“I’m here today to challenge us all to work together towards one profound goal: to make teaching one of our nation’s most venerated professions.”
(Arne Duncan at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Annual Conference in Washington D.C. July 29)
As a Nationally Board Certified teacher, I would like to see the teaching profession become more highly respected and understood, a profession where teachers are fairly compensated for the invaluable work we do every day. Will this ever be the case? What will have to happen in the United States to move teaching into the same prestigious realm of doctors and lawyers? How can we make this happen?
For one thing, we will have to compensate teachers fairly. Duncan noted in his speech that teachers should start at $60,000 and move upwards to $150,000. In the real world, money talks. We need to pay teachers what we’re worth so that we don’t have to work an extra job or leave the profession to provide for our families. Better compensation would change the game completely.
Making the standards more rigorous to become a teacher would also help. I’ve had conversations with teachers who envision a teaching residency, similar to a medical residency, where novice teachers shadow master teachers and eventually take over the responsibility of educating a classroom of students. A national conversation about what truly makes a teacher effective would help guide states in making changes to their teacher credentialing requirements.
Increasing the number of teachers who are Nationally Board Certified and making public the amount of rigor and mastery it takes to accomplish this certification will raise the respectability of the profession. Creating four classroom-based portfolio entries and passing six exams is not an easy task. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap either. Making the $2,500 process more affordable to classroom teachers will help get more than the 3% of teachers across the country into this prestigious field. It’s also a reflective process for teachers that results in better instruction and learning for students.
Lastly, including teacher voice in the work of education reform would ensure that new policies reflect what is truly possible in the classroom. Teachers are intelligent, hard-working, and resourceful professionals who have valuable insight into how students best learn. Including our experience and suggestions in a meaningful way would strengthen our profession and enhance student growth.
I know that the task of transforming my profession will not happen overnight. This is incredibly complex and difficult work, but so is teaching. We, as a community, need to commit to this work because our nation’s students deserve a world-class educational system, and so do their teachers.
Geneviève DeBose is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Bronx Charter School for the Arts in New York City.