Years ago, when I was an undergraduate, my roommate and I were talking about what we would do when we finished school. I recall being somewhat disappointed in her, when she said "I'll have kids, then I'll maybe try teaching. That's easy enough. Go in at eight, leave at three. Read, write, do some math. I mean, how hard can it be?"
I was rather reserved back then, and didn't tell her how I felt. If I had the chance now, I'd tell her that because of attitudes like hers, many elementary school-aged children are being cheated.
The National Council on Teacher Quality has released a study stating that Teachers Are Not Properly Prepared to Teach Math. They also point out that teacher-ed programs are not being discriminating enough when accepting participants. Anyone who wants to teach can enter a program, consequently shaping the success of hundreds of students.
Too many college students look at teaching as the easy alternative, as something to fall back on, as the least energy-consuming job. They breeze through teacher-ed programs, creating the required thematic units, writing the customary papers on "their philosophy of teaching", and taking the easiest courses to "prepare" them to teach math, science, writing, and reading.
Many folks I know are guided by the scripts in the teacher's manual. (My brother once said they were "married" to the teacher's guides.) Especially where math is concerned, few people delve into, or care to understand more deeply what they are expected to teach. I know colleagues who skip over decimals, or measurement, or probability. Furthermore, a consequence of No Child Left Behind has been a growing number of desperate teachers plowing through curriculum at such a fast rate that students are denied adequate time to master skills and concepts.
Teaching is a science and a calling. We must return this profession to a pedestal, encourage the best effort, and require excellence. When studies such as the NCTQ's come out, I cringe because I know who and what they're referring to. Some folks are in the wrong place, doing it the wrong way, and doing it for the wrong reasons.
Let's spread the word about this profession. It is not easy. You are required to think, a lot. You should know why multiplication is magical. You have to know what is going on in the rest of the country, and around the world. You need to read. You must hold yourself and your students to the highest expectations.