Are Teachers Treated as Professionals?
Teaching is a noble profession that has evolved over time to include a variety of subjects and teaching methods that aim to broaden the perspectives and thinking abilities of students. In the American culture, education is a right that is legally guaranteed to all Americans as it is a means of empowering individuals with the ability to play significant roles in their democratic government while it provides every citizen with the opportunity to realize their potential with creative and dynamic skill sets that help build the American enterprise. The difficulty with the education system is that the world's knowledge currently expands at an exponential rate revealing flaws in the education system that prevent many American students from keeping up with that growth. For failing schools and teachers, many believe the solution involves dictating educational standards and curriculum. This means heavy testing, more teacher training, and punishments for a lack of success on standardized tests. However, there are several failures of such efforts to reform the education system and one of those major shortcomings is that teachers are not treated as professional educators.
Professionals are a class of the work force who hold skills and knowledge that allow them to manage other individuals while they develop and direct the processes that help their businesses succeed. Essentially, there are two components to being a professional. The secondary component to being a professional is that professionals are entirely responsible for their decisions and ideas; efforts in dealing with America's education system are directed toward fulfilling this obligation. On the other hand, professionals must first be given the responsibility and authority to make decisions on how they conduct their profession. Professionalism is more than an attitude or a liability for a lack of results as professions are careers that involve independent decisions and standards set by a consensus of the professionals.
Professionalism in the field of education consists of relying on the skills of teachers to develop standards for curriculum while the profession, across the country as a whole, is responsible for setting teaching standards. Furthermore, teachers either earn a teaching degree with a specialization or earn a degree in a specific academic field then move onto obtain a teaching certificate. As such, they possess a professional degree that qualifies them to help develop a curriculum in their field and guarantees they have the skills to administer that curriculum. It is perfectly legitimate for our Country to develop a National standard, through the consultation of top teachers, psychologists who study learning, and higher education professors who are advanced teachers, that acts as a baseline for curriculums across the Country. However, it is disrespectful to the professionalism of teachers to dictate that all students will perform well on an incomplete national test that does not cover all areas of study and requires the full academic year to train for while the test judges the knowledge base of the student without regard to their learning abilities, background, or nontraditional education.
Teachers, as a group, must be allowed to design a curriculum that teaches students to learn while individual teachers must be given the opportunity to design education methods and have the chance to justify their views on education through the designing of their school's curriculum; this is partially how education advances. Frankly, only when teachers and their professional opinions are respected can they be held responsible for their performance and their conduct as educators. When standardized tests over focus on knowledge base instead of the ability to absorb and process information along with the ability to solve novel problems with a total lack of attention to the humanities and social sciences, they corral education into stagnation; education cannot keep up with the amount of growth in knowledge as it can only prepare students to learn that knowledge as they grow. A professional teacher is a teacher that guides students to learn by providing their students with learning skills and analytical abilities.
Holding up teachers as professionals allows those who are great teachers to have the independence required to be great teachers while weak teachers are able to benefit from the experiences and skills of great teachers. In the process of developing curriculum, teachers must justify their motivation for a particular idea, so weak teachers will be unable to defend their ideas, thus, a support system needs to be in place to deal with weak teachers through extended training or dismissal if necessary. People who are professionals are held to the standards of their profession, and so, treating teachers as professionals will help to inspire them to act professionally; whereas, treating them as assembly line workers will discourage good teachers from excelling.
Above all, teachers need to be treated as professionals in both their freedom to excel as teachers and the responsibility they take on as a manager of the classroom. If government is contend with standardized tests and a curriculum that revolves around that test, then teachers should no longer be require to possess professional degrees as only a training course designed around that standardized curriculum, which leads to a certification, is necessary. On the other hand, the professional degrees that teachers are currently required to hold are valuable to students, but they can only be utilized when a curriculum reflects the teachers' direct input. Overall, repairing the education system is something that goes beyond treating teachers as professionals; reform must be implemented at the institutional level as well the national level for any true progress to be made. Treating teachers as professionals is part of that strategy as it brings those who are ultimately responsible for the quality of the educational experience that Americans receive into focus.