Hey Beginning Teachers, Don’t Do This

In a 40 yard dash the Labradude would beat me by at least 20 yards, but stretch it out a few miles and the tide turns. In fact, when I pick him up near the end of a run for a lap around the ‘hood, he often slows me down. Until I yell at him. Not that kind of yelling. When I say, “Good boy! That a boy! Keep it up Marley! You’re the Usain Bolt of Labradoodles!” he picks up the pace.

When Kemberly Patteson was getting her teaching credential, someone should have told her that even dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. What’s true for the Labradude is doubly true for adolescents. Which leads to the funny/sad story of the week.

From the Associated Press. STEVENSONSkamania County — A Stevenson High School teacher who used a “Wheel of Misfortune” to discipline students will keep her job.

The Stevenson-Carson School District concluded Thursday that science teacher Kemberly Pattesonused poor judgment but never intended to hurt or embarrass students with the spinning wheel, which violated the district’s anti-bullying policy.

The Columbian reports a parent complained last week about how students would spin the wheel to find out what their punishment would be for low-level misconduct.

One of the choices was a firing squad with rubber balls that classmates would throw. The wheel has been removed.

Think how much time the Wheel of Misfortune took from meaningful teaching and learning. I can just picture the class hooting and hollering as the smiling offender approaches the Wheel. Patteson, playing Vanna White, probably narrated the whole thing. “What has today’s perp won? Death by rubber balls!”

At that point, I imagine, all hell broke lose. If I was a high schooler, trying to bean my classmate would’ve been a highlight of the day. It probably took most of the class period to recover from the pandemonium.

“I Am Thinking of Teaching”

Recently a friend and loyal PressingPause reader confided in me that he was considering becoming a teacher. Cool dat.

Here is the best book I’ve ever read on deciding whether to teach.

At some point during their teacher prep coursework and internship, every teacher-to-be I’ve worked with over the last two decades concludes “Teaching well is way harder than I ever imagined.”

So my first suggestion is to think again if you perceive teaching as an 8a-2:30p, summers off, easy gig. I’d bet a sizable portion of my modest teacher’s salary that teaching well is considerably more difficult and exhausting than you might imagine.

Having said that, our prospective teacher friend has attributes that would translate well in the classroom. He’s a deeply committed and caring parent of elementary age children, he’s resilient, has impeccable integrity, and rich life experience.

Given the bevy of thoughtful educators here, he probably doesn’t need the aformentioned book for guidance.

There are technical and qualitative ways to approach the question of whether to teach. Among the questions: 1) What are the technical professional requirements? 2) What are teaching’s challenges and rewards? 3) What do the best teachers have in common?

The technical requirements vary a bit from state to state and they change overtime so I’m a little hesitant to offer much specific counsel to our friend because he’s seven years away from wrapping up his first career.

In short, one has to decide whether they want to pursue elementary or secondary (middle school and high school) certification. The best way to do that is spend time with both groups in and outside of schools. If secondary, one has to decide what content area(s) to teach. In Washington State teachers are required to have 20 academic credits in any particular content area, called an “endorsement”, (e.g., English, social studies, math, biology, Spanish) and pass the corresponding West E, a content knowledge exam. Backing up a bit, one also has to pass the West B exam, a basic math/English/reading literacy test. The “B” is relatively easy, some candidates have to take “E’s” more than once before passing.

Then, you have to apply for, be admitted to, and complete a licensure program. They tend to vary in length from one to two years. Some are certificate or licensure only programs, others, like the one I coordinate, enable people to earn their certificate and a Masters degree simultaneously. All programs are a mix of coursework and an internship that culminates in full-time student teaching.

That’s a quick introduction to the technical professional requirements, but what about the equally if not more important qualitative considerations?

What “matters of the heart” guidance would you offer our fellow reader? What are teaching’s challenges and rewards? What do the best teachers have in common?