Qualified to Teach?

June 21, 2012 — 1 Comment

For the past week I’ve been going through orientation for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. This orientation has brought together 64 recent college graduates who will be traveling to Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia (Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan).

There is a wide variety of students here, but very few of the ETAs have teaching experience (or were even teaching majors).

For the past three days we have been receiving instruction in teaching English as a foreign language. Throughout this program I’ve asked myself what qualifies me to teach English in Sri Lanka? I majored in finance at Fordham, not teaching. But the State Department saw something in me that made them believe I’m qualified to represent America and teach abroad.

Yesterday is came across a great NPR article on teaching qualifications. It turns out that Einstein would not be able to teach Physics in high school – as he was not a certified teacher.

At Fordham some of my best professors were those who didn’t have a doctorate degree, but had a great deal of real world experience. Charlie O’Donnell is a great example of this, his class fundamentally changed my career outlook. He is not an academic, and doesn’t have a masters or PhD, but he’s an incredibly effective teacher. This is because he’s teaching about something he is truly passionate about – the NYC Tech Community.

I wonder how our country would change if professionals were allowed to teach at the high school level. My guess is that we could get some really talented individuals into our schools.

I’m not an expert in education, but I believe this is a conversation we need to have.