Big Question #5: A Good Alternative?

I recently read an article in the Katy Sun online (read the article here) about alternatively certified teachers in Texas. As an alternatively certified teacher, I am always interested in the opinions and ideas expressed regarding this certification process.

The truth is, I think the process needs some “tweaking”, although I also believe it is a good program. The certification process I went through was rigorous and I believe it prepared me better than other programs I could have chosen to go through.

There are two problems inherent with the alternative route, as I see it:

1. More mature (I don’t want to upset my fellow oldsters – oops, I did it anyway!) alt cert teachers will discover that they have difficulties adjusting to this completely new job market. We are used to merits getting us somewhere and upwardly mobile paths to leadership. We are accustomed to processes making sense to the bottom line and people being accountable for their own action (or inactivity). When we enter the education arena, we find our jobs on day one to be the same job it’ll be in year 20, and we also find that the teacher next door who “drills and kills” gets paid on the exact same pay scale we do when we struggle over each student and over each lesson. On the other hand, younger alternatively certified teachers, who have very little experience in any job whatsoever, may find that they are ill-prepared to work anywhere, let alone in the education world.

2. The alternative certification process doesn’t require us to do any student teaching. The program I went through required many hours of “observation”, which I believe helped me immensely. I’m glad I didn’t go through one of the programs that didn’t require this, but I also feel like those hours of observation could never compare to the student teaching requirements in traditional education degrees. Being thrown into a classroom on my first day of teaching, with nobody standing beside me, guiding me, was daunting. It was plain scary. Somehow, I managed to make my students think I knew what I was doing – and eventually I think I did know what I was doing – at least as much as any teacher can.

What changes need to be made to the system, then? I believe there is a need and a usefulness for alternatively certified teachers. Often, these teachers are of high quality, although they tend not to stay in teaching for long. Is it because, like me, they begin to miss the hierarchy and structure of “real world” employment? Do they long for opportunities for personal growth that are not available in the education world?

Perhaps a required student teaching gig, like the traditional education degrees, is warranted. Surely a restructuring in education jobs themselves is in order. But how?

What are your thoughts? Don’t worry about offending me – if you have a thing against alternative certification, air it. Let’s get this discussion going!

Big Question: What are your thoughts about alternative certification?


4 responses to “Big Question #5: A Good Alternative?

  1. Elaine, See I knew there was another reason I liked you so much! I’m a Tx Alt Cert teacher as well. And while I agree with much of what you said, I think that the mature adults that get into the program are a strength because of what they can bring into it.

    My ACP class had an ex- PeaceCorp, ex-Civil Engineer with 15 years of thridworld experience, a lawyer, and a number of ex-tech/financially secure oldsters. They were teaching the fellow students a few things while we were still in the program. I think my business experience and degree helped me in dealing ‘professionally’ with parents/community groups where I saw others with just ‘student teaching’ experience have problems relating or managing the external to school factors.

    One of the downsides is the lack of retention. I only know of a couple of us still teaching since we got in in ’94.

    It could definitely use an upgrade, but the mature factor is a plus in my book. 🙂

  2. Howard,

    I agree with you that the maturity level helps a LOT and also all the experience in business, working with people, project management, etc., goes a LONG way to making alt cert teachers really good.

    I think the reason why so many alt cert teachers don’t keep teaching is our need for continuing the business cycle of personal growth and bettering our position, as well as our experience making it easier for us to transition into administrative-type jobs in education.

  3. In Nebraska there seems to be some resentment toward teachers who have not taken the traditional route into the classroom. I have never understood this because I believe teaching is an art. A degree in educations simply means a person has met certain requirements set forth by the state to teach. It does not guarantee that a person actually possesses the skills to be a successful teacher. Great teaching comes from the heart.

    I teach at an alternative high school. It is very hard to convince people that our program is a legitimate route to a high school diploma—it is just different!

  4. B eth,
    I especially liked your comment “great teaching comes from the heart.” As I journey through different facets of education, I always come back to a big wish that we could “teach like we mean it”, which translates to “teach from the heart”. Thank you for your post!

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