In my own school in rural Idaho, I’m noticing more and more uncertified teachers in my school and in the schools around me. From what I have seen, these teachers are not always successful, at least not right off the bat. They lack the careful observations and feedback of mentors in order to harness their teacher powers to educate the future of our nation.
While a lot of us believe we were born to be teachers, it doesn’t mean we were born ready. Even with careful preparation, my first-year teaching was rough. I cannot imagine trying to maintain and manage my classroom while still trying to figure out how to properly plan a lesson.
In one unfortunate incident, my school had hired an uncertified teacher on as a full-time classroom teacher, and it did not work out. Knowing this was a risk and understanding the importance of a proper teacher training program, we did everything in our power to emulate successful teacher training programs in the area. She was assigned a mentor, given curriculum to teach, and resources to use, but because there was no teacher with her throughout the day, a lot of questions slid by as well as a plethora of other issues. These problems, coupled with a fixed mindset, meant that this teacher candidate was not ready for her own classroom. She was released from our school and put back into a traditional teacher training program. Her students were left behind with no teacher, little to no growth, and a whole lot of questions. They bounced from substitute to substitute for over a month before we found yet another untrained teacher candidate to fill the empty position. We are lucky that we found a candidate that has a growth mindset and a drive to educate young minds to the best of his ability. He has proven successful under the close watch of our incredible staff.
I guess the even more unfortunate incident would be the fact we had no certified teachers apply to a vacant position at our school. After looking into this subject, I have found that it’s not just Caldwell. Similar issues have occurred all around Idaho in rural and non-rural communities alike. According to data collected by the Learning Policy Institute in a recent article, of the 15,605 teacher working in Idaho, at least 920 are uncertified. In another recent study done by the National Education Association, Idaho is ranked 40th in high school graduation rates, 47th in average salary of teachers, and 6th for most students enrolled per teacher.
I can’t help but think there must be some correlation. Unqualified teachers in classrooms means students are not getting everything they need. Questions go unanswered and students may feel discouraged. This leads to students not graduating and maybe even not believing in the quality and power of their education. Moreover, being 6th in the nation for most students per teachers is difficult on its own. Combining that with the lack of classroom management training spells disaster. Imagine a group of more than 20 students left to their own devices. That’s a place no sane adult wants to be. Speaking of which, all of these factors take a toll on the teacher as well. There is a reason teachers leave their classrooms before reaching retirement. There is only so much a person can do before their heart gives out.
So, what’s keeping well-meaning people from becoming teachers, and what’s keeping great teachers from staying in the field? Ultimately, support. Equitable pay would be nice as well, but more than anything teachers are lacking support. With more alternatively certified teachers entering the field, we need to come together as a nation to support our teachers. New teachers, whether alternatively or traditionally certified, need better first-and second-year mentorship and training programs. New teachers need somewhere to go to voice questions and concerns without repercussions. Teachers need to feel they are valued and understood. Teachers want community members to know that we are doing our best to educate your students.
Teachers need to feel they are valued and understood. Teachers want community members to know that we are doing our best to educate your students.
We have been called to this profession through a deep passion for learning, teaching, and students. We dedicate ourselves to our classrooms and we spend countless hours thinking about how we can make our classrooms and lessons better. What we want in return is support. And a fountain of coffee in the teacher’s lounge. We need to save our education system from this (un)certified struggle.
Haley’s post is part of a roundtable blogging discussion sharing educators’ stories on our nation’s teacher shortage. We want to hear your thoughts! Join the conversation by commenting on and sharing this blog and by reading the other blogs in this series. Follow CTQ on Facebook and Twitter to see when each new blog is posted and use #CTQCollab to join the discussion on social media.