I read that Finland accepts only one in ten applicants for their teacher program in college. My first thought was teacher shortage – but that’s not the case. Instead of a teacher shortage, they have committed professionals who want to enter a highly respected profession. I compare it to the application process for admission to law school. Lawyers, for the most case, are deemed intelligent people who entered and completed a rigorous program to become highly qualified professionals. Even with all the lawyer jokes, society respects the law profession as honorable and accomplished. We do not hold education and teaching in those regards.
Often, I hear people say the teacher education programs are simple and anyone can pass through them. Not much respect for a profession that will take “just anyone.” Is it a profession then, or a job? I do not see education as valued or respected in the news, only when people want to use it to gain sympathetic attention. I struggle with my role as a teacher from time to time because I value my teaching, my calling, and then find it difficult to defend my choice to teach as second-rate, or that it is a stepping stone to an administrative position because that at least commands a little bit more respect.
Shifting perspective can go a long way – Finland has an education system that is considered top-rate in the world. The Minister of Education in Finland has said that teacher development is important to support their teachers, evaluations are meant to guide teachers and not to control them, and their government works with the teacher’s union. It’s about trust and understanding. Those are words that hold little value in the discussion and treatment of teachers in the current American government. It’s about accountability and test scores, which sounds opposite of trust and understanding. We tolerate, but do not fully accept, and we judge and criticize, but do not fully understand teachers, students, or community.
Shifting perspective means change and change is not easy.
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