The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Benevolence alone will not make a teacher, nor will learning alone do it. The gift of teaching is a peculiar talent, and implies a need and a craving in the teacher himself." ... ...John Jay Chapman, Memories and Milestones...

Commentary of the Day - Dec 3, 2000:  A Tale Out of School - Guest Commentary by an anonymous colleague:

The following commentary was sent to the IP by a colleague physics professor from a midwestern state who wishes to remain anonymous:

High schools are searching for licensed physics teachers.  I get several calls a year asking if we have any physics teachers coming through our system.  Often our students have gotten job offers even before they have completed student teaching.

However, in a high school not too far away is a person teaching physics with an "emergency temporary license."  This person does not have a teaching license in physics.  In fact, he does not have a teaching license in anything.  He is not a certified teacher at all.  He has been teaching as an "emergency teacher" for the past four years.

Last year we had a good physics teacher graduate who lived not too far from this school.  Therefore she thought this would be a good school for her to teach at.  She went to the superintendent and asked if she could be considered for the physics teacher position.  The superintendent said there was no opening.  She said she knew the current teacher had no teaching credentials at all, let alone physics.  He said that with the previous physics teacher (who was a real physics teacher) he got lots of complaints that the teacher was too hard.  The current "physics teacher" is popular, students love him, and the superintendent has had no complaints from students nor parents in the several years this "teacher" has been there.  Therefore he is keeping the current "teacher."

I told our graduate that "emergency teaching licenses" require that the superintendent certify (on an annual basis) that no qualified teacher could be found.  Since she walked in and offered her services, the superintendent could not make this certification without lying.  I said she should consider reporting the superintendent to our State Board of Education.

She said (probably correctly) that it wasn't worth it because it would not be good to teach in a situation under a superintendent who pulled a trick like this.  (That shows she was a pretty astute young teacher.)

She got a job someplace else, is doing a wonderful job (I hear), and the "non-teacher" is still teaching and is still "popular" with the students.
The IP comments:  Unfortunately, the attitude of the school administrator involved in this situation is all too common.  Rather than being concerned about what his students are learning, he is more concerned with keeping students and parents happy.  Unfortunately, that attitude has given the United States a few generations of high school graduates who are (temporarily) happy but unaware of how ignorant they are.  The first few semesters of college frequently are very discomforting to these students.

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