For the immediate future, my primary job will be Stay At Home Dad; the pay is terrible but the benefits are immense. And I'll continue writing here, where the pay is also terrible.
It's odd how this works. If I had only taught for two or three years, I would be qualified to run an entire charter school, or even serve as the education chief for an entire state. But as I understand it, having worked an entire teaching career instead of just a couple of years disqualifies me for that kind of work.
|Meeting with my new Board of Directors|
I like traveling and speaking; maybe I can con people into hiring me to travel to where they are and to talk at them. It could be fun to work at a thinky tank and crank out position papers in my robe at home while my board of directors plays on the floor, but most of the thinky tank money is going to tanks that support ed reform. Hardly anybody is operating a pro-public education thinky tank. Whether you're left-tilted (Center for American Progress, the Century Foundation) or right-tilted (Fordham, American Enterprise Institute), you have to be a fan of charters and choice and privatization and busting Those Damned Teachers Unions. NEPC hires actual scholars, and NPE, while they support the values I care about, does not have the kind of money involved in hiring a bunch of tanky thinkers.
Politics? I suppose, but it's a tough path-- look at how few retired teachers are in office anywhere. And of course there's always Wal-Mart greeter.
Like many teachers, I have managed large groups of not-easily-managed individuals, handled logistics and budgeting for every kind of enterprise from elaborate dances to theatrical productions to sales of merchandise that nobody really wants to buy. I have developed a unique constellation of skills (though I don't have the micro-credential badges to show for them). And all of this qualifies me to do.... what?
It has always been a mystery to me-- in the private sector, employers poach people all the time, including people who don't even work in their particular industry. Government hires private sector people constantly. Where is the teacher poaching? We think lots of folks can enter the classroom after a career in other areas-- why doesn't the door swing both ways?
Why do newly-elected governors never say, "I need a new education chief-- get me a list of the top ten teachers in the state!" Why don't government education agencies issue lists of positions that Must Be Filed by trained and experienced teachers? Why do corporations never say, "We need someone who can herd cats and stretch tiny resources to accomplish great things-- get me a teacher." I mean, it's not like a local school district is hard to outbid-- government or the private sector could easily less money than is typical for such jobs, and still be offering a teacher more money than she's ever made in her life.
But not even teaching businesses go looking for teachers. Colleges and universities can rarely be found stalking local high schools, looking for their next hires. And I'll confess-- at one point I thought charters might be good for teachers because a sensible charter business model would be, "Go out and find the most well-known, best-beloved, most successful teachers in the local public schools and offer them top dollar to come work at our charter school." But that never happened; instead, charters have largely built their business model on being cheap bastards when it comes to staffing.
Teachers are widely respected, trained to be trustworthy, experienced at multi-tasking, well-and-continuously-educated. We can learn new things quickly. Most of us have developed a whole set of "extra" skills, on top of skills like the ability to grab and hold a not-entirely-interested audience. Need someone who can sell something? I sold Julius Caesar to fifteen-year-olds. And nobody-- nobody-- knows more about navigating bureaucracies and foolish red tape than teachers do. But still, about the only folks who regularly look to hire teachers are vendors who want someone to sell their stuff to teachers.
Why doesn't every government and business office include at least one person who says, "Yes, I had a good career as a teacher going, but the opportunity and money that they offered me here were just too good to pass up." People certainly leave the teaching profession (in fairly large numbers these days), but their Next Career is a matter of their own necessity, not of corporate or government raids on teaching staffs.
Could it be that career teachers are really committed to their profession? Could it be that teachers are seen as too ethical to really fit in some corporate or government settings? Could it be that our cultural disinterest in children extends to people who work with children? Could it be that most teachers are women? Could it be that in the government and corporate world we just don't trust people who come out of the collegiate box not focused on grabbing money and power?
It's a benefit to schools that they don't have to worry about poaching-- a relatively stable teaching staff makes a school stronger and more effective. And most teachers are not even looking for their next career-- at least not until they've hit retirement. It's a win for education that folks don't try to poach teachers, but I can't help feeling that it's a lose for everyone else.