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Teaching as a career.

The basis of pursuing a career as an educator should be for the love and passion of learning and for the care and preservation of humanity and human values.

Education comes from the Latin word "educare" which means "to lead out." It is commonly believed that education is merely a method of securing an exact knowledge of facts, as well as training, rearing, and discipline; but this explanation only scratches the surface of the term education.

Genuine education involves two types of exchange--monologue and dialogue--directed toward securing information, the formation of ideas, and the transformation of ideas and facts for practical use.

Education implies something of great intrinsic value, dependent upon the ideals and aspirations of both the educator and the recipients/students.

The basis of pursuing a career as an educator should be for the love and passion of learning and for the care and preservation of humanity and human values.

For African Americans specifically, the pursuit of an education career should be for the love of our community and our people, who have suffered for decades due to apathy and deterioration of interest from both the private and public sectors of our society. Teachers/educators serve as the preservers of culture, role models, and motivators for learning and achieving.

At present there is an increasing shortage of African-American teachers, especially so among the male members of the race. This is due to a variety of reasons.

Diverse career and business opportunities as well as higher-paying technical jobs have ciphoned off the most likely teacher candidates. Also, unfortunately, apathy, boosted with a high incidence of African-American male school dropouts, has further compounded the crisis.

Today, only about 10 percent of the bachelor's degrees conferred nationally go to education majors. Relatedly, the number of African-American education graduates has declined steadily since 1974.

At present, African Americans represent less than seven percent of public school teachers nationally. At the same time, the percentage of African-American and other public school students of color continues to rise, projected to be as much as one-third within the next seven years.

Learning and teaching compliment each other. Both require commitment, determination, and hard work. Generally speaking, a dedicated and committed student has the qualities to become an effective educator. A teacher, in turn, must not only know his or her subject matter, but also possess a sense of personal conviction and warmth. He or she must be a generator and a motivator.

Generally, academic preparation for the teaching profession should include courses in education theory, English, teaching English as a second language, classroom management strategies, and child/adolescent psychology. Potential teachers should be acquainted with an array of teaching strategies and fully understand their usefulness. Potential teachers should obtain as much information on this career choice as possible.

Dr. Carole Sorenson, director of recruitment for the Clark County, Nevada School District, advises: "Explore your options. Visit public schools and talk with many teachers about the rigors of teaching; visit classes and observe classroom dynamics. Know that you want to be a teacher. This will help eliminate self doubt."

Other professions that are closely related to teaching and the educational process are disciplinarians, counselors, librarians, and principals. The majority of these positions are usually held by teachers who develop a wide variety of classroom experiences and academic expertise.

The qualities, temperament, and mental attitude of an ideal teacher have been discussed. However, for one to pursue this profession some specific requirements must be met.

Each state has a number of academic and social activities that need to be fulfilled. These demands lead to the procurement of a teaching permit.

However, most universities and colleges have general requirements of a four- or five-year college curriculum leading to an education degree. Course work generally consists of mathematics, English, science, psychology, and varied teaching methods coupled with community service projects. Student teaching under the supervision of a veteran teacher culminates the academic portion of a teacher's training.

A qualifying test is usually administered to each candidate who is applying for a teaching certificate. This test is usually the National Teacher Examination (NTE), which consists of two parts. The first part concentrates on general course work information. Germain Gilson, a recent graduate of Southern University of New Orleans, noted enthusiastically, "Many of the questions on the NTE came directly from the materials covered in my science, education, and humanities classes."

The second section of the examination concentrates on one's specialty areas such as, history, science, music, early childhood education, etc.

After the candidate has passed the NTE, a teaching certificate is awarded. A teaching certificate is necessary to gain employment in the teaching profession.

Historically, teaching was one of the few professional positions open to African Americans. Presently, in light of the pervasive African-American teacher shortages, especially among men, teaching is once again a sure ticket to gainful employment. Toni Thompson, personnel administrator of the San Antonio Independent School District, states, "It is a competitive world out there today and African-American teachers are in great demand."

This need for African-American teachers brings up the question of salaries. According to the Occupational Outlook Quarterly, a prekindergarten or kindergarten teacher with five years or more of college earns approximately $2144 monthly. An elementary teacher with five years of college generally earns approximately $2200 monthly. Secondary teachers or high school teachers earn a median monthly wage of $2004, with five years or more experience $2200 monthly.

According to a recently completed survey of public school teachers' salaries by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the national average salary of educators is $34,213 annually.

Salaries are often dictated by general union contracts, state and county/parish budgets, federal allotments, and the years of experience in the teaching field. U.S. News and World Report (January 11, 1993) gives an example of an outstanding special education teacher in Tuscon, Arizona. Her experience and two promotions in recent years plus added incentives to her salary have boosted her yearly earnings to $39,000.

Other incentives and non-traditional methods of promoting teachers within the classroom arena have been activated. For example, elevated steps and methods of winning promotions inside the classroom have improved teacher morale and financial status in many school systems.

Salaries are not the only benefits of teaching in a particular school system.

Collective bargaining, hospitalization insurance and other fringe benefits such as health and welfare funds, teacher's private counseling centers, and generous retirement programs also help make teaching an attractive professional career.

Members of the teaching profession in the African-American community have always been leaders and admired by members of their community. Educators like Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune and, more recently, Dr. Benjamin Mays and other HBCU presidents and administrators are all respected and emulated by their constituencies. Both the challenge and prestige of teaching are always present.

The hard work of hovering over papers, charts, grades, student problems, difficulties, and aspirations is ever present.

Jimmie Ruth Johnson, a Milwaukee public school teacher (THE BLACK COLLEGIAN, September/October 1990), describes teaching as "fulfillment in influencing young minds and making a contribution to society through the lives of students."

Jason Everett, a 20-year teacher in the Louisiana School System, stated in an interview that, "Teaching is a vocation that makes me feel as if I have really accomplished something useful within the younger generation of African Americans."

He continued by humorously stating that, "Along with this gratification, I wish the money was as long as my school day." At his home there are mounds of papers, charts, and activity plans that are completed and ready for execution in the class. Not only that, I observed young people hovering over projects and charts in his den. To my surprise they were his students, enthusiastically working on classroom activities.

I have visited Claire Burnett, an elementary school teacher in Orleans Parish, Louisiana for the past 30 years. She has activity plans, papers, charts, and students in her home on off-school days. These plans and charts reflect the academic and social problems of her students. She has one problem: Claire is ready to retire but no one wants her to leave--not her students, not fellow teachers, not support workers, not her principal and administrators.

Even her personal physician told her she was in excellent health and didn't need to retire. "Give it a couple more years," he told her. She is truly happy and satisfied and continues to enjoy her profession.

In essence, those who have the desire to become teachers or educators need not have an IQ of 200 or a GPA of 4.0. But, they must be willing to learn as much as possible within their particular field of interest, sprinkled with the ambition to become a well-rounded person who is able and desires to learn and absorb new and varied academic materials. These characteristics need to be linked with a love for people and for the advancement of society through cultural and intellectual upliftment.

Eugene S. Jones is a 19-year veteran educator in the Jefferson Parish School System in Louisiana, specializing in Special Education. He is certified in a number of areas, inluding instrumental music and music therapy. He received his BS in music/music therapy from Loyola/Xavier and his MEd in special education from the University of New Orleans.

For more information:

American Federation of Teachers 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001

National Education Association 1201 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036

National Association of Independent Schools 18 Tremont Street, 2nd Floor Boston, MA 02108

Role Model Profiles

Margaret R. Buxton Personnel Specialist Department of Personnel Services Virginia Beach City Public Schools Virginia Beach, Virginia

Margaret Buxton is committed to recruiting, selecting, assigning and maintaining qualified instructional employees for Virginia Beach Public Schools.

A graduate of Hampton University, Buxton has been involved in public education for twenty years. As a past elementary teacher and administrator, Buxton realizes the importance of education for today's youth. She works hard to obtain all the knowledge and experience necessary to become an expert in the field of education and develop professionally.

Buxton is a life-long learner, educator, and advocate for children and believes teachers are some of the most important and influential people in a child's life.

Advice to students: "Believe in yourself. You should be proud of your heritage and accepting of those who are different. Set high expectations, and become involved in the community. Absorb all the knowledge possible through education, and many opportunities for successful living will become available. Be prepared for the future. Be prepared for life. Success begins with you."

Dan Williams Assistant Principal Western Middle School Greenwich, Connecticut

Dan Williams, as an assistant principal, supervises, evaluates, and works directly with twenty of the fifty staff members employed at his school. However, what makes him so valuable to the school and community is his strong advocacy for students. His concern extends beyond helping them with their academic needs; he is a counselor, disciplinarian, advisor, and friend to all students and is sensitive to the needs of the community. In fact, to recognize their outstanding achievements, he developed a recognition program whereby when the students achieve honors, he takes them to the theater after school hours, on his own time. Williams also serves as a choir director and musician at a local church. In recognition of his service to the schools and the community, Williams was honored by the Old Greenwich Women's Civil Association as the "Man of the Year."

In 1961, after receiving a bachelor's degree from Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, Williams began his career by teaching social studies and French. In 1965, he earned a master's in French at the University of Illinois. Three years later, with his wife and son, he moved to Greenwich, where he taught elementary school French for five years before moving to the junior high/middle school level. He served as a teacher leader at the middle school before being appointed assistant principal.

Williams plans to continue to work as an educator, and would like to become the principal of an elementary or middle school in the future.

"My advice to students is that they remain in school, avail themselves of all opportunities, take varied courses, and experience all activities which will enable them to appreciate and benefit from the wealth of offerings that our society has to give," says Williams.

Role Model Profiles

Helen Copeland Personnel Coordinator Fairfax County Public Schools Springfield, VA

During the school year, Helen Copeland's responsibilities include the coordination of all recruitment and selection activities to ensure that highly motivated teachers are employed in the tenth largest school system--with special emphasis on ethnic diversity.

Copeland earned a BS in commerce/education from North Carolina Central University and an MS in education from Virginia Tech. She served as a marketing education teacher/coordinator, assistant principal, and personnel specialist before becoming a personnel coordinator. Her immediate career goal is to become an assistant superintendent of personnel services.

She passes on this advice: "A motto I have found helpful in my career is: 'Be fair to others and keep after others until they are fair to you.'"

Nicholas Andrew Stirling Assistant Principal Mamaroneck Avenue School White Plains, NY

As an assistant principal, Stirling supervises and evaluates teachers, assistants, and support staff. He manages daily school procedures, scheduling, testing, and coordination of school/parent/community activities. He also implements and assesses curriculum and disciplinary procedures.

Stirling earned his BS and MS in business/education from State University at Albany and a professional diploma in administration and supervision from Fordham University. Prior to his present position, he has served as a business/marketing teacher and cooperative education coordinator at White Plains High School, and as an affirmative action officer--personnel office for White Plains Schools.

He is working toward completion of a doctoral program in administration and supervision to attain a position as principal leading to a superintendent position and then on to the State or Federal education departments. He hopes to one day own an educational consulting firm to serve the needs of multicultural school systems.

His advice: "Have a clear understanding of yourself and your culture. Continually improve your communication and interpersonal skills. Always remember that what is attained today can be lost tomorrow so plan for the future. Seek out successful mentors and be prepared to mentor others in the future."
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Title Annotation:Career Reports/Education; Annual Jobs Issue; includes role model profiles and addresses of organizations
Author:Jones, Eugene S.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Staking a career in non-profit organizations.
Next Article:The Black Collegian's teaching scholarship program.

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