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Mediocrity of Teacher Recruitment Some teachers are better than others. This is a simple and, I hope, obvious fact. But the culture of American schools is not friendly to it. Particularly in our hiring of public school teachers, we tend to avoid notions of serious discernment, of picking the very best in our society to become our teachers, and we accept that the most talented of our young people will gravitate to other fields. Overcoming this acceptance of mediocrity in teacher recruitment and retention represents the greatest opportunity to bring a quantum improvement to our schools. To focus on the elite among new teaching recruits as a matter of method is, in fact, the radically democratic way to give our society's most valuable resources to our poorest and neediest children. That simple fact should trump any concerns about the ill effects of meritocracy on job applicants. The work of educators is to educate young people. So long as we have the courage to make the very best possible experience for those young people our highest goal, we must attend to fairness for teachers only after we have attended to excellence for our students. And we have yet to do that right. Today, the best teachers in many schools are in a way the dissidents, the people who stand out, who attract criticism as well as praise for being remarkable educators, and they resist a strong pull toward mediocrity in the professional culture of too many schools. We must recognize that this is a problem, and we must fix it. The solution is not difficult to imagine. New teachers must come to know that there is an early-career, merit-based threshold to cross, similar to what doctors, lawyers, and many business professionals face in their first few years of professional work. If we can make this a reality, the most talented and most effective among them will be able to earn their place in a truly elite, dedicated corps of teachers. We will keep the very best of the new teacher recruits, and we'll attract large numbers of people in other professions who today don't sign on to become teachers because they believe that American schools haven't fostered a culture of achievement and haven't been able to make the profession of teacher as respected or respectable as many other professions. In many school systems today, new teachers are, officially, on some kind of probation for a period, often three years. But these probationary periods in fact don't relate to job performance. So long as performance is not outright criminal or grossly harmful to children, new teachers in these districts will keep their jobs. The money in school budgets is the key to launching or limiting their careers. In a budget cutback, the probationary teachers are the ones whose ranks are trimmed, because they are generally not fully covered by unions, and are therefore easier to let go. So long as we do not screen new teachers based on excellence-not based on mere competence, not based on basic skill levels, but based on demonstration that each individual is better at teaching than most who try-we will never be able to create and reinforce the kind of elite professional culture among our teachers that they deserve, and, more importantly, that our students deserve. Consider the college student planning to become a teacher. And consider not just any student, but the kind of student we most want to be teaching our children-someone who is bright, warm, disciplined, and interested in the ideas of other people, someone curious about the world, and capable of doing difficult things well. At the age of 21 or so, he is finishing college, heading toward a degree in English, biology, history, or another subject. Most likely, he is not taking a degree in education (the students with the strongest academic backgrounds generally don't). In his senior year, he is probably working as a student-teacher for at least part of the year, going off in the mornings to a school where the students call him "Mister." He takes a coffee break in the teachers' lounge now and then, a junior colleague of teachers young and old. His friends who are not planning on becoming teachers are studying, heading off for the occasional job interview, and spending a great deal of time as college students do-enjoying independence, hanging out, reading interesting books, thinking about the future. In this local culture, the student-teacher is a standout. He's in the real world, seen by many as a full adult citizen, clearly bearing serious responsibility for the many students he deals with on a regular basis. This is a person with prestige in his community of college friends. He is a person who can easily feel good about his choice to be a teacher. Roll forward a year, now. Our young teacher is getting his sea legs before his own class-teaching on his own, with a mentor teacher checking in now and then perhaps, and a little extra support from the principal if the principal has the time and interest. He's solving problems, developing relationships with students, and working through one of the most difficult and rewarding phases in a teacher's life. He's also making an adult salary, though not a particularly large one. He's probably taking courses toward a master's degree in education or a related subject in the evenings. His friends are doing a range of things-taking time off to travel, working in jobs that might be the beginnings of their own careers or might help them learn what they don't want to do for a living, or perhaps they're beginning graduate or professional schools. Remember, we're talking about the social circle of the kind of young teacher who should be prized-the talented, ambitious young person. His friends are probably a lot like him-they're people with plenty of options who are looking for the right paths to exercise their own talents and build meaningful lives. Some are likely to be starting law school or work on an M.B.A.; some are taking entry-level business jobs; some are moving back home to their parents' to decompress from four years of college, save some money, and consider their choices. Their friend the teacher is probably making as much or more money than most. He's probably taking on greater personal challenges in his day-to-day work, and he's working in the public sector, making a difference in the education arena that so many commentators spill so much ink over in the newspapers and magazines. He's no underachiever. He looks to the world like a person with a vital and important professional life. Now look forward another three or four years. The teacher's friends are less likely to be business or law students, and more likely to be business people and lawyers. Those who took the academic route might well be considering the beginnings of their Ph.D. dissertations. Even those who took the lowest-level business jobs are now likely to be reaching modestly higher rungs on the career ladder. Certainly some of his friends might still be traveling, or still be living at home, working jobs that aren't panning out and thinking about the right changes to make. But on the whole, our young teacher, who has by now gotten the hang of how to be a classroom educator and has the skills to walk into class with confidence and break into a lesson without too much nervous perspiration, is one of the lower earners in his cohort, and probably feels a good deal less like the leader of the pack. "What do you guys do?" someone might ask a table full of them at the local pub. "Well, I'm a med student, 4th year." "I'm a lawyer over at Huddle & Pass." "I'm an editor at a national magazine." And our teacher says, "I teach 3rd grade," or "I teach high school biology." No need to feel ashamed, of course. But there's not a lot of prestige for him to grab hold of as he tells his professional story. At the age of 25 or so, that might not be a big deal; time will change that. Roll forward another 15 years. Our teacher is now 40. His friends are now law partners, business people, doctors, writers, scientists, and professors. Where is he in his career? He could be at the head of a 3rd grade classroom, teaching the children of some of his first students from student-teacher days. He's probably picked up a doctorate along the way, as 20 years of steady night courses have yielded their benefits. And he might well be the happiest of all his friends. As they face their own moments of reflection-What kind of contribution am I making? What personal satisfaction am I really getting from my work? What kind of community do I have at work, day to day?-the teacher's answers could be very satisfying. I'm changing lives every day, shaping the minds and souls of my students, he might say. I see the results of my work every day when I look at my students, bump into kids I taught years ago, learn to do my job better every year. And I work in a hive of activity, energized by the youth of the students and the profound purpose of the institutional home we share. Or maybe he decided to give up teaching. He might have decided at the age of 30 or so that he wanted his children to have the economic advantages he could garner for them through business or law, professions that draw on similar skills and aptitudes. In the business world, he could probably triple his salary, though he'd have to trade off the nobility of the educator (and summers off). Or he might have decided that he really wanted the greater freedoms of the professor. But the most likely ending to this story-not a sad ending by any means-is the compromise position of the educational administrator. With his above-average skills and real dedication to the mission of schools, he is now probably a principal, a district curriculum director, or an associate superintendent. What do you do for a living? I'm a lawyer. I'm a VP at Giant Corp. I'm a high school principal. Or, I'm the head of a school system. That sounds pretty good-and the money isn't shabby for those jobs in most cases either. Interestingly, many business people know that as an organization's standards go beyond merely "above average"-as it earns, in other words, the reputation of being an elite institution, where only the most talented people work together-the cost of employment begins to fall. People benefit so from being part of a known elite that they'll put off the chance to make more money in order to get other kinds of compensation-knowledge, pride, and the intangible value of having a notable, elite affiliation. Many elite institutions across American public life are driven by this dynamic. Why else do the most talented lawyers often work for the government at a fraction of what they can earn elsewhere? Why are our universities filled with so many of the best and brightest of our professionals, there to study and teach, making so much less than they could elsewhere? Why else do young doctors (and many not so young) spend years beyond medical school earning small salaries as they train for greater and greater specialization? And why should our K-12 schools not be in the same category? Once we come to believe that they can be, and that we know how to make it so, how can we possibly choose any alternative course? Perhaps out of fairness, one might say. We want our teacher corps to be a humane institution-not to be driven by the competitive fires that ignite even the judicial law clerks and top-drawer graduate students and university lecturers. It's true, we could be fairer to teachers, to make the profession a little less competitive, a little less demanding. In fact, that's precisely the situation we're in now, and we have discovered that by being fairer to the teachers-particularly to the less talented and less ambitious teachers-we make our students bear the cost, essentially taking from our students to give to our least talented teachers. And of course it is the poor students, whose parents cannot opt out of the schools they are in (because they don't have the money for private schools, or the skills at working the educational bureaucracy necessary to find their way to the top of the heap in public school systems) who pay the highest price. In an era of real reform in American education-and our era certainly qualifies-it is high time that we begin to change this fact. A tougher apprenticeship period for new teachers is the place to begin. Let us create the expectation that most who begin their careers as teachers won't make the grade, and those who do will be truly the best and the brightest of every generation, while those who enter the profession and leave in those early years will be proud to say-and will benefit from saying-"I was a teacher." What Americans Think about Teaching Just as teachers believe in their work, the American public believes in the value of good teachers. A recent survey conducted by Recruiting New Teachers (1998) shows that once the issue of school safety is addressed, Americans believe that providing a qualified teacher in every classroom is the most important way to improve education today -not standards, tests, vouchers, privatization, or school uniforms. The survey also shows that the public knows that teaching gives back more to America than any other profession. To find out more about what Americans think about teaching, read a summary of The Essential Profession: A Survey of Public Attitudes Toward Teaching, Educational Opportunity, and School Reform (1998) on RNT's Web site. I. The Profession of Teaching Teaching is a profession of critical interactions, of working with others in a calling where theory and practice go hand in hand. At the base of it all are my contentions that teaching is a profession, not a job, and that teachers have great influence on the lives of their students. Students see how their teachers speak, dress, and act. They notice their teachers' commitment to learning, to their community, and to their profession. They watch their teachers for fairness and honesty. And while students may appear to be harsh judges, they are also impressionable, and are busy modelling themselves as future adults. Besides subject matter, the students are learning about living life. II. Colonel Craig's Eleven Guidelines for Teachers My Eleven Guidelines for Teachers, which follow, have been developed through careful and systematic observation of successful, respected, dedicated and memorable role models. I would like to claim original authorship, but cannot. The formative ideas, and in fact structures, came from a number of sources, to which I owe much. 1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. Learn about yourself, your preferences, strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of your strengths, work to overcome your weaknesses, and share your preferences, which are based on experience and thoughtful observation. 2. Be proficient in your discipline and in pedagogy. Be as conversant as possible with your discipline through continual self-study. Look to the several methods, approaches and strategies for teaching your subject matter. Experiment creatively but thoughtfully; learn from other teachers; use what works 3. Seek challenges and take responsibility for your actions. Teaching always involves challenges. Welcome them; look to the new for fresh perspectives. Develop a "can do"attitude, and meet each new challenge with cheerful optimism. When you succeed, be modest and share the glory. When you fail, be ready to admi t your error and look forways to correct what went awry. Never shift blame onto others or "circumstances beyond your control." 4. Make sound and timely decisions. Rapidly assess learning situations and make adjustments; delay is frequently a bad decision in itself. Indecisive teachers cause hesitancy, loss of confidence and confusion among learners. Gather the essential information quickly; make your decision p romptly; announce your decision in time for the students to adjust. Consider the short-range and long-range effectsof your decision. 5. Set the example. Be a role model in your deportment, dress, language, honesty and concern for others. Expect preparation, competence, candor, commitment and integrity from your students; demonstrate them yourself. Set high, but attainable, standards. 6. Know your students and look out for their well-being. Get to know each student, where he or she is from, what is important to each, and what makes him or her "tick." Show genuine concern without dropping standards. Correct those who fall short; reward those who produce results. Respect, but don't worship diversity. If you are successful, your students will go on to become your friends, not out of favoritism, but from the bonding which results from respect and shared achievement. 7. Keep the students informed. Students do best when they know what they must do, and how to approach doing it. They expect logic in your requirements. Explain not only the task, but the reason for requiring it. Let them know that what they are doing is important. 8. Develop a sense of responsibility in the students. Students feel pride and a sense of accomplishment when they successfully manage a new task you have given them. Give them challenges and responsibilities they can handle. Suggest enrichment activities and reward those who show initiative. 9. Ensure that requirements are understood, supervised and accomplished. Let students know what you want done, what manner you think appropriate for solving the problem, and when their work is due. Let the students try. Give guidance where necessary. Accept performance which meets your standards; reward performance that ex ceeds your standards; correct performance that falls short. Hold students accountable for their performance, but look for the cause of problems and help the student find a solution. 10. Teach to the appropriate level. Make sure the tasks are at the level which is both challenging and possible. Each student and each class has a personality. Recognize each student's capabilities and limitations, as well as the particular "chemistry" of the group. 11. Build a love for the discipline. Develop a spirit which helps the student look willingly and confidently into more advanced aspects of the discipline. Show where, how and why knowing what you teach can make the students' lives better. Look beyond the text, the classroom, and the sch ool to bring in outside stimuli. Make maximum use of the limited resources available to you. Plenty good guidelines, don't you think? Teaching has always been more an occupation than a profession. Traditionally, important decisions affecting classrooms have been made not by teachers, but by administrators and policymakers. They have determined the content of the curriculum and how it should be taught, selected textbooks and materials, and decided which standardized tests would be administered. Teachers exercised limited freedom, behind the closed doors of their classrooms. To some degree, the low-status nature of teaching has prevailed because it has largely been women's work. Before the 1960s, a woman aspiring to a career had essentially two choices: nursing or teaching. Public schools had no trouble staffing their classrooms with women who were willing to work in unappealing conditions for low wages. Though women have more career options today, eight out of 10 beginning teachers are still female. And while many teachers find the profession challenging and rewarding enough to make up for low salaries and frustration, many leave the classroom for better pay--and better working conditions. After all, classroom teaching conditions are a lot like those of blue-collar workers. Teachers rarely have their own offices and lack the services that other professionals have access to, such as a secretary, telephone, typewriter, fax machine, or copier. The teacher's work day is highly structured, with little or no time for intellectual interaction with colleagues. Since the early 1980s, when the current drive to improve American education began, teaching has been a central focus. Many policymakers have become convinced that schools will not be able to produce better educated students without highly skilled, knowledgable teachers who are treated as professionals. As a first step, many states set stiffer requirements for entry into and graduation from teacher-preparation programs. They raised beginning teachers' pay, hoping to attract better-quality candidates. They also created incentives, such as forgiveable loans, to encourage good high school students to pursue careers in teaching. And some states required experienced teachers to pass minimum-competency tests to retain their licenses. In 1986, a landmark report issued by a task force of the Carnegie Corporation of New York called for radical changes in teaching to make it a true profession. The authors envisioned a different kind of teacher--flexible, up-to-date, able to lead children into deeper learning. The next step was for teachers to be mentors and coaches rather than dispensers of facts. Students would take more responsibility for their own education, and teachers would collaborate with them in a search for knowledge and understanding. The school structure would change so that teachers would be deeply involved in decision-making: Within broad curricular frameworks, teachers would decide how best to meet their goals. They would participate in the development of new performance-based assessments. They would be empowered to make decisions that affect instruction, budget, personnel, and scheduling. At the same time, though, the teachers would be much better educated and would be eased into their jobs with help from experienced mentors. Since the Carnegie report, there has been slow and steady work on a variety of fronts to improve the quality of the nation's teaching force. A consortium of 38 states is working together to devise new, rigorous standards for beginning teachers and to come up with new ways of measuring whether candidates deserve a license to teach. This is in contrast to the current system, which focuses on what coursework candidates have completed--a piece of information which tells little about their ultimate performance with students. The national organization that accredits education schools has stiffened its standards and is pressing programs to submit themselves to scrutiny. And the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an outgrowth of the Carnegie report, has begun setting standards of accomplished practice and certifying expert teachers who can meet them. These steps, advocates say, eventually will put teaching on a similar footing with other professions, such as law, medicine, and architecture. In those fields, members of the profession set their own standards for entry into the field. In return for this relative freedom from outside regulation, their members strive to uphold high standards and discipline one another when they fail. In education, 11 states have created autonomous standards boards to set standards for teaching, rather than leaving the task to the state board of education. Teaching is one of the country's most unionized occupations. The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, boasts 2.2 million members. Its rival, the American Federation of Teachers, has 900,000 members. And there are signs that the teachers' unions are interested in playing a greater role in ensuring that their members are well prepared for the job. A group of union leaders from both organizations is meeting regularly to discuss the future of teacher unionism, with an eye toward school quality rather than employee protections and benefits. But in some cases, the unions are seen as an obstacle. Many people, including some teachers, are frustrated that pay scales are so rigid. But union opposition has stifled attempts to institute merit-pay programs, which would give administrators the ability to reward teachers they consider to be performing well. Union members believe that might result in arbitrary decisions. And the next big educational battle may be over the issue of teacher tenure. Teachers usually earn tenure after two or three years of acceptable service, giving them tremendous job security. A district that wants to fire a tenured teacher must typically undergo a lengthy process of hearings and appeals. One purpose of tenure laws is to protect teachers from being dismissed because of political or personal views. Opponents, however, argue that tenure makes it difficult for districts to fire unqualified teachers. On a similar front, several studies are also now being conducted to examine ways to dramatically overhaul the entire teacher-compensation system--not just change a bit of it here or there. Undeniably, much remains to be done. A major report issued in September by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future offered a scathing indictment of current practices, including inadequate teacher education, bureaucratic hiring procedures, and the placement of unqualified teachers in classrooms. The report set the price tag for remedying these problems within a decade at nearly $5 billion a year in new federal, state, and local money which should be spent on upgrading teacher education, subsidizing people to teach in high-need fields and locations, reforming the licensing and induction process, and better professional development.
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Mediocrity of Teacher Recruitment Essay
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Mediocrity Of Teacher Recruitment Essay

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              Mediocrity of Teacher Recruitment
             
              Some teachers are better than others. This is a simple and, I hope, obvious fact. But the culture of American schools is not friendly to it. Particularly in our hiring of public school teachers, we tend to avoid notions of serious discernment, of picking the very best in our society to become our teachers, and we accept that the most talented of our young people will gravitate to other fields. Overcoming this acceptance of mediocrity in teacher recruitment and retention represents the greatest opportunity to bring a quantum improvement to our schools.
             
              To focus on the elite among new teaching recruits as a matter of method is, in fact, the radically democratic way to give our society's most valuable resources to our poorest and neediest children. That simple fact should trump any concerns about the ill effects of meritocracy on job applicants. The work of educators is to educate young people. So long as we have the courage to make the very best possible experience for those young people our highest goal, we must attend to fairness for teachers only after we have attended to excellence for our students. And we have yet to do that right. Today, the best teachers in many schools are in a way the dissidents, the people who stand out, who attract criticism as well as praise for being remarkable educators, and they resist a strong pull toward mediocrity in the professional culture of too many schools.
             
              We must recognize that this is a problem, and we must fix it. The solution is not difficult to imagine. New teachers must come to know that there is an early-career, merit-based threshold to cross, similar to what doctors, lawyers, and many business professionals face in their first few years of professional work. If we can make this a reality, the most talented and most effective among them will be able to earn their place in a truly elite, dedicated corps of teachers. We will keep the very best of the new teacher recruits, and we'll attract large numbers of people in other professions who today don't sign on to become teachers because they believe that American schools haven't fostered a culture of achievement and haven't been able to make the profession of teacher as respected or respectable as many other professions.
             
              In many school systems today, new teachers are, officially, on some kind of probation for a period, often three years. But these probationary periods in fact don't relate to job performance. So long as performance is not outright criminal or grossly harmful to children, new teachers in these districts will keep their jobs. The money in school budgets is the key to launching or limiting their careers. In a budget cutback, the probationary teachers are the ones whose ranks are trimmed, because they are generally not fully covered by unions, and are therefore easier to let go. So long as we do not screen new teachers based on excellence-not based on mere competence, not based on basic skill levels, but based on demonstration that each individual is better at teaching than most who try-we will never be able to create and reinforce the kind of elite professional culture among our teachers that they deserve, and, more importantly, that our students deserve.
             
              Consider the college student planning to become a teacher. And consider not just any student, but the kind of student we most want to be teaching our children-someone who is bright, warm, disciplined, and interested in the ideas of other people, someone curious about the world, and capable of doing difficult things well.
             
              At the age of 21 or so, he is finishing college, heading toward a degree in English, biology, history, or another subject. Most likely, he is not taking a degree in education (the students with the strongest academic backgrounds generally don't).
             
              In his senior year, he is probably working as a student-teacher for at least part of the year, going off in the mornings to a school where the students call him "Mister. " He takes a coffee break in the teachers' lounge now and then, a junior colleague of teachers young and old. His friends who are not planning on becoming teachers are studying, heading off for the occasional job interview, and spending a great deal of time as college students do-enjoying independence, hanging out, reading interesting books, thinking about the future. In this local culture, the student-teacher is a standout. He's in the real world, seen by many as a full adult citizen, clearly bearing serious responsibility for the many students he deals with on a regular basis. This is a person with prestige in his community of college friends. He is a person who can easily feel good about his choice to be a teacher.
             
              Roll forward a year, now. Our young teacher is getting his sea legs before his own class-teaching on his own, with a mentor teacher checking in now and then perhaps, and a little extra support from the principal if the principal has the time and interest. He's solving problems, developing relationships with students, and working through one of the most difficult and rewarding phases in a teacher's life. He's also making an adult salary, though not a particularly large one. He's probably taking courses toward a master's degree in education or a related subject in the evenings.
             
              His friends are doing a range of things-taking time off to travel, working in jobs that might be the beginnings of their own careers or might help them learn what they don't want to do for a living, or perhaps they're beginning graduate or professional schools. Remember, we're talking about the social circle of the kind of young teacher who should be prized-the talented, ambitious young person. His friends are probably a lot like him-they're people with plenty of options who are looking for the right paths to exercise their own talents and build meaningful lives. Some are likely to be starting law school or work on an M. B. A. ; some are taking entry-level business jobs; some are moving back home to their parents' to decompress from four years of college, save some money, and consider their choices.
             
              Their friend the teacher is probably making as much or more money than most. He's probably taking on greater personal challenges in his day-to-day work, and he's working in the public sector, making a difference in the education arena that so many commentators spill so much ink over in the newspapers and magazines. He's no underachiever. He looks to the world like a person with a vital and important professional life.
             
              Now look forward another three or four years. The teacher's friends are less likely to be business or law students, and more likely to be business people and lawyers. Those who took the academic route might well be considering the beginnings of their Ph. D. dissertations. Even those who took the lowest-level business jobs are now likely to be reaching modestly higher rungs on the career ladder.
             
              Certainly some of his friends might still be traveling, or still be living at home, working jobs that aren't panning out and thinking about the right changes to make. But on the whole, our young teacher, who has by now gotten the hang of how to be a classroom educator and has the skills to walk into class with confidence and break into a lesson without too much nervous perspiration, is one of the lower earners in his cohort, and probably feels a good deal less like the leader of the pack.
             
              "What do you guys do? " someone might ask a table full of them at the local pub. "Well, I'm a med student, 4th year. " "I'm a lawyer over at Huddle & Pass. " "I'm an editor at a national magazine. " And our teacher says, "I teach 3rd grade," or "I teach high school biology. " No need to feel ashamed, of course. But there's not a lot of prestige for him to grab hold of as he tells his professional story. At the age of 25 or so, that might not be a big deal; time will change that.
             
              Roll forward another 15 years. Our teacher is now 40. His friends are now law partners, business people, doctors, writers, scientists, and professors. Where is he in his career? He could be at the head of a 3rd grade classroom, teaching the children of some of his first students from student-teacher days. He's probably picked up a doctorate along the way, as 20 years of steady night courses have yielded their benefits. And he might well be the happiest of all his friends.
             
              As they face their own moments of reflection-What kind of contribution am I making? What personal satisfaction am I really getting from my work? What kind of community do I have at work, day to day? -the teacher's answers could be very satisfying. I'm changing lives every day, shaping the minds and souls of my students, he might say. I see the results of my work every day when I look at my students, bump into kids I taught years ago, learn to do my job better every year. And I work in a hive of activity, energized by the youth of the students and the profound purpose of the institutional home we share.
             
              Or maybe he decided to give up teaching. He might have decided at the age of 30 or so that he wanted his children to have the economic advantages he could garner for them through business or law, professions that draw on similar skills and aptitudes. In the business world, he could probably triple his salary, though he'd have to trade off the nobility of the educator (and summers off). Or he might have decided that he really wanted the greater freedoms of the professor.
             
              But the most likely ending to this story-not a sad ending by any means-is the compromise position of the educational administrator. With his above-average skills and real dedication to the mission of schools, he is now probably a principal, a district curriculum director, or an associate superintendent. What do you do for a living? I'm a lawyer. I'm a VP at Giant Corp. I'm a high school principal. Or, I'm the head of a school system. That sounds pretty good-and the money isn't shabby for those jobs in most cases either.
             
              Interestingly, many business people know that as an organization's standards go beyond merely "above average"-as it earns, in other words, the reputation of being an elite institution, where only the most talented people work together-the cost of employment begins to fall. People benefit so from being part of a known elite that they'll put off the chance to make more money in order to get other kinds of compensation-knowledge, pride, and the intangible value of having a notable, elite affiliation.
             
              Many elite institutions across American public life are driven by this dynamic. Why else do the most talented lawyers often work for the government at a fraction of what they can earn elsewhere? Why are our universities filled with so many of the best and brightest of our professionals, there to study and teach, making so much less than they could elsewhere? Why else do young doctors (and many not so young) spend years beyond medical school earning small salaries as they train for greater and greater specialization?
              And why should our K-12 schools not be in the same category? Once we come to believe that they can be, and that we know how to make it so, how can we possibly choose any alternative course?
              Perhaps out of fairness, one might say. We want our teacher corps to be a humane institution-not to be driven by the competitive fires that ignite even the judicial law clerks and top-drawer graduate students and university lecturers. It's true, we could be fairer to teachers, to make the profession a little less competitive, a little less demanding. In fact, that's precisely the situation we're in now, and we have discovered that by being fairer to the teachers-particularly to the less talented and less ambitious teachers-we make our students bear the cost, essentially taking from our students to give to our least talented teachers.
             
              And of course it is the poor students, whose parents cannot opt out of the schools they are in (because they don't have the money for private schools, or the skills at working the educational bureaucracy necessary to find their way to the top of the heap in public school systems) who pay the highest price.
             
              In an era of real reform in American education-and our era certainly qualifies-it is high time that we begin to change this fact. A tougher apprenticeship period for new teachers is the place to begin. Let us create the expectation that most who begin their careers as teachers won't make the grade, and those who do will be truly the best and the brightest of every generation, while those who enter the profession and leave in those early years will be proud to say-and will benefit from saying-"I was a teacher. "
              What Americans Think about Teaching
              Just as teachers believe in their work, the American public believes in the value of good teachers.
             
              A recent survey conducted by Recruiting New Teachers (1998) shows that once the issue of school safety is addressed, Americans believe that providing a qualified teacher in every classroom is the most important way to improve education today -not standards, tests, vouchers, privatization, or school uniforms. The survey also shows that the public knows that teaching gives back more to America than any other profession. To find out more about what Americans think about teaching, read a summary of The Essential Profession: A Survey of Public Attitudes Toward Teaching, Educational Opportunity, and School Reform (1998) on RNT's Web site.
             
              I. The Profession of Teaching
             
              Teaching is a profession of critical interactions, of working with others in a calling where theory and practice go hand in hand. At the base of it all are my contentions that teaching is a profession, not a job, and that teachers have great influence on the lives of their students.
             
              Students see how their teachers speak, dress, and act. They notice their teachers' commitment to learning, to their community, and to their profession. They watch their teachers for fairness and honesty.
             
              And while students may appear to be harsh judges, they are also impressionable, and are busy modelling themselves as future adults. Besides subject matter, the students are learning about living life.
             
              II. Colonel Craig's Eleven Guidelines for Teachers
             
              My Eleven Guidelines for Teachers, which follow, have been developed through careful and systematic observation of successful, respected, dedicated and memorable role models. I would like to claim original authorship, but cannot. The formative ideas, and in fact structures, came from a number of sources, to which I owe much.
             
              1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
             
              Learn about yourself, your preferences, strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of your strengths, work to overcome your weaknesses, and share your preferences, which are based on experience and thoughtful observation.
             
              2. Be proficient in your discipline and in pedagogy.
             
              Be as conversant as possible with your discipline through continual self-study. Look to the several methods, approaches and strategies for teaching your subject matter. Experiment creatively but thoughtfully; learn from other teachers; use what works
             
              3. Seek challenges and take responsibility for your actions.
             
              Teaching always involves challenges. Welcome them; look to the new for fresh perspectives. Develop a "can do"attitude, and meet each new challenge with cheerful optimism. When you succeed, be modest and share the glory. When you fail, be ready to admi t your error and look forways to correct what went awry. Never shift blame onto others or "circumstances beyond your control. "
             
              4. Make sound and timely decisions.
             
              Rapidly assess learning situations and make adjustments; delay is frequently a bad decision in itself. Indecisive teachers cause hesitancy, loss of confidence and confusion among learners. Gather the essential information quickly; make your decision p romptly; announce your decision in time for the students to adjust. Consider the short-range and long-range effectsof your decision.
             
              5. Set the example.
             
              Be a role model in your deportment, dress, language, honesty and concern for others. Expect preparation, competence, candor, commitment and integrity from your students; demonstrate them yourself. Set high, but attainable, standards.
             
              6. Know your students and look out for their well-being.
             
              Get to know each student, where he or she is from, what is important to each, and what makes him or her "tick. " Show genuine concern without dropping standards. Correct those who fall short; reward those who produce results. Respect, but don't worship diversity.
              If you are successful, your students will go on to become your friends, not out of favoritism, but from the bonding which results from respect and shared achievement.
             
              7. Keep the students informed.
             
              Students do best when they know what they must do, and how to approach doing it. They expect logic in your requirements. Explain not only the task, but the reason for requiring it. Let them know that what they are doing is important.
             
              8. Develop a sense of responsibility in the students.
             
              Students feel pride and a sense of accomplishment when they successfully manage a new task you have given them. Give them challenges and responsibilities they can handle. Suggest enrichment activities and reward those who show initiative.
             
              9. Ensure that requirements are understood, supervised and accomplished.
             
              Let students know what you want done, what manner you think appropriate for solving the problem, and when their work is due. Let the students try. Give guidance where necessary. Accept performance which meets your standards; reward performance that ex ceeds your standards; correct performance that falls short. Hold students accountable for their performance, but look for the cause of problems and help the student find a solution.
             
              10. Teach to the appropriate level.
             
              Make sure the tasks are at the level which is both challenging and possible. Each student and each class has a personality. Recognize each student's capabilities and limitations, as well as the particular "chemistry" of the group.
             
              11. Build a love for the discipline.
             
              Develop a spirit which helps the student look willingly and confidently into more advanced aspects of the discipline. Show where, how and why knowing what you teach can make the students' lives better. Look beyond the text, the classroom, and the sch ool to bring in outside stimuli. Make maximum use of the limited resources available to you.
             
              Plenty good guidelines, don't you think?
             
              Teaching has always been more an occupation than a profession. Traditionally, important decisions affecting classrooms have been made not by teachers, but by administrators and policymakers. They have determined the content of the curriculum and how it should be taught, selected textbooks and materials, and decided which standardized tests would be administered. Teachers exercised limited freedom, behind the closed doors of their classrooms.
             
              To some degree, the low-status nature of teaching has prevailed because it has largely been women's work. Before the 1960s, a woman aspiring to a career had essentially two choices: nursing or teaching. Public schools had no trouble staffing their classrooms with women who were willing to work in unappealing conditions for low wages. Though women have more career options today, eight out of 10 beginning teachers are still female.
             
              And while many teachers find the profession challenging and rewarding enough to make up for low salaries and frustration, many leave the classroom for better pay--and better working conditions. After all, classroom teaching conditions are a lot like those of blue-collar workers. Teachers rarely have their own offices and lack the services that other professionals have access to, such as a secretary, telephone, typewriter, fax machine, or copier. The teacher's work day is highly structured, with little or no time for intellectual interaction with colleagues.
             
              Since the early 1980s, when the current drive to improve American education began, teaching has been a central focus. Many policymakers have become convinced that schools will not be able to produce better educated students without highly skilled, knowledgable teachers who are treated as professionals. As a first step, many states set stiffer requirements for entry into and graduation from teacher-preparation programs. They raised beginning teachers' pay, hoping to attract better-quality candidates. They also created incentives, such as forgiveable loans, to encourage good high school students to pursue careers in teaching. And some states required experienced teachers to pass minimum-competency tests to retain their licenses.
             
              In 1986, a landmark report issued by a task force of the Carnegie Corporation of New York called for radical changes in teaching to make it a true profession. The authors envisioned a different kind of teacher--flexible, up-to-date, able to lead children into deeper learning. The next step was for teachers to be mentors and coaches rather than dispensers of facts. Students would take more responsibility for their own education, and teachers would collaborate with them in a search for knowledge and understanding. The school structure would change so that teachers would be deeply involved in decision-making: Within broad curricular frameworks, teachers would decide how best to meet their goals. They would participate in the development of new performance-based assessments.
              They would be empowered to make decisions that affect instruction, budget, personnel, and scheduling. At the same time, though, the teachers would be much better educated and would be eased into their jobs with help from experienced mentors.
             
              Since the Carnegie report, there has been slow and steady work on a variety of fronts to improve the quality of the nation's teaching force. A consortium of 38 states is working together to devise new, rigorous standards for beginning teachers and to come up with new ways of measuring whether candidates deserve a license to teach. This is in contrast to the current system, which focuses on what coursework candidates have completed--a piece of information which tells little about their ultimate performance with students.
              The national organization that accredits education schools has stiffened its standards and is pressing programs to submit themselves to scrutiny. And the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, an outgrowth of the Carnegie report, has begun setting standards of accomplished practice and certifying expert teachers who can meet them.
             
              These steps, advocates say, eventually will put teaching on a similar footing with other professions, such as law, medicine, and architecture. In those fields, members of the profession set their own standards for entry into the field. In return for this relative freedom from outside regulation, their members strive to uphold high standards and discipline one another when they fail. In education, 11 states have created autonomous standards boards to set standards for teaching, rather than leaving the task to the state board of education.
             
              Teaching is one of the country's most unionized occupations. The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, boasts 2. 2 million members. Its rival, the American Federation of Teachers, has 900,000 members. And there are signs that the teachers' unions are interested in playing a greater role in ensuring that their members are well prepared for the job. A group of union leaders from both organizations is meeting regularly to discuss the future of teacher unionism, with an eye toward school quality rather than employee protections and benefits.
             
              But in some cases, the unions are seen as an obstacle. Many people, including some teachers, are frustrated that pay scales are so rigid. But union opposition has stifled attempts to institute merit-pay programs, which would give administrators the ability to reward teachers they consider to be performing well. Union members believe that might result in arbitrary decisions.
             
              And the next big educational battle may be over the issue of teacher tenure. Teachers usually earn tenure after two or three years of acceptable service, giving them tremendous job security. A district that wants to fire a tenured teacher must typically undergo a lengthy process of hearings and appeals. One purpose of tenure laws is to protect teachers from being dismissed because of political or personal views. Opponents, however, argue that tenure makes it difficult for districts to fire unqualified teachers.
             
              On a similar front, several studies are also now being conducted to examine ways to dramatically overhaul the entire teacher-compensation system--not just change a bit of it here or there.
             
              Undeniably, much remains to be done. A major report issued in September by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future offered a scathing indictment of current practices, including inadequate teacher education, bureaucratic hiring procedures, and the placement of unqualified teachers in classrooms.
             
              The report set the price tag for remedying these problems within a decade at nearly $5 billion a year in new federal, state, and local money which should be spent on upgrading teacher education, subsidizing people to teach in high-need fields and locations, reforming the licensing and induction process, and better professional development.
Teacher Essay 
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