Agenda or Agendon’t? Teacher professionalization at its core

When you think of the standards that teachers should uphold, what comes to mind?

The professionalization agenda, as set forth by Kenneth Zeichner, has turned the teaching profession into a conversation surrounding how to adequately prepare teachers to become leaders in the classroom. Whether this leadership is assessed based on content, strategy, knowledge, or even ability to engage with students, there is a “professional” approach to how we interpret teaching standards. With these established standards (as a result of this agenda), the discourse becomes one that is centered around how we are establishing some sort of legitimacy as educators. This legitimacy, although seemingly subjective, is questioned throughout Zeichner’s professionalization agenda.

As is stated in Gary Sykes’ publication in the EPAA Journal, the need for highly qualified teachers comes from the connections that are built between the educators and communities, or in other words, it’s not that there is a short supply of teachers, but there are obvious inequities that exist, which thus, prevent teachers from moving through the professionalization agenda. Sykes lists items such as low pay, working conditions, flawed hiring systems, etc.

How can teachers properly be effective and qualified if the circumstances they find themselves in are broken?

It is not to say that all systems within the professionalization agenda are “broken,” or that every teacher faces the above challenges. In some instances, according to Zeichner, the professionalization agenda can give teachers a more meaningful voice in the school’s community, creating some validity among the parents and other external supports. Speaking of support, Zeichner mentions in the same article (linked previously) that “authentic partnerships” can form as a result of this agenda. The examples that Zeichner discusses in his writing speak powerfully to how teachers are prepped to thus be in the classroom. For example, the edTPA, an assessment to measure if teachers are “ready” to be in the role of educator, brings more to the conversation around teacher preparedness and if this really does a good job in bringing fresh teachers to the forefront, in the this case, literally to the forefront of a classroom. As is shown in this report, which shows how edTPA-takers can help build meaning into student learning, are being given guidelines as to how to appropriately facilitate that learning. My question is, how can a measure such as edTPA help measure student learning? edTPA has me questioning the intention behind trying to facilitate creating “good teachers.” On the other hand though, is edTPA’s purpose to streamline the process, making it a “rigorous” field so that it is on the same playing field as medicine and law? edTPA could be the bridge between Education as an Art and Education as a Science.

All this said, the central concern I have surrounding this conversation about the professionalization agenda is that I wonder if the ultimate goal is effectiveness for all students? Every student is different and a teacher needs to adapt their style to each student while also remaining democratic.I wonder if there is some sort of pressure being put on these news teachers to “get it” and just move forward and be successful with their students. This could be the problem of why these new teachers are leaving after 5 years — how do we resolve or alleviate the pressure that exists among new teachers? What do veteran teachers have to say about this? I’d be interested to hear.

How do we define professional teaching?