent public education on "a walk-about" in the wilderness. Their increased teacher-training and credentialing requirements are methods for controlling the teaching "profession" and feeding the machinery of the education industry, without regard for the welfare of students, or having any intention of improving learning achievement.
The present teacher-training programs have little to do with teaching and learning and everything to do with strengthening the grip the educrats have on public education. Essential qualities/qualifications of the effective teacher today remains unchanged from a 100 years ago: leadership ability, subject knowledge, good communications skills, patience, dedication, and integrity. The qualities of a good student also remain the same: a desire to learn, self-discipline, dedication, and willingness to work hard.
Through their cockamamy "progressive" approach to teaching and learning, the academic elitists within our public education system, have neutralized these intrinsic, positive qualities found in teachers and learners. Without a doubt, they have successfully managed to dampen the spirit of many enthusiastic teachers and to frustrate the eager quest for knowledge of countless students.
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