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Into the classroom

Published on -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

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Into the classroom

Patrick Lowry's editorial on June 8 titled "Fake teachers" glosses over the fact fully qualified high school teachers in highly technical areas are in short supply. If these people readily were available to the teaching profession and students, there would not be the constant go-round there is. Those who have the aptitude and interest to major or minor in math or science are more likely to go into other professions. These pay better. So it often is the marginally capable math and science students who choose teaching, with the idea they can make it here.

This is not all bad, because they are the ones who can understand the difficulties average students have with the subject material. They can remember where the struggle with the hardest parts lay. And they are more likely to be patient with the slower students.

No one would refute educational theory (and later practice) and subject material competence combine to define the best teachers. But in math and science, the demand leans toward subject material competence. Except for the brightest, mastering math and (physical) science requires hard mental work. Too few want to do this.

Basic competence in educational theory and subject mastery is measured by Praxis exams, so it is not entirely a guessing game about who measures up and who doesn't. Still, the fact is too few students become qualified to teach math and science at whatever level of competence. This is why "outsiders" are being considered as "substitutes". These "fake teachers" can fill the gap the small number of fully qualified math and science teachers leave. I do not think in this manner anyone's job is threatened.

In Kansas, there is an alternative path toward teacher qualification that entails taking six education courses to cover the basics. Sure there likely is to be a transitional period where teaching inexperience might weigh heavily on the "pretender," but this transition is more likely to succeed than the alternative of having a mathematically and scientifically illiterate person try to teach difficult material he or she never learned in the first place.

Lastly, Lowry is right in asserting teaching makes its own special demands no other profession does. These practitioners need to be a jack of all trades, as well as (at least) master of one, and the process of gaining professional competence is "a tough row to hoe."

Anyone who has done this deserves our admiration and acclaim. No profession (other than possibly nursing) deserves more.

Gary Whitesell,

Hays

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