Saturday, May 30, 2009

The CA credential process, part I

During a conversation with a friend recently, I suddenly realized that the whole teaching credential process is quite a mystery to the general public. I don't know why I didn't realize this earlier - I was pretty clueless as well. Still am, in many areas. And no wonder, there are so many flaming hoops to keep track of!

So, here's the first in a new series giving the inside scoop of the nuts and bolts of getting a license to teach in the golden state of California. It's another way for my to organize information, but hopefully it'll be useful for other people too. Yep, all 2 of you who stumble upon this blog.

First and foremost in getting a credential (which, by the way, is completely different from getting your own classroom to teach in - more on this later) is that much lauded Bachelor of Arts/Sciences degree. I hold a BS in Mathematics (general study), but any field of study will do. Simple enough so far, right?

Well, to be frank, I didn't find it very easy at all just to have the honor of being called a college graduate. I made the typical mistakes - freedom to the head, didn't study as hard as I could have, etc. Not that I was party-hardy either (not sure this is even in my genetic make-up), but I failed my fair share of courses. Thankfully, I did better the second time around.

I can't say I would make the same choices if I could re-do my college education, but I'm also glad for the experiences of failing as well. I will say that I'm much more careful about this kind of stuff now; although still with plenty of room to improve.

One thing I wish I had taken more advantage of was the "add/drop" period. Those first two, silvery weeks when you can try out classes and drop them if you don't like them. Or more precisely, if you don't like the person teaching the course. How many times have I stuck to a class where I can't understand the instructor because his accent was just too heavy? Twice, I disastrously stayed with a class where the professors were unhelpful to my needs. Granted, I was a pretty needy kid. But still, I would have learned better in a different class, with a more sympathetic atmosphere.

A friend's wise dad once said, "This is YOUR education, and YOU (i.e. your parents, but he didn't say that) are paying good money for it. So be your own advocate for your own education. No one else is going to do it for you." I'm still working on this.

Note: There are actually several different ways of getting a credential, as will be detailed later when that step is addressed. Some schools offer a combination BA/credential course you can take in four years rather than tacking an additional 1-2 years for the credential part to your BA/S part. This still means you have to have a BA/S though. It's a BA in Elementary/Intermediate/Secondary Education. Plus a credential. The difference is that you study education as an undergraduate, which gives you less time to study whatever else you want to study.

In California, the BA in Secondary Education is rare because of the law that says all teachers must be "highly qualified." Which means you need to have taken certain college courses in the area you teach. For example, if I wanted a Single Subject Credential (also explained later) in Mathematics, I would need to complete the full range of lower division courses as well as a specific selection of upper division course work. I'm lacking two courses of analysis, so I can't go that route. But if I took the CSET (also to be explained later - man, this process is confusing!) in math, I would have fulfilled that requirement.

Confused yet? Believe me, the most confusing parts are yet to come. That's right, in the plural.

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