We’re down to the Final Four, but this post isn’t about basketball. The hoops I’m talking about are the ones we are often asked to jump through in order to be certified to teach in this state. First off, Washington requires its teachers to enter a professional certification program. I completed mine a few years ago, but they have changed the requirements every year since its inception. I have a few colleagues going through it right now, and they seem to change things midway through. While I think it’s great to adapt and improve things, it makes it very difficult for teachers to apply this set of criteria to their work and make it relevant. Without a purpose, certification simply becomes one of those hoops.
Even to retain certification in Washington, a teacher needs to complete 15 credits or 150 clock hours of professional development approved by an Educational Service District every 5 years. Unfortunately, some of my best professional development experiences (those that have truly challenged me to examine the way I think about teaching or those that have inspired and motivated me to continue to pursue new things) have been those that wouldn’t qualify for clock hours or approved college credit. Books, articles, and blogs I’ve read, out of state conferences I’ve been to, lectures I’ve attended, work on advisory boards, and other committee work outside the realm of the school are just a few of the great ways I keep learning more about teaching. I know the state has to have some way of maintaining a set of standards. But this is a carrot and stick (if – then) model. If you don’t enroll in 150 approved clock hours, then your certificate won’t be renewed. In my mind, not something that encourages intrinsic motivation.