Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Degree Necessary

It was inevitable that when the state of Connecticut proposed a bill no longer requiring substitute teachers to hold a degree that it would pass.  It was announced this morning that yes, in deed, substitute teachers can enter a classroom without having a degree.  

I can understand a couple of arguments for doing this.  My state has been losing jobs at an alarming rate over the last five - ten years and they have been finding more and more creative ways to create them.  This may certainly create jobs because in the last three years those in the business field who have gotten laid off often go to a temp service and sign up to be a substitute teacher.  I know because they have been in my classroom.  

Another reason for no longer requiring a degree could be to fill much needed substitute teacher slots.  There are many days in my school and schools around the state when there are not enough substitute teachers available.  This often means that tutorial staff or paraprofessional support needs to get pulled from their necessary duties and put into a classroom for the day.

I can understand it.  But I don't like it.  This devalues the teaching profession.  Would we ever have someone without the necessary degrees or education to stand in for a lawyer or doctor?  I am going to take a gamble here and say NO.  And there is good reason for it.  I have written before about my grave concerns about ill - equipped substitute teachers.  If someone with a degree is ill - equipped to deal with these daily intricacies of classroom life, then how will someone without a degree?  I will concede that you don't necessary need a degree or education to do a variety of things well, including education.  But honestly, this is the exception. 

So here is my hope.  It is my hope that teaching colleges in Connecticut and those on the Connecticut border take notice of this bill.  It is my hope that in this bill they will see opportunity for their teacher candidates.  Encouraging them to become substitute teachers.  I see this as an excellent opportunity for teacher candidates to get practical classroom experience.  They will be able to see a variety of teaching styles, classroom designs, and build a repertoire of lesson ideas.

While this is not ideal in the sense the teacher candidates would not have a mentor in these situations.  I also see potential for this.  What if teaching colleges and school districts became a bit more like a clinical experience?  So a college would be linked to a few school districts where their candidates could go to become substitute teachers.  But, they would be assigned a mentor who would help them navigate any problems that occur while substitute teaching.  This of course would change the meaning of teacher preparation, but that's okay.