If your boss came to you and told you that you had to take a class to learn how to do your job better and that the company would pay for it, would you say no? What if your manager said that if you didn’t complete the training, you would be fired? I’m pretty sure that I’d go ahead and take the class. Not everyone, however, feels the same way.
A school district in San Joaquin County, California told all its teachers that they needed to be trained in techniques to better teach students who were not fluent in English — about 20% of California students. This instruction is part of the standard education for new teachers, but those who received their credential prior to 2003 may not have covered this information. Theresa Messick of Ripon High School is one such veteran teacher.
Messick, who received her credential in 1985, declined the training and the school district began proceedings to terminate her employment. She sued, naturally, and has been handed a defeat by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacrmento. The ruling was unanimous (3-0); Justice George Nicholson noted that “the Legislature has recognized that the number of [English Learner] students in the state is increasing, and it has clearly instructed the state to prepare for this need.”
A teacher I spoke with described the training as useful. She explained that “it makes you rethink about how they’re thinking and what it must be like for them. You think about what it must be like to be in a classroom where the people around are using vocabulary that you don’t understand. The training gives you techniques on how to help EL students understand the vocabulary as well as how they can communicate using the vocabulary in the classroom.”
So why did she refuse the paid-for training? I suspect only she knows, but her lawyer did say that the certification was not relevant in her case since “no English learner had ever attempted to sign up for her classes.” One has to wonder how much that has to do with the fact that, according to the lawyer, less than 3% of the students at the high school are EL students and how much has to do with discouragement from Ms. Messick.
As far as I’m concerned, a teacher who is not interested in continuing their own education has no place being in a classroom responsible for the education of others.
Photo: Uncle Roger