certification, reasons for

In response to a job-seeker highly qualified to teach Chinese EXCEPT for not having a h.s. certificate, I responded on a List thus:

Having seen a number of student teachers and a number of people trying to teach as aides, I can say that teacher ed courses are not a waste, despite the opprobrium heaped on them by liberals and conservatives alike. It is one thing to know a language and another to teach 16 year old American kids in a typical American high school – there’s nothing like it in the world. I’ve seen perfectly good, competent people go under when faced with 30-35 American teenagers.

Now here’s the funny part: I have nothing—I repeat, NOTHING— like the competence in any language other than English that Jeffrey has in Chinese, but I taught very well.

This has nothing to do with NCLBBS; ’qualified’ means qualified, not certificated. But the certification process at least guarantees that teachers have been exposed to notions and practices fundamental to teaching…. not much else, but at least that.

I would not want to turn students at my former school over to a teacher, no matter how well versed in the language and culture, who knew nothing about how adolescents learn, grow, react… and esp American kids in public schools. If you don’t understand IPods and who the skaters and the cowboys are and why the Black kids congregate in one particular hallway, you don’t belong in an American school. Notice I left out all the good stuff about proficiency and communicative methods; even a strict grammar-translation teacher can get kids enthused about a language if they know kids and know how to teach.

So I would hope someone who knows a language and culture well could compromise i.e. get a teaching certificate. Or go to the community college level. That would be great. But teaching kids is a demanding task with its own dynamics and dimensions. Would that the ed we get in colleges of ed were up to snuff, but at least they offer some basic understanding of the psychology of learning, of personality, of age-related issues, of social issues, and so on. I know we have many teachers who would like to do away with all that and simply rely on the vaunted transmission of authority…. kind of like the Chinese do.

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