How to Get a Teaching License
Originally published February 11, 2017 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
If you are reading this, then you have had at least some semblance of a formal education, and as such, hopefully a teacher or teachers in your past who have been a positive influence on you and contributed to your educational development. As you read, perhaps you can begin to reflect upon a particular class that captured your imagination, a subject that you could relate to that held your interest, or a specific teacher. That teacher may have challenged you, pushed you, intrigued you, and cajoled you, or maybe even infuriated you! But after reflection, you now realize what a difference that teacher made in your life, and you even find yourself thankful for that person. What stories do you recall?
I remember to this day teachers who have inspired me and encouraged me and pushed me beyond what I thought was reasonable. Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I was pushed by a high school English teacher who insisted that I write and rewrite ad nauseam everything I ever did until it was the best that it could possibly be. A theater arts teacher “made me” participate in extemporaneous speaking and duet acting in high school as well, dragging me kicking and screaming at the time, until I ultimately found joy in them. A history professor at Hendrix College, after receiving a paper that I insisted was certainly an “A” paper, proved me wrong by inventing a grade of “B++” for the paper! When asked to outline the difference between a “B++” and an “A- -“, he responded, with a smile, “probably not more than one or two words.” And finally, I had the great opportunity to co-author a paper with a political science professor at Hendrix College. My reward: best paper presented at the annual political science conference in Arkansas, and a “C”! He gave me the low grade because I did not challenge his views and instead simply agreed with each premise he put forth. These great teachers, and so many more, pushed me, challenged me, and held me to high standards and higher expectations.
This is much the same as I aspire to do today in my classes at Jacksonville Lighthouse. I challenge my students to think deeply, write passionately, and work diligently to develop their knowledge and hone their skills. I challenge myself to do the same. Teaching is about constantly developing foundational skills, in ourselves as teachers, and in our students as we prepare them for what lies outside the four walls of our classroom. It is not just about knowledge. It is not about making an “A” vs. a “C” on an exam. Instead it is about developing and sharpening communication skills, both oral and written, and helping the students grow into the best adults they can be.
When we hold students to high standards and expectations, while they may rebel, they ultimately rise to the occasion. They will act as if they are frustrated or overworked, but despite any complaint I ever hear, at the end of the day they will also…perform! They love to demonstrate their achievements, their abilities, and their finished product. They long for recognition and praise, and love to compete with one another as they race to tell their story and share their points. Students are great, and made greater by the challenges we present to them and the high expectations we establish in our classroom each day.
So where do we go from here? We have to continue to find, recruit, train and educate the best possible battery of teachers we can find for the state of Arkansas. The need is extraordinary, especially in the impoverished areas of the Delta and beyond. There are simply not enough teachers who will hold students accountable and challenge them to high standards and expectations.
Teaching is hard work. It’s emotionally draining. It’s long hours. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be angry, sad, mad, tired, and so much more. It’s also caring more than you thought was humanly possible and it is more rewarding than almost anything you could do. You don’t become a teacher for the pay, or the summers off, or any number of other reasons; you become a teacher to help educate the next generation of students in our society, to prepare them for life, to help them share their story. Teachers can come from all ages and backgrounds. For me, thanks to the Arkansas Teacher Corps, teaching became my second career at the young age of 55 and it has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling! What about you?
I proudly display in my classroom a quote from one of my favorite people, Maya Angelou. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” What is your story? Are you interested in truly making a difference in the lives of young people? Can you help students who are thirsty for learning and eager to tell their story? If so, join me in this wonderful journey and help make a difference! Additionally, please take the time to thank a teacher today!
Chris Collier (now age 58) is currently the Director for Organization Development for the Arkansas Teacher Corps. At the time of writing this article last year, Collier was finishing his third year as a Fellow with Arkansas Teacher Corps at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter College Preparatory Academy. For more information on Arkansas Teacher Corps and to apply for a fellowship, go to www.arkansasteachercorps.org.
Note from the Editor: Arkansas Teacher Corps is a program that provides a path to obtain a nontraditional teaching certification. A college degree is required, but a degree in education is not.