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This is behind the classroom door a series of discussions produced by WFIU at the College of Education at Northern Illinois University and distributed by the national educational radio network. Our topic for this program is what is expected of today's teacher. Here is the moderator Dean Robert after top. This is the number 13 in a series of conversations about public school education. The series is entitled Behind the classroom door and this particular conversation is entitled teaching as a career. All of us have been involved as teachers all of our lives. Presently we have assignments preparing teachers at Northern Illinois University. And actually I believe teaching as a career is changing and that over the past 10 15 or 20 years there have been some remarkable changes that make teaching a different kind of profession than it used to
be. Dr. Lloyd Leonard is head of the elementary education department at Northern Illinois University and I'm going to ask him to give us some of these insights. What's teaching like today. Well I'd today teaching is become an exciting interesting satisfying work for an especially at the elementary school level it's become a changing type of work. Today we are developing a new image of teaching at the elementary school level we're giving more recognition to the importance of the teachers role. I think it's a teaching task at the elementary school today is a more house more intellectual challenge than it's ever had in the past. We're giving more attention to teaching teachers specialties and talents. Pardon me Lloyd but hasn't teaching always been a satisfying profession. I think that you can answer that by saying that it has at
times and even today been somewhat underpaid. And this makes a difference. Well not only laugh but I think there is so much more challenge on children's time parent's time today because of the other types of media that are competing for. More this time that is allowed for study. I have parents and children then expect more of teachers today and as a result more and better preparation for teaching is required. You bet it's required Dr. Laughlin and I'll tell you why I think so because of this base base base age where we are planning on circulating the moon children come to school nowadays knowing much more than they ever did before with these media you're talking about and television has been one of the most educational in my opinion. I think teachers certainly have to know more than they had to know on
past partially because we've had such an increase in knowledge in our society. But I wonder if it isn't somewhat unfair to say that it's a much more. Enjoyable profession because I think the enjoyment is in working with youngsters and watching youngsters develop and teachers in the past who are very close to children in the rural school may actually have been able to receive many rewards from seeing individuals develop. But those rural schools one room rural schools still exist. I just visited a state but there are still two thousand one room are all schools with poorly prepared teachers who carry the firewood and there's still a pump for water. This was a handicap to the profession and to the enjoyment of teaching and I think something happened recently and that recent happening was Sputnik and the attention of our society to teaching and to education as an important
aspect of national life. I suppose in our society with a great deal of emphasis on education. It's only natural to somewhat evaluate the a profession by the amount of education the people in that profession have and therefore as we've increased the requirements for teachers so that instead of being a graduate of a normal school that might be one year in length. We now require college educations of all teachers in fact in some states even a 50 year and therefore the teacher has greater respect from society at large. What's happened to salaries I wonder have they gone up relative to other professions. Anybody have an idea then that I am sure that teaching salaries are higher for example our young teachers are going out now and it is
much is six thousand or six thousand five hundred dollars a year. Of course that they say that's for nine months teaching but they have to live the entire year on this. I wonder if this isn't relatively higher than it was I think years ago. Inflation makes it difficult simply to talk in terms of a dollar value. But. I recently attended a meeting involving the Western suburban schools of Chicago in which they're talking about beginning salaries for next year from 63 to sixty nine hundred dollars. And it's beginning with a bachelor's degree. I started teaching in 1949 at twenty seven hundred dollars and that was about 100 dollars larger or higher than the average for the state at that time. But recently in Time magazine about town professions were listed in terms of salaries and teaching was still listed at the bottom
in terms of beginning salaries. The average beginning salary for the professions for the medical profession. It was high engineering profession very high in teaching was still a law although teaching certainly has made great advancements within the past few years. Well I think we would have to recognize that the advantages of teaching as a career are not entirely financial. I think the type of person who would enjoy teaching is a Greer is not a person who wants to get rich quickly or easily. Bob before you leave this subject I'd like to comment on this matter of teachers salaries. It seems to me that the teacher of average ability does have a higher salary than he had previously. But what about the exceptional teacher the teacher with the high ability as a as in this profession his salary is
going right along with a teacher of average ability in the system. Not at all it always occurs to me that with the same amount of money and by having some type of merit system this exceptional teacher with the. High ability could be rewarded much more than this other teacher. Well yeah then I would agree that teachers salaries are better than they were previously. You're touching upon a very controversial subject actually whether there should be an established salary schedule for teachers so that all who had the same preparation and the same experience got the same amount of money and I rather believe that this this is a characteristic plan across the nation although there are some school districts that involve themselves in a merit plan. So this unusually fine teacher in so far as this can be termed determined does get extra merit pay but I admit that is rare. Right
no teacher with a great ability usually has to move into a higher position of some sort and I suspect many a teacher has left teaching to go into administration hoping to get more money. You might have been a better teacher than an administrator but the financial situation caused him to make this decision. Well it's unfortunate that a school system must lose this teacher to a to a neighboring school system that is able to pay him more. Now there isn't any other profession in which a person doing an outstanding job does not. Receive more of a reward for his abilities. The medical profession in the dental profession and others are rewarded on the basis of their ability. I don't keer it works. Theoretically I think this is a good idea but you know it's very difficult to distinguish and isolate the people that
deserve the merit pay. That's been the reason I think that we haven't had more merit pay in the public schools. I think that's a real problem how do you really identify the superior teachers know there must be some way to accomplish this and I'm sure it's being attempted in a number of institutions and school districts. I think that's true though in all professions that it's very difficult to say that this person for example is a better physician or a better lawyer or better engineer than those physician. Nevertheless the teaching profession as Leo said is the only profession that still has a lockstep salary system in which the mediocre in fact even the below average teacher is paid the same salary as the better teacher and therefore the people who are leaving the teaching profession because of dissatisfaction with salary tend to be the most promising people recently. A number of schools have tried a
plan known and differentiated assignments for differentiated pay. For example Lake Park High School in Medina has experimented with this plan have the advantage because they started with a merit plan but their top teachers are being paid much higher salaries than teachers in other school systems. I don't think it's quite as difficult to evaluate success in teaching as Bob you seem to indicate. You know we may be in our discussion here making the mistake that I think many a new teacher fresh out of a college program makes of looking at teaching as a career and looking at the possible jobs that he might select on the basis of the dollars and a lot I don't want to be unrealistic about financial needs of
people I still maintain that ones work mates satisfying and rewarding. Largely because of other factors you've got to have enough money to live on and supply your family with their needs and to develop some security as you move through life. But at the same time there are some assets in teaching secure this we have a pretty good retirement plans and teachers who are reasonably successful don't get fired very quickly so there is a certain degree but is that an advantage. I don't know where there's an advantage to the profession but it is to the. It is to the teacher. And so there's a certain degree of financial security but I maintain that in our choice of professions we have to think of other satisfactions. And to me teaching is tremendously satisfying and it must be fairly
satisfying to a lot of other people because aren't there 2 million teachers in this country today. Dr. Leonard Yes well I I agree with what you just said. But before we leave this problem of salaries I just like to say that that the point that Ray made about differentiated assignments and a different pay scales for people with different types of assignments is probably the way we're going to solve this problem. I think that's the most promising. A way of rewarding the real career teacher and the real master teacher that I have heard about in years. Teacher I think teacher militancy has increased so much in the past because after all we live in a capitalistic society so our EAS are important. We've had so many women in the teaching profession who actually use teaching as a source of a second the income since World War 2 we've drawn many men into the profession. The men are concerned about salaries. They
dislike the idea that we keep talking about other rewards and although doing dop I agree that there are many rewards other than salary in teaching. I think this is also true of other professions. Certainly the good position has many rewards other than salary. True but salary is still important to the American Medical Association. I also wonder going back to what Bob said earlier about identifying a good teacher that if you took the parents in a community in which the teacher had taught a poor teacher had taught for several years. If parents aren't quite aware that this teacher is poor it seems to me that you hear over and over again it's too bad that. Your child is and so on so is class. And when you start talking about it although much of the evidence is subjective much tends to be very positive. The parent is aware that the child is doing busywork that he's
turning in themes and in class the themes are never returned and the same on the other side of the picture. The outstanding teacher in a school system is norm by the parents the principal Bobby were a principal on a large high school I wonder if if you win be able at that time or you would not have been able to identify who were your good teachers outstanding teachers who deserved salaries better than the average teachers. I think you would in some respects Ray but I still don't believe that that they parents would completely understand that I can give you one example after the other where a very poor teacher was taught by the parents to be very good. Sometimes it's. A manner of relating and understanding manner of relating and of course this applies to MTS do a bedside manner might make a doctor very successful and he might not be the best doctor. This occurs with teachers. What about the children I've had a feeling that children as low as the
third grade if given a little help in the structuring of say a self-evaluation scale can have tremendous insights into the teacher's ability and we've used this occasionally I would hate to depend on any of these these things though are by things ing there also. I think that using any single criterion and a profession that actually depends a great deal upon the matter. It's an art rather than a science and therefore you have to use objective criteria. If you took a single criterion such as parent parental judgment I think it would be a mistake. But I think. Using all the evidence that we have available in terms of evaluating teachers we certainly can at least identify those teachers who actually do not belong in a classroom. We also or at least do do not belong without proper supervision and we can identify those teachers who are superior and who certainly should be retained. After all we do this at the university level or we try to and it
seems to me at the university level even though difficult it's more difficult. But many universities have moved toward student evaluation of instructors as one means of getting information about a professor. And I think it's important. I think students by and large. Are able to evaluate a professor you know ordered me to give him information that would be helpful. Again I'm wondering if we aren't amplifying too much on something that may not be true. You know we've been mentioning that parents could evaluate and do. Let's face it there isn't a parent especially a parent of a young child who isn't continuously thinking about the teacher's impact on the child and this is good. It indicates the importance of the parent holes in the teacher. But you know I don't think parents are particularly critical of teachers I think they're very supportive
of teachers they recognize what they're doing and and to me when I was a teacher this was one of the real satisfactions to working with the child and trying to bring about improvement and then meeting with that child's parents and usually getting real cooperation hasn't this been your experience. Dr. Nelson you were principal of a large high school and even at that level. Don't you feel parents are ready and willing not only ready and willing but they really want to help because they know it's to the advantage of their children. It's interesting to note that these parents will make any effort or any sacrifice of time to help the school help their students to visit with a teacher and I think this is one of the satisfactions that a teacher gets in this education experience that they have with the children. Well Dr. Fox you mentioned teaching is an art rather than a science I think maybe it's a combination of the two because we have discovered through
research of many many facts about how to teach in child psychology and educational psychology. But on the other hand it seems to me that we do need to think about what kind of a person should go into teaching. So I think our basic topic today perhaps are spending too much time in terms of salary for a teacher although certainly significant to a person in the teaching profession but is teaching as a career. I following along with what you're saying I think. A person would be making a very serious error to contemplate entering teaching profession unless he liked working with children or adolescents. If he doesn't regardless of how much the particular subject matter me appealed to him I think he's going to be dissatisfied as a teacher and I doubt very much of he'll stay with
the teaching and he will be a good teacher. Yeah and he also has to like working with people and of all ages. Certainly he had a teacher in a school asked to work with many many adults as well as children he has to work with the teacher across the hall he has to work with. With all of the teachers in the building he asked to work with the parents of these children so I think it's very true that this teacher has to like people. I think that's especially true and that point should be stressed that when you're involved in the teaching profession it is not just a matter of working with children. You have to work with their parents closely and these persons considering the teaching profession and avoid it because they feel it's strictly working with children and have the wrong idea of the type of work of teachers and gaged and I won't go and I think another. Quality
did we need to look for in a career teacher is is one who is intelligent resourceful and creative I think those are three qualities that they must have if they're going to be successful in teaching this matter being Reese resourceful these days especially important when you consider the impact that these fine and exciting television programs which come into our homes these days can you imagine the chance a home assignment for a child to work on would would have when there is an especially good television program coming on. Teaching is hard work. The teacher should also have the quality of physical stamina. It's a long job standing up all day long the working with the children and sometimes I've heard teachers say I've never been so tired as when school starts. Well part of it is a kind of a psychological tiredness I think because you're
continuously in contact with particularly young children where they have to have attention all the time. And up to this point at least we haven't given elementary teachers many free periods. I schoolteachers tend to have larger classes in larger numbers of students with a few free periods scattered in there when they can catch their breath. And in my opening comment I mention the fact that teaching was exciting and challenging today. And I never have gone to be gone back to that. But I think it ties in right here and that is that. Today although teachers may have always been X it may have always been an exciting job for some teachers and electorally challenging too. But today with with the explosion of knowledge with the new materials that we have to work with with television all the other types of teaching aids that we have today and with the fact that the
children today I have much broader backgrounds coming from much richer environments from travel and so forth. Today teaching is more exciting I think than it used to be and I write I think another factor that certainly would tend to attract more people into the teaching profession is something based on. One of your opening comments and that is that the image of the teacher today has changed greatly that we had a stereotype that was a non satisfactory stereotype of the teacher prior to World War 2 and as a result most people would shy away from teaching. Even cartoonists don't portray teachers anymore the way they did. And some of the early TV programs our Miss Brooks the Mr. Peepers the teacher was always in on satisfactory type of human being. And I think that since World War
2 partially because of the n flux of a large number of veterans into teaching a large number of males the increase in salaries and working to conditions we have quite a different image of teachers and a teacher. The restrictions that were placed upon teachers in communities have been removed in most communities that are average or larger communities and some small communities. I think there are still far too many personal restrictions on teachers but even those are being gradually removed. I think this is been one of the biggest factors to get more good people into teaching because they realize now that it's not at those post ideas. One of the most recent developments is this differentiation of the staff and additional services for the teacher to use and a matter of fact today we're talking about the teacher and his staff because a teacher isn't a self isn't self-contained anymore in other words whether it's a first grade
teacher or a sixth grade teacher or a high school teacher. Today in a good school they have a staff to work with them. It seems that Lloyd along that same line that although it's a fairly recent development teaching a move toward differentiated type of assignment or differentiated skills of staff members that were finally doing what many other professions have done for a number of years. I think anyone who has spent time in a hospital for example is impressed with the. Division of labor according to preparation and skill so that the actual surgeon does very little well in the past. Teachers in fact in the present for even the present time teachers in many cases are doing spending much of their time in skills that a person could do without a college education. When it comes to the preparation of teachers nowadays Dr. Fox you you mentioned how it's increasing. And what does it take really now days
let's say you are a young person graduating from high school and you decide I want to become a teacher. What can you dissipate with regard to the preparation you have to undertake I think. Again the idea of a normal education. In other words a bag of tricks has disappeared entirely. A person has to receive a broad general education. Some work in its professional field and of course an area of concentration within a major field. A bachelor's degree is a normal level preparation in most school systems but acceptable person can figure on getting a job with a bachelor's degree. Don't you think so in most the military I understand I believe there are four states at the present time that require a master's degree but don't isn't a person permitted to take a teaching assignment with a bachelor's degree and then to get as regular or permanent
certificate. Well it varies by states California for example the secondary credential requires the 50 year immediately in order to get the Washington Washoe into it washow. And even in the state of Illinois for example the person without a master's degree would have difficulty in getting a job in a good suburban school. You know where coming to a close now and I feel we've hardly touched upon this and that's particularly the assets of teaching the clean surroundings that working with young people. The nice hours the fine people that you associate with those you work on committees the a creative stimulation that you get out of developing curricula and one point that seems very important to me and my experience tells me this is very true. Young people entering teaching as a profession become better people as a result of it. You can't serve young people very long before you
start to lose some of your self-centered ness if you will. And you start to give to others and in doing so you become a better person. And I think are better able to enjoy life itself and to appreciate the advantages in life. So we would urge anybody who is interested in teaching to visit some schools to go talk to people who are in the in the in the work of preparing teachers and then to move ahead with it and as rapidly as they can because we need teachers. Behind the classroom door produced by W. and in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guests were for a college of education administrators. Dr. Lloyd Leonard. Dr. Leo Laughlin
Dr. Raymond Fox and Dr. Robert Nelson. Next week's topic will be sex education in our schools. I'm Fred Pyle and this program is distributed by the national educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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Chicago: “Behind the Classroom Door; 13,” 1969-03-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
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APA: Behind the Classroom Door; 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from