Those Who Can, Teach

Today I read a Washington Post article titled, “What if Finland’s Great Teachers Taught in U.S. schools?” For those of you unfamiliar with Finland’s educational system, it is consistently ranked one of the best in the world. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, Finland’s surge to the top of international educational rankings has caused many nations (America included) to take notice. Everyone wants to know what is Finland’s secret to success. Well, I will tell you that it is not their standardized testing systems for students. Quality education comes from having quality teachers, and that is where Finland has focused its efforts. However, they have not focused their efforts by tying teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores, like our current political forces are attempting to do here. Instead, Finland has focused its attention on how teachers get into the classroom, versus what they do once they are in one. To become a teacher in Finland is a rigorous process. Instead of hundreds of varieties of teacher preparation programs, there is only one. This is true for many countries where there are students who outperform American students on international testing. There is no fast-track to becoming a teacher in these countries. For example, all teachers in Finland complete the same coursework and earn master’s degrees from research universities. The competition for entering into one of these programs is on par with a student attempting to get into law school or study medicine. Therefore, the teachers in Finland ultimately earn the same degree of respect as lawyers and doctors. While Finland has shunned standardization in schools, it embraces standardization when preparing its teachers. Thus assured that only the the best and brightest are entering the profession, these same teachers are then given the freedom to practice their craft once they have secured a teaching position. In contrast, here in the United States, the common belief is that anyone can be a teacher. Even more damaging to the profession is the underlying thought that teachers are individuals who were not able to be successful in their first career choice. We’ve all heard the saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” What an awful statement to make about men and women who have chosen to spend their lives educating the youth of this country. However, perhaps if there was more quality control on the front-end, people would have more confidence in the teaching profession. If getting accepted into an education program was as difficult as being accepted into law school or a med program, maybe there would be more credibility and respect for the teaching profession as a whole. Then, maybe we would be trusted to know what’s best for our students instead of having outside sources-who have absolutely no teaching experience whatsoever- tell us what we should be doing for them.


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