Whether it's policy makers crafting the latest education policy to govern, regulate or otherwise keep teachers in line, or whether it's a school board negotiating a contract, or even a charter operator unilaterally setting the terms of employment for their teaching staff, you sometimes get the feeling that those folks believe that teachers must be teachers.
This is confused thinking.
We do not have to do this, you know.
Students attending college can choose from a wide variety of majors, including very many that are not related to teaching.
Grown adults with college degrees can pursue a wide variety of jobs, including jobs that are not teaching.
Not every profession suffers from this problem. Lawyers, business executives, CEOs, athletes-- all benefit from a system in which the People in Charge routinely say, "We'd better make sure he's happy, or else he'll just walk away. Quick-- let's throw piles of money and benefits at him so he'll stay."
But teachers (and nurses and some other choice professions) suffer from the managerial assumption that they will never walk away, that they don't have any other options to consider, that we can squeeze them and squeeze them and squeeze them and it just won't matter.
This is foolish thinking.
We do not have to do this.
I once joined a former student while she was dining out with friends in North Carolina. There were eight people at the table, and I believe five of them were people who had started out as teachers and left the profession. People leave teaching all the time. Young people choose professions other than teaching all the time.
We do not have a teacher shortage. We have a shortage of states and districts willing to make the job attractive enough to recruit and retain teachers.
Teachers do not always help their own case. When we talk about teaching being a "calling" or "all we ever wanted to do" or "what we were born to do," we may be telling the truth, but we are also like the person walking onto a used car lot and introducing ourselves by saying, "Hi there! I'm shopping for a car and I'm going to pay fifty grand for it."
Of course, there are some people in power who kind of understand that people have other choices, that teachers don't have to teach. There are people in power who know all that, and they just don't care. Their disrespect for the work is so great that they believe teachers are as easily replaced as fast food fry cooks, and like fast food fry cooks, teachers don't really have other options. And, of course, teachers are mostly women, anyway, so it's not like they deserve to be paid a professional family-supporting wage.
But no. We do not have to do this. We could be doing something else.
If people designing education policy and negotiating contracts could just absorb that idea. Imagine what policy would look like, what teaching contracts would look like, if our policy movers and shakers were sitting in their office thinking, "We need to really make an effort to make these jobs attractive, because these folks we want to become teachers could choose to do something else, and then we'd lose them, and that would suck. So let's concentrate on keeping recruiting and retaining them."
But no. In places like West Virginia and Oklahoma and too many other places we get, "Well, I'm sure we'll get this whole pay thing fixed in a few years or so. In the meanwhile, we're sure you're not going anywhere, and if we never do pay you a living wage, well, that won't affect your career choices, right?" Well, not just that. We also get this kind of crap:
Because teachers really shouldn't be paid at all. They should just do their jobs just because.
No. We don't have to do this.