Story and photo by Dan Friedman
Teachers have to be certified by the state in which they teach. In education classes they learn teaching methods, strategies and classroom management skills and they also must log sufficient hours in the content area they intend to teach. Middle and high school teachers must take specific classes in and/or be degreed in their content area specialty.
Truthfully though, it takes time in the classroom to make sense of the material you learn in education classes. Classroom management theories only make sense when 150 eighth graders are showing up every day.
In my experience, principals and vice-principals had little or no time to observe teachers beyond once or twice a year for a few minutes. The number of issues at any one school, both trivial and significant, is mind-boggling.
I was observed more in my first few years of teaching at Aztec Elementary in Scottsdale (when it first opened and the student body was small) than I was in the following eight years combined. That was a real luxury. There’s nothing better for a new teacher than meaningful feedback from someone who understands teaching. Especially when it’s something like, “I didn’t understand where you were going with your lesson. What was your intention?” It’s one thing to think you’re reaching a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds, and another to know you are.
It takes time (years) to master teaching, so feedback and training is crucial.
The Scottsdale Unified School District recently honored nine teachers who received National Board Certification, bringing to 46 the number of national board-certified teaches in the district. Many districts have teachers who have put in the considerable time and effort to become certified above and beyond the state-required level.
National board certification is a process teachers voluntarily undertake to improve their teaching skills. Teachers demonstrate through portfolios, videotaped teaching and documented accomplishments outside the classroom their understanding of their students’ needs and their ability to meet those needs.
This is not a weekend seminar or an online class. It takes at least one year to complete. The certification process costs $2,565; of that, districts or the State will kick in $500. Fortunately, the national certification can lead to career and salary advancement. Nearly 100,000 teachers nationwide have earned national certification.
School districts also undergo significant processes to ensure they are meeting their students’ needs and making continual improvements. The Peoria Unified School District is the first Arizona school district to pursue AdvancED District Accreditation. AdvancED accreditation certifies that your child’s high school provides a program of study that results in meaningful high school credits when students apply to colleges and universities.
AdvancED also works with districts to help ensure that K-12 systems meet the highest standards. The Peoria district has 40 schools, so the process is lengthy, complicated and will involve ongoing efforts. A meeting Feb. 8 in Peoria will provide information for those interested in the process.