Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Self Proclaimed "Specialist"

I wonder what it really means to be a "specialist" in a certain area. What really is a "consultant"? Crystal cracks me up because on her blog profile she lists consultant as her occupation. Why does this crack me up?! Because it is so stinking true! You can consult Crystal about just about anything and she usually knows more about it that any specialist.

The reason I actually thought about the specialist title was because I am currently in the process of getting my teaching certificate back. YIKES! That is a whole other story. Just for kicks I clicked on the requirements for a Reading Specialist Endorsement. Here are the steps (a bit abbreviated):

1. A valid AZ fingerprint clearance card.
2. A valid AZ teaching certificate.
3. 15 semester hours of courses to include decoding, diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties and practicum in reading.

First of all, in order to get requirement #2, you have to have submitted requirement #1 so I think that is a little redundant. Leave it to the state to confuse that issue.

Next, 15 semester hours. That's 5 classes. Hmm. Do you think that 5 fulls days of training in a specific program that proves to work with virtually every student should count? Maybe 9 years of working with these students should. I think I definitely have the decoding and practicum part down, but what about the diagnosis? Hmm. Let's think. Can the student read? NO? Then they are diagnosed, end of story.

I know, I know, I'm mocking people that really are trying to set some standards. The problem is that when you set certain standards and make them a requirement you really set yourself up to lose a lot of really good applicants.

When I graduated from ASU I thought I was ready to teach. Boy was I wrong. There was a whole world of knowledge that only comes from actually being in the trenches. For me it wasn't book smarts, training, or diagnosis that was holding me back. It was actually working with kids that I was lacking. Fortunately for me I had an assistant that was a mom. She was so much more qualified to teach than I was, but also the absolute best help I could ever have asked for! I encouraged her to get her degree because she would have been the best teacher EVER! So much of teaching is based on child development and that just really can not be taught anywhere but with children. Sure it's in the books but until you actually experience it, in all it's screaming, laughing, and oh-my-gosh-did-they-really-do/say-that glory, you just don't get it. I had a mom of a student try to tell me something once, insinuating that I was young and just didn't get how to deal with children. I was so offended and knew that I was so right. Boy was I wrong. I'm sorry dear parent, oh brilliant protector of the children. I bow down to your infinite wisdom and knowledge, but am still grateful that you withdrew your pain-in-the-neck-whiny child from my enrichment program.

Yes, this is what teachers are thinking. Only much, much worse. And yes again, I want to go back. I want to make a difference. I'm going to redefine reading instruction in the public school system one school at a time! And dag-nab-it, I am a "Reading Specialist", self-proclaimed and soon to be official. (I should probably learn how to spell defiNATEly though...and lose/loose)


tempe turley said...


I tend to compare everything with my own experience. Why not? Its all I got.

But in the computer field, experience matters a lot. I read a cool post by Steve Yegge on this experience subject here where he says:

"That being said, as a hiring manager or company owner you should keep in mind that "5 to 10 years of experience" on a resume does not translate to "experienced"; it means "crazy invincible-feeling teenager with a 50/50 shot at writing a pile of crap that he or she and his or her team can't handle, and they'll eventually, possibly repeatedly, try to rewrite it all." It's just how things are: programmers can't escape being teenagers at some point."

But one thing about some "experienced" programmers is that some of them stop learning, stop reading, stop practicing, so their skills go obsolete.

I'm wondering if in teaching there's also this balance between experience in the trenches learning, and always keep your knowledge up to date learning by staying fresh with the latest information...

I do remember some of my Yuma high school teachers growing up, many of them seemed to be content in their jobs without having a lot of passion or even knowledge about their subject.

Just random thoughts.

H said...


The comparison of teachers and programmers is a difficult one, but you definitely hit the nail on the head when you say that some stop learning, reading, ect. I would say that in the teaching field it has more to do with what continues to work and what does not. There are definitely teachers that keep plugging away at the same old thing because it is what they are comfortable with.(These are the ones that need to be challenged!)

Within a district (or school) there are always professional developement days to learn. In fact, they are required. In my personal experience (and I don't know if this is typical or not), they were very inspiring but you also had to purchase their materials. I don't believe that any one product or program is going to make our education system better. It takes dedicated teachers with a supportive administration and involved parents! (That is what Mr. Canada has in Harlem, yeah for him.)

Oh, and the "in the trenches" learning for teachers has more to do with classroom management and understanding children, than it does with what a teacher actually teaches. In the computer field I think that might translate into how to actually program and how to work on a team. Both take some book knowledge and both need actual on the job training.

Everyone, including parents, need to keep their knowledge up to date. In fact, grandparents do too! My sweet mother has stopped comparing life when I was a child to my experiences with my own children because she knows that times have changed. That's not to say that some of the same things don't continue to work, but instead, there are some new challenges that we must be aware of.

Whew! Life is exhausting.