Sunday, July 1, 2007

You do not need a degree to teach 1st grade math

hOr second grade math. Or third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and on up. You don't need a college degree or a state teacher's license to teach history, social studies, grammar, literature or science. I know this for two reasons:

1) I'm doing it, and now I have the achievement test scores to prove that, even in their weakest subject, which is math, my kids are average students. So I must be succeeding. THEY must be succeeding. I can't begin to tell you how good that feels. I also know a lot of other people who are doing this very thing, some with much more success and creativity than I am achieving with my kids. I really look up to these people and steal their ideas whenever possible.

2) If there are subjects that un-teacher's-licensed, un-college-degreed teachers -- parents -- feel uncomfortale teaching, there is an entire internet full of curriculum catalogs and online programs that can generally be tailored to fit the needs of any student out there who needs to learn a specific subject.

I'm feeling in the mood for a bit of a rant because I am really tired of that stale, tired notion that the only people on God's earth who are qualified to teach something like, say, first grade math, are the people with the bachelors' degrees and the teaching certificates. I mean, we are talking about first grade math. You know, the math with the 2 + 1 and the let's-count-to-one-hundred and the little crate full of "manipulatives," which is a fancy term for "little objects, such as small plastic bears in primary colors, that children can pick up and count." I loved first grade math because our manipulatives often featured Jolly Ranchers and M&M's.

Why would any person need anything more than a brain in her head to do this? I know some people who don't even use textbooks to teach their kids elementary school math. I've never been one of those because I don't have math love, so a textbook always seemed like a good way to make my job a little easier and keep me focused on what the girls needed at each separate grade level. But believe me, children can learn to add fractions without sitting in a traditional classroom with a traditional textbook and a traditional teacher standing up in front of the chalkboard.

There's one argument out there that I hear repeatedly and every time someone brings this up to me, I just want to spit. I don't, of course. But I'd like to. It's the argument that says, "Only qualified instructors can teach things to children because they have had the benefit of teacher education courses in college that have prepared them for the specific task of teaching children the things they need to know."

This argument is based on the different styles of learning. Some people learn by listening, some people learn by writing information down, some people learn by doing, etc. Supposedly, only "real" teachers know this information and can take it from its theoretic form in an expensive college-level text and apply it in the actual sense in a classroom full of children whose learning styles include all the different types of learning, some with more than one.

It's as if some people believe that information on the learning process and childhood development and teaching methodologies and modalities are some big secret hidden on college campuses across the nation.

That kind of thinking really burns my biscuits because I've never yet known a homeschooling mother who didn't go to great lengths to find out the information she needed to know in order to best teach her child. In fact, I've heard more discussions about learning styles and teaching methods since we began homeschooling than I ever did in the faculty lounges of the public schools I've taught in. And it's not that I worked with incompetent, stupid teachers when I was teaching. It's just that parents have an extreme level of interest in their children's academic, emotional and social success that no public school teacher can ever share. It isn't possible for a public school teacher, especially in the upper grades, since they generally see over one hundred students a day, to have that level of interest.

That's why, when the public school teacher sitting next to me at the pool eyed me beadily and said, "Well, at least you have a degree. Most of those...mothers....who teach their children at home have no idea what they're even doing," it was so terribly, terribly hard for me to resist throuwing her into the pool and then bouncing that first grade mathematics teacher's manual right off her head.

I even managed not to say, "Hey! How 'bout them test scores? I was reading in the newspaper that the school at which you teach is leaving children so far behind, they're nothing more than a dot in the road surrounded by a dust cloud."

Instead, I just smiled a little Mona Lisa sort of smile and said, "Oh, goodness. That's certainly not typical of my experience in a large and active homeschooling group..."

And then I began telling her enthusiastic stories of successful homeschoolers and their wonderful parents until her eyes began to glaze over and a little muscle in her jaw began to twitch and she began to shoot desperate little looks around to see if there was someone she knew who could come rescue her from the clutches of The Mighty Homeschooler.

Hear me roar. And don't even think about giving me that steaming load of "don't know what they're doing" poop because I just won't stand for it.


Kbg said...

You are wasting your breath...either they get it, or they don't. A C- average in college qualifies you to become a teacher. Most teacher credit hours revolve around crowd control and classroom discipline, etc., not actual subject matter. I HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF RESPECT FOR TEACHERS and think they are marvelous to undertake what they do...I do not think that they are omniscient as they, as a group, tend to think of themselves. I also do not think this of ALL homeschoolers, so I figure it is trade...LOL. Each on an individual basis...and you at the highest on the list of good and capable and highly motivated teachers. Still...we feel inclined to try to wave the banner, don't we? But, in all fairness...aren't you happy that a majority of those students are sitting in those classrooms with those teachers...hee hee us shorter lines and more time to be really good educators for ours! The crowd control issue is a lot easier for us on a daily basis...and I think each one of those teachers envies us our student-teacher ratio. What I have found to be very helpful is saying things like, "Oh, a fellow fun. Tell me, what subject(s) so you teach and what did you like best about what you taught this year? What field trips did you go on? What first-hand experiences did you get to do this year? What texts/books did you fall in love with, and more importantly, did your students fall in love with this year? What worked this year? What didn't? What will you do again next year? What won't you do again next year?" Before you know it, you are what you both are...teachers comparing and sharing information and you have made a new friend. This is my favorite approach. I have shared a lot, learned a lot, and it is always fun!

bluebonnet said...

The reason we need classroom teachers is that a lot of parents do not have the luxury to stay home with their children all day and teach them. Of course you can learn the same techniques and access the same resources that classroom teachers use to teach children. No college educated teacher would argue against that. The primary issue you're ignoring, and the one I think you feel inferior about, is could you perform in a classroom environment with a diverse populace of children at different skill levels with different needs and problems. The main reason I am opposed to homeschooling, and I think most teachers are, is that homeschooled children often aren't socialized to life outside the home. They sometimes are secluded from society and come into close contact with only family and family friends. This isn't true in cases where children are allowed to participate in private lessons and sports and such, so it's not an absolute, but there's so much taught about democracy and community just being in a good public school environment and I'm afraid a lot of homeschooled children have to miss out on that.

bluebonnet said...
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