Sunday, October 6, 2013

So you want to be a teacher

First of all, be advised that it is nothing like the movies. No matter how inspiring you are, you are not going to take a class of high school students with fifth grade skills and turn them into AP Calculus successes in one semester (you might be interested in knowing that neither did Jaime Escalante. It actually took several years).

Let's say that you have more realistic expectations though. You like kids, you are enthused about a subject, and you think you might have a chance at reaching a few of them. Might make it worthwhile earning minimal amounts of money ($45,000 in my ninth year while beginning engineers are making $80k+) and dealing with parents who think that you must be racist if little Johnny is failing or has behavior issues.

So you get a teaching certificate ($25,000 in student loans), you get a job. First job you get is a bit far from home but they are hiring and offer you the position so you take it. A couple years later you find one closer to home (that two years is important so remember it).

Two years after that you sign your third year contract at the new school and the clock starts. That's right. You have five years to finish a Washington Professional Teacher's Certificate (Washington ProTeach for short). Costs $495 to register. Don't really have the money cause you get paid a pittance, well maybe your contract specifies that there is grant money provided by the district in which you teach to help cover these things, so you can apply for that (pretty much a slam dunk, I'm told).

So with finances probably covered, you start looking into what you will have to do over the next year. Short version, create a portfolio with three parts. OK, doesn't sound too hard, let's see what goes into that.

Step 1 of 3: Write a paper no more than 21,000 words about your Professional Development and Contributions. What in the Patron Saint's Name of Frick is that all about? Twenty four years ago I received a degree in one of the most difficult subjects in the world, Aerospace Engineering, and I never had to write a paper of greater than 10,000 words. Twenty two THOUSAND words. I wrote a research paper comparing the use of Naval and Air Force air power in Vietnam in under 10,000 words. What the hell am I going to tell them in 22,000 words?

I will be heading up to the English Department this week to get those lists of adverbs and adjectives that they provide to all their freshmen. There ain't gonna be a verb or a noun in this stupid paper that doesn't have a helper or two right in front of it.

I was too depressed to even look at what's required for parts two or three. Is this what the State of Washington really intends? Can't be a good teacher unless you can write a 22,000 word paper justifying your existence as Part 1/3? My guess is that most people with options will throw up their hands in disgust and say "The hell with it" at this point. Those you go through this process will mostly consist of marginally qualified people who don't really have a choice other than keeping their teaching certificate or those, like me, who through sheer inertia will complete the process rather than start over in a different field. Certainly isn't going to motivate me to be a better teacher.

1 comment:

MamaJRA said...

Maybe somewhere around word 16593 you will suddenly be struck with the awesomeness of your own professional development and have a transformative (<--- word specific to the field of teaching) experience, rendering you the new Jaime Escalante of Meridian School District.