Teaching is a profession, not a whim

Published in the Chicago Tribune on May 4

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board told lawmakers to “scrap” a plan designed to attract more people to the teaching profession, taking the right step to address the teacher shortage, by paying teachers a minimum salary of $40,000.

Instead, the board suggested, people with bachelor’s degrees who decide mid-career to teach should be able to do so with no classroom or education-related training. Or, it was proposed, people with associate degrees should be allowed to lead Illinois classrooms.

“But let that conversation also be about dropping onerous barriers to teaching. Peel them back. Open the field. Ease licensing requirements,” the Tribune urged.


This denigration of the teaching profession exemplifies the attitude that caused the teacher shortage in the first place and, more recently, drove teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and elsewhere, to advocate for respectful wages and appropriate resources for their students.

On one hand, policymakers, who don’t understand that the education of students is much more than a test score, tell teachers, “Because we want the best for our kids, we’re going to test our students to prove that they’re learning what they’re supposed to be learning and then we want to evaluate teachers based on those tests.”

Yet, at the same time, educators nationwide are told by non-educators: “We should lower the standards for the people to whom we entrust our children’s education and upon whom we rely to fill their heads with knowledge and stimulate a love of learning.”

See the contradiction? The goal is “better teaching” and “better results,” yet the proposal is to accomplish those goals by lowering the bar for classroom teachers. This is illogical.

It’s painful to state something so obvious: Not everyone can teach. Acquiring a bachelor’s degree and spending a few years in another profession doesn’t mean you have the skills it takes to manage a classroom of 25 students. You don’t walk in, untrained, and understand all of the different ways those students learn and how to assess whether they’ve actually learned what you’ve taught them.

Those skills are not typically acquired in the two years it takes to earn an associate degree.

Teaching is a profession. To address the teacher shortage, instead of “easing” teacher licensure requirements, let’s show our teachers their work is valued. Acknowledge that teaching is a profession.

We should have high standards for our teachers. And, we should pay them what they’re worth.