A disturbing new report adds more evidence to a major worry with respect to teaching: this incredibly challenging career may be waning in prestige, spawning a downward spiral that can only hurt teachers and K-12 students.
Third Way’s report, Teaching: The Next Generation, shares some depressing statistics. According to this think tank’s polling of 400 high-achieving college students, teaching is becoming less prestigious and teacher preparation is viewed as one of the easiest majors out there. And to add insult to injury, only a third of those polled would describe teachers as “smart.” Instead, they characterize teachers as “nice,” “patient,” and…. “average.” That last one’s got to hurt – especially since anyone who has spent time in front of a class of K-12 students knows that to be a great teacher, one must be anything but average.
(Source: Teaching: The Next Generation)
So what’s fueling this lack of respect for teachers and teacher preparation? The report identifies lots of causes such as easy entry requirements, a lack of opportunities for professional advancement and low K-12 student achievement. One that we’re especially interested in is the preparation required of teacher candidates. It’s hard to argue that teacher preparation courses are all that challenging when they contain assignments like these (taken from real college courses, for real college credit):
PASSPORT: This is a document that tells me about you. On the index card provided, include a personal picture (a snapshot is okay), some information about your likes and dislikes, something most people wouldn’t know about you, and something about where you have been and where you are going. Be creative!! Also, be sure to include your name, address, phone #, e-mail, current semester and year, and course & time.
Phonics/Word study assessment: A crossword puzzle that assesses knowledge of the terminology that is useful for the teaching of word study, phonics and fluency will be completed in class.
Assignments like these can hardly give teacher prep a good name among high-achieving college students. (And lest you think we’ve cherry-picked a few cringeworthy examples to make a point, this is an issue we’ll examine in great depth in a report coming out this fall.) They cast a shadow that gives a bad name to lots of nice, patient, and smart teachers.