Should Teacher Tenure take Five Years?

       Anyone who has ever gone through the process of becoming a doctor understands the many and varied phases that are required to attain the title of "doctor".  This process involves undergraduate work (four years), medical school (four years), residency program (three to seven years depending on the medical speciality), and perhaps a fellowship (one to three years) if the individual is pursuing a subspecialty.  American Medical Association

       The purpose for the residency and fellowship portions of this process is so that these people who have completed the course work of medicine can have experience in the actual process of treating people and making decisions about the healthcare of patients--under the supervision of experienced medical professionals.  No one wants their loved one to undergo heart surgery from a doctor who has only read a book on how to complete a heart surgical process [!].

     Teachers go through a similar process on their journey to becoming teachers:  Four years of undergraduate work that included a semester or more of student teaching--actual planning and then teaching of actual students under the supervision of an experienced teacher.  Then they go through two or three years of teaching as an untenured teacher.  During this period of time they are gaining experience as they are also observed and evaluated by their administrators.  Hopefully they work for a school or school system that also provides professional development during these first couple of years.

       But how many years does it take for a person to become sufficiently knowledgeable about the mechanics and the art of teaching before they can be considered for tenure?  Is two years enough time?  Should it be three years?  Five years?  Across the 50 United States, the time frame between first hire and tenure varies from about 1 to 5 years source.

       Teaching is a difficult job.  It takes a while to learn effective strategies for reaching students and helping them to learn and understand and reason and think.  A typical class of 30 students has students with multiple ability levels and multiple levels of motivation.  Teaching is only half of the job; the far more important half in ensuring that students are learning.  And that takes skill, ability, and experience.  I'm not talking about earning good grades--lots of students earn decent grades and walk out of class without actually learning too much.

       So, how long should teachers be in the "learning" and "gaining experience" mode before we officially endow on them the title of "tenured teacher"?

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