kitchen table math, the sequel: closed shop

Monday, August 4, 2008

closed shop

After nearly 20 years of working as a television writer, I made a radical life decision: to teach English at an L.A. public high school. I felt it was time for me to make a difference, to share my passion for language and literature with the next generation....I braced myself to keep going even if there were times of struggle, of heartbreak, of feeling inadequate and humiliated, even if there were times when I wanted to weep from frustration, even if I sweated through dark nights of the soul overwhelmed by the futility of it all.

And indeed, I have experienced all that. But what's crazy is that I haven't even set foot in a classroom yet.

By state law, I cannot teach in a California public school without a credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.


But just applying to a teaching-credential program has taken me months of pointless, numbing, bewildering toil. I've submitted stacks of applications, online and on paper, along with college transcripts and letters of recommendation. I've written a five-page letter of "self-reflection," completed 45 hours of early field experience, endured a TB test and had my fingerprints taken to prove that I'm not a convicted felon. And that was just to start the actual work: proving I am "highly qualified."


I have a bachelor of arts degree in English from Bryn Mawr and have spent my entire adult life as a working writer -- and all I want is to sign up to take the education classes I need before I walk into a classroom. Won't my degree and my life's work qualify me at least to sign up for those classes? Not even close.

Testing my patience
Ellie Herman


Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

As a mid-life career-change teacher, I TOTALLY understand this frustration. Add on top of that two years of BTSA (in CA) once you get that credential, WHILE you're trying to teach. The amount of busy work is the most insane thing I've ever experienced. And also? You get to be paid the EXACT same salary as the 21-year-old in the classroom next door who's never had a full-time job in his/her life.

If we as a society are serious about having quality teachers in the classroom, we need make a transition to the field of teaching make sense to those who have gained life experience and would now like to give something back.

Catherine Johnson said...

You get to be paid the EXACT same salary as the 21-year-old in the classroom next door who's never had a full-time job in his/her life.


Here in NY, there do seem to be some programs that fast-track career-changers into the field.

Although I wonder whether I'm right about that. The middle-aged people I know who are going to ed school ARE GOING TO ED SCHOOL. They're paying tuition & taking the courses.

One thing they do seem to do is to negotiate with whatever school they're attending to get credits for life experience. A friend of mine who was a producer got her school to give her credit for a Communications course she was required to take...

Barry Garelick said...

Yes, ed schools do seem to value life experience, (except when it goes against the constructivist ethos, dogma, and manifestos but that's another story). I was told I needed to take a computer programming class because the one I had at school was not deemed to be appropriate. I argued that I have been programming on the job for many years, and gave examples. They agreed and waived my requirement to take the course.