Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting a Teaching Credential in the 21st Century

Don't believe the newspapers. There is no teacher shortage in California. In fact, California has a teacher GLUT and has had a glut since at least 2000. The turnover in teaching would make businesses blanch; comparatively few new teachers stay beyond their third year. Veteran teachers are starting their own businesses, if they can, and leaving, too. Those unique stories of professionals who leave their careers for teaching, getting credit for their professional & life experience, and then immediate wonder-jobs? They are just that--unique.My story starts in the middle. I don't know how long it will take to write. There is so much.

By early spring of 2000, I had finally discovered the process for acquiring a teaching credential in the state of California and made the decision to attend the graduate school associated with the same university from which I’d acquired my BA in 1984. Although it was more expensive than the local state university, I hoped, as the newspapers and many others had claimed, that I would get credit, both for my years of work experience outside of public school teaching, here and abroad, and for work done in the course of completing a masters in counseling. I had previously consulted, for over an hour, with someone in charge of the credential program at the state university. He had carefully and circuitously promised everything and nothing. In speaking with their program’s graduates, both bachelors and masters level, no one praised the program. Virtually all of them said the program was in chaos; they were angry and frustrated. These weren’t naturally angry and frustrated people but all upbeat, energetic and hopeful—the kind with whom I like to work. Still, everyone told me to take the other option, if at all possible. They regretted their choice.

As I went through the process of enrollment, the director, and others, repeatedly told me about the vast number of teaching jobs available in our area and how easily I would be hired upon completion, especially as a multilingual with extensive cross cultural experience. She encouraged me to apply for the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship, a competitive $20,000 award grant that would be forgiven in return for five years post-credential work in a needy school, one that registered a 5 or below on the state’s API scale (a reflection of competence, as determined by testing keyed to NCLB/No Child Left Behind). There was little time left before the application deadline and I scrambled to gather transcripts, written recommendations, and other records for submission. It was particularly difficult to acquire pertinent recommendations, since my undergrad student days were over 15 years past and the materials assumed a recent graduation date. However, in the end, I had everything I needed, except a written recommendation from the program director who had encouraged me to apply. She first composed an unacceptable off the cuff version, without looking at the reward requirements, and then missed the deadline completely, despite my repeated reminders and pleas. I was devastated and had missed other opportunities in the meantime. Had it not been for the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship extending the deadline, I would have been in a real bind. She made the second deadline.

In the meantime, I visited the Registrar to determine which of my previous courses and experiences would be accepted. She offered me nothing! I was in shock. Part of my decision to pursue the credential had been based on newspaper reports regarding the credits available to people with prior work experience and education in other fields. Everyone had been saying how much my bilingual and cross-cultural experience would be worth. I had a masters in counseling that included post graduate level work in child development! I argued and finally she agreed that I could get credit for my master’s level Human Development coursework (my masters work in Cross Cultural Counseling was denied). She failed to inform me that I would have to request this information from the school just outside her office window. When I subsequently discovered the credit had not been granted, she finally informed me but told me that she would ONLY grant credit if the school could provide the original syllabus (from 15 years ago!). Luckily, they did, and she grudgingly awarded me 3 units and cleared my child development requirement. That was all I got.

Three years ago, a district administrator asked me why I had acquired a multiple subject credential, instead of a pupil personnel credential (high school guidance counselor qualification), given my background in counseling. Despite the extended conversation with the credential program Registrar about my counseling background, I was never advised that my counseling degree might qualify me for any other educational position.

Nineteen months later, in fall 2002, just after I completed all of the requirements for my credential and was looking desperately for employment, the program director boldly stated in a newspaper interview that prospects for new credential holders in our area were dismal and that they had been aware of this for quite a while. In a geographically isolated city of approximately 500,000, there are three teacher credential programs turning out new teachers every year under the banner of a local “teacher shortage.” The same article (Fresno Bee, September 2002), reported that Fresno Unified, the area’s largest school district, which had just delivered 300 pink slips, had 2800 applicants registered for 300 available jobs. Credential candidates from the state university had been informed of the situation at completion. Although our own director had long known of the local glut, we were repeatedly told that older teachers were retiring and excellent employment conditions awaited us.

I would soon discover that The Governor’s Teaching Fellowship was a noose around my neck and its conduct no more encouraging.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Before leaping...

I thought I'd leave a note.

End of semester has come and gone, and I begin to feel refreshed, a brief window before the summer session begins and I am once again at the beck and call of students with mud on their hands.

I've joined a writer's circle, invited, for which I'm grateful. It's been a long time coming, having always been told, "You should write!" What people would do, if they were me...

I couldn't write a word in the two month lead up, anxious not about writing or about critique, both of which I love, but about finally doing so in a formal, and public sense. Oh my. Finally, compelled to write about the block itself, the day of the circle's meeting, I produced. This rendering having benefited from the circle's input, it still feels a little incomplete. Still, not a poor first outing, a good start to whatever may come.

Before Leaping

On the edge

Very Close

At the vertex

where this horizontal plane
vanishes suddenly into perpendicular



Vertigo causing me to wonder if
I am thinking from somewhere around
my ankles or from my head
While I struggle to know whether head
can still be located on shoulders
or has been removed to
survey this situation from a safe
but strangling embrace in the fierce crook
of my protective arm

Orientation dissolving

My palms press hard and flat behind me against
the reassurance of granite
while the grit of its disintegration digs into my flesh
and my thoughts
grimy but familiar
providing the distraction that still serves to spare me decision
and anything more than brief,
terrified glances over the precipice.