Saturday, June 14, 2008

Real Teachers Don't Wear Medals

While catching up on the news in education, I came across this article in The News & Observer out of North Carolina.

Students do better if their teachers have certification
“A report from the National Research Council found that students taught by teachers who received national board certification make greater gains on tests than students taught by teachers without such certification.”

While I honor and respect teachers who are genuine in the pursuit of such certification, I disagree with the generalization that these are the better teachers.

When National Board Certification was first introduced in my district several years ago, many folks jumped at the opportunity to get another “title” and another stipend. Once folks got a grasp of the work that was involved though, many dropped out of the game, leaving a small group to forge ahead in the “quest” to be a better practitioner. These individuals, I am sure, were motivated by several things – the stipend, the title, the glory, and perhaps a sincere desire to become a better teacher. I don’t know. What I saw was more of a false notion that being National Board Certified would bring you the respect that you did not already have.

I admit I almost joined them. My brother, also a teacher at the time, set my head straight as we talked about the pros and cons of this program. We both decided against it. I was also discouraged by the estimated $2500 it would cost in registration, materials, fees, and testing, not to mention the time it would potentially take me away from the classroom.

I was struck by the immediate super-stardom that these individuals enjoyed. They were coddled, and treated with such consideration. Their schedules were adjusted so that they might have opportunities to “get the work done”. They had to video-tape themselves in action, so we manipulated classroom settings and student groups so the videos would come out just right.

Personally, I became disgusted at the whole thing as I watched folks put on very impressive shows. They were talking as if they had been “enlightened”. They were rushing around, getting everyone involved in the frenzied effort to complete all the specific, detailed pieces of their submissions. Many of us were asked to write recommendations on behalf of them. Personally, knowing what I knew, I had a lump in my throat as I wrote two of these letters of support.

What a scam. Now, of the individuals I still come into contact with, I can only say that maybe one is a master of the fine art of teaching. The others are either faking it or doing nothing at all. They are less than mediocre. I give myself permission to say so, because I firmly believe in this profession and the urgency for teachers to be effective.

Actually, my students have made even greater gains, regardless of my not having National Board Certification. I have not worked the system, I have not sat on my ass, and I have not put on an act. I have worked very, very hard for my kids. I’ve held high expectations. I’ve been tough, but I’ve also been the person my kids could depend on. I have been present and I have been real.

As far as I’m concerned, in many cases, this extra certification is nothing more than a medal that you don’t really earn. You have to buy it. And from where I’m standing, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

1 comment:

B.B. said...

I share your sentiments in regards to this. Our society loves to reward hoop jumping don't they?