Teaching – Not a Profession

I participated in an Elluminate session with Guest – Linda Darling-Hammond, moderated by Steve Hargadon tonight. An Engaging discussion – it was.

In particular, I found it interesting how Linda described the teaching field as “not a profession’. In this, she provided the three main characteristics of a “Profession” –

1) There is a moral commitment to do what is best for clients and make decisions, ie: Doctors make a pledge to do no harm or Engineers insist on safe standards (regardless of government cutting costs).

2) There is a common knowledge base – shared by all members of the profession. She gave the example that you can count on the fact that all doctors, engineers, and accountants will have specific training.

3) There is a definition of the profession and the standards are enforced.

Darling-Hammond stressed that many teachers DO behave as professionals, however, the occupation as a whole does not. She says, “We invest so little on preparation and don’t provide quality access to specific knowledge bases (special education, language learners)”. She also noted that because schools are political managed, there is so much governance outside the knowledge base – which may not always be good for students. Along with a few other participants, I couldn’t help but reflect on the impact that standardized testing is doing to our students- and teachers for that matter. But we do it because we have to – it is what our politicians tell us to do.

This brought about backchannel discussion specifically about teacher education programs. One participant (Elizabeth) stated, “The EDUCATOR PREPARATION programs (for teachers and leaders) must deliver a more coherent, focused preparation program that delivers the workforce needed in today’s world. Why is this knowledge not being uniformly transmitted in colleges and universities?”

Participants also voiced their concerns about in-school professional development and many people asserted that teachers, like students develop a different paces and with different needs. This supports the research that our students today are a generation of customization. Don Tapscott points out in his book, “Grown Up Digital” that this generation of learners has been accustomed to customization – of just about everything. We customize our phones, our ring-tones, our avatars, blog pages, twitter backgrounds. We customize music folders, Youtube channels and our networks. Most recently, we are customizing our learning -who we learn from, when we learn, how we learn, what medium we learn from. So why can’t we have more input and customization of the PD that is happening at our schools on a day to day basis?

The session ended with one unanswered question – not mine – but one to think about,

“What role you think the personal learning networks and networked learning communities can play in strengthening the teaching and administrative troops so they can better meet the needs of their students?” (Lisa Mireles)

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