9.24.2009

On the Moving of Cheese

A colleague has taught word processing, spreadsheet, bitmap editing, and presentation skills as a basic computer course for freshmen in high school for fifteen years.

A couple of times, the course title has been changed. This year, it was changed yet again. But this time, the curriculum code was moved into a different department/certification code. The teacher can no longer qualify as "highly qualified" under the state's legal guidelines. As a result, a letter "warning" parents that an unqualified teacher could be messing around doing something bad with their babies may be sent out because the Legislature wants to protect you from this kind of danger. Even though the teacher may be quite good.

No doubt there are far too many schools employing unqualified personnel in Florida. What I AM saying is that the link between what a teacher actually knows and what a teacher is allowed to teach are disconnected.

I am allowed to teach a range of subjects, doing some of which might be a bad idea. A biology teacher is allowed to teach physics, for instance. Can all biology teachers really do it well? Can physics teachers teach biology well?

Perhaps teaching licenses should be based on what you have actual experience doing. Right now, I can teach subjects I took in college - OR - I can teach subjects I took state licensing exams to actually perform for the public. "Either or", not "both and". How odd.

I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons for this. The state would probably have to hire a couple of people to look after this. Maybe even merge licensing databases and push a button.

How about improving professional knowledge? That's a sore spot with me.

I have NEVER EVER gotten credit for any of the money or time I have spent improving the quality or depth of the subject matter I actually teach. I have taken plenty of courses that I received credit for, they just haven't included knowledge that was relevant to my own.

Reason: Classes offering credit are elementary.
Reason: If I take a college course, I won't be compensated.
Reason: If do my own research, I won't be compensated.
Reason: If I go to a professional meeting, I have to log every single item of knowledge, photocopy all of the catalog, and incorporate it into my courses.

Not that I don't actually do these things. I (unreasonably perhaps) object to trying to explain it to someone who doesn't understand what I do. The meeting I attend every year includes over one hundred symposia and workshops. I have learned amazing things and shared them with my students. How do they value keynotes delivered by Nicholas Negroponte, Susan Soloman, Peter Agre or James Gates? The system doesn't value anything it doesn't create. That's the soft gooey center of credential obsession. We make it, therefore we value it. If you make it, we don't.

I don't get professional credit for doing it.

Do you think this generally discourages public school teachers?