I'm just getting home from a trip to Arizona. I had the pleasure of keynoting yesterday at the Pendergast "Power Up" back-to-school event. As the educators prepared for the upcoming year, there was so much positive energy. Thanks for such an incredible experience!
I'm writing this reflecting on how quickly summer is moving - and recognizing that for some of us, the 2022-2023 school year begins in August, which is Monday! By mid-August, most school systems will have their professional days and, in some cases, will have students back in the buildings.
Why does this matter? I've been thinking about teacher vacancies lately and have written about them. I read something recently, and at first, I thought it was satire. The piece I read said that military veterans and their spouses could teach in Florida without a teaching license or certification. I know people who are National Board Certified Teachers and teachers who have taken the Praxis. There's a great deal to being a teacher, and while I appreciate the service of our military veterans and their spouses for our country, the idea of veterans being able to teach without licensure is a concern.
Let's put this in context: for the last few years, people who have not been teachers and have not taught in a classroom have been speaking out on what teachers should do, how and what they should teach, the content of their lessons, and the books and resources in their classroom, school libraries, and public libraries. For example, Florida has a teacher shortage of 9,000 teachers. Nationally, it's about 300,000, as I wrote last week.
Florida passed a bill that allows military veterans with a bachelor's degree who have at least 60 credits and a 2.5-grade point average AND 48 months in the military a 5-year voucher to teach. They must pass the subject matter exams. Teacher's unions oppose this as they feel it will lower education quality.
We need to be able to offer our students the best possible candidates. Is this the best possible way to recruit new teachers? Those who have been classroom teachers know that teaching and working with our students combines art, science, practice, content knowledge, coaching, and yes, it takes experience. I understand that we need to fill these positions, but I'm questioning the wisdom of placing people with insufficient teaching experience in classrooms.
The one ray of hope is that it's possible that this offers our paraprofessionals and classroom aides an opportunity to teach and that they may complete their certification during the five years that they have. I would be thrilled if more of our excellent staff who have worked in support roles had the opportunity to advance.
It remains to be seen how the staffing for fall will shake out, but the last thing teachers who are already stressed from the 2021-2022 school year and two years of pandemic teaching need is any additional stress.
In the meantime, my guests on the Art of Advocacy Livestream yesterday were Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles and Mia Laudato. Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles works at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, helping students with significant disabilities with assistive technology and universal design for learning (UDL). She is also a consultant. Mia Laudato works on assistive technology issues for seven different school districts in Florida and has her own educational consulting practice. They developed the acronym S.H.I.F.T. Happens to describe the framework they use. S.H.I.F.T. stands for:
Supports in place
Have a plan
Framework - using Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Of their framework, Goldthwait-Fowles says you work together to include students with significant disabilities because "it's the right thing to do." Give the Livestream a watch, and don't forget to subscribe to the channel. I think you'll learn from it, as I did.
Finally, I'm overwhelmed with the amount of support from the Leading Equity: Becoming An Advocate For All Students book launch. You can grab a signed copy here.
Until then, I appreciate all the well wishes and words of encouragement.
"Let's continue to be a voice in Leading Equity!"
Every Friday you can expect a small and informative message from the Leading Equity Center. The Weekend Voice is meant to challenge your thoughts of education today and to provoke you to take action in your schools.