Contrary to what some apparently believe, teacher certification has never meant that a teacher will be effective. Teacher licenses do not guarantee that teachers can do their job; a teaching license only guarantees that teachers meet the minimum requirements to be in a classroom with students. Certification requirements include items such as testing the teacher’s potential ability to work with students, content specialty exams, violence prevention training, child abuse identification training, and classes that include but are not limited to curriculum development, student teaching, and child/adolescent psychology. Simply completing these requirements does not mean that a teacher will be effective, hence the need for interviews, recommendations, demo lessons, and then observations and evaluations after a teacher is hired. Teachers are continuously evaluated throughout their careers, and several times each year in some states, because, again, teacher certification does not guarantee that a teacher will be effective.
Anyone who believes licenses are meaningless is ignorant of the demands of the profession, including legality, and the role teachers have in the lives of their students. We cannot stress enough that teachers are not effective based on their certification, which is why administrators may not rank it as high in their overall evaluation of teachers. Teachers are ranked effectively based on their classroom management, student engagement, content, clarity, procedures, assessments, student learning objectives, how they incorporate 21st century learning skills, standards, and much more. Yes, teachers are tested on all of this when in a teacher preparation program, but answering a question on a test is just talking the talk, while teaching in a classroom is walking the walk. Some teachers who are not meeting the credentials for exceptional evaluations may be placed on a Teacher Improvement Plan to support their growth necessary to keep their position, even though they are still certified.
Teacher certification is absolutely necessary for adults to be in the classroom with children. Anyone who thinks teaching is only about content and comprehension is seriously mistaken about the profession. Teachers are mandatory reporters, the training they receive through the teacher certification process prepares them for recognizing and properly handling situations regarding violence and abuse. It is crucial that teachers follow these protocols appropriately as to how schools, families, and law enforcement work together. The people living in the bubble of their perfect world are ignorant of the issues students could be facing. For many kids, their world is not perfect; some are cruelly abused, some do not have parents, some do not have homes, and some do not have meals. Ensuring the safety of all children in the appropriate and legal manner is the most important part of a teacher’s job, and yes, it is the teacher’s job to ensure children are safe in the classroom and safe in their homes. This is not political, it is to recognize physical, including sexual, abuse and any other type of violence or abuse a child may be subjected to. Many argue that it is the parent’s job, but when the parent is the one abusing the child then how is the child going to be saved from such situations?
In addition to this essential training, teachers need to obtain a college degree. Yes, teacher colleges have a large leftist influence, which is why we need conservatives to enter the field and get themselves through these courses with the ultimate goal in mind: teaching in the classroom. Universities and college professors are biased in every field, and unfortunately we need to sit through these classes that seem biased and useless but nonetheless could be used to our advantage. Remember, in order to successfully argue your point, you must be well versed in all points.
The most beneficial part of a teaching degree is that of education in which an appropriate level of child/adolescent psychology is learned so that teachers understand how their students will process information and recognize potential issues with cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. Through a teaching degree, teachers will also discover their own style of teaching and philosophy, which is crucial to their own growth, goals, and values. Teachers will also learn the basics of other certifications and may even choose to specialize in one such as teaching students with special needs, English language learners, and literacy (which, by the way, is much more than “how to read”).
There is no better place to learn a profession than working in the field itself. This is why teacher certifications will include student teaching. Learning from a mentor on the job gives lessons that teachers would not learn elsewhere. No matter the placement (you could be placed with a hands-off mentor, controlling mentor, effective mentor, you name it), it is the best learning experience to prepare teachers for their own classroom. You learn about yourself, students, and how to navigate the school and faculty environment. Even after this preparation, in your first year of teaching you may be assigned a mentor as part of teacher certification. You need that mentor too, and hopefully your mentor is a “marigold”, but if the one you’re placed with is not, go find your marigold.
The cost of teacher certification varies by state and this can absolutely be burdensome, along with some of the most extensive requirements that could be added on to quell an oversupply of teachers entering the field, such as in New York. Additionally, in states where teacher salaries are incredibly low, that is a deterrent to pursuing this career as well. With substantial funding, The Locke Society proposes that potential teachers have the opportunity to receive scholarships, and we will advocate for better pay in low-paying areas. Supporting teachers getting certified is a solution that will yield results. Simply complaining about the requirements of teacher certification when one doesn’t even understand its purpose is not productive.
The licensing process is not what turns educators into leftists. Even Teach For America, which offers an alternative way of becoming a certified teacher has been corrupted by radical leftists. Individuals going into the field of education tend to be leftist to begin with. By the time college-age students are ready for college, they have already been preached the doctrines of radical leftism, so college doesn’t change anything, it only reiterates the views they already hold. The Locke Society’s ultimate goal is to recruit more moderates and conservatives into the field of education. Strong moderates and conservatives will sit through the corrupt radical leftist classes they need to and still come out moderate and conservative.
Teacher certification can be compared to certification in other professions. All certifications are proof of the most basic qualifications for working in the field. There are requirements for maintaining certification which may include professional development and staying current in the field, clocking hours, maintaining a certain level of evaluation, etc. Certification requirements evolve over time to reflect contemporary research; requirements for teaching in 1990 are different from the requirements for teaching in 2020. While the state does take complete advantage of the cost of these certification requirements, it takes much more than that to stop a teacher from pursuing their dream job.
If a candidate truly wants to teach, they will be willing to put the work into the certification. If you’re unwilling to do the most basic work of getting a certification, you will never be up for the work of a teacher. Whether one agrees or not, the repeated phrase teachers hear over and over again is that teaching is a “vocation, not an occupation.” Teachers believe that their field is worthy of needing credentials, and they are correct. Teachers are not babysitters, they are professionals who have built extensive knowledge of the foundations of teaching and learning and should be respected to that degree.
Some leaders in the conservative educational world have recently stated that if a teacher is fully certified, people expect them to be amazing teachers who do not have any faults. This is obviously not true. Merely becoming a certified teacher means that you have met the minimum requirements to possibly enter the classroom. Teacher certification is not a stamp of effectiveness, and in fact, the educational world has developed an entire system to grade teachers on whether or not they truly are capable of teaching. Being a licensed teacher is akin to being a licensed driver. We can all agree that not everyone who has a driver’s license is a great driver, but with them passing the driver’s exam, they have met the minimum requirements to drive a car.
While polling shows that support for school choice and other conservative educational ideas are growing, if you were to poll the public on whether they want their school district to employ licensed or unlicensed teachers, they would heavily support having licensed teachers in their schools. Anyone who takes care of children in any capacity should agree that adults in charge of their child’s education should have the highest credentials possible, not the lowest.
Learn more about how The Locke Society will help teachers enter the profession and support them when they choose to do so in our article The Three Steps To Reclaim Education.