As an education association, Professional Educators of Tennessee understands that the debate over what essential preparation and skills individuals should possess before entering a public school classroom has largely been decided before educators join any professional organization. The additional skills that are necessary, and how they are acquired, can also be debated. Historically, the body of knowledge and skills needed to be an effective teacher has been too unstructured, unclear, and not backed up by the necessary research. That is changing across the state, as well as the nation.
That we are failing as a state and nation to encourage recruitment of the teachers we need is also concerning. For example, 90 percent of high-minority districts report difficulty attracting teachers prepared to teach math and science. Education organizations can fill a critical role in assisting school districts and teachers to come together and meet their different needs. This includes not only addressing students from assorted cultural backgrounds in the state, but also students with disabilities or with limited English proficiency. The war drums for compulsory unionism and collective bargaining are growing silent in the face of the urgent need to recruit, retain and support effective educators who can meet these difficult challenges.
The discussion over teacher quality and preparation often neglects to address the issue of professional development. Professional Development (PD) has traditionally been connected to, and included in, the initial attainment of permanent certification; for school improvement plans, especially to low performing schools; tying specific topic-professional development to funding (often math, science, and reading); and, improving results as related to teacher evaluation.
Professional development opportunities provided on both the state and local level are where leadership begins to take root for most educators. Professional Development allows for educators to create a professional career continuum and lays a solid groundwork for the future of Tennessee classrooms.
By engaging in collaborative networks we are building the capacity for all educators to make a positive influence in the classroom, become leaders in their schools and school district. In 2012 education associations must take the lead in providing high quality, relevant professional learning for pre-service, and novice and career educators. Professional Educators of Tennessee provides Professional Development for all Tennessee educators, both members and non-members, so we can improve classroom instruction, strengthen leadership capacity, recharge our batteries and empower educators to be more effective leaders in Tennessee schools and communities.
Editors Note: JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, based in Franklin. For more information, visit www.ProEdTN.org.