6 Reasons to Respect Teaching as a Profession
Do you think teaching is a profession?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a profession is defined as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” Ballantine and Spade list six characteristics that distinguish a profession from other occupations. These characteristics can help answer that question.
- Are there credential and licensing requirements for aspiring teachers? American teachers are required to have a teaching license. Credentialing is handled by individual states.
Granted, there are alternative certification programs, such as Teach for America. These types of programs allow graduates from various fields (including graduates from schools of education) to participate in intensive preparatory programs lasting several weeks to enable them to join the teaching workforce. Because of these programs, increased numbers of teachers are available. However, some of these teachers might lack much-needed pedagogical skills.
Every state has a process for conferring teaching credentials (licensure) to pre-service teachers who have completed the state requirements for teaching certification. The process may include graduating from an accredited teacher education program and passing teaching licensure exams. When states experience a shortage of teachers, they can issue emergency licensure to college graduates who want to educate students but haven’t met all of the state requirements for licensure. Emergency licensure or credentials are given on the assumption that these teachers will be able to pass the state licensure exam or complete the required coursework.
To find out more, you’ll need to research your state requirements for teacher licensure. Your state’s department of education Web site will have this information. The teacher licensure requirements vary from state to state, so a lot of states have reciprocity agreements that make it fairly easy for educators who hold licensure in one state to gain licensure in another state. Over 40 states have pledged to follow this process, and in many cases it’s as easy as filling out a few forms. In others, the process can be more tedious. To know whether your state has a reciprocity agreement, visit its department of education Web site.
- Do U.S. schools have induction and mentoring programs for new teachers? Several programs make it easier for new teachers to adjust to their careers. In the United States, the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Program provides nearly $3 billion per year to states to train, recruit, and prepare new teachers. The main provisions of these funds are the implementation of teacher induction programs. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 also provides grants that facilitate teacher induction and mentoring programs for new teachers.
Mentorship relationships are also common, with experienced teachers mentoring new or beginning teachers during their first year of teaching.
- Do U.S. schools offer professional development support and opportunities? In the United States, most schools provide their teachers with regular professional development opportunities. These opportunities include workshops and other activities organized internally by the school or externally by other professional organizations. Teachers may also choose to participate in professional development voluntarily by enrolling in courses at a local college or university.
- Are there specializations within the teaching profession? In the U.S. school system, specializations are determined by the grade level and the subjects teachers are certified to teach. An elementary teacher’s training differs significantly from a secondary school teacher’s. And at the secondary level, teachers are more specialized by subject matter; for example, a biology teacher’s training necessarily differs from a French teacher’s.
- Are teachers well compensated? There is ongoing debate about the adequacy of teacher salaries. The gap between starting salaries and end-of-career salaries for teachers is significant, so there is room for promotion and increase in salary for teachers who want to advance their careers.
- Do teachers enjoy prestige and high social standing? The teaching profession has average prestige and social standing when compared to other professions. Teachers are considered less prestigious than physicians, attorneys, and engineers, but have higher social standing than police, bank tellers, and social workers.
Note that all six criteria are satisfied to some extent. Whatever else you may think about teaching, it may certainly be considered a profession.