I would especially love to hear more from people who have been teachers and can speak personally about what helped and what didn't and what they think would work. I know my own opinions are ill-informed, especially when it comes to credentialing requirements, so take what you read here with a very large grain of salt.
My perspective, however, is somewhat unique. I spent one year as a notetaker for Deaf students and five years as an Educational Interpreter. For a few of those years, I was the staff substitute, which meant that I saw lots and lots and lots of classrooms. I saw them on a day to day basis, not just when they were preparing for evaluation. And I saw them without the investment of being a parent or particularly worrying about how a child was performing in the classroom.
Now, this was over 10 years ago, but from what I remember the vast majority of the teachers I saw ranged from good to excellent. Excellent teachers could be found in every community and at every level. I remember one spectacular fourth grade teacher who dressed like an executive lawyer with four-inch heels. I remember one amazing 7th grade science teacher in an inner-city school who brought incredible energy to her class. I remember one suburban high school social studies teacher who caught my interest so much that I forgot to interpret.
From what I saw there were two things that made some teachers more skilled at teaching. One thing that seemed to make for a compelling teacher was their own interest in the subject matter. And the other thing that made a classroom teacher more effective was experience.
The teaching itself was both a gift that they had and a skill that could be learned, but I'm not sure any credential program can make you love history so that you want to share that love with your students.
I honestly don't know what teaching credentials offer. If you know, please enlighten me!
One of the reasons I question credentialing programs is because private schools don't require them and yet people clamor to get into them. If the credentialing confers such great benefits in teaching, why would people want to leave the public schools that require it to go to the private schools that don't?
So why are so many public schools doing so poorly on tests that measure their performance? I wish I knew. But I don't think it's because the teachers are "bad teachers." Whatever that means.
I thought this story about a large high school in Massachusetts was very intriguing. I really don't know how much to believe about anything I read regarding education, but I want to keep an open mind. What this school discovered seems at least worth exploring.
Here's the story: in 1999, after reviewing their dismal test scores, the leaders of Brockton High set up a restructuring committee.
The committee’s first big step was to go back to basics, and deem that reading, writing, speaking and reasoning were the most important skills to teach. They set out to recruit every educator in the building — not just English, but math, science, even guidance counselors — to teach those skills to students.The rest of the story is a compelling account of overcoming resistance, bucking the received wisdom, and stick-to-it-iveness. I really don't know if this is a viable general model, but it's a great story. Here's hoping their success can be replicated.