What a question!

Society has, for the most part, consistently assumed that our school systems operate for the best interests of our children and know what our children need, just as our medical doctors. Have they been operating under a ruse?

In the past couple of weeks, Oregon dropped the requirements for substitute teachers. Over the years, they have also dropped other conditions to become teachers, such as doing away with the basic skills tests. The state has different requirements that are good, yet overall students’ scores are not higher. The 2019 data from the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) found that Oregon ranked LAST in attention to teacher preparation in reading.

Over the past two years, there is no question, education and life have been difficult. For years we have seen the “Mathew Effect” happening in our schools (the smart get smarter as the rich get richer). We are now starting to experience the “Peter Effect” in our schools (you can’t teach something you don’t know). Thus putting substitute teachers in the classroom just out of high school probably won’t solve the problem. The problem is much more significant and more profound.

Public education has always seemed to be underfunded. Our students’ needs are often not provided for unless the parents can provide outside funding sources for special instruction. Legislative laws have passed expecting schools to provide services yet many are not providing them. Oregon is possibly at a tipping point. Teachers have left the profession or moved, perhaps because they are not feeling supported. The expectations of our teachers have reached a breaking point, and people who chose the profession are opting out.

Oregon has allowed transitional licenses for several years. Sometimes this is good, and other times it is a disaster as students take over control of the classroom. Just because you are outstanding in another profession doesn’t mean you will be an exceptional teacher.

There is an art to teaching, just as there is an art to being a medical doctor. There are skills you need to master to provide instruction to students. Simply assuming that they are as interested in the content you are teaching as you are might possibly equal behavior problems in the classrooms because most are probably not.

Instructional coaches working with teachers often hear, “If they just did what I told them, they would be passing.” It’s not that easy.

Teaching today isn’t like teaching back in the 1960s. The expectations have changed, but public assumptions have remained, such as; summers off are paid summers. Most teachers are paid for the days of their contract but that pay is divided over 12 months. Also, teachers take classes, often at their own expense, so they can better serve their students.

Teachers have also had more expectations placed on them, such as larger class sizes, students with special needs, untrained classroom support, changing curriculum, and meeting many levels of individual student needs.

All of that said, teachers are finding other professions possibly because the job expectations don’t align with the compensation. Lowering the requirement to provide more teachers doesn’t mean our children are receiving the quality of instruction that comes with a highly trained educator.

Some questions you might consider could include, would you fly in an airliner flown by an 18-year-old pilot with a high school diploma? How about allowing a heart surgeon to operate on your heart with a General Ed bachelor’s degree? Why are we allowing our children to go into classrooms with unprepared educators?

There is not an easy answer for sure, yet change has to happen. So what is best for our youth?

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Scott Smith, doctor of education, is a 40-plus year Umatilla County educator and serves on the Decoding Dyslexia Oregon board as its parent/teacher liaison.

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