Professional Development Opinion

What’s More Important: Credentials or Experience?

By Starr Sackstein — May 14, 2017 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Not all teachers are created equally and neither are the programs that made them that way. And so it’s true for administrative licenses and programs as well.

Although I’m certain there are important lessons to be learned in the graduate classroom for an administrative license and some may take much away from it, I’m willing to argue that on-the-job training and experience are equally as valuable, if not more.

In my 16 years of teaching, I have had the opportunity to work with many administrators; some who have inspired me and some who’s lack of experience and leadership skills (despite their licensing) were anything but inspiring.

Trust me, as a teacher, there are valuable lessons to be learned from both kinds, but it got it me thinking: Why are so many qualified people turned away from “administrative” level jobs just because they don’t have the right credentials?

With experience, tenacity and a growth mindset, the right candidates can perform a variety of roles in a school like instructional coaches or curriculum coordinators without the express need for any administrative program which can be costly and time consuming.

Teacher leaders are already sharing many of the functions of administrators in buildings around the country without the title or the pay, and it doesn’t seem fair that a qualified candidate can be shut out of a job just because of a lack of certification.

Recently as I’ve been looking for the next stepping stone in my career, I’ve eager read through a plethora of job descriptions and posting, thinking to myself, “yeah! I’d be good at this one. I’ve been doing stuff like this for years. I wrote a book or two about assessment.” And then I get to the bottom of the the posting only to read that one of the qualification for applying is an administrative license that I don’t have.

Despite that this may be something that prevents me from even being considered, I still hit apply and attached a cover letter that I hope speaks to my case about why they should at least meet with me and see if I’d be a good fit for their district.

Figuring that they may not get back in touch with me, I decided I had nothing to lose when I applied. Either I’ll have a shot or I won’t, but either way it is probably their loss.

Most teacher leaders, like myself, have a lot to offer a school or a district, much more than a resume can ever really convey. It’s our in the classroom, building school community, parental outreach, relationship fostering skills that make us who we are and worthy candidates for out of the box thinkers who want their school communities to thrive.

Again, I’m not suggesting that there is no value in going to school for an admin license or more graduate degrees. I hope to get a doctorate one day when I have the money and the time to do the work. (I wouldn’t be doing it for any job, I’d be doing it for my love of learning and my own invested interested in developing as a human being).

That being said, here are some of the things I’ve learned on the job that I didn’t learn in my teacher education program (some of these things are innate to my personality, but most were learned through teaching):

  • how to develop excellent working relationships where people feel heard
  • how to communicate with a variety of people (students, colleagues, parents and administrators) in ways they could hear
  • developing curriculum around student need
  • adjusting instruction as a part of assessment for learning
  • how to give exceptional professional learning opportunities to my colleagues
  • how to present to a room full of learners to ensure all folks get what they need
  • how to meaningfully reflect to grow as a learner
  • how and when to ask the right questions
  • when to break the rules so that my students could get what they need
  • how to examine and analyze data to ensure student growth outcomes
  • how to empower students so their learning is personalized
  • how to blog and how to teach kids to blog
  • how to use technology in the classroom
  • how to learn from the students in my space
  • developing my growth mindset
  • taking calculated risks for the benefit of mine and other people’s growth
  • not being afraid to stand up for what I believe needs to be done
  • deciding which literature (books, blogs, magazines etc) I need to read to better understand deficit areas
  • how to provide feedback in a structure, actionable and meaningful way
  • how to design excellent and engaging student projects that offer multiple entry points and areas of differentiation
  • how to participate in leadership level meetings in a productive and meaningful way

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Classroom teaching and being a part of a school community requires so much of every individual. If you’re the kind of teacher who wants to take advantage of all it, there is no way you won’t grow from the experience. Whether through the day to day in the classroom or the professional learning opportunities both in and out school, when teachers choose to learn, they do and we are qualified for a great many jobs.

So what do you think is most important when deciding who should qualify for a job? Do you believe a qualified candidate should be shut out of a job if they don’t have the proper letters after their name? Please share

*Thank you to Laszio Bock for allowing me to use his image about this topic.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.