Evaluating a Teacher with Non-traditional Training

Teachers certified through alternative teaching programs can be competent and effective (or more so) as teachers certified through traditional programs. Read on to learn how to properly judge their credentials.

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Teachers certified through alternative teaching programs can be competent and effective (or more so) as teachers certified through traditional programs. In response to the growing need for teacher, many states are now using with great success nontraditional means to recruit and certify teachers. One example is of this is the recruitment of people from the professional world who have a great deal of life experience to draw from. While a strong professional background does not eliminate the need for certification, it can be a big plus to learn from someone who has practical experience to share.

If you want to get a better idea of how well qualified your child's teacher is, consider these suggestions:

  • Ask to see your child's homework. Walk through the assignment with your child and see if she understands the questions, or what is expected. Watch for patterns in any lack of understanding.
  • Ask your child about a typical day in the classroom. Get a feel for the way the day is organized. Are there group projects? Creative time? Reading time?
  • Find out what techniques your child's teacher uses to administer discipline. What are the established rules of the classroom? What are the set consequences for specific actions? Is recess used as currency?
  • Talk to the teacher directly. Find out about his system for evaluating student performance. How heavily does he rely on standardized tests? Does he get outside the basic requirements and offer your child more than just state standards to learn from?
  • Take note of the comments on your child's papers. Are they constructive? Do they offer guidance? Is the teacher specific about what needs to be changed or what was good and why? Does he offer suggestions form improvement?
  • How much attention does the teacher pay to the development of social skills? What are his academic expectations for your child? Do they meet or exceed your own? How well does the teacher communicate with you and how welcome are your questions?
  • If at all possible, ask for permission to observe your child's classroom. Take careful note of how the teacher handles transitions from one phase of the day to the next. Watch for imbalances in the amount of attention the children are getting.

At the very least, be sure she has a bachelor's degree, full competence in her subject area and a firm grasp of all subjects, some kind of valid certification and experience in a classroom under the guidance of a mentor. It's important to evaluate your child's teacher so that you can feel confident about entrusting your child into her care and tutelage. Don't feel that you are overstepping your bounds. The teacher is a partner with you in the education of your child.

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