There is a school system in Savannah, GA that offers a non-traditional path for people to become teachers (you can read about it in an article here). Leaders there are questioning whether or not all teachers should be education majors. In a district with over 400 teaching positions to fill, the process basically allows for a larger application pool from which to select the most qualified teachers, including some who didn’t start out in the field; for example, having a retired army veteran who worked in aerospace engineering to teach math. The program has been around for a while, but is getting more publicity recently due to the teacher shortages in the district and the state.
I’ve mentioned before how public education today suffers from being a system stuck in the past, disproportionately adapting to how the world works today. So I think this school district’s method for selecting new educators holds some merit. Not to say that those who pursue a career in teaching from the get-go are any more or less qualified to teach, but that there is something to be said for those who can relate their actual life experiences to the classrooms they lead. They tell writers to “write what you know” in order to make a good story, so why not apply that thinking here? Teach what you know.
In this instance these “new teachers” are mostly coming out of necessity to fill positions, so it could seem like more of a desperate attempt rather than a way to facilitate new (better?) learning methods. But it’s not as though these educators are randomly plucked out of their office buildings and told to teach – I would hope that they at least have some desire to pass on their knowledge. Plus, as the article points out, they are required to pass a teacher preparatory program and pass educator exams and background checks. The only thing they’re missing is a title on their diploma. I know of a few people who majored in completely different subjects in college, and ended up becoming teachers in public and charter schools, only getting certified in teaching after the fact, so again, it’s not this is a particularly new practice.
But I think one of the biggest benefits to having alternate career professionals come into schools to teach is having a more direct way to relate subject matter to lesson plans, and to showcase exactly where and how those lessons can be used in an actual job.
Teaching in general gets a pretty bad rap since people are less likely to take a job that comes off as being thankless, underpaying, and stressful. This means there fewer people actually pursuing a degree in education, which is what is has led to the situation many places across the country now face – not enough qualified teachers. By openly and proudly offering an alternative path for those who may want a career change (into the world of education), it could lead to a revolution in the way many of us approach education and schooling as a whole. Having non-traditional educators means having non-traditional lessons, hopefully leading to a creative boost in the classroom for both the people doing the educating, and the people doing the learning.
There definitely needs to be a change in the way we approach education in this country, and this may be the footing some school districts need to start their journey toward a better future. If we can remember that teaching as a profession is a way for you to give back to your community, by taking something you’ve learned from your own life experiences and passing on that knowledge to the next generation, instead of a rigid career choice all on its own, we can help destroy the negative connotations that come with being a teacher. And if we can get over the idea that only those who had the “proper” schooling to become teachers are best qualified for the job, then we may just find new and exciting ways to keep kids engaged in the classroom.
What do you think? Is your school district short on qualified teachers? Would you be okay with your child’s teachers not having majored in education, or have attended a 4-year college? Would you consider becoming a teacher in the future?