This is not a sappy soliloquy or surreptitious sermonizing on the merits of the teaching profession. Nor is it an indictment of the standards or programs designed to groom and prepare new teachers. This is just me reflecting on the path I chose to become a teacher. It should be called the long and winding road, because it brings me back to my mother’s sage advice, “you should become a teacher.” How many of us heed the wisdom of those who know us best?
After college I followed my desire to travel and became part of the business world. I traveled, trained people on new technology, sold property management systems in the UK and provided account support for the bulky computer systems we had back in the 80’s. I have always loved innovation. In the 90’s determined to keep my skills sharp and my knowledge fresh I attended Parson School of Art & Design in NYC. It was a cert only program but after 10 courses and fantastic, working-in-the-field instructors, I was very high on creating Flash sites for businesses in my local community and doing several newsletters and logos for non profits. At the same time I was an inside sales rep proffering motherboards and volunteering in the local elementary school. Two friends and I started the after school newspaper program using a basic desktop publishing. I continued it for 3 years. It was through my experience teaching these students various aspects of journalism that I became interested in teaching as a profession. I loved to see student growth and I enjoyed using creative ways to engage and challenge students to succeed.
The 2000’s came along and I moved to Atlanta with my family. I became a technology assistant in a local elementary school. I had a business degree but the school required teachers to be licensed educators. I felt like a teacher, I taught classes in the lab, I created lesson plans to integrate technology and I wondered when someone would realize that they should just make me an honorary teacher. After all, with 20 years of life experience, a college degree and a teacher’s ability to communicate why shouldn’t they just make me a teacher. I had more technology experience than most teachers ever would. It was humbling to realize that all my experience counted for nothing in the eyes of the State of GA. The same would apply anywhere else in the country and most parts of the world. Teaching is a profession and like doctoring, lawyering and psychoanalyzing requires a professional license.
No, what I needed to do was to go back to school and earn my credentials. I am nearing the end of this process and I have one profound reflection to share… you must become a student in order to become a teacher. Not profound you say? Well for me I realized that all of the books, articles and lectures I heard could be listened to or read by just about anyone who wants to shell out the money to buy expensive text books or search online. The real learning occurs through the constant evaluation/collaboration between peers and professors and in the reflection process. So for all of you who know in your heart you can teach I urge you to go the extra mile. Get your teaching certificate. The kids NEED you! The stakes are higher now than ever. No Child Left Behind insists on highly qualified teachers. I wish there had been some kind of short cut. I wish there had been some honorary degree, but the truth is I worked hard and now I have earned the real thing. We require students to jump through hoops to perform, why not us? If you have your undergraduate degree it will only take you about 2 years to complete and it is time well spent. It flies by. In fact, I may even take my education to the next level. Let’s see if I take a semester off and start next fall…I could have my PhD by… 2011?