Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

My Mother's Teaching Career-What It Can Tell Us about Teachers Who Are Not Fully Certified: While Ms. Clement Favors More Traditional Paths to Teaching, Culminating in Full Certification, She Admits That There Are Other Viable Options. after All, Her Mother Was a Fine Teacher, and Her Only Credential Was a High School Diploma

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

My Mother's Teaching Career-What It Can Tell Us about Teachers Who Are Not Fully Certified: While Ms. Clement Favors More Traditional Paths to Teaching, Culminating in Full Certification, She Admits That There Are Other Viable Options. after All, Her Mother Was a Fine Teacher, and Her Only Credential Was a High School Diploma

Article excerpt

AS A PROFESSOR of teacher education, I occasionally get on my soapbox about teachers who aren't fully certified. Even though I know that full certification doesn't necessarily mean fully qualified or master teacher or even fully committed teacher, I believe that certification still represents our best effort to regulate teacher quality. Some of my colleagues remind me that, without provisionally certified teachers in classrooms, class size would become unmanageable in some areas of the country. Politicians and state policy makers suggest that we need more subject-matter specialists from the "real world" as teachers of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and other high-needs fields. These arguments in support of teachers without full certification do not faze me, but my mother can humble me on the subject very quickly. "Well, I know I certainly didn't hurt any children when I taught them, and without me, I don't think some of those children would have received much of an education at that time." Touche!

Mother taught from 1945 to 1947, in one of the last one-room country schools in West Central Illinois, and her career has always intrigued me. As a child I would giggle when she would drive by the old school, telling some funny story, like how one time she caught some boys smoking grape leaves behind the building and pretending they were smoking real cigarettes. I was actually in the building once before it was torn down, and I tried to picture my mother there.

When I began to think seriously about my mother as an educator under "interesting" circumstances, I first asked her, "How did you even get the job without any college education or teacher training?"

"It wasn't that hard, you know," she answered. "There was a real teacher shortage because of the war, and I had a high school diploma with pretty fair grades. Your grandparents were well-respected farmers in the area, and the people who hired me probably thought that any farm girl had the work ethic required to get to school early, start a fire in the furnace, and teach. Besides, I was 19, and we all have boundless enthusiasm at 19, so that probably influenced the assistant superintendent's decision." The main point is that my mother was there in the community and available to work.

"Okay, so you got hired. But weren't you terrified of walking in on the first day and not knowing what to do? I mean, where did you start? What did you know about long-range curriculum mapping? Lesson planning? Assessment? Classroom management? Meeting the needs of diverse students?"

"Those things didn't scare me a bit," my mother answered. "I was given books, and apparently the curriculum was what was in the books. I was given a record book, and that took care of assessment. Lesson planning was easy. I had gone to school for 12 years, and I knew that I should teach the way I had been taught. As far as discipline, well, I was the teacher, and in 1945 that took care of itself. I told students that if they got their work done, I would play baseball with them at recess. It was a great motivator. Meeting their diverse needs? There were only nine students the first year, so I got to know each one well and went from there."

But what kinds of resources were available? And what did Mother read to "come up to speed" with her teaching? Apparently the journal The Grade Teacher, both old and current copies, was a big help to her and to many other teachers of the time. An article in the September 1943 issue, "A Letter to You About Those Important First Days," was written to help rural teachers get their first year of teaching off to a good start. Some advice included attending the first teachers' meeting, even if it took place on Saturday, as was frequently the case; arriving at the schoolhouse early on the first day and having a bouquet of flowers in place; making sure erasers were cleaned and placed with chalk on chalk trays; and selecting a good story to tell to the students on the first day. …

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