Vail Daily column: Educators hone their skills | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Educators hone their skills

Jason E. Glass
Valley Voices

A key part of Eagle County Schools’ organizational strategic plan is following what we call a “professional” model of teaching.

Implementing a professional model means focusing on quality before a teacher ever takes a job in one of our schools. Things like a high level of selectivity as to who enters the teaching profession, rigorous pre-service training that includes content knowledge (the subject to be taught), evidence-based pedagogical (how to teach) training, and early clinical (supervised, hands-on) experience.

A professional model also includes a selective hiring process and support for the new teacher in the form of mentoring from an experienced classroom practitioner, creating time for the new teacher to observe a quality veteran teacher and to receive regular feedback and coaching on their own teaching with a focus on how they can improve.

But the support does not stop there. A professional model of teaching also recognizes that there is an extraordinary level of talent and commitment that comes naturally to those who choose teaching as their career. So, another key step is creating an environment where teachers have time to collaborate, think, and work together on the issues they face in their classrooms.

The professional model fosters different career pathways for professional growth. One of the most tragic things about the teaching profession is that to grow in their careers most teachers need to leave the classroom to become an administrator, or leave the education profession altogether for a higher paying job. The professional model seeks to create opportunities for educators to take on new challenges, responsibilities, grow professionally, and earn more in compensation — while staying directly involved in the classroom.

Finally, this model of teaching relies on educators seeing their work as a calling and not just a job. Professional teachers score high in altruism, the value of helping others as a primary driver for their work. They see education as a craft that is honed and improved over the course of a lifetime of work.

While this professional model approach seems fairly straightforward and is nearly uniformly seen in the world’s best performing education systems, it seems to have fallen into disfavor in the mix of policies and strategies typically advanced as part of the American education reform agenda.

The American agenda seems to go in almost the opposite direction, relying on quick fix and gimmicky approaches. Things like applying a “Peace Corps” model to teaching, where fresh-faced college graduates (albeit a bright ones) are provided minimal “boot-camp” style training and then placed in front of students. Or changing long-range compensation structures to incentivize people to flow more freely in and out of teaching — where it is more of a “job” that someone does for a short period of time than a “profession” and life calling.

Building genuine quality is time consuming, painstaking, hard work. This is also true for building up the teaching profession. There are no shortcuts to the kind of quality we need and that our kids deserve.

This summer, our teachers won’t just be taking a break for summer vacation. Yes, this happens (and it is deserved!) but many of our teachers will be taking graduate courses, attending seminars and conferences, or taking part in educator workshops all across the country.

Our teachers do these things (often paid for out of their own pockets) because they see themselves as professionals and want to return in August inspired and energized by their version of “summer school” — ready to be the best educators they can for their students.

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at jason.glass@eagleschools.net.