Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'll have ice cream with my pi

I just completed the second of two math courses I need before I can earn my teaching license in early childhood education. These classes are called "endorsements" in the parlance of the Virginia Department of Education. Every state has endorsement requirements, and Virginia has some of the most stringent in the country. For grins, I checked on the requirements in some other states where I've lived, and my current undergraduate transcript met the requirements in each of them. But, here I am on the Virginia side of greater DC, so I took the math.

Were they a waste of time? Or were they a worthy pursuit on my way to a teaching license? I'm still not sure.

On one hand, I rather enjoyed the work. I had moments in the middle of an equation when I could forget the rest of the world and just get very deeply into an alternate mathematical state. It was a glimpse, I think, into why people absolutely love math. I was an English major and words are my first love, but I think I understand "number love" a little better now--and that puts me in a better place to inculcate "number love" in my students. I also seem to have put old math anxieties to rest, so that alone was probably worth the cost in time and money. I think of myself as a life-long student, and studying math at age 40 certainly fits with that vision of myself.

On the other hand, I have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, and I took the required amount of math for that degree (one class). Why isn't that enough? Also, Virginia requires a passing score on the standardized test called Praxis II, one-fourth of which is on math. I passed the Praxis with flying colors, but I still needed the two extra math courses. Doesn't that constitute a double-check for the same body of knowledge? I'm all for high standards for teachers, but I'm also for applicable standards, and I'm not certain that three college level courses in math, plus an additional standardized test, all for a license that's good through 3rd grade, is the best use of state resources.

I regret to tell you that these two math classes (plus an economics class and a geography class, by the way) were responsible for a couple of years of prevaricating before I finally decided to bite the bullet. Now that I'm here and I'm doing it, I'm sad about losing that time. Shame on me. They weren't that hard. But they were a huge mental road block on my way to a teaching license. And I had to pay for them. And I had to study for them, studying time I could have applied to researching a teaching philosophy, reading a case study, or practicing a teaching technique. Time is precious, you know?
It's water under the bridge now--I've done it and I'm deeply relieved to have them behind me.
What do you think? Is Virginia a little overboard on the endorsements, or is this exactly what should be required?

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