9/08/2009

Why Teaching Sucks

In a recent conversation, my daughter made a comment about how unfair it was that teachers make $40,000 a year and "only have to work 9 months" for it. For the last decade, I've taught at a private college. For about 3 years of that decade, I had the time of my life teaching. For those 3 years, I would have agreed with her, except that I was making about $7,500 a year at the time. I was, also, working 12 months a year at two other businesses that paid the bills.

I wasn't teaching for money. I sure wasn't doing it because it was easier than my previous job. I was teaching because it was fun.

It was fun because I'd stumbled into a school situation where my boss was a terrific person with honorable motivations and his boss was, possibly, an even better person with amazing management skills. It was fun because I was learning as much as I was teaching, if not more. That's not a typical teaching position in the modern United States. It didn't last long where I worked, either.

Most schools are mismanaged as badly as the worst corporations. Most teachers find themselves in systems that provide no outlets for their own education. Most teachers are as unsupported in their classrooms as a National Guard foot soldier in Afghanistan. The web is jammed with articles describing the conditions teachers work under: Top 5 Reasons Many Teachers Quit, Why are So Many Teachers Quitting after 5-7 Years?, Valid Reasons Teachers Quit, Why Teachers Quit and Why They Don’t, Why New Teachers Quit, and hundreds of other articles on this subject.

18,000 California teachers quit every year. 6%, nationally, leave the profession every year. 20% quit after 3 years. Nationally, 50% of urban teachers quit in the first 5 years of their career. Most teachers are short-timers. Our national divorce statistics look better than the teaching profession. If the pay is so good, the hours are so short, and teaching is one of the last jobs in the country to be "protected" by a union, why is the job so unwanted after a few years of experience?

The reason is that teachers are constantly exposed to the nation's dirty laundry. From both ends of the work, teachers experience disrespect, incompetence, and disregard for their work. Students are ill-equipped to be educated. Administrators are mostly failed teachers. Society can't decide if it wants a professional education system or an amateur religious indoctrination. Government involvement swings from indifference to demanding hours of dysfunctional testing and mountains of pointless paperwork. From top-to-bottom, side-to-side, and front-to-back, teachers are surrounded by factors that would demotivate a saint.

What we're often left with is the institutional dumbing-down of the career that has paralyzed small towns and the Midwest. All of the smart kids leave for the city or better jobs as soon as they can escape and all the dumb kids stay home, reproduce, and down-breed even dumber kids. The smart kids who become teachers quickly see how screwed up the profession is and get out. The dumb kids who can't find better jobs stay in teaching, infect new teachers with their incompetence, and wait to be promoted into administration jobs where they can do even more damage.

Top all this foolishness off with the national drive for "efficiency" and you have larger classes, fewer resources in the classroom, more demands on a teacher's after-class time, fewer teachers with special skills (particularly math and science), no time for class planning, mountains of No Child Left Behind paperwork, and more needy children desperately looking for a parent substitute. Getting a day off is easier for soldiers. Having a weekend free of class planning, paper grading, or required-attendance school activities is rare. Getting support from administration is as unlikely as getting an honest answer from Little Dick Cheney. Summers are spent on a 2nd job or advanced degree pursuits or class preparation.

"Efficiency," in the US, means lower taxes for the rich. This efficiency is producing a workforce that is so incompetent that practically every 3rd world nation has better educated labor. Eventually, the rich are going to find themselves surrounded by incompetence and they won't be so rich anymore. The middle class drives everything in this country, in every country, and wreaking the education system that feeds the middle class is cultural suicide.

Any reasonably intelligent person would do anything to escape from this rat's nest of a job. And they do. That leaves the unreasonably unintelligent holding down the fort. Great jobs don't see mass evacuation from the profession. Teaching is not a great job. Try it sometime. Let's see how long you last.

4 comments:

  1. One of the reasons why teachers quit is because many times they may be bombarded with students who don't respect them, their profession or what they do. Your daughter's comment is a good example. Hollywood stars and athletes get paid millions of dollars for only a few months work, people on wall street get huge bonuses for actually making a company fail. There are many people out there who get paid tons more money and do less work than teachers. And 40,000 a year isn't a lot these days with costs going up. This may be why a lot of people quit. Students feel that teaching is a low occupation and feel they can make more in something else but without the grade school teacher how would they get to that point? And with all the abuse and b.s teachers go through teacher's need those 2 months all. Maybe if this society would teach kids more respect for teachers than maybe more teachers would feel like sticking around.

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    1. Incentives are everything. There are practically no incentives to teach, outside of the activity itself (which can be very rewarding). The best and brightest in our country are encouraged to do totally useless activities like finance and investment gambling. One of many reasons we're a failing empire.

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  2. I used to teach full time and thankfully quit. Long ass hours, very little support, tons of paperwork, and of course the incessant complaining of parents, students, admins - you name it. No matter how hard you work, it's never enough. The pay was respective to the work was a joke. Is it any wonder teachers burn out so fast? For all of you haters out there, I dare you to try teaching for just one year. You'll never complain about a teacher again after doing it.

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    1. Agreed. I used to read right wing comments blaming teachers for the failure of our kids and your advice was all I could think of as a cure. Being a teacher, especially for young kids, is the highest level of service to the community. If it doesn't pay that well, it should at least be honored. But we have always been a nation that fears intelligence, education, and knowledge.

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