Posted by Mark Sass on Saturday, 12/15/2012
Has the profession of education become trivial—is it minor and irrelevant? I have made it my personal mission to elevate the profession of teaching, but lately I wonder if I am on a fool’s errand. Let’s look at the evidence.
This past summer I was at one the many wonderful fairs where locals showed off crafts and foods. There too were the local organizations like the NAACP, Boys Clubs, and other neighborhood organizations. Interspersed within these groups was a teacher training organization looking for prospective teacher interns. What does this tell us about our profession when we troll for potential members at local fairs versus local colleges?
Next, let’s look at schools of education. Most of the people teaching our teachers are not practitioners; they are specialists within their own disciplines. We learn about child psychiatry and child development from academicians who have never left the university realm of research in their specialized fields. Counter this with medical or law school where those in front of the students are practitioners in their professions--doctors and lawyers teaching soon-to-be doctors and lawyers.
Once we enter the profession, the trivialization continues with professional development. Can you imagine professional development delivered to the professions of law and medicine the same way we do it in ours? We have very smart and accomplished individuals like Robert Marzano, Carol Tomlinson, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Rick DuFour who come to our schools to impart their wisdom on us. While most of them were teachers, they left the profession long ago. Not so for law and medicine. Their professional development is delivered by their own—people who are currently practicing. Professional development doesn’t even have to be in the field of education for educators to gain credit. If I want to recertify my teaching credentials, I have to earn credit. Credit is determined by my local school district which meets loose guidelines from the state. I can gain credit by getting a degree in the field of education or a degree in, oh let’s say, food services even though I teach social science. I can get credit for leading book club discussions with my colleagues. I can get credit for being a member of my district’s standing committee. Can you imagine a nurse or architect getting credit for gaining knowledge in a field outside of nursing or architecture or attending meetings?
Finally, look at the way that our profession tends to the profession. This is most apparent when you look at the professions of law and medicine. The law and medical professions have organizations that control entry into the profession, hold each other accountable, and can revoke their members’ credentials to practice. The American Bar Association and the American Medical Association are made up of fellow practitioners that set the bar for their respective professions. Not so for education.
Some may argue that I just have a chip on my shoulder, that I have lawyer or doctor envy. They would argue that teaching is not a major profession, that it does not entail the training and specific knowledge that is necessary to be a lawyer or doctor. Our profession should and does necessitate the same level of knowledge and training that doctors and lawyers obtain. Professor Everett Hughes said: “Professionals profess. They profess to know better than others the nature of certain matters, and to know better than their clients what ails them or their affairs.” That describes me. A professional.