Adjunct Permits for Teaching in the State of Indiana

When the state of Indiana attempts to pass legislation that affects its education system, my knee-jerk reaction is usually to oppose it. The Republican majority has consistently worked to corporatize the education system and subjugate teachers with unnecessary restraints and lesser pay, so I’ve learned to distrust any changes implemented by the state legislature. However, with the latest movement to create adjunct permits to allow easier access for teaching in our public schools, I have to reconsider the benefits such legislation would have for the state. More specifically, I have been forced to consider my own plight to find employment as a teacher, and how this legislation might provide a great personal opportunity to continue my professional career path. After spending several frustrating months attempting to find teaching work, without a paycheck, I cannot help but hope for the passage of this adjunct permit legislation, posthaste.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the following three rules would be implemented for hiring of teachers in primary and secondary public schools:

— “Adjunct” licenses for teachers. This permit allows anyone with a four-year college degree and a 3.0 GPA to teach after passing an exam. These teachers would be required to get training while teaching and if they sought a license renewal after five years.

— Allowing teachers to teach fine arts if they pass a special test. No experience as a band instructor or artist would be required.

— Allow educators with a master’s degree and two years of teaching experience to be superintendents. Currently, a more rigorous education specialist degree is required.

I admit I remain conflicted about this legislation, as the ulterior motive of the state is to find cheaper labor for teaching in the state of Indiana. College institutions have laid down the groundwork of how to make it work in the public education system. Colleges utilize adjuncts successfully to teach a majority of classes at a discount. Adjunct instructors are paid at about one-third of the cost of a full-time tenure-track professor. These adjunct positions are usually designed to be temporary appointments, and benefits packages for medical insurance and pensions are unnecessary expenses with hiring adjuncts.

There is already serious, impassioned opposition to this legislation. Educators and administrators have suggested this is a method to break up teachers’ unions, which is probably true. It has been suggested that it is unfair to existing certified teachers to hire adjuncts who have not completed the rigorous and costly process. Finally, there is legitimate concern that academic standards might be lowered if incompetent individuals are hired to fill professional positions within the education system.

On the other hand, there is a need to hire teachers, and the current system of certification prevents opportunity for teachers to assist their community with this pressing need. I see a benefit for allowing philanthropists within impoverished school communities an easier passage to teach classes in their own community’s public schools, where many certified teachers are unwilling to teach and voucher programs are pulling money out of those school communities. Should a citizen who is willing to fill a needed position in a community be prevented from doing so under the auspices of needing certification first? The rule does call for on-the-job training and monitoring, along with having to pass an exam. Current teaching certification calls for the same thing, but at added expense to the potential teacher, usually in the form of increased college tuition, personal expenditure on standardized testing, and time investment of several years without benefit of a living wage.

Teaching unions often defend the system that is in place without considering the faults of what they defend. Certification does not automatically guarantee that a teacher is competent at her craft. Often, the unions will defend a bad teacher under the auspices that if a member of the group is certified, then that member should retain her job, no matter the grievance. The fight by those already welcomed into the certified teaching fold seems to be a case of sour grapes at times. The resistance to welcoming adjuncts usually comes off as “I’ve paid my dues! How come this new whippersnapper didn’t have to do the same…?” As for the lowering of academic standards, I suspect that certification is no guarantee that the certified teacher is, in fact, maintaining the standards, so I am skeptical of the teaching unions’ adamant resistance for allowance of adjunct permits. This resistance seems more to preserve the security of existing teachers’ jobs than to promote the furtherance of the profession or maintenance of rigid academic standards.

There is also an assumption here that those who would want to teach as an adjunct have no teaching experience and could not effectively teach without following the necessary procedures, even if those procedures have not necessarily proved to be very effective in designating good teachers. Someone in my position could benefit from passage of the adjunct permit. As an unemployed college instructor, I would be willing to teach locally in a public school, but I am prevented because I am not certified. I have nearly a decade of teaching experience, but in order to get certification, I would need to re-enroll in a college program, pay for 33 more credit hours of college, and attend classes and student-teaching where I have already accumulated knowledge, experience, and qualification. I’d probably have occasion to mentor those who are attempting to instruct me in that case. In fact, I have already taught several classes in college where the majority of my students were student-teachers seeking certification to teach…you might see this as contradictory…I certainly do…I have provided certification for educators within a system that will not allow me to teach because I lack certification.

When I first considered teaching as my career, I asked for advice from several of my professors about how they became an effective teacher. Most of them had the same story: “When I first started teaching, I was handed a copy of a textbook and a sample of a course syllabus…and I was told ‘good luck.’” I had the benefit of taking a graduate college course that prepared me to teach in the college classroom, but I will testify that it mattered little compared to the hands-on experience of managing a classroom. Teaching is both an art and a science, and active teaching allowed for the refinement of my pedagogy, primarily. Licensure, rigid testing, and certification are all requirements of the legal and medical profession, but doctors and lawyers might agree that their professional acumen was best acquired in hospitals and courtrooms.

I will be closely watching Indiana’s state legislature concerning the adjunct permit. If these new rules are passed, then I will be one of the first to take advantage of this opportunity. While I am aware the pay will be lousy, I am more than willing to become an adjunct teacher at my local public schools. I have learned how to survive as an adjunct college instructor, and any paycheck at this point will be welcomed. I do not view teaching my community as a job; I view it as an opportunity to assist my community, by providing a needed social good, with altruistic willingness and experienced professionalism.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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2 comments

  1. “Should a citizen who is willing to fill a needed position in a community be prevented from doing so under the auspices of needing certification first?” indeed!

    As you may remember, as a freshman I was tutoring my peers in English in college. I stuck with that position for two years, then at another campus of the same college I was ineligible to tutor because I lacked a four-year degree. What sense does that make?

    It’s understandable that certain measures are in place to ensure students are being taught by competent individuals, yet certifications–yea, even degrees–do not wholly qualify someone to teach another. I’ve met college students who couldn’t describe their field: an art major who couldn’t define art, a psych graduate who couldn’t define psychology.

    Possessing a four-year degree and passing a test would be great for people in my position who wish to teach, to meet the need. We’d be grateful for a position that would no doubt at least compensate a little better than other entry-level options open to us, while we continue to study and acquire teaching skills along the way.

    1. Indeed! I’ve noticed a few recent commercials, mostly on NBC, providing social messages…you know, “the more you know” kind of nuggets. These commercials ask citizens to consider teaching as a career, since our elders are retiring en masse and there is a pressing need. I usually laugh hysterically after seeing these; then, I get a bit frustrated and return to trying to find a job teaching, with my lack of certification, “limited” graduate degree, and decade of teaching experience. Excuse my sarcasm. If the adjunct permit passes and becomes legislation, then I feel mine and your frustration will become a moot point.

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