It’s hard to believe that it’s time for school to start again. As parents and children visit schools with anticipation, parents might want to ask their student’s teachers about their instructional backgrounds.
School districts used to be fairly vigilant about ensuring teachers had the right state credentials. That may no longer be the case. But a parent has the right to know who’s teaching their child.
All around the country, school districts are reporting teacher shortages. Orlando is the latest. The fear is that quality teachers have left, and schools will resort to hiring inexperienced and unprepared individuals with little understanding of the needs of students.
Students spend between 175 and 180 days in school, and/or between 900 and 1,000 hours in the classroom, with teachers. This is a long time during formative years. One bad teacher or crummy school year can have a lasting effect.
I would ask a teacher about their qualifications in elementary, middle and high school. I’d even find out what kind of child development preparation my preschool teacher had obtained.
Note: If you are a qualified teacher, get those diplomas and certificates framed and hang them on the wall where parents can see them. Be proud of your accomplishments and show that you are the real deal.
Teachers usually give a rundown of what they will be doing for the school year at open house. But it is often a busy night and it is not the right place to quiz the teacher on their background.
If you are active in the PTA, I would request that this year’s president get the school to provide not just a directory, but a list of teacher bios. The principal and any support staff should be listed there too. That way, parents don’t have to approach the teacher with questioning.
But if that’s not provided, here are the questions I would ask my child’s new teacher/s. And don’t just do this in public school. Do it in charter and private schools too.
- Do you have state certification in the subject you are teaching? This means that an elementary teacher should have qualifications from an accredited school to teach elementary school. In secondary schools, teachers should be credentialed in the subject, along with education courses that deal with that particular age group.
- For elementary school, I’d ask how the teacher will teach reading. They should be able to briefly describe any programs they are using or how they will go about it.
- If it is a high school, make sure you are given graduation requirements. This is especially important if your student has a disability. You will want to know about testing requirements and whether students get special diplomas if they don’t do well on the test.
- What college did you attend? In some states almost anyone can teach. Ask your child’s teacher where they went to school. Hopefully, it will be a well-known accredited college. If you have never heard of the school, check on it on the Internet when you get home. Look to see what kind of education program is offered. Not all college programs are alike.
- I would ask what the protocol is if a student falls behind. Most schools provide graded lists of what is expected at each grade level.
- Do you have alternative certification? If this is the case, ask what program it is from. I would be leery if they say Relay, Teach for America, Teaching Fellows, or other fast-track training.
- If your student’s teacher is from an alternative program due to shortages in the school district, what are they doing to learn how to be a better teacher? Are they taking classes to get certified?
- How long have you been teaching? If the teacher doesn’t have good credentials and also has not taught long, I would be concerned.
- What will you teach this year? Along with reading, in elementary school, a child should get exposure to a variety of subjects. This is evident in high school.
- Are you teaching Common Core? You can’t blame the teacher for this, but you have a right to know.
- How much standardized testing will be administered, and what are the opt-out policies if you don’t want your child taking the test/s?
- If the teacher is not credentialed and is a substitute teacher, ask how long they will be in the position. Children sometimes get stuck with a sub for a lengthy period of time, which is unfair.
- How much online instruction will take place? Is the teacher talking about blended learning? If so, what exactly will that mean for student instruction? How much actual teacher instruction will the student get?
- Check on your State Online Certification Site. As a comment below points out–most states have certification list where you can check on the teacher’s name and their credentials. This is not a bad thing to do for charter and private schools too.
If you are not satisfied with the answers, check with other parents. If possible, organize and approach the principal. Also, make it known to the PTA, district personnel, and the school board.
Parents need to demand qualified teachers and administrators.
Hopefully, all the teachers in your child’s school will be college graduates in education and appropriately credentialed by the state. If not, drawing attention to the situation through letter writing and speaking out at school boards might help.
In my new book I write about the loss of qualified teachers and the struggle to hang on to the teaching profession.
In my other book, I wrote about how teachers defend children against troubling, corporate school reforms.