In an attempt to recruit teachers where they are badly needed, some states have proposed relaxing the requirements for certification. The latest to do so is Maine, which would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree and at least eight years of work experience “directly related” to a specific teaching field to obtain a teaching license. The new rule would also mandate a few classes in classroom management and pedagogy (“Should Maine Relax Certification Standards To Get More Teachers In Classrooms?” mainepublic.org, Dec. 27, 2017).
There’s no doubt that many education school courses have little relevance to the realities of the classroom. But I think what Maine is doing is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s a mistake to assume that work experience is any assurance of classroom success. Working with adults does not require the same wherewithal as working with young people, whether in elementary or secondary schools. I’ve seen that time and again. It’s one of the reasons that many new teachers quit the profession so early on.
Subject matter expertise is also no substitute for pedagogical competency. If that were not the case, all university professors would be highly effective in K-12. After all, they certainly know their subject, as evidenced by their publications. But such knowledge is not enough to engage young people. The truth is that most professors still heavily rely on lecturing, which is deadly in K-12. I support alternative paths to certification, but not when they leave applicants unprepared.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.