The problem with Florida’s veterans to teacher program

I’m a veteran, having served active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. I am also a teacher with a number of years experience. I hold a professional teaching license, an occupational teaching license, a master’s in education, and have experience in special education, as well.

My students do well. They score strong on their end of course exams, industry certifications, and other benchmarks and measurements. Most importantly, if you look at their work, you will see the growth and improvement throughout the year.

This is a bad idea

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has launched a program where by military veterans can teach with no college degree.

First, I believe the experience of many military veterans is very useful in the classroom. Furthermore, I believe the composure and maturity is very useful as well.

But as any military veteran knows, you must be fully prepared for whatever you are going to face. While a classroom full of kids may not be the Taliban, they do offer a unique set of challenges.

Here are a few issues.

Alternative license program suck. I know this for fact because I obtained my license through an alternative license program. The key difference is I had to have a bachelor’s (vets only need 60 hours in Florida), and all the program work was graduate level. Still, most simply do not prepare you for the classroom.

You need knowledge (and experience) to deploy your military knowledge in the classroom. There are a lot of factors here. How are you going to deploy your experience in a rifle company in a classroom of 5th graders? As a tank crewman to 11th graders? As a submariner to 2nd graders? How do you take those experiences and make them practical for the age/learning level/content?

Things the veteran probably does not have matter. Pedagogy matters. Childhood development matters. Cognitive development matters. Trauma informed approaches matter. Social-emotional learning matters. Classroom management matters. How kids learn to read matters. Grouping matters. Pacing matters. Curriculum matters. Lesson planning matters. How you executive all of the above, and dozens of other factors, matters.

And it all really matters. This past year, I had a student with dyslexia. She entered my then-sixth grade class on a 2nd grade reading level and left on late 4th. That’s excellent growth. With no training, can you increase her that much while also making sure the rest of the class, which ranged from kindergarten to 9th-grade reading levels, also grew without being underwhelmed or overwhelmed. Let me tell you, this shit matters. Kids’ and families’ futures are at stake.

The law. Possibly the most important thing to learn in “teacher college” are laws. Idea. Perkins. Federal Education Act. Supreme court cases. These laws address everything from disabilities to equal rights to civil rights and everything in between. And then there are state laws that literally can dictate to you what you can and cannot say in a classroom, much less teach. Violate the IDEA laws, intentionally or accidentally, and you could be paying for it for years.

I do think…

I believe veterans can make great teachers. They have a resilience the profession desperately need right now. They have an ability to deal with stress in a way that still lets them accomplish the mission.

When I was in the Coast Guard, I worked on a law enforcement boarding team. Before I did boarding one, I qualified to shoot, studied maritime law, boarding party procedures and roles, use of force continuums, and was provided with a range of skills needed to be a safe and productive boarding team member.

All branches of the military have these schools. Sadly, what Governor DeSantis is doing is sending you into a tank battle without benefit of attending the US Army Armor School.

The kids, the veterans, and the teaching profession will all suffer because of it.

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