It's not just the low pay, the mountains of paperwork, or the lack of time to get everything done. It's the lack of respect...the constant bashing of teachers and public schools by so-called conservatives along with their plans to privatize public education.
AN ACTUAL CONSERVATIVE BASIS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: The Founding Fathers, especially authors of the Declaration and Constitution, Jefferson and Madison, envisioned public schools serving everyone. Read America’s Founding Fathers Were Against School Choice. The sources for that post are here and here.
Unfortunately, too many members of the general public believe that teaching is "easy." They remember their years in school through the eyes of the children or young adults they were when they observed teachers at work. They apparently don't understand (or believe) the hours of time spent getting to the point where, to an immature outside observer, it looks easy. They think that you just stand up in front of a class, spout the information pertinent to your subject, and the students will be held spellbound by the sheer joy of learning. They think that once you present material, students will understand and retain all that information.
Today's so-called "conservatives" are apparently hesitant to give teachers respect and credit for their work. For one thing, teaching is still widely perceived as "women's work" -- glorified babysitting, and we all know how much respect that gets. It's also true that public education is a public good -- a common good -- a concept that conflicts with the attitude held by some conservatives and libertarians that individualism is most important. Education is necessary for one to make their way in society...to take care of themselves, and to keep from being a burden on society. In contrast, more liberal public school supporters -- like me -- believe that public schools are the cornerstone of democracy. A free, equitable public education, available to all citizens, is good for everyone (see links to the Founding Fathers, above).
Teachers are disrespected. We are consistently bashed in the media. We are underpaid compared to others with the same investment in education. We are treated as incompetent. We are branded as "groomers" and "predators." We are threatened and harassed.
It's no wonder that teachers are heading for the exits.
More than half of teachers are looking for the exits, a poll says?
The National Education Association poll, conducted in January, helps quantify the stress being placed on educators right now. It found that the number who say they'll leave the profession sooner has risen significantly since August. Among the NEA poll's other findings:
- 90% of its members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem.
- 86% say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic.
- 80% report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for those left
Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits Bottom
55% [of teachers in the survey] said they were "not very" or "not at all" likely to tell their younger self to pursue teaching as a career.
OUR COMPENSATION FOR POVERTY IS INADEQUATE
We can make the teaching profession more attractive to young people by increasing our education investment...but we, as a nation, are, apparently, not interested in that. Statistically, we're 66th in the world in spending on education as a percentage of our GDP. It's true that 5% of the US GDP is much more than the 8% spent by Norway, the highest rated OECD country in the list, but we have many more students. We also have higher rates of poverty than Norway -- greater than 20% for the US versus less than 10% for Norway. And the higher the poverty rate, the more money is needed to help students reach their potential.
The United States doesn't provide enough money to compensate for our high child-poverty rate. The inequity in American school funding is baked into the system so we spend more money on our wealthy children's education than the education of our poor children. The property tax basis for school funding is partially responsible for this as is the fact that federal spending doesn't always make up for the difference in state spending. A wealthy state, like New York, for example, spends more money per student than does a poor state, like Utah. Some of the discrepancy is mitigated by local cost of living differences, but not all (see The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools).
Beyond Burnout: What Must Be Done to Tackle the Educator Shortage
For years, educators nationwide have been underpaid, undervalued, and underresourced. Now, the pandemic and everything that comes with it—physical and mental health concerns, student learning challenges, and a crushing workload— are pushing an unprecedented number of educators to reconsider their careers.What people say when they hear I’m becoming a teacher
According to a recent NEA member survey, a staggering 55 percent of educators say they are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than planned.
“This is a five-alarm crisis,” says NEA President Becky Pringle. “If we’re serious about getting every child the support they need to thrive, our elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now.”
I wrote above that I would not recommend teaching to any young person, but this soon-to-be (or recent) graduate of one of Indiana's colleges rejects that recommendation. For her, the benefit society would gain from her teaching is more than the difficulty she will have as a teacher. I only hope, for her sake, that as an English teacher, she's allowed to teach and is not restrained by misguided and paranoid Critical Race Theory laws. I hope that she can earn enough to live on. I hope that she learns how to take care of herself both physically and mentally so she doesn't become cynical or "burned out." At this point, I would tell her, "good luck...and thank you."
These long, full days showed me how to do the job and reminded me of the positive impact teachers can have on their students (and vice versa). They also showed me what educators are up against (in addition to the low wages everyone talks about). I heard about the staffing shortages, the untenable workloads, school funding disparities, and controversial changes, such as efforts to restrict certain conversations about race, gender, and sexuality. I realize that I’m choosing a career that many veterans, discouraged and disheartened, are leaving.Today's children will be tomorrow's citizens and leaders. If we want an educated citizenry...if we want to preserve our free government...then we need to be willing to pay for it. Not to do so would be shortsighted.
But my love for education — and desire to make a difference — propels me forward. I want my classroom to be a welcoming space that fosters learning and relationships. As graduation approaches, I eagerly await my first professional job, my first classroom, my first classroom library, and my first day of school. So when people ask me if I’m sure I want to be a teacher, I’m more confident saying: Yes, and now more than ever.
Indiana ConstitutionPicture the education of our children as a "savings account." By fully funding an equitable education for all our children, we're "saving" for our nation's future where the citizens and leaders are competent and well-informed.
Article 8. - Education.
Section 1. Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. -- James Madison
...establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. -- Thomas Jefferson
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security. -- Samuel Adams