Texans are proud of their pioneer heritage. And, while longhorn steers and oil gushing from Spindletop may be the first images that spring to mind, it is in the education field where the Lonestar State has been blazing a trail.
Texas Embraced Alternative Certification
For more than a decade, the Texas Education Agency has embraced the training of teachers through alternative certification programs, to the point where some traditional college education courses must feel as lonely as a West Texas tumbleweed.
"I think in the state of Texas, for example, the majority of first-year teachers are now not traditionally certified," Joseph Sanchez, program coordinator of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M University, said to the Texas Tribune in 2018. "They go through an alternative certification process."
With demand soaring for new teachers, especially in areas like bilingual education, special education, math, science and technology, many Texans with college degrees and life skills are heading to a career change and the classroom.
The fact that new teachers are skipping the 4-year route plus a full semester of student teaching, makes the training received in teacher training programs all the more important. Real world experience in the workforce, and a desire to teach, can be the foundation to becoming a teacher through an alternative certification program. The training is what truly shapes and molds the teacher-to-be.
Training is the Key to a Teacher's Success
Kate Kuhlmann, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, stressed in a 2018 Texas Tribune article that training specific to teaching is crucial: “There are a lot of people that have great content knowledge, but it’s also really important they have a strong understanding of and training in what it means to be a teacher.”
The training portion of certification is the most important piece for preparing recent graduates, career changers, military personnel or anyone else who has never worked in a classroom.
So, what should you look for in a Texas teacher training program? Let's examine training in three phases:
300 hours of online and/or in-person training mandated by Texas
In-field advisor training you receive after getting into the classroom
Training you receive to pass your PPR which is shorthand for the pedagogy and professional test needed for certification
300 Hours of Training
The 300 hours of training is designed to prepare you on what to do before you start working in the classroom, and then to fine tune your skills once you are in the classroom.
Some alternative certification programs are going to sell themselves on you being able to achieve the 300 hours of training almost exclusively online, but that might be a mistake for most first-year teachers. If you haven't taught before, you are most likely going to have a whole lot of questions. So, who are you going to go to when those questions come up?
In-person training prior to going into the classroom allows you to complete approximately 150 of these hours and be prepared for everything you need to know when you first get to the classroom. You also have the opportunity to hear from people who have been in your shoes, know what is in front of you and can answer questions or concerns you have. This kind of training is invaluable.
You might also establish lifelong connections with the other people you train with. And, you never know when one of those people will be able to help you at some point in your career. The saying..."It's not what you know, it's who you know"...that rings true here.
Unless you plan on teaching via Skype, you need to be comfortable in a group setting and be able to present to others. As much as you will benefit from working in front of others, you will also reap the reward of watching others work through the training curriculum and learn new insights.
In-Field Advisor Training
Once you get into the classroom, it is important to have an experienced educator watching your back and guiding you through your first year as a teacher. Lets face it, Star Wars would have been a lot different movie if Luke Skywalker didn't have Obi-Wan around to guide him. And your first year teaching will feel the same way.
While this in-field advisor training is mandated by the state of Texas, it varies from providers on how it gets delivered. Without mentioning names, our advisors have provide support for interns in other programs who weren't getting the support they needed.
You will want a program with in-field advisors that are accessible to you throughout the school year, make periodic classroom visits to observe your teaching and provide feedback. The lack of guidance during the early months of a new teacher's journey is often the reason for not sticking with the profession.
PPR Training and Preparation
All of the training above isn't worth anything in the end, if you can't pass your Texas Examinations of Educator (TExES) Pedagogy and Professional (PPR) test. Sure, just the name alone will cause some to break out in a No. 2 pencil sweat, but a great alternative teacher certification program will be there to help make sure you pass the test.
Some alternative certification programs offer the test preparation as an add-on cost, but it should be a standard part of any teacher training program.
The exam includes multiple-choice questions covering four key teaching skills:
Instruction and Assessment Design
Implementation of Instruction and Assessment
Educator's Professional Responsibilities
Look for an alternative certification program that provides you with a quality one-day training program at no extra charge that includes test coverage and practice testing.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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