Tuesday, January 29, 2019

There Is No Teacher Shortage

I've made this point a dozen times in other contexts, but let me take a day to address it directly.

There is no teacher shortage.

Oh, across the nation there are districts that are having trouble filling openings with fully-qualified certified teachers. But there is no teacher shortage.

"Shortage" implies a supply problem. Like maybe people are born teachers and for some reasons, the gene pool has just stopped coughing out people with the special teacher genetic code. Or maybe the colleges and universities just aren't recruiting and educating enough proto-teachers. Or teachinmg is a "calling" and apparently there just aren't that many people being called. Or maybe all the teachers are falling through a black hole into that dimension where all the lost socks go.

"Shortage" also gives folks permission to plug the gap with "alternatives." If there "aren't enough teachers" to go around, then we'll just have to hire Ivy League Teach for America temps with five weeks of training, or loosen requirements so that anybody with a degree (or even with just a diploma) can be put in a classroom. Or we can bring in one of those artificial intelligence computer programs to do the work of teaching. Of course, none of these sound optimal, but we don't have much choice because there's a teacher shortage, donchaknow.

The idea of a teacher shortage feeds into the notion that teachers can only be found in classrooms-- in other words, teachers aren't human beings qualified to teach who may or may not choose to put those qualifications to work in a classroom.

Teachers are people with a choice. Hmmm....

I believe in a different explanation of why so many school systems are having trouble finding qualified people to fill teaching positions. And free market fans should be there ahead of me.

After all, we've heard the argument about why there is no need for unions, no need even for a minimum wage. If you offer too little pay or benefits for a job, the argument goes, people will just walk away from your job until you make a decent offer. Right? I've said it a dozen times: if I can't buy a Porsche for $1.98, that doesn't mean there's an automobile shortage.

If you think that workers should handle bad working conditions by walking away, you cannot be mystified when a whole lot of workers start walking away from a particular job.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can't be trusted, that teachers can't do their job, that teachers won't do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, "What's wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it's supposed to be done." And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we've been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

Teachers have been systematically distrusted, unsupported, and disempowered. Not in every school district in America-- but in far too many.

There is no teacher shortage.

There's a slow motion walkout, an open-ended strike that's hard to see because teachers are walking off the job one at a time.

There are plenty of people who are qualified to fill the positions, plenty of people who could enter a teacher prep program and join the profession if they were so inclined. I'm surprised to see that there's no good count of all the teacher licenses sitting unused, but simple math tells us that it is the number of people who have left, plus the number of people who gave up before they got a job, plus the people who graduated with a certificate but took another job and never came back, plus all the people who just decided not to even start down that path. Undoubtedly some of those people were ill-suited for the classroom and we are better off without them. But that can't be every person whose teacher papers sit gathering dust.

People have a choice. Sometimes we talk about Teaching, The Calling, as if teachers have no choice but to become teachers. This is just the less insulting version of "Those who can't, teach." It's comforting to the People In Charge because it imagines a negotiation where they have teachers over a barrel, where teachers can't walk away because they must teach. But people have a choice. They can choose to be a teacher, or they can choose-- even if they choose reluctantly and painfully-- to not be a teacher.

If entry-level pay were $100,000, with top-drawer medical coverage and a kick-ass pension, we would never have to talk about teacher "shortages" ever again. But instead, states and districts play a game where they see just how little they can put into making the job appealing without feeling the pinch-- and then when they start to feel the pinch, they pretend not to know what the problem is. In some states, they set up commissions to "research" the problem and make recommendations, which require about as much wisdom and insight as telling a hungry person that you recommend that they eat.

It doesn't help that lots of folks keep hollering, "More money??!! Are you nuts? We already spend a whole bunch of money on schools! Teachers already make way more than clerks at the 7-11!" And this just adds to the aura of disrespect hovering around teaching, even as it involves a bunch of free market conservatives pretending they don't know how the market works. (Review: Will the dealer not sell you a Porsche for $1.98? Then you need to offer a better deal.)

There is no teacher shortage.

There's a shortage of willingness to invest the profession with respect and support. There's a shortage of willingness to make the jobs appealing enough to attract and retain all the people schools want to attract and retain. There's a shortage of will to make the job appealing enough to hold onto the people who start out. There's a shortage, not just of money, but of respect and support and empowerment.

There is no mystery to what is happening, but to deal with effectively, to actually face it, the People In Charge need to stop calling it what it is not.

There is no teacher shortage.

74 comments:

  1. Thank you! This is 100% true. We need to treat teaching as a profession in every way, and treat, train, and pay teachers as the essential professionals they are. The money we spend on that would return itself many-fold over time.

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  2. I'm going to get real cynical and dark here:

    Reformy types don't really believe in public education. They pretend like they care but they know damn well that everything they say and do is designed to undermine the entire idea of education for all. For some of them it's purely because they're cheap. For others, it's because they don't believe it's right to "waste" resources on "those people".

    It is part-and-parcel with their sense that some people (people like them, for example) are inherently deserving of being more educated and more powerful than those that are, quite plainly, unworthy. To them, the cream has already risen to the top and there is no need to even try to do anything to possibly make life better for others. Life is a zero-sum game and their winnings are being unfairly disbursed to others. A free and equitable public education is just more PC claptrap and we need to just get on with things and sort out the meat puppets from the people that are worth spending money on.

    I know that it is probably folly to attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity but I do think there is a strong strain of perpetual anger and disdain at the very idea of public education for all. The Civil Rights Era was a strong rebuke to certain types of people and they have been nursing that grudge for a long time, passing it on to their children and fomenting their rage within their communities. Now that they have a foothold, they are not going to go away without a fight.

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    1. You speak the truth. I retired at 58 as a high school math teacher because of the pressure, disrespect and knowledge that public education was strategically being taken away.

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    2. Wow. That just about says it all.

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    3. I can retire in 2 years at age 53. The only reason why I am sticking with it is so I can retire from one state and go to another state and teach an additional 10 years. This is the only option that will allow me to pay for my children's college education and have a better retirement income. If I could make the same kind of money doing anything else I would in a heartbeat. I have also emphatically forbidden my three children from becoming teachers.

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    4. So accurate that it's chilling.

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    5. I also will retire in 2 years at age 53. The stress of the job has worsened to the point that I am on 2 medications to deal with it. I am so anxious and have panic attacks due to the way teachers are expected to deal with very challenging students and parents who don't support us. In addition. some administrators will not support us when the children are misbehaving to the point that the other students rights to learn are being affected. I am planning on working in a completely different profession when I retire.

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    6. Peter, well written, well-said, and spot on. Schools have lost their political power because the populations that we serve are ever-increasingly, low-socioeconomic populations who don't tend to vote and therefore, have little political influence. These populations are being duped by media marketing that sells "Teachers and schools are the problem and can't be trusted." Media has fostered an "us against them" mentality. This hasn't historically, been the case. Schools and communities used to work in unity on behalf of their children. They don't recognize that their local governments aren't funding their schools adequately to attract top talent and offer a competitive program. They don't recognize that their local governments CAN'T offer the funding because local tax revenues have fallen because of falling property taxes and potential business taxes from industries who choose not to locate in poor, often crime-ridden neighborhoods. This is a national problem, I think. It is not relegated to any particular region. It is a national "emergency." Rather than declaring a border wall, Trump would do well to call declare a national emergency for our Public Education System. It has far more dire implications than a few thousand illegal immigrants on the southern border. When events like Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine, and the hundreds of other violent, tragic episodes that don't make headlines are allowed to continue without a serious, game-changing approach from our political leadership, it becomes crystal clear how those in power perceive the importance of Public Education. I am too old to lead a reform but I would certainly stand behind any and all that take the fight to a public, national forum. The consequences of not doing that are going to be substantially bad for our country and its citizens.

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    7. I retired at 58 for the same reasons as Brenda Lee. I didn't have to tell my kids to avoid the teaching profession; they made that choice on their own. After years of watching the BS I went through, they decided it wasn't for them. Sad, but true. They would have been great at it!

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    8. https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-corporate-plan-to-groom-u-s-kids-for-servitude-by-wiping-out-public-schools?fbclid=IwAR1jZBHv8Zb1vaQEzHUV72p5NyLbbBZrU8wUFvd5HRaBC6Uy-En78Uj-OBE

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    9. I read this article as of late. I'd just like to say that they need to get rid od the test. All student's are learning are strategies to pass a test. They could better use the money spent from preparing and grading the test on education. In the last three weeks, I've had my students in class approximately one week because of testing, school wide field trips, UIL competitions. One might say, "But, you're fortunate enough to be a Spanish teacher." That's just it. The test has minimized the importance of gaining a well rounded education.

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  3. These are all great thoughts. Thank you for explaining them in such poignant terms.
    However, we need action. We need a full systematic overhaul of the public education system in our country. Do you have any suggestions as to how we start this transformation?
    I would definitely be willing to chat with you about how you make that happen or at the least, start the train rolling on the right path!

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    1. And i would join in to help any way i can here in Michigan also.

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    2. I am 70 years old. I began teaching in January of 1974, a mid-year hire. By my 3rd year I was so depressed that I would fantasize driving down the road that lead to my school and going past the school and into a different life in a different place. But I stayed, and eventually found a sense of purpose and success. Midway through my career I experienced an administrator change and it was the most wonderful thing. The new principal respected my judgement, allowed me to try something new and supported me as I worked out the rough spots. It was the most luxurious experience, to know that I had support and respect as a professional. I ended up getting a PhD, retiring from public school teaching and taking a tenure track position at a university teaching pre-service undergrad education majors and graduate level reading and writing teachers. Very few of my grad students were in good teaching environments. They were so trapped by commercially prepared curriculum and frightened administrators, all of whose jobs were on the line if test scores didn't go up. Commercially prepared curriculum usually doesn't offer teachers any flexibility. In one large district in my area, teachers were told when students would take chapter tests and grades on those chapter tests had to be logged in on a certain day. If students failed the test, the teacher was blamed. But the teacher had to gallop through the "pacing guide" that dictated what should be taught on a given day regardless of whether students were ready to move onto the next concept or not. Who created the curriculum and pacing guide? Some international conglomerate of textbook publishers and standardized test, test preparation, teacher preparation for profit entity that does not have your children's interests at heart. What is that conglomerate's interest? Profit. How do we know their products are any good? The people who they paid to do research that supports their one size fits all mental gruel. Teachers are free to just love those darling kids, but teachers can't make meaningful decisions about how, what, and when to teach. They can't sit down as a group and say, "ok, I'm noticing that my students don't enjoy writing. Are there ways to engage students in writing that means something to them, help them through the complex processes that good writing requires over time, and assess students' progress?" The answer to those questions are YES!! But, school districts, ever desperate to raise test scores are afraid to let teachers create a curriculum that is based in the research on teaching writing, and let them make decisions. Instead they are handed a program that doesn't work and grind one day after another with some watchdog looking over the teacher's shoulder waiting for a mistake. And we wonder why teachers are leaving the profession.

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  4. Thank you for stating this so clearly.

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  5. Unfortunately far too many of those reformy types occupy senior positions within our school systems.

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    1. And at the head of the federal education department!!

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  6. I certainly agree with what you’ve written about paying teachers more, for respecting the profession, etc, but as I read your article, one sentence grabbed my heart, and a nerve.

    How many teachers, as they are looking for a job, actively (and passionately) seek to work in a school where 100% of the student body live below the poverty level, where drugs and gangs and racial wars make it difficult for those who want to learn, where “dreamers” live in fear of being deported, where mom has five kids with five different fathers and the newest guy is an abuser, where the dad is in jail, where the mom is in jail, where hunger is the norm, where drugs and shootings and teenage pregnancy aren’t “shocking,” where school supplies are the teacher’s responsibility, where lock downs are a weekly (or more) occurrence, where teaching/prepping/grading/counseling/comforting full time is just the day job because full-time graduate school is the night job, where “temporary” means your love and passion for being a role model to kids who NEVER thought about college but are now working hard toward that goal is what truly matters, where education reform and equity are at the forefront every day? How many want this job?

    This is what Teach for America teachers “with five weeks of training “sign up for, because more “qualified” teachers don’t want the job. These teachers are bright, smart, passionate, determined to make a difference, kind, empathetic, strong, loving, and so much more. They work all day and go to grad school at night. They are on the front line in schools that no brand new teacher who has an undergraduate degree with one year of student teaching (or a master level seasoned teacher) wants. They go into a battlefield every day, praying for their safety, working to help kids make a better life for themselves, to work to lessen the “school to prison” pipeline. Oh, and during their “five weeks of training,” they get to spend that time listening to facilitators tell them (the white ones) that they know nothing about the plight of the minority because they have lived a life of privilege, and can’t possibly relate to them. But these teachers are determined to prove that they can make a difference and that everyone has struggles (not just skin color or socioeconomic status) and to forge ahead because that’s what it means to work in education reform in hopes of education equity.

    If the starting pay for teachers were indeed $100,000, how many teachers would choose the teaching environment that TFA teachers choose? I’m so proud that my daughter, with her “five weeks of (initial) training”, who is graduating in a few months with a master’s in education, who is considering working at her school beyond her two-year commitment, and who wants to see her “kids” graduate, has chosen this life. She is also a research assistant for the UN Education Commission working on The Education Workforce Initiative Global Report

    To speak to your article, according to data from nces.ed.gov, there has been a four decade decline in undergraduate enrollment in US teacher prep programs. If that’s not a shortage, what is?

    G-d bless teachers everywhere. They work hard, with less pay and certainly not enough respect and appreciation.

    Change the life of a child and change the world.

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    1. I don't think there is anything wrong with people who realize they want to become teachers and are willing to teach in the "less desirable" districts. I think the issue is that with such little initial training, many of those teachers have a much harder challenge than they should have because they were not fully prepared for the job. I've worked in the "less desirable districts". It is hard. I have watched teacher after teacher be run off mid-year. There are definitely people not cut out for the work. I have no idea what the initial training looks like, but I hope they are giving them enough tools to succeed.

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    2. Oh please. TFAers do it because it looks good on a resume and leads to a bright future in the financial industry.

      If they were truly committed like you seem to believe, they would stick it out longer than two years.

      Incidentally, do you have any idea how many veteran black and Latinx neighborhood teachers TFA has displaced? Teachers who were, in fact, dedicating their entire lives to the very students you seem to think should be happy with two years as somebody's stepping stone.

      I hope you're getting well paid for this shillery. Someday maybe you can spend that money on some therapy when you wake up and realize your role in the gross inequality of this world.

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    3. No. I have no idea how many have been displaced. If you have numbers, I would like to see them. Perhaps they can fill in one of the 20 spots available in my daughter’s school. Just curious, where did you do your TFA teaching? You seem to know so much about the program. You have no idea what these teachers do after two years. Some stay, some administrate, some move on. I hope your day gets better. Speaking of therapy.....

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    4. There are many school districts that have started increasing the teacher salary for those teaching in high risk schools. For additional 10-20K I would--but the reverse tends to be true--the better schools offer higher pay and that along with less stressful work environments is what causes teachers to leave.

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    5. Here's the fact about your beloved organization, bndshdl: https://prospect.org/article/true-cost-teach-americas-impact-urban-schools

      Finder's fees, attrition, displacement of veteran (especially minority veteran) teachers, lack of training. Is this what you'd want for *your* child's school district?

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    6. Dienne,
      Here’s the bottom line for me...
      My daughter displaced no one. The teacher left and they had a hole to fill. There are at least 20 openings at her school for teachers. 20! Let the veterqn teachers who want to teach seek out those jobs. If you read my original post again, ask yourself if, given the scenario I painted, would you want to teach there. TFA isn’t the problem, our education system is. Period!

      And as an aside, I would give anything to have teachers like my daughter. You don’t know her, but she has inspired many of her kids to seek higher education. She wants better for kids. You make them out to be horrible people. She’s in Phoenix. If you are, too, I invite you to sit in on a class with her.

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    7. As Peter frequently points out, if teachers don't want to teach there, then it doesn't mean there's a teacher shortage there. It more likely means that they're not willing to pay teachers what they're worth and/or that working conditions are nearly unbearable. How does hiring TfA temps solve that problem? It just drives down wages for everyone.

      I'm not in the Phoenix area, but I have a good friend who teaches there in a very high poverty middle school with all of the problems you describe. He knew he wanted to be a teacher, so he trained to be a teacher because poor kids deserve qualified teachers just like they deserve qualified surgeons (or would you think it's okay for surgeons in high poverty areas to have 5 weeks of training?). He's 31 years old and has been at the same school for 7 years. He says he's just starting to really feel like he's understanding all the complexity of teaching in that environment. He'll probably be a teacher in that same school long after your daughter has gone on with her master's to do great and wonderful things for the UN or in administration (heck, she'll probably be his boss in another year or two). He lives in the community he teaches in, he's married to a local woman, and their daughters will attend the school system he works in when they're old enough.

      Sorry, I don't mean to be down on your daughter. I'm sure she has good intentions. But good intentions means doing things the right way, like making a commitment and getting proper training to do the job. It means getting to know the people you are trying to help over the long haul and listening to them and working with them, not just swooping in to "save" them for a couple of years.

      BTW, no, it's not the educational system that's the problem. It's the neoliberal system that's the problem - the problem that says that people's monetary value is the only value they have. Neoliberalism says that we don't have to fix poverty or make society more equitable. We just have to hire a few of the "Best and Brightest" to swoop in and "save" the strivers out of the poor and leave everyone else behind. The educational system is working quite well for the affluent people of this country. It should work that well for everyone.

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    8. bnshdl, I can appreciate your passionate defense of your daughter and the single case scenario she represents. The problem is, however, a national problem. A single case scenario does not speak for the national norm. Statistically, 25% of TFA teachers remain after their first 5 years of teaching.

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    9. I respect your daughter's intentions and good-hearted faith in our profession. I'm a seasoned veteran, with 24 yrs. in the classroom. I have taught the last 13 yrs in a division where 60% or our population is below the poverty line, and growing. I am all of those things that you mentioned about your daughter: passionate, empathetic, caring, devoted, offering opportunity to students that have never envisioned the possibility of college. I have done this in the same environment that you speak of. Parents in jail, underage, on drugs. Gang-filled neighborhoods with weekly murders, sometimes, multiple. Lock-downs are a necessity and occur often because of the neighborhood that my school is located in. Not to mention, I work in the "best" middle school in this division. I have worked at several others, as well. One of my 13 yr. old homeroom students was murdered, along with her gang-member 17 yr. old boyfriend on a Spring Break Monday eve 4 years ago. That's when I decided to leave that particular school. My argument is that, as a "highly qualified" teacher, I am required to have a BS in my field, a current state license and many certificates of medical & harassment training, which have to be updated yearly to keep my job. We have no tuition reimbursement, which used to be a benefit. We have no classroom supply $$, which we used to have. We must contribute to our state retirement fund, which used to be covered 100% and our pay has stagnated, with no increase for 3 years, since the 2007 recession. Our medical coverage has increased, on average, 50% with pay increasing a paltry, 7% since 2007. I work for currently, the 9th most wealthy state in the US. There is no teacher shortage. There is a shortage of support for funding our schools and investment in our children. We have been badgered by the press and the relationship between school, parents and community has been undermined by greedy state politicians and lawmakers who do not want to invest and fund the public school system. It is better for state budgets to privatize education. It gets it off their payroll and we all know what's going to happen then. Teachers will work 36 hrs. a week, not qualify for company benefits and pay will be sub-standard. Another sector of decent-paying, middle class American jobs will be lost. This is the private sector solution. We've seen it in healthcare and senior services, along with many other sectors of American employment. TFA, while altruistic in their beliefs, contributes to this demise, unsuspecting. I'm 58 years old. I will be retiring soon, although, I will have to continue to work somewhere because after 25 years, I cannot live on my $1200 monthly benefit. It is shameful and immoral for our country, for our students and for the thousands of dedicated people who have committed their lives and professions to helping American children realize the American Dream.

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    10. The problem with programs like TFA is that they are based on the popular, but mistaken, notion that teachers don't really need any real training, they just need a big heart and a desire to make a difference. The idea is that older, more experienced teachers have become jaded and simply don't care anymore and if we just replaced all of them with fresh, passionate young things the whole system would turn around. I'll admit that when I was a new teacher 30 years ago I felt the same. But I quickly learned that was not the case. I was a terrible teacher my first few years. It took me a good five years to feel like I was starting to feel like I knew what I was doing and another three or four years after that to feel like I was hitting my stride. And in the 20 years since then I have continually had to reinvent myself as a teacher over and over to keep up with all the changes in education. Teaching is a job where experience matters. My experience with many young, inexperienced teachers is that they may be passionate,caring people full of great ideas how to reach kids but that they don't have the classroom management skills to implement any of them. The teachers who really do care are the ones who stick it out and put in the years to learn those skills so they can make a difference. And that is hard; really,really hard. Therefore I don't blame anyone who decides to quit. But for the life of me, I can't figure out like programs like TFA, which require such a short time commitment, are expected to make any difference.

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    11. If I had the power to waive a magic wand over the "why can't we get qualified teachers to take the jobs in which so many are below the poverty line, etc." I would react that it might be possible if there were a pay system that: 1) was calculated on the cost of living in the area in which teachers are asked to teach and live (like higher pay in San Francisco and lower pay in Lansing, Michigan (where the cost of living is about 78% of the cost of living in SF);
      2. I would pay a premium (like 125% of x) for teachers who choose to live and work in the toughest/poorest schools.
      3. I would pay for experience (like at least a 5% increase in pay for each year in which the teacher earns a good or great evaluation from a principal who is a teacher-leader and evaluates teachers on what they do (and not on how well the students score - only;
      I'd support professional development of the teachers - by paying for the courses/training they successfully achieve; I would have a hierarchy in the school much like the apprenticeship programs have - novice, apprentice, journeyman, and master based on the length of service, the record of success of the teacher, and an opportunity (time) for less-skilled teachers to learn from higher-skilled teachers.

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  7. Been SCREAMING this for years!

    https://bustedpencils.com/tag/teacher-shortage/

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  8. Thank you. Now I will post this every week in 2019.

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  9. So true! The teaching profession has been publicly disrespected, insulted, and downgraded for over 35 years. Reagan started it with his Nation at Risk report in the early ‘90s.

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  10. I've been a "professional" all my life. I have also been evaluated- annually, monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily- through a variety of performance metrics, and held strictly accountable for my performance. If I do not meet these, often ridiculous requirements, I am denied a raise or bonus, or terminated outright. Professionals do not have unions. Professionals do not have job security. Professionals are paid based on performance and on outcomes.

    I absolutely agree that good teachers are underpaid. It is criminal how little our best teachers are paid, but there is no chance that good teachers will ever receive the pay that they deserve until the unions accept that performance matters.

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    1. I've always found some variant of the idea that you lay out here: "I don't have job security, therefore, teachers shouldn't have it either," particularly interesting. Perhaps the conversation needs to be shifted to: "I'm an educated professional, thus, there should be something in place to safeguard my job in the event I looked at the boss the wrong way or he found out I was gay" (or what have you). You know, bring everyone up instead of down?

      Also, please, don't fall into the idea (and to be fair FAR too many people out there do) that somehow, some way, all 3 million (plus) teachers in America are under the sway of "the union." A lot of us work in the so-called right to work states. I have spent half of my 20 year career in NC and half in SC--and I'd be hard pressed to name any two states where the word "union" is more forbidden. My life, and the life of my hard-working colleagues in these two fine states, have never once sat at the table of a union representative, contemplated a strike (spare me the idea what NC did last year was a strike), sat down to negotiate a contract, paid union dues, or had my non-teaching duties dictated by what some piece of paper said I could do or not do. (Obviously, the NEA does exist in my two states here, but that's about it as far as its presence.)

      Therefore, by your logic, since NC and SC can set performance goals for us to meet without the interference of the big bad unions, I'm sure then that NC and SC have bent over backwards to tell the teachers: "Alright guys, if you meet these performance goals, we'll gladly kick in an extra, say $30k a year on your last pay check of the year!" Oh wait...I look at the stagnating salaries of NC and SC, and for that matter, most all of the right to work states and declare that, instead, it's criminal that anyone would think that if we eliminate unions, our salaries would go up like a balloon.

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    2. I too, work in a "right to work" state right beside you. We have no bargaining rights, no right to strike and seemingly, no one fighting for our right to work in a non-hostile, safe environment. It goes without saying that no one is fighting for our pay. Politicians succeeded in breaking the union in Wisconsin. It was applauded by politicians and the press, glowingly. The state of education in this country is desperate and dangerous for students and staff. The only people who seem to realize this or care are those of us on the front line. I hope I live to see the day when America stands again for its children and insists on a top-notch K-12 education for its students; one that works for the majority of the populations we teach and not for the special-interest groups that seem to lobby and get whatever they need for a select few, regardless of the resources necessary to provide those services.

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    3. I’m wondering if “anonymous” who has been a “professional” all her life would agree that doctors whose patients who are less likey to follow a treament plan than those of another doctor should be paid less? We are dealing with people. Our product (according to the powers that be but not us; we look at the big picture of helping students attain love of lifelong learning and personal autonomy) ... is their academic success. We are dealing with the complex lives growing children. Should I as a teacher of a child growing up in a less than optimal environment, one that makes survival mean something a little different than it might mean to your child ... should I earn less? I have to work so much harder than my counterparts in higher - income districts to help students achieve in academics.
      I chose to teach after 12 years in a lucrative and rewarding business career in which my compensation was commensurate with the sales I brought in. I teach just as well... but it’s a little more than convincing a person to “buy in” when dealing with a large number (I have over 100 students right now) of developing human beings living unique lives.
      One more thought... the doctor I mentioned above?? Even if doc could be ”scored” (paid) on the recovery of each patient, how often does he/she welcome 25 patients at a time?

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  11. I’m so glad that you are so proud of your daughter and she is passionate about it. I chose to work in schools just like the ones you described for 25 years. My passion was to work with parents as well. I did make a difference for a long time. I strived all 25 of those years. I was in early childhood special education and my program began not being seen as valued as much as those who could take the ISTEP. Even though all research indicates parental involvement and early childhood is beneficial to the child, family and society as a whole.
    In my experience the Teach for America teachers and administration who had beautifully huge hearts had no idea what was entailed.
    I could give you many examples but the lack of preparation and of support during their teaching from the administration (TFA) and from the university program was unbelievable,truly. I was there for her and thought the world of her but she was overwhelmed and confused and decided to try a different school and state thinking it would be better.
    My administrator said and did developmentally inappropriate things constantly.
    She only lasted in education a few years.
    I’m certain there are good candidates, like your daughter. To think someone can step into a position and make a difference without understanding everything that it entails and not be supported is a disservice to them but utmost to the students and families they serve.
    Education is a priority for our society. We need to treat it as such.

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  12. "Shortage" also gives folks permission to plug the gap with "alternatives." If there "aren't enough teachers" to go around, then we'll just have to hire Ivy League Teach for America temps with five weeks of training, or loosen requirements so that anybody with a degree (or even with just a diploma) can be put in a classroom.

    Pretty disgusting jibe at us “alternatives.” You know, those “temps” who are willing to, despite the abhorrent pay and ridicule and scrutiny and lack of financial support and materials, still go to school day after day and year after year. In the four years I’ve worked at my school, I’ve seen a split between traditional and “temp (god, if you even had an inkling how wholly invested some of these people are you call temps and alternatives)” teachers win our Teacher of the Year. We all get a vote on that, by the way; all the regular and good teachers, and even us others who occupy the odd classroom.

    It’s the furthest thing from hyperbole when I say that I’ve seen as many traditional-route teachers leave in December as I’ve seen TFAers do it. Same goes for those I’ve seen sticking it out at the same school for 5 or 10 years. If there’s a passion to do it, someone’s going to do it for almost any price, especially when it’s as noble and rewarding as teaching.

    So those people you’re claiming to support unequivocally are the same people you jibed and blamed a couple paragraphs into your post.

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    1. I will point out that traditional teaching programs do have a higher retention rate than alternative certification and TFA grads. It doesn't mean that there aren't fabulous alternatively certified teachers and TFAers but what you've personally experienced isn't supported by the data.

      And when discussing legitimization of a profession, it does have it's drawbacks to have alternative paths to professionalization. Lawyers, CPAs, and doctors etc do not have alternative pathways to be licensed.

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  13. I think Teach for American is analogous to a war. The soldiers who volunteer for it aren't bad, even if the war itself is a bad idea. Of course there might be people in TFA who shouldn't be there, but that's not the point.

    The problem with paying teachers like professionals is that if schools only have a set amount of money, they can't necessarily offer high performers all that they deserve. Private companies have good years and bad years, but poor school districts likely don't ever have "great" financial years. I think offering a decent salary with benefits would attract decent people. Offering poverty wages and disrespect is not likely to encourage anyone.

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  14. I reluctantly left teaching when I realized I hated the 50 minute drive to a school I didn't agree with. I no longer encourage any one to become a teacher. We are paid to prep kids to take and pass tests that will effect our pay yet we don't know what is on the test. On top of my other arguments, unless this society changes it's view of Education, 8 will continue to not be fully employed as a teacher. I will support my friends by substitute teaching for them.

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  15. I've been teaching since the mid 1980s and my perspective is that the respect has steadily eroded, but the pay has kept pace with inflation. We're the whipping boys these days. When something goes wrong in school, it's the teacher's fault. It couldn't be the parents who don't prepare their kids to get along with others or who enable their bad behavior or who aren't even present much...or the administrators who don't back up the teachers or who just want to climb the ladder or who push papers around and accomplish little...or the states who don't have a clue what needs to be done on the front lines or who are in bed with high stakes testing companies or who would sell out public schools for vouchers. I left out the most important stakeholder---the student. I was really terrified to think I couldn't be a parasite on my parents forever...I had to find gainful employment which (unless I loved the manual labor my parents had done) would require education.

    Short story long, common sense has left the building.

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  16. I am in my 60's. My generation was the first that allowed women to be in a variety of professions other than TEACHER, secretary (hoping to someday be an "executive secretary"), waitress, or stewardess ("glamorous" waitress in the sky). And then there were the nuns, smart women who worked for almost nothing in Catholic schools. The smartest women became teachers. In the late 60's-early 70's, smart women began having other choices. So many left for better paying jobs. Misogyny and the "teacher shortage" go hand in hand. There are so many ways that the teaching profession requires lots of education and training but then finds reasons not to pay. Teaching is a "calling,
    a "vocation." "Teachers do't do it for the money, they LOVE the kids." "Teachers know they will not make a lot of money, they knew that when they picked the profession." On and on. We would not ask doctors to work for pennies because they LOVE their patients. This only works in "female" professions. Forbidding striking because it "hurts the kids"--are you kidding me? I am a teacher who, after a few short years, said, "Hell no." Male teachers who are offended? Women have ALWAYS been treated like this, in almost every setting! POC are treated even worse. All workers in America have allowed themselves to be stripped of worker rights and protections. The corporations run things now. And the GOP plan is to privatize every. single. thing.

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    1. This is a very illuminating thread! I've taught for decades overseas, or for populations in the US who see teachers as a respected profession, some who follow Confucianism. Yes, teaching is seen as noble, calling, etc. in the US, and that is why it is devalued. What else is seen as a calling, a monk or nun? and they are either unpaid, or valued for seeing money as filthy lucre.
      Also, your point that any career that is mostly populated with women will be devalued and underpaid is spot on. What is interesting is that we used to think that women gravitated to those. Look at college adjuncts (a field I left in the early 2000s) Low pay has been ascribed to the belief that, decades ago, adjuncts just needed pin money, just wives who were working on the side, and that hasn't changed.
      New research shows it is the mere presence of women in the field that will lower the salaries. A career that is male-dominated becomes more female, and salaries drop.
      I don't agree with the complete GOP analysis though, think it is more due to neoliberalism, was listening to an NPR broadcast with two 30 somethings discussing adjunct low pay, as if it were an issue that just began 10 years ago. Moderator suggested that maybe it was due to lower degrees. Hello, I have an M.A. and in 1999 I had several colleagues with Ph.Ds from UCLA, USC who were sharing offices with me and only getting 9 hours a week, working at 3 colleges to get by, called "freeway fliers."

      I am in my 3rd licensure program (moved states) since my 20s, working in a n a lower SES school (started out in East L.A.) and find that it is calmer than I thought. It's the lack of supplies (don't even have whiteboards) that is hard to deal with. I've worked in developing countries that had much better physical plants. And, like all of you, I'm spending money every week on curriculum, food, paper supplies. And, paying to be in a program. My judgment is that the elites in the US have pitted everyone against each other so that they can squeeze out every dime. Why would governments/citizens put any money into funding public ed if they feel no common ground and/or are homeowners who can't afford that extra $50 a month for the new school bond measure?

      I would suggest to any teachers who are in their 50s or younger who can move overseas to teach there for a while, it will help your bank account and your self-esteem. But, watch out for those new banking rules!

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  17. Totally agree, there is no teacher shortage, retired at 60 and couldn't wait. The disrespect from administration, parents, and some students is just too much to take. Added to the fact that in North Carolina our Longevity Pay was taken away after, but to add insult were given a so called raise. Our raise consisted of raising pay for beginning teachers and statnating the pay of teachers who were close to retirement. Mind you that we had not had a pay raise in ten years. We were not given a raise they took money away that had been promised to us when we were hired almost 30 years ago. Our state legislature were well aware that no raises meant our retirement beneifs would be reduced as well. Like others who have made comments I told my daughters they were not to major in Education, in fact go work at a job that you can make a living age. No, there is no teacher shortage, but don't you know our government has been supporting privatizing education for the last ten years. Quite frankly, our government could care less, it's all about making a few rich, I hope the public understands they could care less about teachers or our schools.

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  18. I DID choose to work in schools such as you describe, right out of college.

    The difference? I'm a real, actual, certified teacher with 18 years' experience.

    If people want to "make a difference" as you say, they do it right. They get certified, and they STAY, through siblings, cousins, and eventually children. They stay long enough to be an institution. They stay long enough to actually learn their craft.

    That's what your daughter should do, if she truly wants to make a difference.

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  19. I've been in a school just like the one described for nearly 30 years now. If all goes well, I may stay another 10 years, who knows. We had a few years where our district paid TFA the fees and other expenses associated with bringing these young people in. Ours is a district that can benefit from the program, as Mississippi systematically refuses to fund all the costs of public schools. Most of the TFA staff left before their two-year commitment was up. Only one of the nearly 20 stayed beyond their commitment.

    Now our legislature is talking about a teacher pay raise of $1000 per year, which has been described by some legislators as a slap in the face. Another proposal is to encourage retired teachers to return to the classroom with their full retirement benefits while receiving a reduced salary and no new payments into the PERS system.

    When all you have to offer is low pay and poor working conditions, you will continue to have a "teacher shortage." I often joke about our district's repeated job fairs that attract fewer than 10 applicants, that we have a shortage of incompetent people--those willing but unable to do the job. When you're willing to hire warm bodies with a pulse, and there is still no one there to hire, something has got to change, and it is usually lowering standards for new hires. That is the third initiative being bandied about at the moment in the Mississippi legislature. We're firmly at the bottom of all the states and it looks as if we intend to stay there.

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    1. This is so disheartening. My mother is from Mississippi. We traveled there about 6 years ago to visit her family. It is like traveling back in time to another world. I had a hard time relating. To see the level of non-support that our legislators are giving the Public School System is truly frightening. Even as more & more Americans are slipping below the poverty line, their opportunities to overcome their circumstances are being eroded by their lack of access to a quality education. The under-education of our society is so apparent to me. Go to any social media outlet, any public mall, any courtroom in this country and see the level of ignorance portrayed by average Americans. It's appalling. Grammar, manners and tact are absent and the lack of empathy and compassion for others is non-existent. Having spent the last 24 years trying to expose students to common sense, academic achievement and appropriate behavior, I feel like the odd man out. I am the exception...no longer, the rule. In my town, the public libraries have become homeless hangouts. It's ludicrous.

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  20. Very perceptive. I am retiring in June after 25 years, but will continue adjunct teaching. K-12 teachers are being afflicted by middle and higher echelon mis-management and lack of support.

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  21. And this is why, after 19 years of teaching (13 for public schools), I resigned this week. I am DONE! What am I going to do instead? Anything has got to be better than the disrespect, distrust, and disregard we've put up with for years.

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  22. I teach emotional disturbance 3-5. I have been threatened with murder. I have been kicked in the chest, taken a hardback book to the teeth, thrown to the ground (tearing my meniscus), and had my shoulder torn. And even though I love the kids, I won't be able to retire with health care because I started late and will have to work until I'm 78 to earn that privilege. I am constantly a target by an admin who thinks my kids should behave as Gen Ed kids. In addition to all the extra hours, grading, writing IEPs and FBAs, I have write my lesson plans every week..WITH standards. It takes me hours. I'm at my lowest point since starting this nightmare. And it's not the kids or the program.

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  23. I loved your perspective. Yes, there are so many that have the potential to teach but will never walk into the profession because of all of this. There are so many that are leaving because of all of this as well. I imagine that would be into the millions of potential teachers that don't enter or leave the profession. I imagine much of the respect and even vitriol that goes to teacher comes down to sexism. One positive I see with the #metoo movement is that it is emboldening teachers, again most of which are female, to act and fight for what teachers have needed for a long time--RESPECT! Respect from improving working conditions for themselves and learning conditions for the students as well as better pay and restoration of benefits for educators.

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  24. This is spot on except for the salary portion. Another issue is the loss of pensions in many states. Young people I know are not going into the profession who would have made incredible teacher's because of the lack of pay in our area (Michigan) as well as the additional loss of retirement pay (pensions), as well as having their pensions taxed. As a teacher, I have watched as year after year we have either taken pay cuts or our pay has remained stagnant. Politicians rob the state budget allocated for schools repeatedly. So money is a huge part of the equation as well.

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  25. I quit teaching in December. The disrespect from virtually everyone was just unimaginable. Not one person in the administration tried to talk me out of leaving nor asked me to take an exit interview. I am currently unemployed, happy, and poor.

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  26. I am leaving a school with a lot of dyslexic children. I've specialized training and have made a real difference in the last 4 years. What I can no longer tolerate are the autistic and special needs children mainstreamed who scream, throw objects, slap, and hurt others daily on the playground and in the classroom. Enough is enough and I don't make any extra pay for this part of the job. I'm transferring to an easy school without these problems.

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  27. In some areas, the unions are also part of the problem and individual teachers are getting squeezed by both.

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    1. How are unions part of the problem?

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    2. Unions do not support teachers.....they support the districts that supply them with the pool of teachers that pay dues.

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  28. You didn't mention that it is also the only job where you are expected to work hours overtime because you are given more to do than you could ever possibly do in the time you are given. I'm also retiring early.

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  29. Wow. Spot on. I am leaving education after almost 10 years. I'm done. All I do is teach to the test. And I teach special ed! It's insane. I found a job in corporate America -- salary and benefits exceeding what I am making now after 10 years. Opportunities for advancement. Stock options. The list goes on.

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  30. When they say "shortage" they mean shortage of bilingual teachers. It seems most of the positions open are for bilingual certified, but not just *any* bilingual. Not Mandarin, not French, not anything other than Spanish. That's the shortage.

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  31. Well said. I am looking at this conversation from a bit of a different perspective, however. I know and have experienced the lack of support from administration throughout the past 20 years of my career. The kicker is that I would LOVE to get back into a district. There truly is NOT a teacher shortage. The districts are definitely not willing to pay for experience nor expertise. I have a masters degree in education, fat lot of good that did me. I have outstanding experience with professional development, extensive knowledge of math trajectories and outstanding performance reviews from previous jobs. Our family recently moved to a new area for my husband's career and I have interviewed in several local districts, but never landed a job. After being in our little town for a while, I felt comfortable asking one of the principals what I am doing wrong. His reply broke my heart. "Absolutely nothing. You were great. We just knew that we couldn't afford you." I would have entertained a pay cut to get back into the classroom. They never tried. Now my son has a middle school math teacher, who only has experience as a preschool teacher, "teaching him math." She admits that she does not know the math very well.

    There is no shortage of excellent and qualified teachers. There is a shortage of seeing their value.

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  32. Well stated by all! The way I try to say it is, "There is no teacher shortage: What we have is a shortage of teachers who are willing to work in the schools we have. The same system that fails to serve students also fails to serve teachers."

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  33. Yes, there is no shortage of teachers but we still face the problem lack of quality teachers. We need to resolve this problem by improving the education system. Thanks for sharing!

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  34. I'm a Special Ed Paraprofessional. We are on the front lines every day taking physical, mental and emotional hits not only from the students but from parents and administrative staff in particular. We have no voice. We are never asked our opinions. Our pay is dismal and if benefits are offered, they are often too expensive for us to afford. We are given little information off of IEPs and are not allowed direct communication with parents. Yet we spend more time with those students, have deeper relationships with them and know them better than anyone else including social workers, psychologists and the teachers themselves. Our training is on the job in our faces every single school day. If anyone is deserving of moving up into a teaching position it's us. We pay for our our skills in blood, sweat and tears quite literally. Our education system needs to recognize our contributions and allow us to utilize those skills and our teaching hours (yes, we are REQUIRED TO TEACH) in conjunction with college courses to allow us to become teachers. This is a logical, partial solution to this situation. In addition, teachers need to be heard, respected, understood and supported. The demands on them are unrealistic, and unfair. Teachers have a direct effect on the future of our children and this needs to be understood by EVERYONE. I walked into this profession to
    make a difference and now I have the difficult decision to stay or leave. There is NO EXCUSE for this decline in our education system and fixing it is NOT rocket science.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      New Mexico is promoting EAs becoming teachers, Highlands University and CNM both have scholarships for teaching license programs. I believe Highlands includes an M.A. in that package. The initiative is called "Grow Your Own".

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  35. I recently resigned after 24 years of teaching in an affluent university town in California. Imagine the disrespect I faced as a black male teacher in this town of wealthy white people. Early in my career I received a teaching award for meritorious service, and I was a leader at my school. Despite my success I still faced distrust and disrespect from parents, teachers, and principals. I changed schools and grade levels, but my situation did not improve. Finally I took a position at the district office which was okay. When I tried to return to the classroom after an 8 year absence I found that the classroom environment was worse than I could have imagined. Out of control children, rude and unsupportive staff and administration and a huge workload were just the tip of a terrible iceberg of anxiety. I resigned and now I am teaching adults as a long term sub, while searching for a new career. Teaching was a mistake. I should have gone to business school.

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  36. It's not too late to go to B-school. You have a wealth of experience to draw upon.

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  37. Wow! Thank you for writing this.

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  38. Yes, there is no shortage of teachers but due to the education system and salary issues. Educated people don't show any interest in teaching. Thanks for sharing!

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  39. I am a current substitute, teaching in a district in FL. I am changing my profession in my 30s, and I already have an MA in the humanities. I started substituting a year ago, and I have been hesitant to pursue a full-time teaching job. The issue isn't just the pay but is also the work environment. Classrooms are noisy, loud, students obnoxious, unwilling to even try to learn and would rather play on cell phones, while there are few repercussions for bad behavior. The work environment is hostile, and horrifying. Most teachers leave because the work environment is not worth the pay. Hell, even if districts bumped the pay for 20% you will still see a loss of teachers due to frustration with student behavior. And let us not forget that admins, parents, and politicians expect teachers to be sources of entertainment for students who don't care, as if it is the teacher's fault if students are unwilling to pay attention and learn. In reality, we have hit a crossroad with education and society, in which we must either scale back technology and leisure or accept the consequences. (I am not a Luddite, but technology in classrooms, whether computers or cell phones, runs counter to the requirements of education: discipline, focus, and hard work.)

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