Last week, the Florida Department of Education announced that military veterans, as well as their spouses, would receive a five-year-voucher that allows them to teach in the classroom despite not receiving a degree to do so. It’s a move tied to the $8.6 million the state announced would be used to expand career and workforce training opportunities for military veterans and their spouses. — USA Today
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s plan to allow U.S. veterans to teach in Florida classrooms is a terrific concept — if and when the veterans earn bachelor’s degrees and complete teacher training programs. The governor’s initiative, announced last week, would open the classroom door to any veteran who has served four or more years in the military, left the service with an honorable discharge and agrees to working with a mentor.
The proposal would allow veterans to teach for five years without a bachelor’s degree, without classroom experience or a teaching license and without passing any kind of certification program. Although Florida is facing a dire teacher shortage, the governor’s plan is disrespectful to both students and the veterans.
Veterans deserve all we can provide: emotional support, good pay, programs to help them re-enter civilian life and the same excellent standard of medical care that our office-holders enjoy. If veterans want to become teachers, then let’s provide the money and the best teachers to prepare them to enter the classroom. To throw them in cold is irresponsible and potentially damaging to both veterans and students.
I’m a teacher, and have been a teacher in some way or another since 1968. I taught junior high school and high school English. I still have the notebooks from NYU, filled with teaching techniques and lesson plans and suggestions for negotiating the emotional minefield that is a junior high school classroom.
I’ve been retired for many years, but I still teach. I lead book groups, and I teach my grandkids. It’s a kind of instinctive way to connect, a way to be in the world. You walk on a beach and you see some critters, and you talk to the kids about how horseshoe crabs are prehistoric and how they help keep our tidal waters clean. You prepare a meal, and teach the kids about keeping conditions healthy and hygienic around food.
I know there will be some natural-born teachers among the veterans who move into Florida classrooms. That will be a bonus for the kids. But loving teaching and loving children are not enough.
I wouldn’t want to see doctors replaced by veterans who really love medicine but have no medical training. Same for pilots. Ship captains. Some jobs demand critical thinking skills and rigorous training for which there is no shortcut. To suggest that anyone without teacher training can step into a classroom, maintain classroom decorum, teach the curriculum, work effectively with colleagues and truly educate our children is dismissive of teacher education. I know our vets have faced daunting responsibilities and fearsome challenges in their work. But standing in front of a classroom presents entirely different challenges, and requires a body of learning and a process of training that does not allow for shortcuts.
Our children deserve to be taught by individuals who have been fully educated themselves. Even the most motivated, child-loving wannabe teacher needs to study how to teach third-graders mathematics, and how to get nonreaders to read, and how to settle classroom disputes, and how to get the truant back to school, and how to plan lessons for a month ahead, and how to teach a classroom of 30 kids who are all on different reading levels.
According to New York state, to become a teacher, a candidate must meet the requirements stipulated by the Office of Teaching Initiatives.
Like most states, New York requires that all teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a state teacher certification program, and pass the required content examinations. Upon meeting the requirements for certification, an applicant may be issued an initial certificate, which is valid for five years. This entry-level certificate leads to a professional certificate, which is an advanced-level license that is continuously valid, assuming the teacher completes the appropriate number of professional development hours every five years.
I spend part of my year in Florida, and I am concerned for the upcoming generation of Floridians. One teacher I know said of DeSantis’s plan, “He likes his constituents to be uneducated because critical thinkers would vote him out.”
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.