Throughout my journey of becoming an education minor, one question I consider to be a pressing issue in education is: Are our nation’s educators educated enough themselves?
Sometimes I feel as if educators are looked down upon as if it is a lesser profession than say a doctor or engineer. Think about how much less teachers are paid than most other professions, but teachers are the ones education our youth, the future leaders of our nation. That’s a pretty significant responsibility.
Many universities offer a Master’s Degree in Education; however, many teaching positions only require a bachelor’s degree before one can begin teaching. Professions such as psychologists, nurses and dentists require years of graduate school and exams to ensure they are fully adequate to uphold their profession. Now I am not saying I think all teachers should be required to go to graduate school; graduate school costs money, time and effort, but I do think there should be a way to make sure teachers are fully prepared and able to educate our youth.
Through the 3 books I read this semester in my education capstone course, the overarching theme I picked up on was that there is no universal one-size-fits-all requirement for being a teacher. This course and these books have made me want to propose stricter guidelines for becoming a teacher. I know this is a difficult issue and there is no easy solution because there is always a teacher shortage. However, one idea I came up with is that teachers should have to work as a teacher’s assistant for a few months in the district they will be working in before becoming a teacher. While working as an assistant, they should have to teach by themselves for a day and be graded on their performance by a combination of the school staff and school board. Before becoming a teacher, they should also have to take a cultural competence class if they are teaching in an area with a majority or combination of cultures other than their own.
Teachers work in different environments and under different standards, which is why I believe it is important for teachers to work as teacher’s assistants first, in order to gain experience and understand oft the school they will work in. In Monique Morris’ novel, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, I learned about how girls of color in schools are negatively targeted often because teachers don’t understand the African American culture. African American girls were often punished for their dress code, hair style or speaking out in class because their culture was not understood by their teachers.
After Morris’ novel, we read Jose Vilson’s, This Is Not a Test. It was interesting to read Vilson’s novel following Morris’, because Vilson exemplified the cultural knowledge of his students in his teaching district, unlike in the districts that Morris had observed. Vilson tells his story of growing up as an African American/Latino in a poverty-stricken area of Manhattan, yet he follows his dream of teaching middle school to students who were facing similar situations as he did as a boy. Vilson portrays how crucial cultural competence can be when teaching; he made an awesome educator for these students because he understood them and their situation, not because he went to graduate school.
The National Education Associational also agrees with the importance of cultural competence. In one of its articles, it talks about the importance of teachers understanding and knowing how to interact with students of different backgrounds. It talks about the 5 main issues teachers need to focus on: Valuing diversity, being culturally self aware, the dynamics of difference, knowledge of student’s culture, and adapting to diversity. The N.E.A. argues that cultural competence is a a combination of prior experience and beneficial for all learners.
So while I am arguing for a better education of our educators, it is not necessarily education that is learned while sitting in a classroom at a university. It is education only real-world experience experience can teach, which is why I think our students would benefit greatly from teachers who have spent time studying and learning the dynamics of the district before diving into teaching on their own.